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Help! My Dog Hates the Crate
The dog crate is perhaps one of the greatest dog handling tools invented. Crates work great for transporting dogs to shows, especially if you have several dogs. Once at the show, the dog can safely be contained in this canine sanctuary. At home, young dogs are kept out of trouble by putting them in a crate. Crates even help when housetraining. However, some dogs develop reluctance about being crated, and some develop a total hatred of the crate. With the right retraining, you can teach a dog to view crating positively.
If your doesn’t like the crate, try using food to teach the dog to associate the crate with a positive experience. Begin by establishing the distance where the dog reacts adversely to the crate. To establish your dog’s "reaction distance," select a special treat to use for training, something like a small piece of hot dog, which the dog shows more interest in than the average dog biscuit. Armed with your special treat, lure the dog towards the crate. When the dog realizes he is heading towards the dreaded crate, he may stop or turn away. Mark that turn away area on the floor, either mentally or by setting down a thin entry mat.
Begin feeding the dog his meals just outside the area the dog showed a reaction towards the crate. The first time you feed the dog, lure the dog over to his food dish using that special treat, then toss the treat into the dogs dinner bowl. For the next feeding, encourage the dog to follow you to the mat when you carry his food dish. If the dog doesn’t follow you to the mat, then set down the dish and again use a treat to lure him to his meal.
Once the dog appears to have accepted his new feeding location by readily following you when you carry his dish, move the dish a little closer to the crate. To determine how much closer to move the dish, let your dog be the guide. If the dog took several days to follow you to his new feeding location, then only move the dish a small amount. If the dog readily followed you the second day, then try moving the dish a foot.
Once a dog learns to eat his meal right next to the crate without any angst, you are ready to move the dish into the crate. Place the dish just inside the crate, and then put a special treat just on the other side of the bowl so the dog needs to venture a little further to get that treat. As the dog begins to show comfort eating from a food dish inside the crate, you can move the dish forward. It is a good idea to put a treat on the far side of the dish each feeding, to encourage the dog to consider going a little farther each time he eats his meal. Any uneaten "special treats" tells you the dog needs to stay at his current level for a while. Any uneaten dinners tells you this dog needs to back up in his training to regain any confidence he’s talked himself out of.
Once you reach the end of the crate with the food dish, you can go onto the next step. Grab that special treat and toss it into the crate. Tell the dog "crate." If the dog decides not to go after the treat, then place a second treat at the mouth of the crate. Let the dog work into becoming comfortable with choosing to go inside the crate on command. Do not close the crate door yet. That part needs to happen after the dog decides he likes going into that crate.
When the dog is comfortable with going into the crate on command, change the treat you give him. Give the dog something that he needs some time to consume. I like to us a raw steak bone with scraps of meat still attached; however, a Kong with some peanut butter inside can also work. Tell the dog "crate" and when the dog goes inside, hand him this treat. Now, close the door. Stay next to the crate until the dog loses interest in the treat, then let the dog out. When letting the dog out, you need to prevent the dog from rushing out. This is very important because it isn’t unusual for a dog who has a lot of anxiety about crating to want to run out as if there is a poltergeist inside. Be ready to grab that collar to make the dog to exit at a calm pace. By preventing the dog from rushing out, you reassure the dog that he is not escaping a dangerous situation.
Some dogs will be so nervous from past bad crate experiences that the moment you close the door, the dog shows no interest in any treat. Talk calmly to the dog to reassure him, then continue your calm voice to tell the dog to "come along now" before you let the dog out. Be sure not to let the dog rush out. Make him exit at a controlled pace, even if the dog isn’t very calm. If your dog reacted poorly when you closed the door, you need to back up in your training and work longer in the earlier stages until the dog becomes more confident.
Once the dog learns to calmly enjoy chewing away at a treat when confined in the crate, and to exit calmly when you open the door, begin leaving the dog for short periods of time after the dog has eaten. Be prepared to feed the dog his meals there for several months. Another way to get a dog use to staying longer and longer in a crate is to make the crate a place the dog to prefers staying in. To do this, confine the dog to an area in the house with hard surface, such as your kitchen. Take off the crate door so the dog can come and go freely. Put very comfortable bedding inside the crate. Some dogs get so used to staying in a comfortable crate, they will go inside their crate rather than lay on a rug.
Breeders can help train young dogs to view a crate as a sanitary by introducing the crate to their puppies. Confine all the puppies in one crate. Once the puppies feel secure, begin to divide the litter by putting half in one crate and half in another. Slowly reduce the number of puppies until only one remains. If the puppies are going to the bathroom inside the crate, but the bedding on one end and puppy litter on the other to accommodate clean sleeping quarters. Once the puppy is older, he can be changed to a smaller crate that only allows sleeping.
The best way to have a dog learn to enjoy his crate is to give him reasons to want to stay there. Keep the crate experience positive for puppies by slowly introducing solitude. Make that crate comfortable and appealing for adult dogs. If you have a dog who already hates the crate, do your retraining slowly by working at your dog’s pace. With the correct training you can make crating a pleasant experience which allows even a crate-hating dog to learn to like his crate.
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