Introduce and familiarize your puppy or dog to a crate the right way your dog will not fear or take a disliking to the crate. The crate will not be associated with anxiety and stress…
Introducing, Familiarizing Your Dog with His/Her Crate
Encourage Your Dog to Explore the Crate On His/Her Own
When first introducing your puppy or dog to a crate, leave the crate door open and allow your dog to explore the outside and inside of the crate. Provided you are grounded in your own emotions – i.e. you ‘feel’ that the crate is just another item of furniture in the house, your dog will have no reason to have an adverse reaction to the crate – your dog will be supported in normalizing the existence, presence and use of the crate.
Your dog should use his/her nose to sniff the crate, explore both the inside and outside of the crate at his/her leisure. You can put a favorite blanket or toy in the crate to further encourage your dog’s curiosity and normalization of the crate. Don’t make a big excited fuss over the crate – high pitched voices, excited energy etc. Remember that you want your dog to associate the crate with ‘normal’, calm, grounded – relaxed. Don’t wind your dog up, instead quietly – from a place of inner warmth just enjoy watching your dog explore.
Closing The Door For The First Time
If you feel uncertain, nervous, guilty, anticipate reactive behaviour etc. your dog can sense how you feel and your dog will not be comfortable with the closing of the crate door. Why should he/she be comfortable if you are not? If you want your dog to be in a certain state-of-being you must be in that state first. Dogs love pure logic because they are insightful communicators. Once your dog has entered the crate you can close the door – provided you think of closing the door as normal. It is up to you to lead – you can create normal or you can create stress.
If you anticipate that your dog will panic, will be uncomfortable, and will not like the crate – you are directing your dog to panic, be uncomfortable and not trust the crate. Dogs are literal beings – not because they are simple-minded nor stupid but instead because they are very aware communicators.
Once a dog has found a crate to be a normal, comfortable place, leave the crate door open when the crate is not in active use – this way the dog may choose to use the crate as a place of rest even when you have not directed him/her to go to the crate.
Letting Your Dog Out of His/Her Crate
To Let Your Dog Out of The Crate…
The same principles that apply to closing the crate door apply to opening the door – normalize. When you go to let your dog back out of the crate, make sure you are grounded (calm, normal) and that you are not in a hurry. If your dog is excited – just breathe to direct your dog to calm. Don’t speak, don’t obsess about your dog’s state, don’t argue or plead – just breathe and clear your thoughts. Don’t open the door until your dog is calm. Dogs understand how to pressure and dogs are persist – if you want calm you have to work for it – direct from a place of pure logic.
When your dog is calm, place your hand on the crate door handle – but don’t open the door yet. If your dog’s excited state is initiate or further heightened when you reach for a touch the door handle, take your hand off of the door handle. Once again help your dog calm. When your dog is calm your hand can go back to the handle.
Open the door a little – if your dog escalates to excitement gently close the door and start again. When your dog calms open the door slightly – don’t ‘guard’ the opening. If you feel the ‘need’ to guard you are inviting your dog to compete with you for the opening. Don’t create a competition.
Just because you open the door does not mean that your dog should push his/her way out through the door. Indicate to your dog to sit. Do not allow him/her to ‘bolt’ out of the crate.
Stand in the space created by the open crate door – occupy the space with a comfortable grounded stance – one leg slightly in front of the other. When your dog is calm, release the space by moving to one side of the open door and then use your hand to draw his eyes up to you and then use a hand gesture to indicate that he/she can now step out of the crate. Then cue him/her to calm once more by taking a deep breath as he/she exists the crate.
Don’t Wind Your Dog Up
When you come home don’t create an environment of high energy, intense excitement – just be normal. Do you want your dog to jump all over you, whine and bark, be anxious when you leave and arrive? Learn how to great your dog with selfless love by greeting in silence.
Dogs With High-Level Anxiety
Determination, presence of mind and patience is required to affect change. Work on your own self-control, and self awareness first. Follow the steps above and do not allow emotion – yours or your dog’s to rule. Staying grounded takes practice – it is not reasonable to expect your dog to be grounded and calm when you are not.
Don’t Allow Your Dog to ‘Own’ His/Her Crate
It is important to teach your dog that that he/she does not own his/her crate. The crate is a ‘common’ space – a space that is not singularly owned – it is a shared space.
I have worked with dogs that were allowed to ‘own’ and guard his/her crate to the point of extreme aggressive-reactivity – should anyone (human, dog, cat) approach the crate. It takes skill and knowledge to reverse this behaviour and while I can do so, it is better to avoid creating the situation in the first place. Save yourself and your dog the distress…
Not For Punishment
Don’t use the crate in anger. Doing so creates many issues including aggressive reactivity.
A crate should NEVER be used as a means to ‘punish’ a dog. In-fact when working with your dog you should never seek to punish. Dogs do not require punishment. Punishment simply serves to destabilize a dog. Punishment creates insecurity, fear, the need to react defensively, to shut down – psychological damage which can also result in physical damage. A dog requires fair, logical, respectful mentoring.
Make Sure the Crate is the Right Size for your Dog
Your dog should be able to comfortably stand up and turn around in his /her crate.
Never place a crate in a location that:
- Gets overly warm
- Where there is a cold draft
- Where the air quality is poor
- Where lighting is harsh
Should You Cover the Crate?
Covering the crate can lead to expectations that are not met and the end result can be increased anxiety for you and your dog. Some people, trainers and behaviorists included believe that by covering the crate they will moderate or even solve a dog’s crate-anxiety. Covering the crate may simply serve to reduce air circulation and therefore reduce air quality. When I work with a client whose dog is suffering from crate-anxiety and the crate is covered, one of the first things I do is remove the cover. Then I teach the client how to resolve the root cause of the anxiety.
A Comfortable Place
The dogs in my own pack lie in their crates when they feel like it. They are allowed to lie down wherever they like in my house – including on couches. Sometimes they prefer a crate. No one dog in my pack owns a crate – they all share the spaces in the house including crates. Why do they choose the crate? The crate is a space of comfort and calm and all of the crates in my house are comfy – they are lined with dog beds and some have pillows too.
Even dogs who are capable of escaping any crate – like my dog Sarah (German Shepherd X Husky) will accept being in a crate when coached and mentored the right way. Sarah is a wily, intelligent and resourceful canine who spent the better part of her first year as a stray – wiliness meant survival. Sarah can open any type of crate door handle/lock and escape at will – however if I put her in a crate she will stay in it. My control over Sarah is not based on physical force – no amount of physical restraint can stop a determined dog from attempting to and escaping from a crate, room etc. My control over Sarah and my client’s dogs is based on self-restraint, self-awareness, self-discipline, respectful and logical communication – true leadership.
I work with dogs that have extreme separation anxiety – including cases where a dog has suffered severe injury while chewing through and escaping from for his/her crate.
Hate The Crate?
Many people think that their dog’s reason for extreme behaviour is that he/she ‘hates’ his/her crate.
In the majority of cases it is the human that:
- Accidentally enables an existing condition of insecurity (i.e. in the case of an adopted dog), or;
- Creates the insecurity in the first place. Returning the situation back to normal requires that all aspects of the situation be addressed – human and canine.
Is Crating Cruel?
A crate can be a place of great cruelty…
- A dog should not live his/her life in a crate
- A crate, as noted further above should not be used to punish a dog, dogs should not be punished – dogs need coaching and mentoring – not punishment.
A crate can be a place of comfort, support…
- A crate can be an amazing tool to help a dog learn to transition from a state of insecurity to a state of normal, grounded, confidence.
- A crate can be a place to help the healing process – after physical trauma or surgery
A place of positive support or negativity – it all depends on the human.
Need Additional Assistance?
If you require additional support and guidance I would be pleased to assist you via my In-Person or On-Line Services…
Dog Obedience Training and Behavior Modification Services:
- In-Person sessions are available via this service
- On-Line consultation and sessions are available via this service
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- Unbiased Diet, Nutrition, Product Advice is available via this service
- Holistic Diet, Nutrition Wellness Plans are available via this service