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Old 05-03-2014, 02:33 PM
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Okay so I recently (like 3 days ago) rescued a dog. She's mostly great - around 1 yr old, possibly a lab/terrier mix, really sweet and definitely has the potential to learn manners and behaviors.

I unfortunately work and must crate her during the day. For the time being, until she's housetrained, she is also crated at night. I know, I know, not the ideal way of doing this. I would have loved to have a week off to slowly accustom her to the crate and my leaving but PTO has to be approved so far in advance the timing doesn't add up so easily.

She isn't afraid of her crate (it's NOT used for punishment) and she willingly roams around in it while I'm home. I do use treats to get her into it mostly to keep a positive association. At night we have quickly gotten to the point of no whining or barking! It's great. However today was only her second day at home in the crate and we had a jailbreak! She just muscled her way out. I'm sure this is due to separation anxiety - but she's in a new place with a new owner and was recently picked up off the street and then in the kennel - so I expect some adjustment. While I don't know how long she was out, she doesn't appear to have chewed anything except some puppy pads. She had shoes and blankets and cords that she moved around (excited near the front door) but didn't chew. She also knows where her treats are and probably could have gotten them but she didn't. So all in all it's minor damage.

So I have a few questions:

I currently have one of the all wire crates...is there a better option? For tonight/tomorrow I"m going to zip tie the side she broke out of to prevent that however she may still bend up the cage.

I do have a weekend off coming up and I'd LIKE to try crate training- as in...put her in and leave for just a minute, then longer, then longer yet, etc....I'm just skeptical that it really works. I hope that once she learns I AM coming back she'll calm down.

Also everyone says to exhaust them before crating them - we do go for a 30 min walk in the morning as well as some cuddle/play time before and while I'm getting ready to leave. We walk again for 30 min when I get home and have play time. We walk for at least an hour at night before bed time. She's getting 3-4 miles a day and we do jog some of it. My goal is to get to a dog park at least 1-2 times a week.

I would consider doggie day care but then she'll never learn to be ALONE and unfortunately I start work so early none of the places are open to be able to take her.

She is a puppy and I know we need training so I"m not read to give up on her, I just need some guidance and reassurance I'm heading in the right direction. I would love any suggestions.
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Old 05-04-2014, 07:36 AM
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Film while you leave the house. The crate is likely adding to anxiety, so you should consider another method of containment. For example, confining to a kitchen or laundry room with a baby gate. Puppy proof that room and have someone stop by to let her out to potty.

You know what you're doing with crate training - positive associations, gradually increasing time. Provide her with a safe, long lasting chew item to keep her busy and happy (this is a good idea even if you decide to ditch the crate - filming in your absence will help you make that decision.) If she loves the treat when you are present and won't touch it when you're gone - just another indication of how intense the separation anxiety is.

She isn't afraid of crates, as evidenced by the fact that she happily enters the crate when you are home and sleeps in the crate without much fuss as long as you are home. So her real issue is fear of being abandoned and adding a small cage to that scenario certainly increases the anxiety level in most dogs. More space could be the best answer here i.e. no more crating. I agree that there is no reason she needs to have the run of the house when you are away, but I think alternative confinement might be best for this dog if the crate is causing her considerable distress. She didn't have any accidents or destroy anything when she broke out of her crate, right? So maybe ditching the crate will work out better than you imagine.

Here are some ways to work on separation anxiety:

Desensitize her to your departure cues. This means practice picking up keys, putting on coat, whatever you normally do when leaving the house, and then just sit on the couch and hang out. You want her to get to the point of no longer having much response to the departure cues.

Short absences are very helpful. Leave the house as normal but just drive around the block and return without fanfare. Departures and arrivals should be low-key. We don't want to associate heightened emotion with your coming and going. The ideal way to get a dog over separation distress is to start with these very short absences and gradually increase time away. Long absences do impede progress but mixing them with very short ones helps. This dog has been abandoned at least once already. She has that experience in her history so she is predicting she will be abandoned again. When you leave and just drive around the block and return, it helps convince the dog that when you leave, you likely will come right back so no need to worry.

She'll be better off if she has something to do while you're away. Ideas: a Kong stuffed with frozen peanut butter, BusterCube, or puzzle games with hidden treats. We want her focused on something other than her separation distress. (Note if she is interested in the stuffed Kong when you are home but not when you're away, this indicates that the anxiety is pronounced.) If she is willing to enjoy the Kong or BusterCube while you're away, it is a good idea to only offer her that special item when you are leaving and put it away when you return. This way we form a specific positive association with your absence.

Film when you're away to monitor progress. Ignoring this step is a mistake. Borrow a camera if you don't own one that records video and sound.

Thundershirt or Anxiety Wrap have been helpful for many dogs, however you’d have to be sure your dog is not going to pull it off and chew it up! Thundershirt has a money back guarantee.

Leave a radio on for your dog. Classical music is best. There are even CDs specifically for calming dogs. (Through a Dog’s Ear CDs)

You may want to look into DAPs (Dog Appeasing Pheromones). Some owners have found them to be effective for calming their dogs.

Some owners find that leaving dirty laundry (worn by the family) where the dog can smell it is helpful when the dog is left alone.

Play the magnet game to reinforce the idea that calm behavior brings you back to her and anxious behavior keeps you away. Once she catches on to that concept, raise criteria and require longer and longer periods of calm in order for her to earn her reward of you returning. Here is a general idea of how to play the magnet game:

1) Dog is tethered, owner stands at a distance.
2) Calm behavior draws you to her like a magnet.
3) Hyper or anxious behavior repels you.
4) When your dog remains calm long enough for you to make it all the way to her she gets a soothing massage.
5) Reset and repeat.

No commands are given. The dog learns that her choice to behave calmly is what earns her the reward.

Avoiding eye contact may help your dog remain calm. Try this if your dog is having trouble catching on to the game. Act very casual and observe her from your peripheral vision.

Initially, reward the slightest try in the right direction. If your dog goes from straining on the tether to not straining as much, reward that with a step toward her. As she catches on to the game, gradually raise your criteria as to what qualifies as appropriate calm behavior.

You can use a variation of the magnet game if the dog is particularly bonded to one person. That person can go outside the house while a helper observes the dog inside. As soon as calm behavior is exhibited the helper alerts the owner to return. I use walkie talkies for this exercise. Again we'd gradually increase the length of time calm behavior is required in order to bring the owner back.
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Old 05-04-2014, 12:13 PM
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Thanks K9coach. Until I have the time to really do the gradual crate time increase I'll work on some of the other, smaller cues. I know I just need patience and to actively help her learn to be okay while I'm gone to really give her a chance.

It's difficult to find the balance of wanting to give her attention and love but also needed to train her and let her know the rules. I also hesitate to try too many new things at once or in rapid succession.
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Old 05-04-2014, 12:24 PM
Location: Floyd Co, VA
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I've found it very helpful to attach an x-pen to a crate so that the pup can have more room to play. I would cover the crate area and put a blanket or towel in it for her to have a place to sleep and then water, food, pee pads and toys outside of the crate. I clipped the door of the crate wide open to the x-pen so that she did not accidentally manage to close it.

Like so:

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Old 05-04-2014, 12:53 PM
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Originally Posted by swmrbird View Post
It's difficult to find the balance of wanting to give her attention and love but also needed to train her and let her know the rules.
I can't relate to this sentiment. I don't see how the two are mutually exclusive.
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Old 05-04-2014, 05:08 PM
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Originally Posted by k9coach View Post
I can't relate to this sentiment. I don't see how the two are mutually exclusive.

AKA I feel guilty telling her NO and listening to her whine while she's crated even though it's best I agree, they aren't mutually exclusive.
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Old 05-04-2014, 05:23 PM
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This is how I think of it: the purpose of the crate is to keep her safe and to prevent accidents and destructive behavior. But if the crate isn't truly necessary (i.e. she does fine loose) then we're causing her considerable distress for no reason. I'd get creative and come up with some alternative confinement strategies - if another setup can accomplish the goals of keeping her safe and preventing destruction and accidents, yet not cause her stress, then that's definitely the way to go.

By the way congratulations and thank you for rescuing your sweet girl.
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Old 05-06-2014, 01:30 PM
Location: Lost in Montana *recalculating*...
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We've had issues in the past with one of our dogs (Basenji) not taking to the crate right away. What we did was to find an acceptable area to cordone her off in and put the crate in there, door left open. We used the garage and I fabbed up some tall plywood, made walls and enclosed about a 20x15 ft area.

Put lot's of stimulating things in there- big balls, Kong stuffed with treats, throw old blankets on the floor.. We kept a really comfy clean blanket in the crate and let her go.

She had enough room to pace and tucker herself out, then she eventually used the crate as her den. I don't think it took more than a couple days and we brought the crate in the house and she settled right into it.

All of our other dogs always took a day or two to subside when crate training though.
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Old 05-06-2014, 02:44 PM
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My dog became more accepting of his crate when I started stuffing a kong full of wet kibble, sealing it with peanut butter, and then freezing it. He has a strong food drive, so that kept him occupied. Then he would mostly just fall asleep. It also became the only place he got bully sticks - he loves bully sticks! So he has really good associations with his crate.

My little dude was fairly nondestructive, but I wanted him crate trained. He's never chewed up anything I valued or turned over the garbage or anything like that. But I have found crate training to be useful overall. When he gets anxious about something or a someone stops by who isn't a dog fan, I just stick him in the crate, and he calms right down and goes to sleep. It's a useful tool in the toolbox, as it were.
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Old 05-06-2014, 02:45 PM
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Oh, and I would consider getting a plastic-sided crate. I find that it fosters that "burrowing" urge many dogs have, whereas wire crates can leave them feeling exposed and trapped, heightening their anxiety.
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