The Horrible Awful Crate....interesting turn of events.....

Any suggestions in making the crate not so horrible and awful? Kirby can not be trusted with any ounce of freedom anymore so I am having to lock him in his crate for 4 hours at a time while I am away. He previously HATED the crate and I worked up to him sleeping in it again and being ok for 1-2 hours with me there. The plan was to lock him in it for short periods while I was away but he ruined that plan by eating my carpet and is no longer being allowed in an ex-pen so I can't do the slowly get him used to it approach. I locked him up on Saturday afternoon and then briefly yesterday. Today was a good 15 minute battle to get him to even go in the crate. I tried bribery and treats and excited happy voices and none of that worked at all. He knew what was up and ran away from me and finally ended up outside where I had to pick him up and place him inside the crate. I did give him some really yummy treats and a long lasting treat toy when he was in there. I came home today on lunch and the crate (and him) was covered in pee. He was not happy to see me (like he used to be) and over the last 3 days has regressed back to how he was when I first got him, acting very nervous and not wanting to approach me. How do I make the crate not such an awful thing and prevent this regression? We worked so hard to get him to a point where he was really happy to see me and where I could call him over and he would come happily and willingly for pets and cuddles. Now he is back to slinking over and peeing everywhere and I know it is from the last couple days of crating. Yesterday I was able to get him in the crate (albiet unwillingly) with just a ton of praise and treats and patience. Today he was having none of it. Any suggestions?

UPDATE: Well I am in the process of getting him a large plastic crate as suggested. I will be using a bigger collapsable for now and see how that goes. We had our vet visit today. She prescribed Xanex (alprazolam) for him. We are hoping to only have to use it for about a month or so and continue his training then be able to stop the medication. She also suggested a Thundershirt for him while I am gone. I am going to buy one today. I wasn't aware you could use them when you were not home. So our current plan is Thundershirt, continue giving the Calm supplements I have, and add in Acepromazine if needed until I can get him used to the crate, then slowly back off the different meds. If this regime does not work then we will put him on a longer term anxiety medication like Clomicalm or Reconcile, but the hope is that won't be needed. We will see if he responds better to the bigger crate, as we speak he is exploring it and I can see him trying to decide if he should go in or not. The main side effect of Alprazolam is "disinhibition" and for a dog who already has no inhibitions this could be a very bad thing. As it is today he decided to climb about 8 feet up a tree on the river when my back was turned and when I turned and saw him he proceeded to jump off! He continued to run normally after but now that we have been home for a bit he does seem a little painful in his front leg. May end up at the vet for a second time today! Once I start the medication we will have to go to big open places only, where he can't hurt himself!

UPDATE 2: I borrowed a large plastic crate from a friend so I could have him in a bigger crate and still do the crate games and condition him to his "new" crate. He is taking to the crate games pretty well, still hates being locked up though. The interesting thing is, he has been locked in a bigger crate for 2 days now and last night he started sleeping in his old crate again! He hasn't done this on his own since I began locking him in a crate. Not sure if the crate games are working (even though this isn't the crate we are using for training) or he has realized he's not being locked in there again or what. Maybe he really is clausterphobic. He likes it in there with the door open, when the door is locked he freaks out. This goes for the big crate too. Last night I gave him a big yummy oxtail to chew on and I put it in the crate with him and locked the door. He just dug at the crate door and scratched and wouldnt' settle. When he finally laid down and was quiet for about 5 minutes I opened the door and he came out and took the oxtail and began chewing on it with his body out of the crate but his head in it. First trial of the low dose of Alprazalam proved ineffective. Upping the dose today to see if we get the desired "one tequila drunk" effect (as my vet put it lol).

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It might be worth it to invest in the Crate Games DVD.

crate games is awesome! Not sure if it is working this fast or what but he is sleeping in his crate now because he wants to! Either way, its a fun game/training we can play together.

thumbs up!

How big is your crate.  I have the biggest crate they make, and you could fit 4 corgis in it.  Sophie has been in a crate since we got her at 9 weeks and doesnt mind it at all, but I felt bad that she had to be in a crate, so I found the huge one on craigs list.  Do not know if it would make any difference or not,

Hi Melissa, could you take a pic of Kirby in the crate?

Melissa, that crate looks pretty small to me. He needs enough room to really stretch out when he's lying on his side, sit up, stand or turn around with some extra available space.

Thanks for the input. The picture makes it look smaller than it is but it isn't big enough for him to sprawl completely out in. He can lay full length in it with room and lay completely sideways in it like in the picture. I do have another one that is collapsable that is quite a bit longer. I may try that one tomorrow and see if he completely destroys it or not. I always thought you wanted it big enough for them to stand up, turn around, and lay down in. Didn't realize it needed to be big enough for them to sprawl. I've never used a crate except for sleeping, and the sleeping crates don't have doors so the dogs tend to hang their head out the end no matter how long they are.

Regarding collapsible wire crates, when I've had a creative dog, I've reinforce key points with good size snaps, or you can use small caribiners.  Depending on the brand, some of the wire crates are easier for a dog to get out of.  Some dogs do better in wire crates.  I have Mowgli in a wire crate in front of a sliding door, so he can see out and my other dog is loose in the same room.  He will come in from outdoors and run in front of his crate waiting for me to open it when he knows it's the time I usually leave.  At first he got out by sliding the latch....the crate was smallish and I got a bigger one, which he now loves.  He is never in it more than 3-4 hrs.  max or at night.

A bigger crate would be good. I would take the mat out, so there's nothing to soak up the urine. Take kirby for one last walk before putting him in, make sure you time your water time too. Remember Kirby wants to succeed and please you too, help him help you. Good luck!

Sam, when I leave the mat comes out or he will eat it. When I am home I put it back in so its more comfy for him to sleep in. I'm having trouble with the water thing. He isn't used to having a pee/water schedule because he has been in the ex-pen with access to the outside. I run him  in the morning and at lunch so I'm pretty sure he empties out but he won't always drink right away, then when I let him out of his crate when I get home he is SO THIRSTY. I feel really bad that he's probably been in there for 2-3 hours really wanting water. I gues maybe he will learn the routine and start to drink after runs....He is such a timid boy I can't tell him to drink like I do Franklin. If I tell Kirby to do anything he gets scared so I have to kind of encourage with no direct command. Makes training of any kind really hard.

Does it have two doors or one?   If it has two doors, I would leave both open and practice having him just walk through.  If it has one, I'd still have him practice just going in and out and not staying in it.

I know your options are limited when you leave the house, but while you are home I would practice with lots of variety of time.  I would put him in and sometimes take him out again right after you close the door, and other times leave him there for a half hour.  I would try a variety of things, too.  Try closing the door when he is outside the crate and might want to go in.  Smear peanut butter on a kong (I'd try on the crate itself, but it might encourage him to chew, considering...).    Better yet, get some canned sardines, put them in a glass dish, put them in the crate and lock him out of it.  Wait til he's eager to go in, then open the door and let him in and leave the door open so he can come out when he wants to.   The idea is you make HIM want to go in, and have the door be the thing that keeps him OUT instead of in.

Put padding over any protrusions and toss a favorite toy past the crate, on top of the crate, into the crate.  

Put Franklin in there at meal time while Kirby stays outside it.  

Put Franklin in when you are giving really yummy treats.

Put him on a leash and have him walk past it and around it. 

When you come in from a walk, have him go in the crate and sit and wait for a treat. 

In other words, incorporate it into everything you do during the day.  Every fun thing that happens to him and to Franklin should revolve around that crate, so it's not just The Thing That Comes Out When Mommy Leaves.  Make it as much an every day part of his life as the floor is.  Just do pad up the edges and corners before you do this so no one gets hurt.   Get creative, think outside the box.   Make it seem like the crate is where all the good things happen.

And I would also suggest trying the Crate Games course.  I've not done it myself because Jack already places high value on his crate, and with a cat who likes to hang out in it I didn't want to create higher value.  However, my understanding is it really works to create value for the crate. 


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