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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I unfortunately can't do the 30 minute thing. I don't HAVE a long weekend....ever. My schedule kind of sucks and I only  have Sundays and Tuesdays off so I don't even have a couple days off together to work on training him. I was trying to work on the incriment thing with me home when he was confined to the ex-pen while I was gone and he was getting ok in the crate with me home. Next step was going to be leaving for short periods but now he has to be in the crate while I am gone at work so I can't work up to the longer periods.

His behavior and fears are very sad. I can't imagine what his past life was like. He pees, expresses his anal glands, screams bloody murder, etc any time he thinks he is in trouble. After 3 months it was finally starting to get better and he was getting less fearful of me but with the crating we have regressed again :-(

Just want to show some support to you. Melissa, I admire what you've done so far with Kirby.

I am currently watching and planning the Crate Game which my trainer recommended.

I think it could be very helpful and actually teach the dog to make good choice, but remember use VERY HIGH VALUE treat ONLY for the crate game (maybe one particular treat only for the crate game).

I will start my crate game soon and hope you will have good luck with it! And I believe he loves you just as much as you love him.

Regarding wire crates: Jack's has two latches at each door, which makes it very hard for the dog to accidentally paw and open the crate. Most dogs don't plan and connive to figure out how to open a crate; they paw a certain way and it springs the latch and then they remember. Two latches is more expensive but reduces the problem. Many dogs seem to prefer a wire crate; it does not feel so confining. Others like the comfort of the plastic.

Crate games: Melissa, I think agility training in general might be good for both of you. Agility more than any other dog sport really trains you how to create value in things for the dog. The dog has to run off-leash in an area with other loose dogs, owners with treats, smells in the grass, etc. Unlike hunting or herding, where the dog's natural instinct can help overcome distracting stimulus, there really is nothing there to innately overcome distractions. And so much of agility is about transferring value from you and from rewards to other objects. It teaches the dog that things other than the handler are inherently rewarding. So for instance, you transfer value to the crate in crate games. It can help build drive, but also agility dogs must be able to stay calmly crated for long periods in exciting environments.

You also learn to transfer value to clickers, target plates, weave poles, etc. The teeter is so rewarding to my dog that I frequently have to call him off it when he sees it; he'll head to it even if I've not asked him to take it. Why? Because teeter is scary to dogs so when you train teeter, one person stands at the pivot point and spends a minute or two feeding the dog little treats every time it pivots down.

Anyway, I know you have strong skills in obedience training, but creating value for objects is something that I really picked up in agility. It goes above and beyond the way you create value for praise words. I think it might help you teach Kirby that lots of things in life can be rewarding under your direction. Susan Garret is the one who does crate games. As is the case with most of what I read/see, I disagree with some parts and agree with others and take away what works for me. But I have two dogs who go bonkers with joy when they see a target plate come out. You can create that same level of joy over a crate, in much the same way.

I think Kirby is a great dog for agility. Franklin LOVED it and if I walk into a play yard with agility equipment he will freely run an entire course (we never learned weave poles though!). He loves the tunnels, jumps, table, catwalk, etc. Unfortunately with his health condition he can't do agility :-( I'm trying to get Kirby's obedience foundation because most of the agility classes around here require them to be at a certain level in obedience. We've hit a wall with obedience though. I may end up seeing if anywhere offers an agility for dummies type class that will allow Kirby in even though he doesn' have a solid down or solid sit. What i really need is to find a trainer with a lot of experience with terrified dogs. My old trainer was more of a "dominant leader" type trainer and Kirby just shuts down if you try to pull the "I am dominant over you" act.

Find a positive reinforcement trainer. "Dominant" trainers can be very dangerous and can cause a lot of damage to dogs. + R is the way to go!!!

I agree 100%. She is good with fearful dogs but does have a more stern approach to obedience which does not work with kirby. He just shuts down if he feels threatened.

Logan has learned to use a hamster water bottle so he doesn't spill in the crate.  Good luck!

If you can possibly squeeze everything in the space, honestly I would continue to lock him in the crate he already doesn't like while you make the new crate as fun as possible, with games and dead fish and all sorts of things as you gradually increase his (unpanicked) time in the new crate.   Then don't switch him over til he's already happy with the new one.  

This way the bad associations stay associated with the old one.

Thanks good idea. Since its my day off I haven't had to crate him yet. Ill make the new crate super fun and happy before introducing him to it.

All I can say here, is good luck, Melissa. I admire you for sticking with this. I have never crate trained a dog and only use them open as beds. I'm just not a fan of confining dogs that much and have never been in a situation where I had to. As I've stated previously, if I were gone as much as you are, I'm sure Brodie would be a poster child for bad behavior right up there with Kirby!

well he broke out of his new crate both yesterday and today. Today I even upped is dose of medication since he broke out yesterday.  No destruction yesterday but today he got into my bathroom garbage and spread garbage through the house and ate my last remaining pair of sandals (he has destroyed all my other ones.). I'm afraid i"m going to have to stick him back in the small crate since he has yet to break out of that one. I'm going to discuss some ideas with the vet today as well. Different vet so it'll be nice to have a different opinion on the topic.


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