My dog refuses to get in his crate

by Susan

From Susan... My 9 year old Dachshund started chewing and tearing the carpet, so we decided to crate train him.

The chewing and tearing of the carpet started when I had to go to Florida for a month - he was home with my husband, but the carpet chewing/tearing started and wouldn't stop even when I returned.

My husband kept him on the same schedule as we always had him on. The vet recommended crate training. I did everything she told me to do. He did rather well (so we thought)for approximately a month and a half.

All of a sudden, he won't let me put him in the crate. I tried to lure him in by giving him some small pieces of steak in his bowl, but he wouldn't have anything to do with it. I tried to pick him up and he actually tried to bite me and ran under the bed to hide. I needed to leave for work so I put up some baby gates in the hall way, closed all doors and left.

I came home 3 hrs later to check on him and he chewed/tore the brand new carpet we just had installed. He was in a panic, panting and barking and crying. I yelled at him, took him out and when we got back in I picked him up and threw him in the crate - he was not a happy boy.

We are at our wits end - What can we do?? The vet said his behavior is not medical (there is nothing wrong with him by a medical point of view). We don't know what to do.

Certified Trainer Shannon Says...

Hi Susan,

It sounds like separation anxiety, which yes, is a behavioral and not a medical issue. Your vet was right in suggesting crate training, as that would be my first step, too!

For whatever reason - and you may never know what caused it - your dog has developed a fear or at least an aversion to the crate.

Unfortunately, the problem now is that you have reinforced in your dog's mind that the crate is not a safe and happy place to be (by yelling, being angry, and throwing him in it).

This is a very hard problem to change. His fears or dislike of the crate have been reinforced by you, albeit unintentionally. And I absolutely feel for you! Our dogs, when they do crazy stuff, can really push our limits of patience.

You will have to start over from scratch. If you have a plastic Vari-kennel as opposed to a wire crate, remove the top of the kennel for now, so that it is more like a bed.

To keep him contained when you go out and at night, get an exercise pen and set it up in a main area of the house with the crate placed inside.

You can put his blanket or bed in it, and just let him go in and out of it as he wants. I do recommend a plastic Vari-kennel over a wire crate, as it is cozier and more "den-like" and most dogs seem to like them better.

Put the crate where he normally sleeps at night. Once properly crate trained, you will want to have him sleep in his crate at night - not just when you go out. If he only goes in his crate when you leave, he will associate the crate with being left alone (not a positive association, especially if he has separation anxiety).

You should also feed him all his meals in his crate. Put the bowls near the back of the crate so that he actually has to go inside to eat. Again, you are creating a positive association with the crate. A dog won't starve... when he's hungry enough, he will eat!

If you ever notice him sniffing at the crate, sticking his head inside, going in or lying down in it, make sure you PRAISE him! Even praise him for something as simple as going over to it and sniffing at it. You can leave a treat in the crate for him to find on his own if you like, too.

As he becomes more comfortable being in and around the crate with the top off, you can put the top back on, but continue to leave the door off. Do not ever force him into it, or you will undo any progress you may have made!

Again, once he is going in and out of it fine, and is spending more time in his crate with the top on, then you can put the door on it. Leave the door open all the time though. Be sure to take your time on each of these steps - don't rush it.

Start gently closing the door of the crate for a couple seconds while he is inside, then opening it again. Praise him each time! Slowly build up the time that you leave the door closed.

I would give him a chew toy or favorite bone/treat to keep him busy while he's in there. A Kong with a little bit of peanut butter inside is a good choice.

Before putting him in his crate, always make sure that he's been exercised (take him for a good walk) and has had the opportunity to go pee outside.

Your goal, basically, is to have him think of positive things whenever he sees his crate. If you use a crate in this way, and not only when you leave the house, he should become relaxed with the crate again.

I wish you the best of luck,

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