Crate Training the Dog That Hates Crate Training

Crate Training Gone Wrong

Dear John, For the first 3 months my 7 month old puppy Amy was crated at night and while we were out. She has suddenly became extremely resistant to the crate.

When we return home we find her frantic and covered in her own saliva. Recently in the course of 45 minutes destroyed a blanket, removed the bottom tray from the crate, ripped up the carpet under the crate and caused injury to two of her paws. I elected to stop crate training, and instead allowed her to sleep with me and to confine her to the kitchen during the day.

Yesterday she was able to reach a pair of shoes approximately half a foot away from the gate and destroy them. I consulted a trainer and was told to go back to crate training but crate her in a room separate from mine for the night. After about 3hrs she began frantic panicked cries. Her bottom jaw was stuck in the metal grate-door. Needless to say, I did not put her back in that crate.

I am returning to work full time in 2 weeks and at 7 months old she simply isn’t ready to be trusted with the run of the house. Since the crate training has failed I feel like my only option at this stage is to give Amy up to my parents when I return to work full-time. I sincerely hope that that is not my only option and there is something I can do.

Kindly,

G.K.

Hi G.K.

When they’re introduced and used properly a crate should = den = sanctuary. The problem here might be that after 3 months Amy has collected enough data to refute that theory and prove that crate = portal to loneliness.

It seems her crate training experience is that she’s only in the crate when you are leaving her for the night or leaving her behind when you go out. I understand the need to protect her and the house but crate training also needs to be used in association with you and purposefully connected to positive experiences.

Crate training when you are home does mean that her crate time will go up but I don’t worry about how much time a dog is in a crate if all its other needs are being met. That means, good nutrition, lots of real exercise, puzzle solving, training exercises and loving time. If that’s taken care of I have no problem putting a pup in the crate for its naps for a daily extra special only in the crate chew toy date and sometimes just because I’m too busy to keep an eye peeled.

During early crate training rather than leave a pup alone in one room, I’ll haul a crate around the house with me and I don’t hope they get used to being alone, I train for it. As a rule of thumb my goal is to ease an 8 week old puppy from no time alone to about 4 hours a day with no one in the house by the time they’re 16 weeks of age. That means working with family, friends, doggy daycares etc for the first few months.

If you want to recommence crate training you’ll likely be doing much of the same thing but with a much longer time line. However I’m a little worried that there may be more going on here than meets the eye. She may genuinely disposed to anxiousness so I encourage you to connect with both a trainer and a vet with lots of experience with this problem. A vet might recommend some natural or prescribed medications that might help in the transition and a trainer can introduce you to some independence and confidence building exercises.

– John

PS. I just had another letter from someone in a tough spot with a dog and the following is a cut and paste of some crate associated information. The crate’s an option but dogs will go to great lengths to escape the crate as well and the average crate isn’t up to the challenge. The dog’s often escape and/or get hurt trying to.

I have mentioned at one time or another a dog of my own who for reasons other than anxiety needed to be crated. I tested first (by spying) to see what would happen and it became apparent he was going to destroy any standard crate and work himself into a frenzy as he was doing it. He and I were in between a rock and a hard place. I put him in a crate designed for extreme use and he didn’t like it any better but I think because his initial assaults bore no fruit whatsoever his thoughts went elsewhere. Some dogs however will soil in the crate if they can’t get out. That’s less likely if the dog is given time to get used to it in scenarios that don’t normally trigger high anxiety episodes. The crate I used is the one featured in the other video on this page and can be ordered on-line. Click here for more information.

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16 thoughts on “Crate Training the Dog That Hates Crate Training”

  1. We just added a 8 week mini dachshund to our family- we have a 11 yr cockapoo and 15 yr keeshound. I crate trained 2 other dogs (the cockapoo and a mixed breed I adopted) It went great and even at 11 my cockapoo has no issue going in his kennel. This pup hates the kennel and has since we got her 3 weeks ago! slobbers and crys even bashes her head at the door. I have tried feeding her in it the last 1 1/2-even cries when eating in it. I really need her to stay in it for her safety during the day and at night. I work full time but coming home at lunch to let her out. Some nights like the two before last she slept in kennel all night but last night-cried, bashed and went crazy all night. Thought she was going to have a heart attack!
    Do I keep waiting it out? Of course we all feel bad and everyone has been good about not taking her out so she gets used to it. I have to be honest finally at 430am- I took her out and let her loose in the bedroom. She ran around for 5 mins but when not let on bed, settled in the closet floor.
    Really dont know what to do!

    1. Hi Tammy,

      This sort of problem is hard to help by email. I wish breeders would start introducing crates to pups the moment their eyes open and people and dogs wouldn’t have to go through this hardship. The problem isn’t usually the crate so much as the timing. Dogs have pretty decent denning type instincts so the crate if den like enough and used without triggering separation anxiety usually goes smoothly. It’s the triggering that’s usually the problem. Some dogs if the only time they’re in the crate is when they’re separated from their owners will soon have anxiety triggered the moment they see a crate or are enclosed.

      I often use several crates in the house so one is always handy as I want the pup in a crate when I can’t supervise for a few moments but I don’t want the pup to be separated from me. I usually pop a real marrow bone in at the same time. I don’t allow napping anywhere other than in the crate and again near me. The crate is beside my bed at night, at least for the first while.

      However once things have gone this far it can be a tough row to hoe to reverse the pup’s impression, particularly if their negative experience occurred between 8 and 10 weeks of age as this is a fear imprint stage for most dogs.

      I wish I could be of more help but without being able to meet the dog I’m always afraid of doing more harm than good.

      Regards,

      John Wade

      Hi John,

      Your advice is great! I actually had started just a couple days ago putting peanut butter on a little chew stick like a distraction. Yesterday, seemed to be dry when got home (not covered in drool head to toe) Last night slept all night with no problems-beside the bed like you have mentioned below. May be starting on the right track and with the added things mentioned might be ok.

      I will start using the crate more often and I do have other crates so putting them around so dont have to keep moving it is a good idea. And the napping other than crate, I never thought of. She has a bed in living room but will take it away for now.
      Great advice!

      I actually have heard you speak at conferences as I was a vet tech for a number of years before switching careers a year ago.
      Guess that is why I was so frustrated-felt like I should know what to do! Been a long time since a pup. I am going to buy your book as well-I think be interesting tips in it.

      Thank you so much for your time, I really appreciate it!
      Tammy

  2. So we recently got a 2 month old female pitbull. She is so adorable and is most familiar and loving towards me. (mom) We are trying to crate train her and I associate the crate with positive atmosphere i.e feeding her, “kennel up” command rewarded with treat, and when she naps i will put her in and shut the door so she can get used to having it shut and knowing its okay. Last night though, and for the past 4 nights when she wakes up to find its dark and no one is around and she is locked in the crate, she will bark and howl and whine and bite the metal crate, and jump on the door and scratch at it. Last night, was the first time I didn’t go to get her out of the crate for a few seconds because her crying has decreased in volume, but not shortened in length. She will cry for hours on end and i mean, CRY! someone please help! Thanks,
    Chelsea

    1. Hi Chelsea,

      Get her to spend more time in the crate when you’re together. So often people forget that a if a dog only goes into a crate followed by you leaving for work or going to bed which is what makes them anxious as opposed to the crate they can never the less get to the point where the very site of a crate can trigger anxiety. When a dog is in a crate with you near by you can reward the good behaviour and correct inappropriate behaviour as well while it’s in its early stage. Once it gets going as it so often does day after day when you’re asleep or at work it turns into a conditioned response but not before it has snowballed into a level of anxiety and that can be one difficult genie to convince to go back into the bottle.

      This isn’t the best forum for advising anyone how to properly crate train a puppy. I can’t believe I’ve never written out detailed instructions. Have to get on that.

      John

  3. Melissa Martinich

    We received our new puppy 3 days ago. We picked him up from a flight. Problem is his flight started at 4:30am in Missouri and ended at 10:00pm Arizona. He is terrified of the crate and I’m sure it’s from the flight. I have crate trained all my dogs and use crates in common areas and the night one is in my daughters room. What can I do to ease his anxiety? Poor little guy cries for an hour. But the crate is crucial to his safety as well as training. Any help will be appreciated.

    1. Hi Melissa,

      I would check with the breeder to learn whether they upheld their end of the bargain. If a breeder is going to ship a dog in a crate they had better have spent a few weeks prior acclimatizing the pup to crates, creating associations of sanctuary. If your breeder did not do this you have likely had the bad luck to stumble on a bad breeder. If your breeder did crate train properly before shipping the pup is unlikely to think crates are bad and something else is afoot.

      I would start crate training from the beginning however as much time in the crate should be with the crate right beside (as opposed to being left alone because you’ve gone to work or to bed) you so you can interrupt anxiety and to see if you can counter the pup’s understandable belief that entering a crate is going to lead to a bad experience.

      John

  4. I have a 6 month pit mix. He has broken out of two kennels. A metal one and a plastic one. He moves the plastic one about 5 to 10 feet across the carpet floor. He will lay down in his kennel and rest but it is when I am gone is when he tries to escape his kennel. Any advice?

    1. There are crates much harder to break out of. However, finding a crate that contains him only solves your problem so for a solution more likely to work for both of you, I’d be addressing whatever you can identify as the dog’s problem. It might be separation anxiety. It might be boredom. It might be insufficient physical activity. Quite often it’s because the only time the dog is in with the door fastened is when the owner goes to bed or worse leaves the home. Crates should be used in the context of day to day life by the dog’s owner until the dog is an adult in the same way you might use a playpen with a toddler. Every moment you can’t supervise your dog (I have them dragging a leash around) put them in a crate near you, remove the leash and then close the door. Interrupt anxiety in its earliest stages. If, and it’s a big if, a dog sees you as an authority figure as opposed to a roommate they will take heed (assuming this isn’t too far along) and are less likely to let their anxiety get away from you when you’re not around. Search my site for >anxiety< as there are lots of tips to help. Here's a link to a decent crate for this sort of dog.

  5. Is it necessary to crate train a dog? If yes when should we start the training? I just got an new dog winch my husband gifted and training these days. Also it will be grateful if you can share some dog training tips and tricks.

  6. Camille McGee

    Hi John, well I went back to crate training 101 and low and behold it worked fine for the 2:30 outside potty. He went poop and we had a dance party. However, I fed him dinner and about 10 minutes later he pooped on my living room rug. Help me here: so it took 6 hours after breakfast to get him to poop earlier, but 10 minutes after dinner he goes on my rug? Am I missing something here? I really want to figure out why I’m not getting signals from a 4 month old puppy??

    1. Hi Camille,

      You need to go back to house training 101 as well. There’s something called a gastric colic reflex that occurs after a meal is eaten. In essence, the peristalsis that engages to push things down your throat when you swallow something keeps on moving down the digestive tract down to the ultimate end triggering the urge to have a bowel movement. Let me know if you want me to send my house training cheat sheet to you.

      Regards,

      John ‘Ask The Dog Guy’ Wade
      Embracing Science and Common Sense

      1. Camille McGee

        Hi John, Yes please send me the house training cheat sheet. I was making his dinner tonight and we had just been out an hour before to pee, then he went into the laundry room and took a poop. BEFORE dinner. I’m not getting something. I need help with this corgi because he’s not signaling and when I get the leash to go out he runs backwards. he wants to go in my laundry room. Thank you!

  7. Camille McGee

    Well, he ate almost four hours ago and i’ve had him outside 6 times. He refuses to poop and wants to eat ice and everything else outside despite me doing everything they say to do..stand still..don’t distract them..give them plenty of time…make sure he’s back in the same spot…honestly what gives with this dog. Is this just a battle of the wills or what? I feel like I’m doing absolutely everything I’m supposed to do. Now its 9pm and he’s back in the kennel for another hour until he decides he’s going to poop outside. I have no idea what else i’m supposed to do. I know what he wants. He wants me to let him poop in the laundry room and its just not going to happen.

    1. Type of food, when you feed, whether he’s being stuffed with treats throughout the day, (particularly any treat that isn’t just plain dried liver) and the not insignificant fact that he has the digestive tract of a youngster all may be factors. I’ve sent the house training cheat sheet, review it and let me know if you have any questions.

      Regards,

      John ‘Ask The Dog Guy’ Wade
      Embracing Science and Common Sense

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