Fear of kennel/crate?

Posted by kpah
Mar 23, 2010

I want to start by telling you how much I enjoy your newsletters.

We have been without a dog for almost one year, and are now planning to
adopt a dog from our local Humane Society.

She is about 1.5 years old, and a setter mix, (slight build , weighs 40
lbs). She was found running in the country (no history is known). We had
her over the weekend and things went very well, except for putting her in a
crate. She was very appropriate in our home -did not counter surf or beg,
tried jumping on furniture only once but got off immediately with a clap and
OFF command, is housebroken (we took her out every 3 hours and lasted all
night without an accident), was very loving with all of us (myself, husband,
12 and 10 year old children). She followed us everywhere on Saturday, on
Sunday she would go off and take a rest on the carpet. She does not have a
name she will answer to at present and does not know basic commands or how to
walk on a leash.

We will be picking her up in 2 days from the Humane Society. So
we are concerned about leaving her alone all day while we are at school and
work (7:40 am to 3:40 pm). We may(or not) be able to leave our work once or twice
during the day to let her out/check on her. When we put her in the
kennel/crate on Saturday when we went out for a few hours , she balked at
going in. I gave her treats when we did shut the door, and when we arrived
home she had torn up a dog bed we had in the kennel. She was panting and
drooling. So then when we were going to go to bed on Saturday night, we put
an old towel in the kennel and gave her a pressed bone to chew on and treats
through the kennel door. She immediately started ripping up the towel. I
took the towel out. She frantically dug at and pushed on the door with her
feet, started whining and barking and biting/chewing at the kennel door.
She would settle somewhat if we sat near the kennel, but continue the
behavior when we would leave. We let this go on for about 30 minutes. So
we ended up taking her up to my son's bedroom and she curled up on the floor with him. I stayed in the room also, but on the bed.

We have a laundry room with a door that goes to a bathroom and an open
doorway to the kitchen area. (We put up a baby gate, but when we left the
room she climbed over one time, she did just lie down another time when I
was at the kitchen table eating-she could not see me from the doorway.) We
have a 3 season porch with many windows, carpet on the floor. We are
worried about what she might do to our home when we leave. I don't want to
traumatize her by leaving her in the kennel though either (if that is what
the issue is with the kennel/crate). We do not have a fenced yard or large
walk-in kennel outdoors.


Posted by KOPsRobyn
Mar 23, 2010
Hi there

It’s great to hear that you are hoping get a dog. Although the history of dogs adopted from shelters are often unknown, it is really great that you are thinking of giving this girl a new and loving home. You may have to work a bit harder training her than a new puppy, because she is slightly older and you don’t know what she has been used to, so she may have picked up some bad habits. Therefore it is all the more important to train her using the alpha dog techniques so that she knows that you are the leader of her pack, and so she should look to you for diirectiion and commands. In this way, you will find her a very obedient dog as she will always be seeking advice from you as to how to behave and want to please you at all times. Some ideas that you could try when re-traiining her include insisting that you walk ahead of her through doorways and when walking on the leash, and feeding her after you have finished your own meal. You must ignore her if she comes up to you for attention, as she has to learn that attention from you is earned and not just given out whenever she wants it. Before you pat her or play with her, give her a command, such as 'sit-stay' so that she will see that your attention is a reward for good behavior. This will act as an incentive for the future. If you are playing a game with her, make sure it is you that chooses the toy and when you decide that you have had enough, take the toy away with you so that she realizes that it is you that controls playtime. When you first come home, you should greet the rest of the household first before saying hello to her. All these things can be incorporated relatively easily into your normal daily routine, and will clearly indicate to her that you are the alpha dog.

When dealing with the issue of the crate, it is vital that you are both persistent yet very patient with her. As you don’t know her prior history, it is possible that she may have bad memories of a previous experience in a crate and therefore has negative associations with any sort of kennel she sees. If you do want her to eventually stay in the crate for long periods of time at ease, you will have to take the introduction gradually. You can do this by initially leaving her in the crate for short periods of time only, then slowly increasing the time spent inside, making sure that she is happy at each stage before moving on. It is a good idea to put a blanket or towel inside to make it seem more like her home. Feeding her inside the crate initially will help speed up the process of making the crate appealing to her. You may also want to place a toy in there too to keep her occupied whilst you are away, such as a kong or chew toy. If she does bark or whine when in the crate, you must ignore here completely and leave her alone. By going and letting her out, you are giving in to her and so she will think that anytime she wants to get attention, she can do so by making a noise or scratching. Hard as it may be, it is essential that you do not let her out when she is misbehaving. You may find it easier if you all leave the room and shut the door behind you. Although she may continue barking for some time initially, she will soon learn that that is not the way to get attention and she will stop doing so. The moment she quietens down, you should let her out of the crate as a reward and give her lots of attention. This will give her something positive to work towards too.
It is also important to remember that you must never put her in the crate if she has misbehaved, because you don’t want her to associate it with anything negative at all.

Before leaving her in the morning, it is a good idea to take her out for a quick walk if possible, so that she will have had some exercise and therefore be less restless when inside the crate during the day.

It is common for shelter dogs to feel quite unsettled and insecure when initially placed in a new home. Therefore you should give her some time to settle into your routine and household and get used to all the new surroundings. You will find that she becomes a much more relaxed dog once she has determined that her place in your pack and home is secure. Spending some time each day doing obedience work with her and teaching her new commands will not only stimulate her mentally, but also improve the relationship between you and allow you two to get to know each other better.

I hope this helps with your decision!
Posted by kjd
Mar 23, 2010

Robyn has given you some great information on introducing your new dog to the crate. However, I take it you need some idea of what to do when you leave now, before she is good in the crate.

Please don't close that crate door until she is comfortable in the crate! This may mean you can never close the door, but the crate can still be a den for her.

Is there any way to close off the open doorway to the kitchen? You said the baby gate is too low to contain her if she wants to leave. There are some tall baby gates (for tall dogs). You might check Petco or Petsmart and see if you can find one. I think you should consider the laundry room area as her initial "crate." At night, put a blanket or pillow or towel in her actual crate. Introduce it to her as her bed. Put a chew toy in for her. But DO NOT CLOSE THE DOOR! You want her to gradually learn that the crate is a good place to be.

I hope this gives you a place to keep your new dog when you are not home. Please let us know how things are going.

Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Mar 24, 2010
Hi kpah,

Thank you for providing this sweet dog a permanent home. She will be forever grateful and loyal to your family members.

When I first read your post, I got an impression that your setter mix had had some bad experience, almost been traumitized with crates. Maybe I was wrong but I could see her trying to get out of the crate all the few hours that you guys were out on Sat, since she was panting and drooling when you got home.

People have different ideas on crating dogs but I personally don't want to use them for dogs that spent long time at shelters, or dogs that were trasported long way in a crate (I am sure it would have been a traumatic experience since the dog had no idea what's going to happen and how long he would be contained in such small space).

Some people crate dogs for 8-9 hrs during the day and put them in a crate during the night. I think it is very un-natural way for dogs' being.

Do you want a dog that can be trusted when left in your home loose, or do you want a dog that can put up with the small space where she can hardly turn around whenever left alone in a house? If you think of all the years to live with your dog, I think it will be such small sacrifice on your part, even if she wets the floor, scratches your door, or a chew some shoes. These are the things that your dog is very capable to learn not to do with training and disciplines.

I think crates are great when they are used for temporary solutions in some specific cases but otherwise the door of the crate should be open all the time.

I think kjd's idea or leaving your dog in the utility room with a sturdy doggy fense (I've got one too) blocking her way to the kitchen.
Posted by kjd
Mar 24, 2010

You and I think a lot alike, however, I am more open to the use of crates. Also, with a dog as seriously traumatized by the crate as this one is, I think she should be desensitized. If she should be injured and have to spend any time at the doctor's, for example, she will be kenneled. Unless she no longer fears the crate, this would add unbearable stress.

I agree with you that this dog should not be confined in the crate. By the time she can have the door closed, she will be well and completely housetrained to her new home and not need it.

Sunna has a crate, Actually, right now, there are two one in the bedroom and one by the front door. The downstairs one is on loan and the door is off. She uses that when she wants to keep an eye on the front door while comfortable. The upstairs one has a door I've seen her open it and go in when it is closed! She's in it right now -- comfortable with an eye on me. She sleeps on a rug by the bed, on a mat in the closet, on a broken blow-up bed under the window, or in the crate; I think she moves around during the night. The two crates and the closet have one thing in common: they all are open to the outside only in the front. (It was my mother's idea to get a cover for the wire crate when the then-current dog didn't like the crate. She thought the dog might feel exposed with the open sides. And it worked! The dog later learned it was also a good place to retreat if my nephews and nieces got too tiresome. Then that closed door kept them out, not her in.) I've never locked the door on Sunna; if it closes, she just pushes it open.

So, with this new dog, kpah, if you have a wire crate, do get a cover for it. If it is a plastic, airline-type crate, take off the door. You want to have her see the crate as a safe place, not a place of confinement. Throw good treats in there, put her food dish just inside the door, make it a comfy place. Do not force her in; don't even try to entice her. If you throw in a treat and she doesn't go in, just leave the treat in the crate and go on with something else. If the treat is good enough, she might sneak in when nobody is looking. She has obviously had some very bad experiences with confined spaces, so don't expect her to take to it very soon. She may never use it. But I suspect, if you keep the crate in the bedroom, one morning you will wake up and see her sound asleep in the crate.

Do let us know how you all adjust to one another,
Posted by crazycrayonmom
Mar 29, 2010
I agree with the others, the crate is too stressful for her right now. I would leave the door open or even take it off for now so it doesn't close accidentally and freak her out. I do believe you should desensitize her to the crate, at some point in her life she may need to be crated so for her comfort and safety desensitization would be important. Your first step would be to make her comfortable just going in and coming out on her own.

For the safety of your belongings in the meantime, I would use one of the high dog gates in the laundry room for her. If there was room for the crate in there I would also put that in the room with the door off and a soft comfy blankie on the bottom. Then I would feed her right in front of the open crate, not inside yet. When she ignores the crate then I'd move the food dish directly inside the open door so her head is inside when she eats. Take each step slowly and make sure she's comfortable before you move to the next one. Slowly move that food to the back of the kennel. Once she's comfortable with that, put the door back on and see how she does with the door on but open. If that's still good then I would feed her in the back of the kennel, when she goes in, gently swing the door closed but not latched and see how she reacts.

I would also continue to throw an occasional high-value treat in there, she'll sneak in and get it when you're not looking. It'll be a long process but if she needs to be crated for an emergency at least she won't be traumatized by the crate as well.

Congratulations to your family and your new dog! Hope it all goes well for you.