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Crate training a panicked puppy
December 17, 2008 3:04 AM   Subscribe

Crate training help! We have a new puppy (around 9 weeks) who panics in her crate. I know we have to introduce her to the crate slowly, but how do we do that and also sleep/leave the house occasionally?

Please help me not hate the dog. We have had her for a week now. She is a usually a good dog outside the crate and is even making good progress on housetraining. But. She panics-- not just whines, but throws herself around, chews on the bars, howls forever panics- when I put her in her crate and close the door. When the crate door is open she will go in and out and even nap in there. She eats her meals in the crate. If I put her in the crate when she is supersleepy and close the door she will be OK for a while. But if I try to close the door on her while she is awake she goes into full panic mode and I am afraid she will hurt herself. This is true even when I stay right next to the crate. I even put the crate on my bed, and she still panics.

I am trying to do everything that the books say to do, like introduce it slowly during the day and leaving treats in the crate. But I can't be tethered to the kitchen forever! How do I introduce the crate slowly and also sleep, shower, and leave the house every once in a while?
posted by ohio to Pets & Animals (24 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
She is not the only one panicking. You are too. If you stop panicking, she will stop. Right now she is taking every cue from you. Put her in the crate (what is a crate btw, ?) lots of times a day. And dont make a big deal of it in your voice or other languages. The crate is normal, its breakfast cereal, its toilet paper, its foxnews, its vitamins, its carpet. What is a crate? Do you mean kennel or bed?
posted by evil_esto at 3:40 AM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I haven't lived with dogs since I was young, but I seem to remember that this can be an extremely gradual process. As in: keep feeding the dog every meal inside the crate for a while longer, without closing the door, and start train her to go into the crate at other times (pick a command, like "crate!" or "box time!" or something, and give her a treat once she's in there). Once you've gone for a while without a crate-panic, try closing the door for a little bit, without leaving. Repeat often ('lots of times a day' is pretty good advice, actually). You'll need to break the association your dog has between being in the crate and feeling panicked, and you do this by keeping the crate in her life without freaking her out for as long as possible.

Now that I'm looking, this sounds like better and more thorough advice than I can give, but the salient point is that you can't just put the dog in a box and walk away within a week of bringing her home and expect everything to be peachy. It's a process, like training a dog to do anything, and requires little steps and patience. Seriously, a week is not that long. Make this a project for the next month.

Until you've got her happily in the crate, get some of those folding door-barriers, the ones that keep the toddler from careering down the stairs, and confine her in your kitchen, a bathroom, or somewhere else relatively puppy-safe while you're gone. If you can use the room with the crate, even better. I seem to remember that maintaining a consistent crate location helps, too--make it her den, don't shift it around.
posted by pullayup at 4:38 AM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


you can't just put the dog in a box and walk away within a week of bringing her home and expect everything to be peachy

Now that I read this, it sounds kind of nasty. I didn't mean it to sound harsh, and I know it's not what you're doing: I just want to reinforce that you might need to take this a little more slowly than you are. Every time the dog has a crate-induced freakout you're taking a step backwards.
posted by pullayup at 4:42 AM on December 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


if she's making progress on being housetrained, does she need to be crated?
posted by rmd1023 at 5:38 AM on December 17, 2008


I tend to agree with rmd1023 above. A nine week old puppy needs love, companionship and playtime. Locking the small animal up in a "crate" sounds cruel to me, tho' I am more than happy to be corrected by others.
posted by lungtaworld at 5:51 AM on December 17, 2008


Please read the Dog Whisperer. It will give you some good and helpful advice about this and other issues that may come up. For now, I think she thinks that you are locking her up and leaving. I would suggest that you put her into the crate with some toys, a nice bone to chew on and stay there for a while talking to her. Make it a fun time. Play with her through the crate. Put on some soft radio in the background. Keep the momentum going then take her out. Let this go on each time leaving her in 5 more minutes. Get a timer if you need to. Just make sure that you let her out at the designated time. Nothing induces panic in a puppy more than separation. After a week of prolonging the time she spends in the crate learning to pee within boundaries you can then progress to outdoors with the newspaper as the scent.

Remember the crate isn't supposed to be a torture chamber, it's supposed to provide a safe place where she can pee without getting yelled at, where she can have some time out and where she'll be safe in an otherwise unsafe area. Remember to keep it light and fun and praise her for her efforts too. After this week - or 2 it might take 2 - of doing this hard work, give yourself a reward and go out, have fun. She'll be a bit panicky but something will tell her that you'll be back. And try not to leave for too long. 2-3 hours would be great. Then you can go for longer. Thing is, you want to produce a fearless, happy dog. Not one with separation anxiety. Enjoy her and she will enjoy you. Cheers.
posted by watercarrier at 6:35 AM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Is crate-training not widely known or accepted? I was under the impression everyone with a dog in the past 20 years had at least heard of it. Dogs adjust and many of them grow to love their crates. They'll go in and sleep there on their own 'cause they know they won't be bothered there. It's not "cruel," and when you're around a crate-trained dog you see this.

First of all, it's gonna be OK. You are probably at your wit's end after a week of adjusting and not sleeping well and picking up puppy messes. It's OK, this will get easier. Big hugs.

Stop putting the crate on your bed, stop sitting outside the crate while she's shut inside. Keep feeding her meals in there and slowly work on having the door open, then closed a little more, a little more, till she will eat with the door closed but not locked. Find a special treat -- pig ear, rawhide, bone, Kong filled with peanut butter -- that she ONLY gets when she is shut in her crate. Then start small, REAL small. Crate her for 10 minutes and drive around the block. Do that a bunch. Set a timer and put her in for 10, 15, 20 minutes while you're home. Ignore whining -- don't teach her that barking and whining and having a fit makes the crate open. She will settle down eventually.

I don't have any tips for sleeping, since I prefer my dogs sleep with me and not in their crate. If you're dead-set on having her sleep in her crate, maybe someone else has some tips?
posted by fiercecupcake at 6:36 AM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I haven't ever crate trained a dog. IAMNACT. But my boss at work did it by getting one of these little dog toys thats shaped kind of like a conch shell but its hollow inside and the she takes peanut butter and fills the inside up with it and freezes it. Whenever the dog gets put into the crate she also gets this toy in there with her. It can take her hours to get all the peanut butter out. They have to lock the crate to keep her out, otherwise she just goes and sits in there all the time and looks at them waiting for her peanut butter toy.
posted by jefeweiss at 6:40 AM on December 17, 2008


IANADT but my family had success with just giving the dog (not a puppy though, he was young) a treat when he got in the crate but only after we shut the door. So we'd say "Crate" then walk to the treat jar (it's a this point he'd actually go to the crate, soon enough though the command took). He go in and wait. We'd shut the door "Good boying" him the whole way. The slip a treat through the bars and walk away as he was eating. The only other adjustment we made was to get in the habit of walking him or playing vigorously with him before crate time.
posted by syntheticfaith at 6:41 AM on December 17, 2008


Locking the small animal up in a "crate" sounds cruel to me, tho' I am more than happy to be corrected by others.

Yeah, it's not cruel. It's their den. My dogs go in their crates on their own all the time.

Remember the crate isn't supposed to be a torture chamber, it's supposed to provide a safe place where she can pee without getting yelled at,

Huh? Your dog pees in his crate?
posted by Pax at 7:17 AM on December 17, 2008


I've had dogs all my life and I've never crate trained them. I have tried, twice, and completely failed, twice. Now I look back at those two dogs and think they were outliers who simply couldn't be crate trained: one of them was one of the single dumbest animals I've ever met, like brain damaged dumb and the other one was the opposite: way too smart and a little neurotic/claustrophobic with it. My current dogs, btw, are probably completely crate trainable, but I'm not going to bother at this point. This is a long winded way of saying that not all dogs are going to be happy crate dogs.

So, here's a suggestion: baby gates. If the puppy is happy enough in her crate with the door open, how about putting gates up at the kitchen door(s) and leaving her in the kitchen with the open crate when you're not there? If the kitchen's too open, will another room work? My mother used gates, not crates, with all the many dogs she had over her long life and they worked for her. They've worked for me too, although you'll have to move them a bit higher as the puppy grows or puppy will find her way over them surprisingly quickly.

The key here would be not locking the puppy into the crate until she's completely fine with it. The more you lock her in there and she panics, the greater the chance that she'll begin to look on the crate as an instrument of torture and never, ever get to like it. So I'd give up on closing that crate door for a while - and I do mean a while, as in several weeks at least. Good luck! With puppies as with babies, the first six weeks are the worst and then things begin to improve.
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:25 AM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think the OP is asking for help in what to do in the meantime -- between today and when the period of crate training is a success -- when s/he wants to leave home, take a shower, sleep. I've never crate-trained a dog (I'm a cat person) but from what I've heard, this is the best way to get a well behaved and happy dog. The question is, how to survive during that period? Surely it's not as demanding as training a newborn to sleep, although it's starting to sound that way!

Some suggestions that are based on no experience with dogs at all:

- use the bathroom as a crate -- it's larger, it's a place puppy associates with you, you can help puppy like the bathroom by letting her come in there when you shower, it's easy to clean up

- take the crate with you into other rooms when you're home, and use the treat trick jefeweiss and syntheticfaith described

- bring the crate in the bedroom at night

- never leave her in the crate when she's panicking; if she associates the crate with panic, she'll likely never get comfortable with it; take her straight out and soothe her; later, when she's calm, try the treat trick again; if this means that you can't put her in the crate when you have to do something like go to work, try leaving her in the bathroom instead (see above)

As I've said, I have no idea if my suggestions are good ones, and perhaps someone with dog experience can chime in. But my goal here was to help get the conversation to focus on what to do in the meantime, which I think is what the OP wants to know.
posted by Capri at 7:27 AM on December 17, 2008


Yes. A puppy is housetrained in a crate. When I say crate - I'm referring to this and of course the size needs to be totally appropriate to the breed and size of the pup.
posted by watercarrier at 7:36 AM on December 17, 2008


I'm not a crate proponent. We tried to crate train a young corgi once, and she was like your pup... just wouldn't stand for being locked in. Seems logical to me. Would you want to be locked in? She turned out to be a wonderful dog, and I don't think the crate was necessary to begin with. 3 dogs later... no crates.

Dogs are pack animals - and you're the pack leader. She wants to be with you.

I'd create a comfy spot for the pup, with a basket and blanket that will get her smell, toys to chew, and put up a room gate or two to keep her there.

Work hard on the house breaking - don't scold, but get her outside regularly. Give her plenty of exercise, and she'll be tired and happy when she's in her spot.

It takes time. Our sweetest dog ever came from the pound, returned by someone because they thought she was "destructive" and could not be housebroken. She was only a few months old at the time.

Good luck!
posted by ecorrocio at 8:05 AM on December 17, 2008


Lots of misinformation here about crate training.

It sounds like you're doing everything right. A week is no time at all for a dog in a new home, whether it's an adult or a puppy. Your dog will be different next week, and the week after that, and in a few months. Sometimes better, sometimes worse. Eventually you will have a happy, mature dog.

I agree that a dog who is panicking in the crate shouldn't be forced to stay there. I think the baby gate is a good suggestion (that's standard operating procedure for housetraining without a crate, anyway). Your puppy will still cry when you leave, though. Follow the instructions in the books about how to minimize that reaction -- with a Kong, with minimal "good-bye" signals, etc. Be patient.
posted by nev at 8:12 AM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Don't be discouraged, some puppies don't take to crate training as quickly as others. You are doing the right things. I think for the short term, leave the puppy in a bathroom or laundry room with a baby gate when you have to leave, and if you can fit it, put the crate in there too so the puppy can nap there with the door open.

Work on having the puppy sleep in the crate at night in your bedroom....maybe even leave the crate door open if you have to. Crate training could be a long process, but it is worth it to do it right....My puppy is about 6 months old now, and I wish I had done a better job in the beginning because my dog is still a bit noisy (see) He is TONS better than he was at 9 weeks though, and I think time and age helped more than anything I did.

Some people swear by this. I tried the spray kind with little success, but in hindsight think the diffuser would have been a better idea. I don't think its a magic switch, but it might take the edge off some of the dog's panic issues. Good luck, and keep at it.
posted by mjcon at 8:53 AM on December 17, 2008


I am a crate-training dog owner, and I'm not going to try to turn that into an acronym. My dog was crate-trained starting at nine weeks. We survived the process with all nerves and limbs intact, and she was my first puppy. I doubt this is a crate problem - it sounds more like a puppy adjusting to her home.

Right now your dog is a baby pack animal in a new strange place. You're the only familiar thing around, so when you're not there she's going to be uneasy. My dog shadowed me for the first week I had her. I allowed it, but didn't encourage it. I'd leave the bathroom door open a crack in case she wanted in, but I didn't praise her for following me around. She got praised when I left a room and came back and found her exactly as I'd left her. Low-key praise, though, just an itch behind the ears and a calm good-girl. I had the crate out already, but we didn't start work on leaving her alone in it until she showed some confidence in her new home.

The biggest thing is to remember that the crate shouldn't be a big thing. The goal is to calmly say "Dog, go in the crate," and have Dog calmly go in the crate. If you are tense when you put her in, she can read that, and she'll get worked up too. If she panics, don't react at all. The things humans do for comfort read like praise to a dog - if she wigs out she gets cuddled. Save the praise for when she's quiet, and act like it's no big deal when she panics.
posted by cmyk at 8:59 AM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Eesh... there's a lot of bad advice in this thread.

I've crate-trained three dogs, all of them grew to love their little home-inside-a-home. All of them began by completely freaking out when placed in the crate.

Crate-training is important because it helps reinforce your relationship with your animal. If needed, you should be able to direct your pup into its crate (if you're going out for the night, etc.) It's not a form of punishment - rather, the crate is the animal's home.

Someone above mentioned reading Cesar Millan's books - I completely agree. The man understands dogs. No matter what people say, there is a power dynamic at work between you and your pet. Your puppy is freaking out when being placed in the crate because freaking out gets it out of the crate. The dog is not going to explode if you leave it in the crate. It will attempt to exert power over you so you let it out, but ultimately it will be o.k.

When I crate-trained border collies (something others have said is impossible) I simply rewarded the dog generously for entering the kennel. I sat by the kennel, watched a little t.v., gave the dog another reward for sitting quietly, and then let it out. I stored the dog's favorite toys in the crate. Eventually, the dog comes to love its crate. Collies require a huge amount of exercise (as do most dogs) so daily exercise is important. Never try to put an un-walked dog into a crate. After a year in the crate, the crate goes away and the dog sleeps in a doggie-bed where the crate used to live. Works absolutely great and helps reinforce the dominant - submissive relationship you must have if you are going to have a well-behaved, healthy dog. Dogs are pack animals, and when you let it con you out of sleeping in its crate, you are telling the dog it is the new alpha.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 9:00 AM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


In the meantime-- if you need to shower, do other stuff, go out, etc. (it sounds like puppy isn't free range yet in the house and you're feeling trapped in the kitchen as a result), why not invest in some baby gates for the kitchen to "crate" her there while you're home?
posted by availablelight at 9:56 AM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


yes, i agree. a lot of bad advice.

i think that your issue right now is less about the crate and more about separation anxiety. she's a baby, she's a pack animal. of course she's going to freak out when you're not around.

that's why you have to start now with breaking her of that habit. we want our critters to love us, but it's possible to go too far.

whether you use the crate or a baby gate, start now: put her in the crate/area and just leave. don't say anything, don't coddle her. don't react if she whines or shrieks. walk out of the door, and stay away for 5-10 minutes. when you come back to the house, let her out of the crate/area immediately, but don't make a big deal out of it. your goal at this point is to desensitize her to the process of your leaving and coming home.*

with my (totally neurotic) dog, i can't say a proper hello to her until after i've come home, leashed her up and taken her for a walk. *then* i get to calmly, and with a soothing voice, greet her. if i do anything else, i get her too excited or too nervous, and her anxiety reaction takes off. your goal is to trick the dog into not realizing you've left the house until after you're gone. don't let the dog watch you as you go through your routine before you leave. she'll learn that there are behavioral cues that signal your departure, and she'll start the whining/separation anxiety earlier and earlier in an effort to manipulate you.

everything she does is going to be a reflection of you -- as it should be. you are alpha. so, if you calmly and confidently lead her towards a healthy enjoyment of her crate, she's more likely to get there eventually. if you coo over every time she doesn't have an accident in there, or pick her up and kiss her like crazy whenever you come home, you're only complicating the process and making it more difficult for her to understand what she's supposed to do.

personally, i've never encouraged a lot of crate time when it isn't necessary. i've seen too many dogs become aggressive over guarding their crate, if they become too attached. make crating her a pleasant routine for when you're away. you're *appealing to* her denning instinct, not providing a replacement den. i'd shy away from it being seen as "her room," especially if you intend to adopt other dogs or have children. i'm saying this now because you're describing a dog who might be emotionally overactive. some dogs do fine with having "their room" and not becoming possessive over it. i'm not sure that'd be the case with the puppy you're describing.

NEVER leave a dog in a crate with any kind of organic chew toy, like a pig's ear or a rawhide. ONLY use toys that she can chew on but not hurt herself with (kong, nylabone). do not leave water for her in the crate. NEVER leave her with food in the crate. she needs to be walked immediately after eating. again, the crate is for quiet chewing or resting time.

if you must, you can feed her in there temporarily. but once she has any semblance of acceptance of the crate, i would stop that. feed her *next* to the crate --- but the longer you feed her in there, the longer she's going to associate mealtime (and therefore potty time) with the crate. you're just inviting confusion. the crate should be the place that a healthy, well-adjusted dog goes to safely rest until human companions return home. it should not be a punishment, a buffet, or the like.

this is why i completely disagree with those here who suggest that you should crate her but stay in the room/house. again, you'll just be confusing her. if you expect that there will be times that you want to restrict her access while you're home (say, for example, because she's constantly underfeet when you're in the kitchen trying to cook), use a child gate to keep her out of the kitchen. once you put her in the crate and close the door, you should quietly and immediately leave.

once you're over this initial hurdle, it'll be important to maintain these habits that you've set. if you're going to crate her while you're at work, don't put her in the crate until the car's warmed up, you have your coat on and keys in hand and are ready to walk out. if you crate her but then run around the house packing your lunch or grabbing things for your briefcase, again you're only inviting confusion.

leave a radio on with light or classical music. give her plenty of safe toys -- and make several of them (her favorites) toys she ONLY gets when she's in her crate. make sure that the crate is only large enough for her to comfortably stand, lie down and turn around -- if it's too big, she'll start peeing in the corner as a protest. (you can get away with buying one, larger crate and blocking off part of it while she's little -- block off the back with some bricks or other surface she can't chew on, and then remove them as she gets bigger.) NEVER leave a dog in a crate for more than 4-5 hours. a young puppy, no more than 2. you can, of course, come home from work (or whatever), take her out to pee and run around a bit, and then put her back in the crate for another 2 hours (although doing this for more than a total of 8 or so hours is approaching cruelty). if a dog is going to spend that many hours in a crate, even with potty breaks, you have the ethical responsibility to ensure that the hours that the dog is not in the crate she is getting the emotional and social support she needs. again, lots of exercise, lots of praise.

and most importantly, be absolutely sure she's had plenty of exercise. the single easiset way to get a dog to accept a crate is to exhaust her so much that she falls asleep quickly upon entering it.

to address a few points of extremely bad advice from above:
Locking the small animal up in a "crate" sounds cruel to me
not true. when done properly, a crate is neither a dungeon nor a play-house: it is a neutral training tool and a necessary** confinement tool for when you are away.


I would suggest that you put her into the crate with some toys, a nice bone to chew on and stay there for a while talking to her. Make it a fun time. Play with her through the crate. Put on some soft radio in the background. Keep the momentum going then take her out. Let this go on each time leaving her in 5 more minutes. Get a timer if you need to. Just make sure that you let her out at the designated time.

no, no, no. by doing this, you'd be giving the dog way too much power. you are alpha. crate her and leave. for short periods of time, at first. longer as she becomes more comfortable. sticking around, talking to/playing with her, etc. will only exacerbate the problem.

Stop putting the crate on your bed, stop sitting outside the crate while she's shut inside. Keep feeding her meals in there and slowly work on having the door open, then closed a little more, a little more, till she will eat with the door closed but not locked. Find a special treat -- pig ear, rawhide, bone, Kong filled with peanut butter -- that she ONLY gets when she is shut in her crate. Then start small, REAL small. Crate her for 10 minutes and drive around the block. Do that a bunch. Set a timer and put her in for 10, 15, 20 minutes while you're home. Ignore whining -- don't teach her that barking and whining and having a fit makes the crate open. She will settle down eventually.


the advice in italics is good advice. the advice that is not in italics is bad, bad advice.

Remember the crate isn't supposed to be a torture chamber, it's supposed to provide a safe place where she can pee without getting yelled at,

this is precisely what a crate is NOT for. ???

We tried to crate train a young corgi once, and she was like your pup... just wouldn't stand for being locked in. Seems logical to me. Would you want to be locked in? She turned out to be a wonderful dog, and I don't think the crate was necessary to begin with. 3 dogs later... no crates.

if *you* go into it thinking it's cruel, it will never work. some people have lifestyles such that they don't have to crate their dogs. but for many people, crating is the safest and most humane way to deal with needing to be away from the house for an extended period of time (no more than 4-5 hours). but again, it's only safe and humane if you do it properly. if you're going to be crating your dog for more than 8 hours total over the course of a 24 hour period, i think it's time to reconsider whether having a dog is a good idea at all.

Work on having the puppy sleep in the crate at night in your bedroom....maybe even leave the crate door open if you have to.


your puppy should only be sleeping in her crate until she's old enough to sleep through the night without needing to potty. once she can go through the night, provide her a soft bed and put up a child gate to restrict her to one room away from you (if she's still antsy, barky or whiny during the night). as to whether you let her sleep with you and/or in your room (once she can sleep through the night) is another whole askme question. :)



you'll get through this. good luck. do it right, and you'll have a strong, healthy, well-adjusted dog for many years.


*if you'll be using the crate for housetraining, be aware of the fact that each time you put her in the crate and take her out, you should be taking her outside to pee/poop before and after. you can't feed her in her crate and then lock her in there. after a feeding, she needs to be walked. if you want a successfully housetrained dog, you must take her out to pee every time you put her in a crate. not to do so will be confusing for her, and will only encourage her to act out.

**it is certainly true that many people do not find crating to be necessary for the life of the dog. but many, many urban and suburban people with busy work lives, children and active homes will find that consistent crate training for at least the first few years of a dog's life is one of the easiest ways to ensure a healthy, happy dog.
posted by CitizenD at 10:20 AM on December 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


Only Americans crate.
posted by A189Nut at 12:42 PM on December 17, 2008


You know what you can do with a crate that you can't do with baby gates or the bathroom?

Safely take your dog with you when there are wildfires or floods headed your way and you have to flee, and possibly stay in a shelter.

And A189Nut, if by "Americans," you mean North and South America, and dog people in Europe - Correct!

Ohio, it's a week. You have a baby animal. She'll be fine - although you might want to stock up on suitable chew toys now.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 1:36 PM on December 17, 2008


Lesser Shrew is so right. Crates are fantastic in emergencies. It helps at the vet's office, too. If they're used to crating they won't mind being confined to the Wall O' Kennels at the animal hospital.

And one not-crate-related thing that I really wish someone had told me: you can start recall training now. My dog is never going to be perfect at that, and I always think, if I'd only started her earlier.... There's no such thing as building up too many positive reinforcers when it comes to recall. Puppies love to run to people who are calling them. Use that.
posted by cmyk at 2:10 PM on December 17, 2008


I highly recommend books by & training philosophy of Ian Dunbar. For puppies, he has written Before You Get Your Puppy, and you can download it here. It might be helpful even though you already have your pup. Also, there is After You Get Your Puppy.

I crate trained my puppy and it help immensely with housetraining. He is almost 10months old and still sleeps in there at night (he seems more comfortable & secure than when not in the create at night).

Another option instead of baby gates is a pen like this. And, definitely lots of kongs/stuffable toys. Good luck & enjoy!
posted by hazel at 7:50 PM on December 17, 2008


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