Shh puppy, shh.....
December 12, 2008 12:18 PM   Subscribe

After 4 months of living with me, my puppy's barking in the kennel issues haven't improved much. I am looking for suggestions for things I haven't tried that might make him quiet down.

I have a 6 month old small dog who still barks in his kennel EVERY DAY when I leave him alone. I don't want him to do this. I have tried everything I can think of and am looking for some fresh suggestions. I apologize in advance for the long back story, but here goes.

I have had the dog since he was 8 weeks old, and he's never been super fond of being alone. When I leave him in his kennel, he barks/howls off and on for a while, often as much as a half hour. Then he seems to settle down and fall asleep for the rest of the time he is in there. From my extensive google-ing, it appears that his deal might be a mild form of separation anxiety or something similar. Other details:

1. The dog does typically follow me around throughout the house, but sometimes he will go and play in another room for a little while when I am home
2. He gets anxious and whiny when I leave the house even if other people are home. Sometimes my roommate has to grab him to keep him from darting out the door when it is obvious I am going to leave. He whines for a bit after I am gone, but not nearly as long as when he is alone in his kennel
3. He does not get anxious and whiny when my roommate (who the dog is very very fond of) leaves the house.
4. Before he was housebroken, he slept in his kennel in my bedroom and had no problem with it. He was pretty much completely quiet and would go in without a fight. So I don't think the issue is that he hates his kennel.
5. When he is in his kennel and barking, he will still eat any easy to access foods in there (he won't fight for an hour for something that is frozen, but he will spend a couple seconds gobbling something up) He never hurts himself or tries to get out or pees in there or anything. When I come back, he is totally quiet and sleeping. Its really just that first little while that he is upset.
6. He is a moderately barky character. He doesn't bark to huge excess, but he does seem to bark or whine when he is frustrated (toy trapped under the couch, bark. Water bowl empty, bark, cool person or dog out the window, bark)

Things I have tried to calm/quiet him down in the kennel

1. tons of awesome food items in a kong toy, frozen or unfrozen. He will eventually eat them, but seems to understand they aren't going anywhere....He isn't as food motivated as most other dogs
2. DAP spray and rescue remedy
3. playing music
4. Spraying him or spraying in the room he is in with a squirt bottle to distract him from barking (this actually has cut down the barking some....)
5. one of those ultrasonic noise things that makes an inaudible beep when he barks. This had some impact, but it wasn't good...made him bark less, but for way longer. And he was a neurotic mess when I took him out of the kennel. I returned the thing.
6. Exercising him tons before he went in the kennel so he was dead tired. He still seems to find the strength to bark for a while.

I know about the whole building up the time he is alone thing, and after the holidays I am going to work toward moving him out of the crate and gate him in the bathroom. We will work up the time he is in the bathroom from nothing and hope that he has a more positive association with the bathroom than the kennel. I think for his own safety, he's still too young to have free run of the house when I'm gone, but I hope that someday he will. What other things have you wise dog owners done to keep dogs quiet that I haven't tried? Has anyone used a citronella bark collar to any success? Did your dog eventually just grow out of this problem?
posted by mjcon to Pets & Animals (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
One thing that always worked for my kennel trained dog was a sheet over it. The shade and not being able to see any movement seemed to calm him down.
posted by wavering at 12:27 PM on December 12, 2008

I can't offer much advice, but I did see that you play music. Does it happen to be classical? I had read an article about some study that had been done on music/talk shows and dogs. The results showed that playing classical music (piano being the best) really had a calming effect on them.

Just one idea!
posted by Sufi at 12:29 PM on December 12, 2008

We kennel trained our small dog to get the barking/whining to stop by keeping her in the kennel at night in another room (i.e., away from us). This was a SEVERE pain the butt (worth every minute of it in hindsight) because I would have to get up every time she did it during the night (which was usually just for the firm 10-20 mins. of putting her in there) and hit her kennel to get her to stop. But this only took like MAYBE two weeks of being consistent. Now she very rarely does the whining/light bark thing, and it only takes a firm 'NO' to get it to stop.

I think putting the kennel in another room at night is clutch, because it gets the dog used to being completely away from you for extended periods of time if you are forced to leave it alone at some point. AND you are doing what you ultimately intend to do--crate him or in some way contain him--right away. Dogs, even as puppies, are capable of this. Just figure out what you want and start doing that now. If you want to put him in the bathroom (which is where our Chihuahua goes when we're gone), then put him in there at night and put him in there when you're gone. That way there's only a dichotomy of "this is where I go when Owner's not here" and "this is where I go when Owner's here."

I know you seem to have tried most of this, and apologize for the length, but I think if you just pick one thing and do it over and over until you want to punch yourself, you'll get it to work.
posted by resurrexit at 12:48 PM on December 12, 2008

When my family had a puppy, we'd put him to bed in a crate for the first few months. If he barked in the night, my mother came downstairs and banged on the top of the crate with a newspaper. After a while, he stopped barking totally, and it was years before he barked again at all. I think you need to introduce some more powerful negative reinforcement so that he gets out of the habit once and for all. Rewarding him with food when he barks is totally the wrong way to go.
posted by Dasein at 1:03 PM on December 12, 2008

Putting a sheet over the kennel is a great idea - that helped us out a lot with our new puppy.

One thing you might try is to put him in his kennel randomly during times that you are not leaving the house. For example, you could put him in the kennel for 5-15 minutes while you're home. If he barks, keep him in there longer; if he doesn't let him out after a few minutes.

As for the separation anxiety, one strategy to try is to spend about a week completely ignoring your puppy UNLESS he is not demanding your attention. It's hard to do, but if you do it consistenly for a week, your puppy will learn that positive rewards (i.e. your attention) occur when he is not fixated on getting your attention.
posted by aether516 at 1:27 PM on December 12, 2008

Though you say your dog is not food-motivated, you may want to try getting a long, hollow bone and filling it with peanut butter. It's not difficult to get out, just takes them a long time. That stopped my barky puppy.
posted by kamikazegopher at 1:34 PM on December 12, 2008

You need to dress up and or do the things you do before you leave and then don't leave to desensitize your dog, as well as leave him for increasingly long periods of time.

Seconding, leaving the dog with a peanut filled kong or treat of some kind.

Spray him with bitter apple when he barks.
posted by xammerboy at 8:49 PM on December 12, 2008

Best answer: It is natural for a dog to be anxious when you leave. They are pack animals and being away from the pack is life-threatening.

I agree with desensitizing him to your "I'm leaving" activities. Do NOT spray him with Bitter Apple (it is an eye and mucous membrane irritant), do not bang on the crate (you won't make him love his crate and feel safe there by doing that sort of shit), do not crate him in another room at night. DO get some books to help you learn how to work on this issue ("I'll Be Home Soon" is a good one, as is "Before and After You Get Your Puppy" by Ian Dunbar, which addresses proper crate training extensively), DO feed him in his crate whether you're abandoning him or not, DO exhaust him physically and mentally before you leave him for the day (a walk and some fun training), DO feed him his meal in a toy he has to work to get it out of (like a Kong or Buster Cube).
posted by biscotti at 9:40 PM on December 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

Best answer: How often has he been left alone to bark for this half-hour that he barks before settling down? Have you asked him to go in, and then ignored him
no matter what for a solid two-week period?

Is he trained to go into his kennel on a command? Does he have any training at all (come, sit, stay - anything to let him know that there are ways to understand what you want and do the right thing? Do he have enough training that you can trust him to give you clear signals?) Could you train him to go into his kennel, and then do a down stay with the door open? That would give him a very positive attitude toward hanging out in his kennel.

If you go the sheet route, peep at him from around the corner. Some dogs will pull things into the crate, and then you have a choking hazard, or maybe a couple thousand dollars in surgery to remove a very inappropriate chew toy.

One last thought would be that he is anxious when he realizes it's kennel time, he forgets to pee and poop, you think he just didn't need to go, and then when he goes in the crate, he's overwhelmed with the urge.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 5:13 PM on December 13, 2008

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