Dog Training Help
April 2, 2010 10:50 AM   Subscribe

Please share your best resources to help me be a better master to my new dog Jake. Also, some questions on crate training inside.

I adopted Jake on 3/17/10 from the shelter in San Bernardino. The vet who neutered him says he is a mix of Basset Hound, Pit Bull, and something else small like a Corgie. He’s pretty headstrong, and I made the mistake of being too easy on him at first (letting him jump up, sleep on my bed, giving him run of the apartment when I was gone, etc.) He had started nipping at me, trying to take my spot on the sofa, and other not good behaviors. So I need to show him who in control, and everything I’ve seen online says a crate is a good way to do that.

I had him sleep in the crate for the first time last night and it went pretty well. I put it in my living room and got him in it about an hour before I went to bed, and we sat and watched TV together. He cried a bit when I went to my bedroom to sleep, but I waited until he calmed down then went out and slept on the couch. At one point I got up for some water and he started making noise- low barks and some growling- but I ignored it and he stopped.

This morning his tail was wagging a mile a minute when I got up, but I left him in the crate until I had showered and gotten dressed. Then I let him out, gave him some affection, and took him for a walk. When we got back we played in the yard for a bit, and I had him go to the bathroom. I let him wander the house for a bit while I made coffee, then got him back in the crate and turned the TV on again. I left the TV on when I left for work, and I’m hoping everything is OK.

I come home for lunch for an hour or so everyday, so I’ll be able to walk him then as well as an extra long walk after work. I’ve left him some toys to play with and some bedding—should I have put some water in there too? Following the measurements they gave at the pet store has things pretty tight, and there didn’t seem to be room.

Does it sound like I am doing this right? It’s weird to me to keep him cooped up like that, but he did seem pretty happy in there. I really want to make this work, and I can use all the help I can get.
posted by InfidelZombie to Pets & Animals (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
IANADogExpert, but it sounds like you're doing everything right. Eventually, he'll probably make that his preferred place to rest, so that if you crash on the couch to watch TV, he'll settle down in there with the door open.

As far as the water goes, I don't leave a water bowl in my dog's crate, but I do make sure that he gets access to as much water as he needs whenever he's out of it. He sleeps the whole day while I'm at work anyway, so even when he's out during the day, he doesn't drink much water.
posted by specialagentwebb at 10:56 AM on April 2, 2010

Sounds good but I'd make one change...let him out to pee before your shower! Imagine being in a crate and holding it all night then being made to hold it for another 20 minutes!
posted by vito90 at 11:01 AM on April 2, 2010

A crate is essential in my opinion. Dogs need to have a place that is their own. I haven't crated my Golden when I left the house for a few years now as she is well behaved enough to have the run of the house, but she still lays in there all the time. She has a nice comfy bed to lay in and she enjoys it.

I would let him out first thing in the morning, and first thing when you get home. Time alone + the excitement of you coming home is not a recipe for comfort. He might not go inside the crate, but he is going to be uncomfortable. I wouldn't (and didn't) crate a dog when you are home moving around, unless it is for a quick trip in the middle of the night. Jake is going to want to be with you during that time.

Cute dog. Congrats on your new friend.
posted by Silvertree at 11:10 AM on April 2, 2010

Just make sure that he is always in a calm state before you let him out of the crate, and don't shut him in there unless he is calm as well, that way he won't associate it with stress or anxiety. The state of mind you leave him in is the one he will remain in while you're away. This answer probably sounds very Dog Whisperer-influenced and I highly recommend watching some episodes, there are some on hulu. I've used his methods with a very challenging and aggressive dog with amazing results.
The behavior your dog exhibited--nipping, taking your spot on the sofa--shows that he wasn't accepting you as the pack leader. You definitely need to establish yourself in that role. Don't let him up on the bed or the couch. Make him wait for your command before eating or leaving/entering the house. The website has some good tips.
posted by janerica at 11:31 AM on April 2, 2010

So I need to show him who in control, and everything I’ve seen online says a crate is a good way to do that.

Crates are not meant for punishment. Never, ever put a dog in a crate to punish him. He will learn to associate it with you being mad at him and thus negating the whole reason for crate-training. Also be careful not to leave him in there for more than a few hours at a time, so coming home at lunch is great.

The crate should be a safe haven for Jake, and he'll soon seek it out like you would the couch, a comfy spot where he can relax. Leave some surprise food treaties in there with the door open and he'll like it even better. Other things he might like in there - a stuffed toy, or a soft flannel shirt you've worn recently.
posted by HeyAllie at 11:37 AM on April 2, 2010

This is a great resource: Raising the Perfect Puppy, by Cesar Millan. Much other goodness there as well.
posted by buzzv at 12:01 PM on April 2, 2010

2nding the Dog Whisperer. Even if you decide not to use the physical "nips" he uses for training your dog (we don't really use them...our puppy just nips back), he still has an incredible amount of training information to help you with your new friend. His number one priority seems to be having patience. Dogs are bit weird (not as weird as cats) but they do learn eventually.

Seriously, Corgi/Pit/Basset mix? Has your vet ever seen a Beagle?
posted by nursegracer at 12:01 PM on April 2, 2010

Other things you want to look out for: Resource guarding. When he eats, can you take his bowl away without him getting upset? Same with toys. This is definitely something to work on if he gets growly or upset. You should always be the first person in and out of a door, that's the sign of an alpha. When he shows dominant behavior, putting him on his side into submission is also a good way to show him who the alpha is.

I am not a dog trainer and obviously you need to look out for your own safety first before trying anything above.

Good luck!
posted by Kimberly at 12:12 PM on April 2, 2010

Thanks for the advice everybody. I have been using treats to get him into the crate, and he is always calm when I close it-- I would never use it to punish him, or keep him locked away while I'm at home. I'll be more considerate about letting him out first thing in the morning and when I get home.

I was looking for beagles when I saw that pic online, which is why I went to check him out. In person you can see it better-- it looks like someone stuck a pit head on a basset body. He was so cool sitting there in the kennel I couldn't resist, I love the little guy.
posted by InfidelZombie at 12:46 PM on April 2, 2010

A few things regarding crate training:

1- I wouldn't put water in the crate with him, that's just begging for it to be spilled! And who wants to sleep on a wet bed??

2- We personally do not put toys or chews in with our dog in the crate. Kind of a personal thing, but I would hate for her to choke on a bit of something. She is in her crate with her dog bed, and that's about it.

Our dog loves her crate, and is often in there sleeping, even with the door open. She's now old enough to sleep in the bedroom at night (her crate is in the other room, but the bed isn't big enough for everyone!). The important thing, as others have mentioned, is that Jake has a place of his own. Think of the crate as his bedroom, his safe place. It may help to have it in a corner, rather than in an open spot in the room. In know our dog's crate is in the corner of a room, and when it's moved she is really unsettled.

Definitely take him out first thing in the morning, until he is better trained. When ours was a wee pup, I had to wake up at the first alarm to take her out, otherwise there would be yipping and accidents. Now she's old enough to wait until I've showered and dressed.

One last thing, someone upthread mentioned not leaving them in the crate for more than a few hours, but I disagree. While I understand that you don't want to leave him in his crate all day, with training, our dog was fine (with plenty of play and affection) for about 8-9 hours a day while we were at work. Again, this is a place your dog enjoys being, plus, he'll probably sleep all day anyway!

ps- you're doing the right thing in crate training, he'll be a better dog for it!

Good work!
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 12:52 PM on April 2, 2010

Data point: I wouldn't worry about taking the him out as soon as you wake up if that's annoying for you. Especially if you took him out right before bed. Unless you're sleeping for 12 hours, that extra 20 minutes is going to make very little difference. I take mine out before bed and then before I leave for work (again when I get home, obviously).
posted by toomuchpete at 1:21 PM on April 2, 2010

In addition to crate training, I suggest making him work for everything he gets. He wants to go outside? He has to sit before you open the door. Same with eating or any food reward - make him earn it. It will solidify your place as the "giver of good things" and reinforce the fact that he has to be well behaved before he gets to have fun.

Also, enroll in an obedience class. It will be a fun way for you two to bond, and will also give you some training tips that will help develop your cute guy into a good pet.
posted by tryniti at 1:31 PM on April 2, 2010

Oh, and another thing. Work on training everyday in everyday situations. Training doesn't have to involve putting on a leash and running through drills in the backyard. There are some common commands that if used on a regular basis, your dog will pick up on and they will make your life much easier. For example "Off" (get off of the couch), "Leave It" (don't eat that steak I just dropped on the floor), "Come" (come inside the house now because I'm late for work), and "Kennel" (get in your kennel). If you use these words when the situation arises and reward your dog when he performs them, he will make the connection.

Just be wary of a mistake a lot of people make: use one word commands. My husband is notorious for finding the dog on the couch and yelling "Ikegetoffthecouchrightnow! Youknowyoushoudn'tbeupthere!", which I'm sure sounds like Swahili to my dog. You aren't dealing with a small child, you have a dog who has no idea what you are saying and can only go off the tone of your voice. If you keep it simple, "Jake - OFF", he's much more likely to understand what you mean and respond to the command in the future.
posted by tryniti at 1:48 PM on April 2, 2010

I just wanted to mention positive dog training. I have a very smart, very stubborn mutt. We have been using positive training since we got her at 8 weeks and it is awesome. We trained obedience, agility and silly tricks using positive methods. I've learned how to shape behaviors, how to give commands and how to get her to listen. She happily performs tasks without having to lure her with treats although for really challenging situations (she's a poop eater!) we still have rewards ready.

I hesitate to use concepts like alpha, dominant and submissive in my dog dealings. Personally, I don't find them that useful. Lani sits and waits before she leaves or comes in the house. She lets me take whatever I want from her mouth. When I ask her to do something she (usually) does it not because I am alpha but because we worked for a long time to build a common language and routine. She knows what I want from her because I ask the same thing every single day. Just my personal philosophy of Lani-dog training!

As for using the crate: you might try it for a while until he learns the house rules and then let him be out and about for increasingly longer times. Training house rules just means that you never let him out of your sight when you are home. This way you can catch any unwanted behavior and give a verbal correction immediately. When you go days without having to correct him you know it is time to leave him out of the crate. We started with leaving Lani out when we went to the grocery. We have a "leaving" routine. She goes to her spot on the carpet and lays down, then she gets a kong with kibble and a little peanut butter. We say "I'll be back" as we calmly leave the house. In my experience, with my dog (your's will be different) this has worked perfectly. Nothing gets chewed, there's no barking, no anxiety. She eats her kong and sleeps in her chair all day.

Sorry for the long response! I have a couple final bits of advice that I have learned in the year and a half of being the guardian of a spunky dog: figure out what it takes to wear your dog out and do that EVERY SINGLE DAY, be consistent, be patient, and be free with your love and praise. Best of luck with your new friend!
posted by rachums at 1:52 PM on April 2, 2010

Congrats on the new pup! I wanted to put in a suggestion for the sleeping arrangements. If you can, have the crate in your bedroom and let him sleep in the same room as you. It helps with bonding and will make him feel accepted as part of your group. The crate should be a safe, comfy place. You can leave the door open with some treats or a toy in there when you're home so he associates it with Good Things.

There are ways to curb the resource guarding and dominant behavior with positive methods. I'm really not a fan of Cesar Millan after hearing criticism from people in the animal behavior and veterinary medicine fields. I suggest a philosophy more along the lines of Ian Dunbar. Books by Jean Donaldson and Patricia McConnell are good examples of this school of thinking.

I adopted a dog with some fear issues and used the crate right away. He loves it now. Ease him into it... maybe with the crate top off (if it's a hard-sided crate) and some blankets in there, then add the top (but not the door) and then the fully-assembled crate. This worked well for me over the course of a weekend.
posted by yukonho at 2:16 PM on April 2, 2010 it just me or does this seem like a very long time for a dog to be in a crate? All night (8 hours?) + morning (4 hours?) + afternoon (4 hours?). Approximately 16 (?) out of 24 hours in a crate?

This sounds very lengthy to me--please tell me I'm wrong?
posted by The ____ of Justice at 5:37 PM on April 2, 2010

Yeah, I don't understand why he has to be in the crate all night. If you're having some behavioral issues you should be taking him to school to learn to work with him, not just putting him in the crate to show him "who's in control". That's not actually how you teach that.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:15 PM on April 2, 2010

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