Here’s the next round of answers for our Ask a Trainer feature on our new website. It’s your chance to get dog training advice from the pros at AnimalSense. Stay tuned for more questions & answers, and if you have a burning dog training question, just “Ask a Trainer”!
How do I re-acquaint the safety and security of a crate to an 8-year-old, 4.5 pound dog? It’s been years since I’ve put her in one as she was able to get out (think hamster). I have a new crate that is solid on the sides and just has top and front openings… so she can’t get out or hurt herself trying. I am hoping you have tips on how I should get her used to it again as a safety zone. Right now when I’m not home and its storming etc, she hides in places in my closet I don’t even know how she physically got in there. I’m just trying to figure out best options of her feeling safe.
Using a crate as a “safe place” for a dog is a great idea, especially for dogs who have trouble with storms, fireworks and other generally scary events. Think of it as your dog’s happy place: everything that happens in the crate should be positive.
Here are some tips for helping your dog readjust to the crate:
- Start by leaving the crate out so your dog can venture in and out at her leisure. Put high-value treats (something your dog REALLY loves like chicken, hot dogs or cheese) in the crate whenever your dog isn’t looking and let her happen upon them. You are working to change her mind about the crate: to make it a place she will eventually seek out for comfort on her own. With some time and work, she’ll go to her safe crate instead of the corner of your closet.
- Teach your dog to “Sit” prior to going in the crate. So, put the treats in the crate, close the gate, ask the dog to sit. When she does, open the gate and let her go in and get the treats. You have just made entering the crate rewarding to her.
- Use a Kong with your dog’s favorite filling (frozen to last longer) when you leave the house to keep her busy.
- Plug in a DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheromone) near the crate, which can help some dogs relax.
- Take baby steps. Let her get used to the crate before you enclose her in it. Vary the time she spends in the crate both when you are home and not home. Gradually, increase this amount of time.
- Create the same environment at home when you are gone as when you are there. So, leave the radio or TV on in the background and a light on when you leave.
- Only calm, relaxed behavior causes the crate door to open.