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Why Crate Train Your Dog?

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My Dog Panics in the Crate

If your dog experiences extreme anxiety when you try to confine her in a crate, let her out immediately and seek the help of a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB), a veterinary behaviorist (Dip ACVB) or a Certified Pet Dog Trainer (CPDT). Please see our article, Finding Professional Help, to locate one of these professionals in your area. If you elect to hire a CPDT because you can’t find a behaviorist in your area, be sure to determine whether she or he has professional training and experience in successfully working with anxiety, since this work is beyond what CPDT certification requires.

My Dog Guards Things or Behaves Aggressively in Her Crate

Dogs who guard their belongings sometimes also guard the area around their crates. If your dog has guarded objects, food or places in the past, always be cautious when walking by her open crate or when removing her from the crate. Avoid reaching into the crate to pull your dog out. Instead, you can entice her out or lift the crate up from the back to “spill” her out. For more information about guarding, please see our article, Food Guarding.

Some dogs seem to feel vulnerable and trapped when they’re in crates or other small spaces. These dogs might react with aggression when approached by unfamiliar people or dogs while inside their crates. If this sounds like your dog, please seek guidance from a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB), a veterinary behaviorist (Dip ACVB) or a Certified Pet Dog Trainer (CPDT). If you elect to hire a CPDT because you can’t find a behaviorist in your area, be sure to determine whether she or he has professional training and experience in successfully working with aggression. This work is beyond what CPDT certification requires, and you need to be sure the trainer is qualified to help you.

Decreasing Confinement, Increasing Freedom

You can begin to give your dog more freedom in your house while you’re gone once she’s thoroughly house trained, has eliminated consistently outside with no accidents for at least one month, and chews or destroys only her own toys-not your house or household items. The right time to give your dog more freedom will depend on her individual personality. Some dogs can be destructive when alone until they are about two years old, while others can be trusted at one year or less.

Here are some suggested steps toward increasing your dog’s freedom outside the crate:

  • Start with brief absences with your dog free in your house. Be sure to dog-proof your home before you go. Put your garbage away and pick up items you don’t want your dog to chew. Leave out several toys that she can chew. You want to set her up to succeed!
  • Don’t give her freedom in the whole house at first. Use baby gates or close doors to prevent her from getting into rooms you don’t want her in yet. Or try confining her to just one room, like the kitchen or laundry room.
  • Walk out the door and run a short five-minute errand. If you come home to a mess, try a shorter absence.
  • If, after a couple more attempts at short absences, your dog is still making messes, she might not be mature enough to be left alone in the house yet. Alternatively, her continued destructiveness might mean she has separation anxiety. Please see our article, Separation Anxiety, for more information about this problem. If you think your dog might have separation anxiety, please see Finding Professional Help to locate a qualified behaviorist in your area.
  • If you return and there are no messes, gradually lengthen your absences. For example, start with five minutes. Then try a half-hour, then an hour, then two hours and, finally, four or five hours (the maximum recommended length of time).

WebMD Veterinary Reference from ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist

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