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Old 11-10-2019, 09:21 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Inconsistency in crate behavior

Hi everyone! Though I see there are plenty of detailed crate training threads, I feel compelled to seek some advice/insight from you all about my particular issue.

Alfie is a 9 week old moyen poodle we brought home last week. He's a very good boy--lovable, likes to cuddle, good at playing, eats well, has had very few indoor accidents (all my fault for not taking him quickly enough or not reading his cues well), and his breeder (a trainer of 30 years) did excellent desensitization work with the litter so noises don't bother him.

The problem is with his crate training. Nighttime crating is going well. The first night when we put him in the crate, he completely lost it for hours. Wailed, thrashed, sobbed, howled, whined, you name it. We then put the crate on a chair closer to our bed, added his Snuggle Puppy with a heartbeat sound, and he quieted down. Pretty much every night, it's the same routine - he gets sleepy, we carry the crate to the room, put in his Snuggle Puppy, place him in, he whines and whimpers for a few minutes and then sleeps through the night.

Daytime crating, however, has been super stressful. I've followed just about every piece of advice imaginable and it's just not going well. If we're in the room with him and he's in the crate, he loses it. If we leave the room, he loses it. We do our best to not give him any attention, speak to him, tell him to shush, etc. He eventually quiets down but he's barely quiet long enough for us to let him out so he makes the association that quiet and calm gets him out. We've done crate time for different lengths of time as all the advice says -- a few seconds, a few minutes -- and it doesn't matter. He's smart, too, so he will leave his body half out of the crate when he's investigating it. He'll push his way out when we try to get him in there.

In the early days of last week when he was significantly sleepier (sounds funny to say but he's growing up visibly and quickly) I'd just pick him when he fell asleep and place him in, close the door. But the minute he awoke he'd freak out and want to be let out. My husband and I have NEVER let him out when he's making a fuss of any kind, but as I said, the period of calm is so brief and we want him to make the association, so we worry he's not being made to be calm for long enough? He was also going in by himself during the day to just chill out, but hasn't done that in about two days -- as we've been trying to increase his crate and alone time.

Last night, we set up a camera with a phone app to watch/hear him, and went out for an hour (which felt GOOD -- I've canceled classes, worked from home, have barely left the house except for him to go potty and to the vet). We didn't make a big deal of it: just scooped him up, put him in, and left. We checked the app every few minutes and after some TRULY horrible wailing and sobbing and Exorcist-esque growls, he stopped and went to sleep. On our way home, about 25 minutes later, we saw him wake up, and start his freakout all over again. We literally stayed in the driveway until he stopped, about 20 minutes after that. We then came in, unlocked the crate without any fuss, and walked about the house. He was calm, but super mushy and wanted to be cuddled. When we ignored him for a few minutes, he eventually draped himself over our feet and relaxed.

I've been in touch with the breeder/trainer and she says he just needs to cry it out and figure it out over time. A walker/trainer who will be coming to check in on him when I have to be at work for a few hours next week (I'm a professor so fortunately will only be gone 2-3 days a week until the semester ends for 5 hours or so at a stretch; the walker will come in the middle of that brick of time and let him out, let him pee, play with him, and get him back in) and she suggested that the crate has to be a place of high reward treats (like the Kong), but we've done some treat stuff, including the Kong, and he's just NOT interested in that. He's not especially food motivated--likes treats and likes his food, but he's ALL about being with us, or being on his own within spitting distance from us. I've been able to walk into the other room for a minute or two to do something while he's out in the living room, playing with a toy, and there's no panic on his end. He might walk up to the door and curiously peer in to see I'm there, but he doesn't seem to be afraid of being "alone" if he's out and doing his thing. When the crate time is imposed, though, he's a very unhappy camper.

He's a GREAT pup in every other way but I am really worried about messing up his crate training. My last poodle, a full sized female standard I raised from 8 weeks until her passing at age 11 this past June, "got" the crate thing pretty much immediately so this behavior is super new to me. I know it's mostly me who is suffering from his crying and sadness at being crated/separated from us, but it's still painful to sit through nonetheless. My husband and I want to be able to leave and see a movie, go to dinner, and not worry about him being absolutely miserable without us home. I also, of course, need to work, and though I am fortunate that I'll have a month off for winter break soon and can continue to work on this issue with Alfie, but I'm admittedly VERY stressed about the next month. Then again, I'm hopeful that the next month will be a productive time for him to figure this out and get used to it, even if he doesn't like it.

I feel like I am doing all the right things and my husband I are being as consistent as possible, but if there's some other "trick" or routine I can try over the next few days, I'm willing to do it. I also know that it's only been a week and these things take time, and I'm always ready to admit if I am doing something wrong in all this, but I don't think I am?

Any advice? Thoughts? Open to everything!
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Old 11-10-2019, 09:51 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I think you're expecting way too much too soon! He is only a baby puppy, and you JUST got him. When I got my pups, I was home with them 24/7 and very gradually left them for longer periods of time. I know that was a luxury to be able to do that. Since baby Alfie is in the crate all night, could you have an x-pen set up for daytime? Maybe that would help him feel less confined. When he is less anxious, he should become more interested in a Kong. What about bully sticks? That could be a good reward for crate/x-pen time.
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Old 11-10-2019, 10:03 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Aww, I hadn't considered maybe I'm expecting too much from him too soon :-/

I worry about a pen when we're gone because it might be too much space and he might wind up peeing and pooping (and we're doing a great job of keeping potty outside). I also don't know that it's (only) about the crate itself, but about us not being there with him.

I do appreciate this response, though - thank you!

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Originally Posted by MaizieFrosty View Post
I think you're expecting way too much too soon! He is only a baby puppy, and you JUST got him. When I got my pups, I was home with them 24/7 and very gradually left them for longer periods of time. I know that was a luxury to be able to do that. Since baby Alfie is in the crate all night, could you have an x-pen set up for daytime? Maybe that would help him feel less confined. When he is less anxious, he should become more interested in a Kong. What about bully sticks? That could be a good reward for crate/x-pen time.
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Old 11-10-2019, 12:16 PM   #4 (permalink)
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You're welcome. I did use pads with my second spoo and they were a lifesaver. So if you did an x-pen, which it sounds like you do not want to do, you'd need to put down pads. I started picking them up about a month after bringing Frosty home. Poodles are so smart, he had no trouble at all transitioning to outside only.
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Old 11-10-2019, 01:49 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I too think he will settle with time. Iím wondering why he gets put in the crate if you are home though ? With my pups, when I was home I tried not to use the crate because they spent all night in it and when I was gone.

Instead, I would tether them to me and just go about my business. Sometimes I would tie them to a chair, or whatever was convenient but close to me. They can chew a toy, or sleep, or do whatever they want but canít get into mischief because you are close to them. Just a thought.
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Old 11-10-2019, 02:58 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Thanks for this response!

There's a lot of advice that they should get alone time in the crate when you're home so they understand that the crate is a "good" thing, not a punishment, and it's not always associated with being left alone. I understand the argument for not doing so, though, when you're home. And given that Alfie is so displeased with being in it during the day, perhaps it just increases his stress?

We were just at my mother's for dinner, and after he was worn out playing with my nephews, we put him in with the door "soft closed" (closed but not locked or latched) and he slept soundly for over 2 hours. When he woke up, he quietly stood up and stepped out. So I'm sure that was helpful in itself.

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I too think he will settle with time. Iím wondering why he gets put in the crate if you are home though ? With my pups, when I was home I tried not to use the crate because they spent all night in it and when I was gone.

Instead, I would tether them to me and just go about my business. Sometimes I would tie them to a chair, or whatever was convenient but close to me. They can chew a toy, or sleep, or do whatever they want but canít get into mischief because you are close to them. Just a thought.
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Old 11-10-2019, 03:00 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I should also note that my husband and I don't want or need to go "out" and do things NOW -- we know these early weeks/months with the puppy necessitate patience and sacrifice -- I just meant down the road! Lest you all think I'm some horrible guy who wants to rush my pup to get used to his crate so I can go socialize! LOL.
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Old 11-10-2019, 05:04 PM   #8 (permalink)
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I personally have used an x pen a great deal. My 7 month old has always been a tasmanian devil and had to be monitored extremely closely when he was out. I could not just tether him to me or he would be shredding my clothes and my skin. So the way I managed it was by using a nice big x pen, and only letting him out when I had time to monitor him. So he spent a lot of time in there. He has always been a screamer, and we went through the same screaming episodes you describe. But he got used to it and screamed less and less until he stopped. Now he only cries a little if he thinks I'm being particularly unfair for not letting him out. He has also stopped crying when I leave for work (big step!) so I do think he is doing well. He does sleep in his crate at night, but otherwise I use the pen. His pen is more of his default area and being out is a privilege. It is possible there could be potty training benefits to just using a crate, but I never experienced them. Misha didn't care whether he was in a crate or pen. He would pee either way. It took two months before he was mostly reliable.

You may be able to increase food motivation by making meal times about training and using his food as training rewards.
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Old 11-10-2019, 05:46 PM   #9 (permalink)
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When you are home & can watch him closely, what about putting very high value treats (steak for example) for him to find in the crate but keeping the door open so he can go in & get them & come right out? These would be times when you don't close the door. He would get used to going in & out without having the door lock him in every time.

I also think it is very early to expect him to be used to the crate.
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Old 11-10-2019, 06:41 PM   #10 (permalink)
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My pup is very similar (and my past dogs have been sooo much easier to crate train!). He is almost 14 weeks and we have had him for a month. The first week, at night I had to sit beside his crate in the dark until he fell asleep. And he was waking (and I would take him out for a pee) a couple times each night. Since the second week he has been typically sleeping all night and he settles pretty much right away when I put him in (or the occasional time he has woken to go out).
But like yours- daytime is a whole other matter! I am trying to follow the crate conditioning program here:
https://austerlitzshepherds.com/cate...rate-training/
One problem was that he was not eating much and was not food motivated at all. That also got much better after the first week, and by the third week he was enjoying chicken feet to chew on and would do that on the crate (the first time I sat right beside the crate and every time he brought it out I took it and threw it back in. Smart boy figured it out pretty quick).
In the mean time we have been penning him when we go out (we have a spare room with lino floors in place of an xpen). We have a litter area with wood pellets if he needs to use it- surprisingly, he usually holds it until we get back, but he has peed in the litter several times.
Anyways, I am not in favor of letting them cry it out in the crate. He does still cry a bit when we leave him but I would much rather not give him a negative impression of the crate, whereas I don't care so much about how he feels about the spare room lol.
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