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Noelle struggled with crate training from the start. The books tell you to ignore crying. They don't tell you what to do if the puppy bashes their face into the bars hard enough to bleed. That was Noelle. Instead of the crate being a safe cozy den, to Noelle it was a torture chamber. She didn't eat her meals in her crate, or ever settle down. She just panicked the entire time she was in there. Even with the door open, she just freaked out. I quit using the crate.

Fast forward to now. Now we go to trials and she has to be crated. I teach a weekly puppy class and she has to be crated while I teach. And I have a workshop in October, and she has to be crated during the workshop. I need Noelle to be quiet in her crate. How do I train a total crate failure to accept a crate? Slowly. Very, very, slowly.

First step, new crate. I got a Noz2Noz crate a size smaller than our last one. 30 inches was too big. 26 inches fits her much better. I put a bed in there and a pile of Mr. Fox toys. Then I added a bully stick. I left the door open. I made a new rule. If Noelle wants her bully stick, she can only have it in her crate. Noelle went in her crate, got the bully stick, and took it out. I put it back in. Repeat this process until Noelle decided to lie down in her crate and chew it. I praised her and kept the door open. Time it took to get Noelle to lie down in her crate and chew a bully stick with the door open? One month.

I got a lick mat and made a delicious treat. Noelle was spinning in circles. I put it in the crate and closed the door. Then I teased Noelle. No, that's for the crate to eat. No, not for you. Noelle was begging to go in the crate. When I opened the door, she launched herself in there. I set a timer for 10 minutes, closed the door and stayed in the room. The next time, I set a timer for 11 minutes. Each day I inched the time up. Noelle is now able to hang out in her crate, with the door shut for an hour.

On Monday, Noelle decided she wanted to hang out in her crate and stayed put for six hours, alternating between napping and chewing her bully stick. Tuesday, she did the same thing. Tuesday evening, after rally class, I put Noelle in her crate and went to teach my puppy class. Noelle didn't cry at all. She just watched me through the window.

Noelle will still freak out in her crate if I leave the room. So, our next phase of training is going to be letting her settle, zipping the door shut, leaving the room for one second and returning with a treat. Next day, leave for five seconds. We'll inch the time up in five second increments until I don't need to do that anymore.

I was so pleased that Noelle was able to hang out in her crate while I taught class. She didn't seem bothered at all by it. And I was even more pleased when she chose to be in her crate for a nap two days in a row. It's her space and she's claimed it. She really seems to like the smaller crate. Hopefully by the time I trial again in October and go to my workshop, Noelle will think of her crate as her home. We're moving slowly, but making progress.
 

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Good job Click! I am not surprised that it took a month and then some. You are right, Noelle CLAIMED the space even to napping in it and great that she was so good during class. You guys have got this!
 

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Thanks! She does seem to like her private den. Watching her choose it as a spot to nap was a surprise. I really hope by October she can stay in her crate as long as the workshop requires without any problems.
 

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Excellent progress - it sounds as if you have made the great leap from the crate being a terrifying prison to being a comfortable place where good things happen.

I was similarly surprised when I took the car crate into a workshop where I was working with my dogs alternately, and discovered I had almost accidentally crate trained them. Sophy was having a bit of an off day and decided she preferred the comfort of the crate to the business of a room full of dogs and people, and even velcro-poodle Poppy was happy to settle down for a while. Like you I gave up when they were puppies as they got so very distressed and I felt I was making the crate an ever more unpleasant place, but it is a useful life skill, especially when they have to stay at the vets etc for a few hours, and one well worth teaching an older dog. And I much prefer your approach of making it a wonderful treat to leaving a puppy to cry it out, which can be very hard on everyone involved.
 

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Aah you have made excellent progress and you have lots of patience to get the job done. I was thinking that maybe Noelle didn't like stayingg in the crate when you leave the room may be because she knows she is your service dog and needs to be there for you. She knows she has a job to do which she cannot perform if she is away in the crate. Maybe the process of slowing allowing her this time she is recognizing that the crate means she is off duty. I think you have done amazing training with her.
 

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She really did have issues at first, huh. She was one of those dogs that you just can't ignore...poor thing. She was not just complaining like most dogs. She was truly panicked. That makes for a difficult situation and you've done marvelously to get her on track. It sounds like there's been a big turn around in the works and she's changing her tune about the crate.

The only thing I might do differently is...in this particular case, give her a treat just a split of a second before or as you go out of the room...associating the leaving with a good thing rather than your coming back in the room makes fantastic treats rain from the sky. Therefore, life is so much better when you're in the room. lol. It would be so nice to have an automatic treat dispenser drop treats while you're out of the room. I know the normal way to think would be to reward her for tolerating those absences, therefore, giving her the treat upon your return, (which you could do too or wait until later when she's not too worried anymore) but I think in a case where a dog is kind of panicky about something, they may not be thinking of what it was they did to get the treat, their autonomic nervous system is in high gear... may not be aware of the behavior they just did. When something like that presents itself to me, I usually think in terms of when dogs learn something strongly by association possibly more than in terms of the typical cause and effect of a behavior...kind of like when a dog is hyper-reactive to seeing another dog, you feed before the dog gets aroused and freaks out. You might also give a treat after. But it's important to intercept by pairing the other dog (or other stimuli) with good things rather than necessarily rewarding after the good behavior itself...though in the dog reactive case, I'd do that too. That probably was clear as mud, huh?

Anyhow, you're so smart to do this in increments of 1 second, 2 seconds and so on...very gradually. She's making leaps and bounds. It's amazing how she's come to be more okay with the crate. You've done an awesome job!
 
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That's why I am working in one second intervals. I have left you to get you something good, be right back. Here's something good. Leaving for a single second is short enough that Noelle won't ramp up her fear. Today at class she tolerated four minutes with me out of sight before complaining. So I think the one second, reward, two seconds, reward, three seconds, is the path for her. She also fell asleep in her crate between rally runs at my class with Liz, something she has never done before.

Which reminds me, I need to get Noelle's crate out of the car!
 

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Awesome! I'm glad she doesn't get ramped up too quickly and is doing well. Yay!

And I didn't mean you should change what you're doing if it's working, naturally. I was simply telling about something that I've done with similar situations...when a dog is indeed freaked out. Your post made me think of that.
 
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A parting gift, and then a returning to the crate gift, might be a good pathway. My question is, how do I keep the parting gift from provoking anxiety? After a few repetitions, the treat becomes a cue that means Mom is leaving. Noelle would figure this out very quickly. Instead of eating the treat, she would realize the treat means Mom is leaving, and then freak out.

I'm trapped! Help! Help me! Save me! Mom! Mom! Mommy! MOMMY!

By not having any kind cue that I am leaving whatsoever, and quickly returning with a treat, would that set up Noelle to look forward to my return?

I'm partway there. She settles in her crate with it closed as long as I stay nearby. She slept in her crate at class. How do I get the rest of the way?
 

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Well, you know your dog best and how she learns best. Things can be construed differently by them. It's kind of like the analogy of the reactive dog...giving him a treat first before he sees that scary, anxiety producing other dog. Is the treat predicting that the scary, anxiety producing dog is about to get nearer? Or is the treat making a pairing with that dog...that he's AOK. So, is your leaving really that bad? After all, you're coming right back (always have) and she gets to have a treat to boot. I think it depends on how the dog is thinking...or if the dog is thinking at all. If the dog is in fight or flight...full of anxiety, it's doubtful the dog is thinking at all. It's all about survival. Adrenalin... run, don't think. Like a deer caught in headlights. Not thinking. Not thinking even enough to run! If he's ramped up but not panicked too badly, the treat may, in a more primitive way of learning make him see that other dog as a good thing. Associative. If the dog is completely calm and not terribly worried about the other dog (or the crate in your case) then using a treat as a reward may connect to his now thinking brain. Thinking because he's not panicked and he's not full of adrenaline. He's able to hopefully connect the cause and effect. Initially, I had the idea that your dog was quite freaked at being left alone.

Anyhow, what do I know? When I've trained dogs, I've come across situations that required tweaking certain methods. For instance, with my own dog, my Doberman. He was smart...a real thinking dog (like a poodle) and he was over-the-top wanting to work. BUT early on, there were times where he had his own ideas (yes, I will do that mom, but I know a better way to do it. lol) and we had a little trouble getting started. I had to switch tacks and become a little creative. Then we meshed and understood each other perfectly.

It looks like you two are working through this wonderfully. Best wishes.
 
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This is so encouraging to read!

The lesson I'm taking from it is that so often when we say "My dog won't ______________" what we REALLY mean is "I don't have the knowledge and/or patience to teach my dog to ______________."

Many would have considered Noelle's behaviour irreparable. Thank you for the excellent reminder that we and our dogs all contain unlocked potential and the ability to grow and surprise.
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
Thank you for that. Patience helps when training dogs. Noelle gets upset when I leave, but we've been trialing and going to classes where she has to be crated. Her ability to tolerate it is increasing. When she was a puppy, the crate was pure panic from the first moment she went in. Can a dog be claustrophobic? Noelle reacted like she had claustrophobia. I decided to go on a slow exposure route to see if I can help her learn to self soothe. Seeing her decide her crate was a good spot for a nap made me really happy this week, that's for sure.
 

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Wow Click, I didn’t realize you had that problem. It was wonderful to read how you tackled it successfully because so many of us have crate training problems.

I have a similar problem but different that I’m working on.

Babykins must have been crate trained by the professional handler, I assume. But when I got her she wasn’t happy staying in her crate when we left the house..... I crated her for about 6 months or so until I felt she was safe home alone with the cat. I did go through a lot of treats in the crate training, enough that she will seek out her crate at home when she’s really tired and wants to sleep without the cat or anyone bothering her. She gets her nightly Kong treat in it. In the family room if she’s not on a couch she’s in her crate.

I crated her a lot in class for short sessions on purpose to get her used to it in training facilities. You can’t walk an agility or rally course with your dog before you run your dog. She has gotten used to being in club crates. I teach agility and I used to take a class before the one I teach so she had to spend an hour or so after class in a crate. She whined a little at the beginning it stopped. I never sprayed water or used scary noises like some people I know (not poodle people).

So far sounds good...at home she goes to sleep in her crate or eats treats in them. When we compete or we’re at a seminar, she’s quiet and she’s happy to go in her crate, but she won’t lay down, won’t eat a Kong or pizzle stick.... she’s nervous and stands the whole time watching me. I think that’s the reason we have trouble doing multiple levels of rally in a day...she’s great the first run then goes down hill and I’m certain it’s from exhaustion from standing in the crate.

Lately I’ve had some good experience adding a very soft large pillow on top of her foam mat. She can paw it around and mess with it and get more comfortable and has been laying down on it. Last week at the seminar she was with me for a very long day and I was thrilled she laid down, ate a Kong, chewed a pizzle stick and looked like she was sleeping. I’m hopeful this continues. I also take a soft mat so she can settle in front of me outside her crate.
 
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Sounds like you're on the right path, Skylar. I have rally first and teach second, so she has to stay in her crate for an hour once a week. The first week, she shrieked and cried. Another trainer yelled, "Knock it off!" She stopped the yodeling, but kept whining. Next week, less whining. This week Noelle was mostly silent. I actually forgot she was there! Can you believe it?

I am hopeful that the next time I go to a rally trial, I will be able to walk the course and Noelle will be quiet. Like you, I have a mat that Noelle is trained to lie down on under my chair. At a trial, the last thing I want Noelle to feel is upset. Quiet in her crate long enough to walk the course is my goal for sure. We'll inch our way there.
 

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Noelle has been in her crate with the door closed for an hour without protest. I forgot she was there until she sighed softly. She seems to be accepting her crate as her space more and more every day. I'm feeling hopeful I can get this sorted!
 
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