Crate Re-Training?
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  • Hi all!
    Our 6 month old boy, Loki, seems to have forgotten how being crated works. (Apologies in advance for the long story.)

    He was accustomed to being in the crate for 4-5 hours at a time 3 days a week, when my fiancee and I both worked. However, my fiancee was laid off from his job about 3 weeks ago, and so Loki has had almost constant company in the house for that whole time, save for a couple of short trips out to dinner, the store, etc. per week.

    Tonight, we tried to put him in his crate when we left for dinner. We have not been able to train Loki to walk into his crate of his own free will, so we have always had to pick him up and insert him into his crate. He's never thrilled with being in the crate, but he has never fought the way he has begun to fight this last week. I am not physically strong enough to get Loki in his crate when he fights - my fiancee has to do it. Tonight, it took us 10 solid minutes to get Loki into his crate, and we were able to only when he literally had to be -thrown- into the crate and the door slammed behind him. He struggled against us so forcefully, I'm afraid that he's going to get hurt the next time we have to crate him.

    I should note that Loki was crate trained to sleep overnight when we had first gotten him, but he sleeps in our bed with us at night. He has always been crated when we've been gone. Putting him in a pen when we're gone is not an option, because we're renting a townhouse right now, and I can't risk him escaping and destroying the carpet, blinds, etc. He has also always exhibited some separation anxiety. If he watches one of us leave the house, he cries and sprints around for almost 30 minutes after we've gone. If I gate him downstairs with my fiancee and then run upstairs, even just to grab something quickly, he paces and is visibly upset until I come back down.

    What do we do? Has Loki forgotten how to be crated? Do we need to go back to puppy square one and start leaving him for 30 minutes at a time? I've also read on here about maybe giving him a Kong with cream cheese only when he is in the crate so that he associates the crate with a treat - should we try that next?

    If needed: Loki is 6 months old, was just neutered last Thursday, and comes from Julie at Marjani Basenji in Virginia.

    Thanks in advance!
    +M

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  • well, if he'll go into a pen easier, you can always just get a top for the pen. You could even get a top and bottom if you're worried about him "walking" the pen around the room.

    otherwise here's a list

    – Crate Games (dvd)
    --I'll be home soon (booklet)
    --DAP plug in (dog appeasing phermones)
    --Through a Dog's Ear (book and CD with calming music)

    try amazon or dogwise dot com. between those two, you should be covered.
    Or you could ask your vet about working with a behaviorist and that may or may not involve using meds temporarily while he learns new behaviors/reactions.

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  • I can sympathize. It took me years to get my first dog to be ok in a crate after he had a bad experience as a puppy. We had to start out with a large x-pen, and I finally worked him into a crate overtime using a lot of treats, and doing 'crate games'. Now he goes in fine.

    Since yours was already somewhat 'ok' with being in the crate, I think that it would probably be a good idea to go back to positive associations. A bully stick or something…and letting him out x minutes at a time. If that doesn't work you may have to go a step further.

    6 months is pretty young, so he may just be going through a temporary phase of fear or rebellion. At any rate....positive reinforcement will help with going in the crate. Food, toys, whatever he likes.

    If he has separation anxiety though....food might not work well. Shoving him in there will make things worse over time. Try to get him to go into it using a command word....I mean you'll be with this dog for the next 15+ years. A command will be helpful in the long-run.

    If you have the time go back to crate games, and making the crate like disney land.

    Have you tried setting up a way to watch him while you're gone? If he calms down after an hour then not anything to worry about. If he stays anxious, refuses to eat food, tries to hurt himself, or makes a lot of noise for hours.......then I would work really hard to get that taken care of before it becomes a full blown issue.

    My dog also had a bit of S.A in addition to crate anxiety......I tried everything I could; leaving the T.V on helped him immensely. But, not to the point I wanted it. In the end I ended up buying a second dog and that cured his S.A. Some dogs are just social animals....

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  • He hasn't "forgotten" how to be crated. He has had a taste of "no crate" and does not want to be confined again, thank you very much! In hindsight, it would have been good to retain some of the crating routine, even when someone was available to be home with him, even if it meant inventing reasons to go out. I find that a dog who loathes being crated dislikes it even more after he has had a period of not being confined. So, what to do? First up, I agree, teach him to go in by himself. If you clicker train, that should be easy. (if you don't, learn!). This is how I would proceed. Don't lure him or try to force in any way. Just you, the crate, and him in a room that he can't leave. Click and reward whenever he ventures near the crate. Keep rewarding successive approximations until he is close, then closer, then feet in, then all the way in. Do not be anywhere close to him! Click and let him come to you for the treat. That resets him for the next attempt. When he does go in, do not go near the crate yourself or close the door. You need to work with this until he goes right in, then wait to click until he is there just a little longer. Work on this until it is solid! Then name it. Once he understands and will go in on command, you work very slowly at being closer to the crate yourself, (try placing yourself at different spots in the room at first, not necessarily near the crate, to give your command), to rewarding him when he is in the crate. Don't rush to close the door. Eventually close the door momentarily, then let him out again. Yes, it may be a slow process…...but you never know. My guy, who does not like to be crated, learned to "kennel" in about 15 - 20 minutes! (if you aren't making good progress, quit when you have something to reward......close to the crate, for example......and start again another time when you are both fresh).

    Once you have that down, a good strategy when you are going out is to put his treat into the crate and lock the door so that he can't have it. Do this half an hour before you leave, to give him a chance to build up a craving. When you open the door, hopefully he will want to go right in. If not, evoke the command, close the door after him, and leave immediately. At this point, a video to let you know what is happening would be useful! Starting with a short absence, then increasing it gradually, is usually recommended but may not be the best strategy with all dogs. A video will tell you whether he settles down quickly and is quiet, in which case staying away your usual length of time is a better option, IMO.

    Of course, it's possible he just won't adjust to being crated again. My guy, who had been crated every day for three years before I got him, will have nothing to do with crates now. Yes, he will go in on command, but if I close the door and leave him it is freakout time. However, he is excellent loose in the house, so I have no need to push the point. His previous crate experience was always with other dogs crated beside him, which he could apparently tolerate. Being crated alone was another matter, and after we struggled with it for a short time (during which he only got worse), we gave it up and have been very lucky, because he is the best Basenji I have ever owned in terms of not being destructive.

    Good luck with your boy. If the crate is a no go, I agree that using a larger pen of some sort (or a room?) might be the solution.

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  • Thank you all for such detailed replies! We'll figure out which to start with as a plan of attack.

    Just a few more details for you: Loki never loved being crated, but he never fought going in before. We keep toys in there and the door is always open. He stops crying (screaming) as soon as we close the front door, but has been known to shred the fleece we leave in there if he's annoyed enough with us. We no longer leave soft toys in the crate for this reason.

    Starting last night and this morning, we're giving him his meals and after-walk treats in the crate, placing the bowl all the way in the back and leaving the door open. Loki will go in to eat, but he makes sure to leave his hind legs out of the crate.

    He's been so quick to pick up other commands that we've trained him with so far, so I'd love to be able to say "box" and have him stroll into his crate of his own free will, but I have a feeling that this will not be an option with his personality. I've always let my dogs have free roam of the house, so I am also adjusting myself to having to crate Loki when we're gone. (But I knew this when we were researching Basenjis, I know what I signed up for!)

    We have not clicker trained Loki, but I think I may have a clicker lying around the house somewhere that I can try to locate for these purposes.

    Thank you for your continued advice!
    +M

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  • Clicker training works very well, in my experience. Since you have given more detail, I would suggest clicker training the behaviour and once he will go in on command, work with it so that he goes in and turns around to come out (hopefully this will happen on its own, you don't want him going in and backing out.) When he's in the crate, ask for a sit, then add a "stay" (does he know "stay"?), starting with a very brief (10 seconds or less) period and working up to a little longer before a release. Ideally you want him to go into the crate and turn around and sit facing you until you ask him to come out.

    I think you are on the right track feeding him there. Try putting the food in ahead of time, and locking him out to build anticipation. (Basenjis always want what they can't have. Denying him access to the crate when there is something in there he wants will increase his desire to enter once he can.) Avoid making him think you are trying to trap him. For the moment it is likely best to place him in when you must, until you have the command solid. Once you do, mix it up and ask him to go in for a reward more often than you ask him to go in to be locked in there.

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  • Loki doesn't know "stay" yet - that's proven to be the most difficult to train, I'm sure because of his separation anxiety. He does know sit, shake, outside, inside, and "off!".

    I just used some cheese (his absolute favorite treat) to see if I could begin training "box." At the end of the 5 minute session, Loki would (hesitantly) walk into the crate and wait for me to tell him to sit before he'd get his piece of cheese.

    This seems promising! I may go buy him a Kong over my lunch break and put some cream cheese inside and lock it into the crate to make him want to be in there.

    Fingers crossed, all!
    +M

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  • That does sound promising. Don't rush things. What you want is a total compliance (no hesitation) to the command before you start closing him in. As I said, in the meantime put him in as you have been doing. Don't "poison" the command by using it to shut him in until he is absolutely solid on it and then keep using it when you aren't going to shut him in and leave it, but just going to reward him. (you might lead up to feeding him in there with the door closed, then opening the door before he is finished eating…...so no stress......and moving gradually towards leaving him in longer. I always ask for a sit before I open the door if the dog has been fussing.)

    IMO, the toughest part of training is having the patience to wait and not rush things.

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  • The clicker training is a really good idea. Especially for something like this. Will come in handy later on, and with teaching a command.

    I also agree on the not rushing front; made that mistake as well when I started out…. It will backfire in the long-run. A little bit of patience, and positive association at this point will work in your favor.

    Sounds like he's already starting to get back into his groove. He is young, with no prior hang-ups so it really shouldn't take too long for him to be relaxed in the crate like a pro.

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  • Hi all! Small update for you all while I'm on the train into work - Loki is great at getting in the crate when we're practicing, but when it comes time for us to actually crate him and leave for work, he's still having none of it. At this point, it's making me late for work.

    I found a pretty large pen on craigslist that I may try next, as long as i can find something to put on top of it, and perhaps some flooring to go under it so he doesnt lift up the floor.

    Other than that, does anyone have any suggestions for a video/book that will talk about clicker crate training?

    As always, you've all been super helpful!

    Thanks!
    +M

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  • @mtins:

    Loki is great at getting in the crate when we're practicing, but when it comes time for us to actually crate him and leave for work, he's still having none of it.

    Yes, because he knows you are leaving him locked in there! This is a hard one to fix, once they have "figured it out". I had a horse that hated trailering, although I had trained him to load into the trailer and in practice I could lead him to the ramp, throw the lead rope over his neck, and he would walk on and stand while I closed it up. But if he knew we were actually going somewhere, it would take a long time to get him on! He was genuinely afraid of the experience, and would paw and defecate, put one foot on the ramp, take it off, etc. until finally he would overcome his fear and walk on, but when we got where we were going, he was always drenched in sweat. I felt sorry for him, so we didn't trailer very often.

    If Loki is actually afraid of being left confined, it makes it very difficult, because he will pick up the cues that you are actually leaving, as opposed to having a training session. The only advice I can offer is to vary your routine enough that he isn't really sure which it is, and that's hard to do when you have to meet a schedule. Clicker training is great for teaching him what you want, but it would seem he already knows.

    There are lots of articles and youtube videos on the subject, but as I said, it would appear he already knows the basics. Training him to go in is not your problem, teaching him to like it when he knows he will be left alone is. I would suggest making his crate a very desirable place to be, by asking him to go in often when you are home, and rewarding intermittently. I would also tease him with something very delectable from time to time, and put it in his crate and lock him out, so he wants it. Build anticipation for the moment you open the door and allow him to get it. Don't only do this when you are going out (so he doesn't associate it only with you leaving), but I would do it when you are going to leave.

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  • ?

    Kaiser tries to outsmart me everyday and you really have to adjust what you are doing to outsmart them or they will run rings around you. Being on a deadline to leave the house would make it hard for you as you need to be patient or they sense your frustration to get going. I read somewhere one time about changing your routine of leaving every time so he doesn't see the pattern of you getting ready to leave the house. But really agree with making the crate the best place to be when you are gone. Good luck and try and have a laugh about how Loki is trying to outsmart you, sometimes I don't realise I'm being out done by my boy and I think you sneaky little bugger.

    Jolanda and Kaiser

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  • I think also that you may need to do a lot of obedience training to start getting the little darling into a relationship status that doing commands is fun AND habit. At his age, sit, stay, down, and yes– walking INTO HIS CRATE, should be established. I keep posting this link, but Mary is so clear with clicker training she'll make you feel faint. Think of it as relationship building and HAVE FUN doing it. :) It will be okay.

    http://www.clickerlessons.com/index.htm

    THE LESSONS links are on the left, but you might want to read most of the site.

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  • So, little update. Loki has gotten much better about going into the crate with the help of a Kong frozen with cream cheese and peanut butter. I put the Kong at the edge of the crate, and lock the door to tease him (like was suggested) and get my stuff packed up in the morning to leave. So, most mornings, by the time I open the door and push the Kong to the back of the crate, Loki is sitting in front of the door whining for me to open the door.

    Some mornings are smoother than others. Yesterday, he paced for a solid 10 minutes whining, but not fighting me, because he gets the routine now. This morning, he walked right in on the first try and didn't even look at me when I said goodbye and closed the door.

    Progress, I think!

    However, we've had another issue pop up. Loki's aggression has come back full force. Not sure if I should continue this question here, or start a new thread, but it's kind of scary. It's the worst at bedtime. Loki sleeps on the bed with us, and has never had a problem. However, for the last two weeks or so, when we close the door for "bed time" and get into bed, he goes absolutely bonkers and starts sprinting, biting, and then sprinting away again. It's actually scary. He got me so hard with his front teeth a couple of days ago that it's already turned black and blue. Is Loki trying to dominate us? It's at the worst time of day, too, since by the time 11:30 rolls around for bed time, my fianc? and I are both tired and not terribly full on patience…
    +M

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  • Put a leash on him at bedtime and stop this in its tracks. It may be playful or something else. If he displays any aggression once you are all in bed, I would remove him from the bed (helpful to have the leash on him for this), give him a time out before allowing him back, or put the crate by the bed and he can sleep there for awhile. (I hesitate to recommend this because of your crating issues).

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  • With that behavior on the bed, he would be on the floor immediately… and no more bed!

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  • from what you describe, the biting, sprinting and then returning only to sprint away again…its a playful overstimulation. My bed is a source of excitement for my boy (much what u describe, and mainly when i open the bedroom to put laundry away) and leads to too much stim. and therefore I limit his access unless its bedtime (when he doesn't do that). The bed or the bedtime ritual may be overstimulating to him prompting a sporadic play (that coupled with a lack of bite control) is whats causing him to do that.... otherwise, he could recognize the ritual but isnt tired so he wants to play. It doesnt sound to me aggressive, it sounds like over-stimulation and the biting is antagonizing you to join in (chase me!) and because he lacks control, he bites hard.
    I agree with Pat, because this is a pattern, he needs to be trained out of it, or tuckered out before entering the bedroom- and until then, the bed is off limits.

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  • I agree with Chealsie, it is normal for Cara especially if we want bed and she's not tired. Fortunately she has a mouth like butter so though she bites and jumps around like she is on springs and makes wild animal noises, getting her to play fetch for a bit takes the edge off and she goes to bed. I usually see it as "I didnt' do my job in tiring her out." Sometimes though, I am too tired and she is sad but goes on to bed. To me it isn't aggression, it is desperation for release of energy . Might help to make a new routine… 10 mins of high play soon before bed. :)

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  • Hi all, so it's been a couple of weeks. I was out of town all of last week for a death in the family, and while I was gone, Loki only had one bad night with my fianc?. He just made sure to make the pre-bed ritual as short as possible, and Loki was back to normal. However, since I got back two days ago, it seems that I myself may be a trigger. Last night, I walked upstairs and got right into bed, and Loki went from 0-nuts in two seconds. He was definitely worn out and excercized enough, so I don't think being tired enough is the issue. A switch just flipped. We got him off of the bed and did some sit/shake practice with a treat and he responded well, but went back to crazy as soon as it was gone.

    Tonight, we'll keep a leash in the room, and the crate, if needed. I'm just so confused. All of the normal solutions don't seem to work with Loki. Getting up and walking away doesn't help - he just follows me and continues to bite. Yelping doesn't help, neither does removing him from the bed entirely. We don't go into the bedroom with him for any other reason than to sleep, and this pretty much just started out of nowhere. He used to be so good on the bed. The breeder suggested crating him in the bedroom with us with a kong, and beyond that, a behavioristt, for the bed issue as well as "bite control."

    Do you think we're at the point of a behaviorist yet? Am I being too whiney about this? I love Loki, I just don't understand this.

    Thanks,
    +M

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  • I'm not sure how to respond to this, because of course I can't "see" what he is doing, only your interpretation of what is going on. Whether you are missing something significant or not, I cannot tell. Yes, your presence may be a trigger. Who does he like best? Could this be a jealousy issue? Is he aggressive in any other context? So many questions…..

    I would definitely have the leash, and not just have it available, but have it attached. You need to be able to control the situation quickly when he gets crazy. No more rewards for bad behaviour. (the silliness itself may be rewarding to him). I know what I would likely do, but hesitate to recommend it when I don't know your confidence level, as there is no point in giving advice that may make the situation worse. Perhaps the safest route is to just redirect with the leash right into the crate when he gets crazy, close the door, let him think about it. Rinse, repeat, until he tones it down.

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  • I'm comfortable taking any measures necessary to train this out of Loki. I don't know if that's what you mean by confidence level - I'm great at following directions once I know what I'm doing. I think that's the main question here - where do I start?

    In terms of what you asked before - I think he favors me. I have always been "mommy," and I spend more time with Loki, since I work from home twice a week, and it's me that takes him to the dog park on weekends. Oddly enough though, he always starts the night sleeping on Ryan, and only moves to my side during the night.

    He gets similarly aggressive/"bitey" when he gets too riled up during play. Ryan and I know not to roughhouse with him, but sometimes when we have him around other friends, they will sometimes play rough with him, which ends up in biting 100% of the time. He will also sometimes bite when one of us comes home for the day. It seems to be an over-excitement issue, but not related to how worn out he is. I am working from home all week this week, and am making sure to take him on multiple half-hour plus walks a day (so that he will nap or play and I can actually get some work done). Next week when I'm back in the office, it's our plan to take him to a cage-free daycare in the area and see if being completely exhausted does anything.

    It's too bad you're in Canada! I'd gladly invite you to come witness the crazy. :)

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