Need some creative thinkers for confinement "anxiety" issue

  • Ok, so, just recently moved with Beo to a new area (rented apartment no less) and need some help coming up with ways to keep him from escaping.

    He's always had problems being in a crate. I've worked with him since he was a young thing, but the best I can do is get him comfortable in a crate without the door closed. I can't confine him in small spaces for long periods of time.

    My grande solution (or so I thought) was to use a Midwest X-pen (4'x4') 31 inches high - he's been using that since he was less than a year old. So whatever, I put him in the X pen on the first day and went to class. He escaped. I came back to find him in my room, but no damage.

    Second day I put the Midwest clips on in a more efficient manner and figured that would do the trick. No cigar. He escaped again into my room. No damage.

    The third day I bought some heftier clips, and locked him in…again, no dice. He escaped, ripped up the carpet in my room near the door, tore up his expensive harness and leash, and relieved the trash of its burden.

    Alright. Imagining myself a creative thinker I decide to go ALL OUT. I bought a tarp for underneath the x-pen, so he wouldn't be able to go under, bungee cords to hook the tarp to the sides of the crate, heavy duty clips, and two new "beds". Came home to find that he had torn up the tarp, and a small section of carpet in the pen (oh...duh) but had not managed to escape from the x-pen. Some level of success, right?

    Hoping to end the carpet digging nonsense I went out and bought a 4' x 4' oak (yes, I went all out) "flooring" for the x-pen. The next day came home to find the tiny corners, where the pen stretched out, and where the board didn't cover the carpet, ripped to shreds.

    Ended up buying a chain to put on the floor of the x-pen; to keep it from stretching...up until today. this solution/combo of items had been working. I thought I had won. Some days he ripped up his bedding, some days he didn't, but ultimately a success.

    Today I came home to find him out of the x-pen (I'm guessing he got underneath somehow)....same two carpet spots ripped up, but otherwise he left the place undamaged (thank you merciful basenji god).

    SO.. I went out and bought two more chains for the x-pen floor, two more double sided clips AND another 4' x 4' plank for the top of the pen to help weigh it down. But I'm at my wits end this time...I have no more cards up my sleeve and need some creative ideas if this doesn't work.

    • I am not gone for more than 3-4 hours at a time.
    • I always leave him with entertainment ideas.
    • Tried rescue remedy

    The biggest issue is that he seems to just HATE confinement; I thought it was separation anxiety at first, but I'm starting to understand that he just hates being locked up to the point where he will be in his x-pen chewing a toy and me closing the door makes him stop 'playing'. Yet, I don't trust him to just 'hang out' in my room what with the lure of the carpet. He loves the x-pen itself...he'll often wander in there to sleep at's just the confinement part.

    His desire to be free is fine and dandy...but I can't afford to take him to doggie day care everyday. He has to stay in that crate (where he's guaranteed to be safe), and in a way where he can't damage the carpet....gah.

  • could you build a wood floor for the xpen and on the outside edge have a 2x4 all the way around so that the xpen fits inside the 2x4?

  • Would he damage the carpet/ other items if he weren't frustrated with you about the barriers in the first place? Sounds like the harder you try, the harder he has to work to escape therefore the more damage he does bc his frustrations are higher?
    Ps- been there with the ex-pen, as a pup Oakley was insane and I had tried everything including combination locks and planks ( luckily those days have passed and thankfully, due to a three day hospital stay he seems cured)

  • How old is he? Does he usually damage things when you are home or only if you go out? Can you possibly rig up a web cam or some such to watch what he does when you are gone? Separation anxiety dogs typically do their damage soon after you leave. A dog that remains calm and causes problems later may just be bored. Some Basenjis simply don't like being confined. None of mine have been crated past the puppy or "new to us" dog stage, but for some I did limit the areas they were allowed to be in the house. Many are happier if they can look out the window. None are happy if they are chilly. Most settle best in a sunny spot or in winter by a source of heat. (gas fireplaces are ideal!) And of course exercise before you leave them alone goes without saying…..

    I also like to leave a radio playing, and lights on if I plan to come back late. My guy seems to be spooky if it's dark in the house and he is alone. (go figure!)

  • agilebasenji

    That’s genius! Simple, yet effective. Thanks for the idea.


    I’m not sure if he would or wouldn’t damage anything if I just left him out. I leave him in my truck a lot for 20-30 minutes at a time without any issues. But, unsure if he would do any damage or not if left hours at a time. The couple of times he escaped there were food items out, lots of things for him to destroy and yet he only targeted a select few of “his” items, none of my items were ripped up, otherwise the damage was from him trying to ‘escape’.

    It could be absolutely as you say and that the more he gets built up the more damage he is likely to do….as opposed to just letting him sleep on a bed all day. If it were my own place I would experiment with leaving him out, but trying to avoid paying a lot of damage expenses on this rented place + the notion of him getting into something dangerous is not far from my mind.
    I know your Oakley has caused you much more ‘anxiety’ with his eating habits than my Beo has caused me. Beo has been pretty good to me considering the circumstances. At the end of the day I’m worried he’ll hurt himself. I’m sure you know the feeling…I feel like I can’t go anywhere without certainty that he’s going to be ok. Getting a part time job is out the window until I get this straightened out. It’s a little frustrating.


    He just turned two years old, so he should be well settled into his habits. Before the move I could leave him for hours at a time, in the ex-pen, without issue….but we also had a hardwood floor. He would sometimes cry for a short time, but he would never attempt to escape on this level. This is probably the most damage he’s done and that’s why it’s been such a surprise.

    I’m still uncertain that there isn’t some level of separation anxiety; however, he doesn’t hurt himself, he doesn’t defecate or urinate while I’m gone, I never come home to hear him screaming or crying with vigor, he will eat the ‘good’ things I leave. The times he has managed not to escape I usually come in to just see him sitting on his bed….stuffing pulled out of course. But, he’s not panting or acting “anxious”. He’s not a velcro dog, and doesn’t follow me around all the time….I can be out of the room and he could care less most of the time. …until you throw the ex pen into the mix.
    He gets lots of exercise – long and short walks, plays with the roommate’s dog, trips to the pet stores, car rides, trips to the dog park, nose games, toys. …I think what frustrates me the most is that I leave him with interactive toys, chews, bullysticks and the only thing that he bothers with is the frozen bone I leave with him.. well….the bone and the kleenex, and he pulls down the toys I hang up on his pen wall. But everything else is basically untouched and covered with a mountain of fluffies.

    I wish I didn’t have to confine him – my dream house will have a huge yard with a dog safe room – a window for them to look out of. But, at the moment, I don’t have many options.
    The camera idea is a good one, thanks for the suggestion.

  • I have a large fold up crate with a top and plastic bottom. It is fairly large and you could always use a caribiner to keep the door closed if he proves to be able to open it. They come in a few different sizes and are wire. Maybe try leaving a kong stuffed with cheese whiz or peanut butter then frozen in his crate too, this may keep him occupied.

  • Crating would be a last option I'm afraid…like literally last option. I just can't see him being 'ok' in a crate even with treats. In the past he's hurt himself trying to get out of crates, as well as gotten to the point of defecation out of a puppy I tried crating, stupidly thinking I could just "make" him do it. He tore a hole through the crate and I found him with his head stuck out of the hole - not good.

  • I have no technical ideas but we have trained with Lela and Binti to be alone in the living room. First short intervals, then longer. It takes a while. Yesterday we had to leave for 3,5 hours and they couldn't stay with friends, so we left them: first a good run, then a good meal. Lots of fleeces around and an otherwise clean room. It went well.
    Otherwise, our B' are not really interested in escaping. Even when we leave the garden gate open accidentally, the might venture outside a few feet, just to sniff, but they will come running when we make a sound with a treat bag. Guess we're lucky.

  • I am afraid I am not going to be what you want to hear.

    Dogs need to be able to be crated. Need. If he gets hurt or sick and has to be hospitalized, his stress over crating at that point can truly damage his ability to get well. He needs to learn.

    Because I feel that strongly about it, I would suggest you do whatever you have to do, including tranquilizers, to get him used to a closed crate. They do make indestructible ones, which are expensive but less than him destroying your apartment, you being made to move over the damage, or him eating something that ends up with blockage surgery. I have a friend who specialized in separation anxiety and crate issues. She said she never had a single dog she couldn't help the owners train. You simply start over new, put in crate for all feeding, then feeding with door shut, then work on toys and in crate with shut 10 mins. next time 15.. keep building up. If you have to sedate a bit, in the long run, your dog's life can be at stake so talk to your vet.

    The only other option is to make perhaps your bathroom dog proof and lock in there. But ultimately, 4 hrs of crating is not unreasonable to expect of any dog who has not been horribly abused in one. (I had a lhasa rescue that was confined in a crate for almost 5 yrs… took rescue hours of soaking just to be able to get her coat soft enough to start hacking off her, nails curled into feet.. dear spirits if I saw the person responsible I'd gladly go to jail for the beating I'd give her... And it took me almost 8 mos to be able to get her back in a crate relaxed to take to vet trips.)

  • DAP may (or may not) help, but I think worth a try.

    I've used it; zero side effects so if it doesn't work, no harm done

  • i also agree with DDS about crates, but that's a training issue. you should not keep the dog in the crate while your gone while you're training the dog to get used to the crate if the dog is phobic about the crate. Susan Garrett's Crate Games is great for this.

  • kjdonkers
    Doesn?t sound like luck to me! Just good old fashioned time and effort that went into the training.


    I absolutely agree with you. When I first decided that the basenji was going to be the breed for me, I was 100% dedicated to having the dog crate trained. It wasn?t even negotiable. I couldn?t even comprehend why people DIDN?T crate their dogs?now I?m starting to understand a little better.

    I started putting him into a crate as a puppy; doing crate games. ?not going to him if he cried?, slowly building up the time in small increments, leaving special treats. The works. Whatever anxiety he has now has been the result of at least a year of day-in-day-out training since he was 12 weeks old or so; as unbelievable as that sounds. The day that I decided to stop trying to get him used to the crate was the day he chewed a hole through the crate and got his neck stuck on a pointed edge.

    But, I did buy wire crate, just haven?t really built up the courage to try this whole training thing again?Not something I?m proud of.

    Sedatives would definitely be a good option, as we haven?t tried that yet. Thanks.


    The DAP idea is a good alternative. I?ve tried rescue remedy but had little success so hoping for something a little stronger next time.

  • I feel for you. Ava has confinement issues and was cratephobic. Crate training was awful, but for all the reasons others have pointed out, we had to do it. The good news is, it doesn't sound like Beo has separation anxiety and his confinement issues don't sound like a phobia. He'd just rather not be confined. If you went back and started from square one, I bet you could have him crate trained in less time than you think.

    Some of the best advice I got was to sit outside the crate with the door closed and very slowly feed Ava her entire meal through the wire door, one kibble at a time, using very small kibble. Afterward, I would sit there and play with her, slipping her small bits of treats until I could sense she was about to protest. We worked up to over an hour of confinement twice a day, building from there. There are other tricks that help, and if you don't have a problem with Beo going to the bathroom in the crate, the wire crate is less confining. Sometimes, a TV or radio will help. Good luck! I've been there and I know it's frustrating.

  • ownedbyspencer

    Thanks for the advice, and your personal experiences with crate training Ava. I'm going to try the kibble exercise when I eventually reintroduce him to the crate. Just out of curiosity, how long do you think it took you to get her to be comfortable with the crate? And had she had any previous trauma or just not a crate dog?

    Beo is definitely not the most 'difficult' case out there so I'm sure it's just a matter of perseverance. I didn't think he had much separation anxiety - but set up video surveillance webcam today to see exactly what was going on. …looking at the footage I'm now thinking that it's a mixture of SA and crate anxiety. He had 15 minutes of cage pounding/screaming, using every trick he had to try and escape, 20 minutes of calm, 10 minutes of more crate pounding and shredding, followed by 30 minutes of calm followed by X more minutes of the time I came home he was laying down, calmly chewing on the kong but still had some minor that's two hours of periodic crying and getting worked up.

    I'm sure his previous escapes helped to reinforce the idea that "freaking out" will get you free, and that will set us back a bit.

    I set up an appointment with the vet to get him on 'temporary' Meds to at least get him in a state of mental calm..., from there I believe it will be very easy to get him habituated to being ok when left alone in the X pen ....then after that I'm going to try to reintroduce him to the crate. Going to the crate before this calm (and the idea that escape isn't possible) is fully established I think would be a mistake.

  • have you read McConnell's I'll be home soon?

    it might be worth consulting with a behaviorist - show the video and see what she thinks. it would probably cost a pretty penny, but it may shorten your training time and be easier/cheaper in the long run. Unfortunately, without seeing how bad it its, all of us can do is toss out suggestions that may or may not work.

  • Timesthemyth: yes, we put in a lot of time and effort. More and more, I believe that training your dog is, first and foremost, training yourself. If and when you really get it, the dog will follow.

  • It took a while– about 3-4 months. I consulted a behaviorist, who diagnosed Ava and helped me develop a plan for desensitizing her. If I couldn't be home with her, she went to daycare or had a dogsitter. It was expensive and I had to plan my entire life around Ava's schedule, but she was an extreme case and had a fear of confinement from day one. She had explosive diarrhea, uncontrollable urination and fullblown panic attacks where she would hurl herself, screaming, against the crate again and again, and it started the minute the door was closed. I couldn't leave her alone or she would have hurt herself badly. It wasn't just the crate-- she couldn't be confined in the car and she got very anxious when the doors of rooms were closed. But we worked through it, and now she's a very good girl in her crate. It can be done!

    "I'll Be Home Soon" is a helpful read. The good thing about a behaviorist is that there's a big difference between boredom, frustration and fear. And separation anxiety isn't the same as fear of confinement. The right diagnosis can be a real shortcut in your training time and the methods you use. Your vet is a good start, though, and might be able to help you without the expense of a behaviorist.

  • So, we've taken two steps forward and one back. I put on Classical music the day before going to the vet - not a peep from him for 3 hours, not until the music went off (the last 30 minutes of him being alone) did he start making a fuss.

    Went to the vet and got some Prozac ( a little miffed that the vet led me to believe that it would start working in a couple of days, but that's another issue) so he'll be on that as my backup plan.

    I tried the same thing today, with the classical music, gave him some rescue remedy, put in a different clothing item of mine, and even bought a thundershirt to help alleviate the anxiety even more - even took extra steps to make sure he had positive associations with the thundershirt. Well, he started screaming after the first 20 minutes or so, less cage banging….but more cycles of screaming within a shorter period of time than the previous day. Of course he tore through the thunder-shirt in the process.

    SO, bought a DAP infuser...going to try that out (with no expectations) and some relaxation treats (again...little expectation). Going to work with him over these next couple of days off with the hope that it'll start to sink in.. He hasn't escaped again yet, so that's the silver lining....though somehow he managed to steal the blanket off my bed and wedge it into the holes of the wire pen...crazy.

    Started working with him on crate training, with the plastic crate until I can get my wire one here.....he managed to get a whole foot inside to get the treats....but even the lure of a pork hock was no good to get him all the way inside.

  • can you take the plastic crate apart in 1/2? (some you can, some you cant) that may break things down into an even smaller increment.

    this is an interesting book that may help:

    (it also has two cute basenjis on the cover, so it's basenji approved)

    bummer about the thundershirt.

  • agilebasenji

    Thanks for the tip - the plastic crate is two pieces so I might try that. Maybe start with the floor part.

    I actually have Through a Dog's Ear (mostly bought it just because it had the two basenjis on the cover) thought it was an interesting read. I'm surprised that I didn't try the classical music sooner….since I should have known better from reading the text. The first day the music had l a magical transformation on him - just an amazing effect. I was so hopeful the second day that the music would have that same affect on him... but not meant to be. It obviously has helped though so that will be something to continue.

    The thundershirt had my hopes high - as it obviously does work for calming....just can't leave a Basenji with anything that you don't want demolished....I'm going to try putting one of my old t-shirts on him and see what happens... since, oddly enough, the only things that seem to remain in tact while I'm gone are the toys and articles of clothing.

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