Crate Training Woes. Is it Separation Anxiety or Claustrophobia? Both?


  • So my 4.5-month-old female Basenji, Oya, is really great, She loves to cuddle, is always by my side, has an attitude that can be really funny ( and incredibly frustrating) but all in all, I can't imagine a better dog for me.

    The only problem is crate training. I'm having the hardest time with her screaming when she is in the crate. She will whimper and scream for HOURS. It's almost every waking moment she is in there unless she falls asleep. When I lock her in there at night, she screams until around 3 am until she falls asleep.

    I leave toys, leave towels and cushions, put her in there with treats and she will ignore it all and spin in a circle and scream. Doesn't matter if I'm in the same room or away she does the same thing. walks in a circle and scream. Every once in a while she will try to "Dig" her way out. When I eventually let her out, she gives me the "Basenji Salute" and walks off. She will then come back 20 mins later to grab the treats she ignored earlier from the crate.

    I first tried the plastic travel kennels and it was much worse, she would almost immediately poop herself ( even after i took her out for a walk where she relieved herself moments before ). I have since switched to a wire crate, which she won't poop in but the screaming continues to be a problem

    The weird part is that I feed her in the crate and give treats when she curiously enters the crate, but the moment I close the door she absolutely loses it.

    I'm not sure if it's separation anxiety because she behaves the same with the crate whether I'm in the room or not. she also seems to be fine when I leave her alone in a room, although she does whimper for a short time. The only problem is that she can be destructive after a while and I don't have the room to dedicate an entire room for her to be in.

    I'm starting to think it's Claustrophobia and it's the size of the crate, I got one just big enough for her to stand up and spin around in as I read that any bigger will encourage peeing and pooping in the crate. At this point, I would be on my 4th Crate and I would hate for this not to be the best solution.

    I figure I would ask around and see if anyone can give me some advice on how I can solve this crate training problem. I Work from home now but in the next 2-3 months I will be away from home for 8 hours a day 3 days a week and really need her to get used to being left alone in the crate by then.


  • Why do you have to lock her in for hours at a time and especially over night ? Night time she should be with you - if not in your bed (and believe me, Basenjis make wonderful hot-water bottles in winter) then on an open dog bed of her own close to yours.

    At least you have given up on enclosed plastic crates - wire ones with all-round total visibility are much better for Basenjis. Ideally, set aside a room which is pretty well dog-proof if you have to leave her on her own but I am wondering why she is in a crate ? OK, you work from home, lots of people do - but surely you can put a really comfy dog-bed in a corner where she can see you and sleep at ease while you can't be giving her attention. In any case, the crate needs to be large enough for her to stand upright, lie full stretch and be comfy in. I've never heard that too big a crate causes them to soil it !

    In 40 years of breeding and owning a pack of Basenjis I have NEVER left the pack alone for more than 4 hours. 8 hours is far too long, especially for such a young dog. Can't you get someone to go in and walk her at lunch time ?

    Crating a hunting hound 8 hours in the daytime and then again at night ?!?!?!?! I question your choice of breed and beg you to stop even trying to get this poor little dog into a cage for what would seem to be the majority of the time. Somehow you need to fix up a room which is hers. Get your butcher to let you have a large bone and give her that in a comfy bed in a corner as you start work/have to leave. Let her mooch around - and explore. Have a big box of toys that she can go and fetch whichever one takes her fancy at that moment. Put a bowl of fresh water where she can get to it and make sure you refresh it at least once a day.

    She needs a decent walk morning, evening and at lunch time so she gets nicely tired. You don't mention if she is getting any exercise.

    She needs to be able to relax so that you can. Honestly you will both be much happier. But as you describe it, this is no life for a hunting hound.


  • I believe I have left out a few details here that would better explain my situation.

    I live on a fairly large plot of land with some animals, Cattle, Goats, sheep, and horses. I usually take her for a walk in the morning and evenings and she is with me went I tend to the animals. She runs around quite a bit while I do the chores so by then she is well enough tired by the time we come back inside and I start work. almost to the point that collapses as soon as he comes in ( most likely due to the heat ) and she's usually sleeping during the day.

    My goal here is to get her calm and comfortable being inside a crate. During the day I only leave in the crate when going to the store or when I have to go to the gym. which usually is not more than 2-3 hours at most and only a couple of times a week right now. If I need to be gone all day, ( when I go the cattle to market ) I usually use to find a sitter or have my family members watch her

    I honestly don't even need to crate her a night but I use the opportunity to try to get her to be used to the crate, Once she is trained, I imagine her considering the crate as her "Home / Bed" so she could sleep in there with the gate open or just plain old hang out in there.

    The problem is that she can barely stand being in the crate at all when I close the door. She'll go in for food and treats or just casually walk in but as soon as that thing closes, all hell breaks loose. I would hate to have to get a sitter every time I go to work once I return to the office, Perhaps I can get a sitter for 2 days and try leaving her at home for 1 day and see how that goes when the time comes. I have the option of letting her outside but the fence I have is only 4 feet tall. She has never escaped the fence but I would imagine that if left to her own devices, she will figure out a way.

    I have had several dogs in the past, and they have been working dogs. Border Collies and Great Pyrenees, and were outside dogs that were pretty much left to their own devices with the other animals. This is the first dog I have kept inside and would have to keep in a crate. so any advice would be greatly appreciated.


  • My Basenjis have always been crate trained. Crates are in my bedroom.... once they are potty trained the crate doors are left open, they can if they choose to sleep in bed but my current Basenjis prefer their crates for night time sleeping and I leave the door open. They are not crate trained during the day. I did work but set up a room that is known as the doggy room for them with access to outdoors (total fenced yard with 10' privacy fences. They have never been crated when we are home (other than at night time)....

  • Houston

    My girl 7 months does the same exact thing. No issues with the crate ever until its shut. I can't figure out if it's separation anxiety or confinement issues she has. I've tried putting the crate right next to me on the couch and she still will do it so I'm leaning towards confinement? Hopefully someone will share their secrets. @tanza did you use crate games, just leave them in there until they calm down, puppy pen with crate in it? She climbs the pen to try and escape and has ended up hurting herself. Feel like i've tried everything and nothing worked. Maybe I'm just not sticking to it enough. The wife is a teacher so she's been able to be home with her but I'm a tad worried for when school starts back up


  • I have to say that my boy is uncomfortable with any door that is closed. Even if we are outside together, which he loves and the door is closed he repeatedly asks to go back in just to ask to come back out in less than a minute. He is a lucky boy in that we are retired and almost always one of us is home so he only spends time in the crate if we go out together and four hours is our max time of leaving him alone in the crate. I have always believed that he is cooperative with this situation due to a cheese bribe going in and the trust that he knows we will not be gone long.


  • Some dogs just can't tolerate close confinement. This may be innate or the result of faulty training, but either way it's not an easy fix. My goal was always to get the dog comfortable with staying in a less confining setting, preferably where he could see out a window. With a pup it may take awhile before they are reliable and not destructive, but I think it is an attainable goal with most. As has been mentioned, a Basenji is not a suitable pet if you will be gone and leaving them alone for long hours. In that case two would be a better choice than one, as they are company for each other.


  • @dedes9 - I do not crate them if I am home... they are with us. Again at night their crates are in the bedroom with us. They are crated in the car and of course at shows, lure trials, etc. They are fed in their crates..... If you are home and you crate them, in reality, they want to be with you, not locked up. As noted below, I did not have to crate when I was working (retired now), they had a room with access to the yard with 10' privacy fences.


  • Thanks, everyone for your thoughts so far. @dedes9 @sirronsunflowergirl Good to know that I'm not the only one experiencing this.

    I feel that there is a lot of misinformation about the breed out on the web being a good apartment dog and good indoors. I think they say that due to the fact that they are "bark-less"

    I think what I'm going to do is get a slightly larger crate and continue feeding and keeping a bed in there. I will keep this crate in my bedroom, and only lock her in there for quick trips to the store or gym. If I'm going to be gone all day, I think I can manage to keep her in the patio with toys where she has access to outside, I can also designate an area with a 6 ft. x 10 ft. Heavy-Duty Dog Kennel to make sure she doesn't escape the yard as my fence is only 4 feet tall.

    I would consider having her spend time with goats but although she likes playing with them, im not so convinced they like playing with her! haha


  • @rhughes89 Sweden and Finland have banned crates and crate training


  • @westcoastflea1 Oh wow, I didnt know that. What was the reason of doing so?


  • I crate my basenji at night. He was extremely resistant at 2-3 months but is crated next to his morkie brother who is the same age so is not lonely. I have spent countless hours casting chicken into the crate and closing the crate behind him then opening. We also did a frozen peanut butter Kong with K9 grade CBD oil. Around five months it clicked, and the screaming and anxiety stopped. And he now goes in with a hand signal and the cue word β€œin”. When he is fully potty trained I plan to stop crating but for now I have found that consistency works. Many people on this forum suggest that the only moral way to have a basenji sleep is in your bed. I have ignored this as my bedroom is also a nursery and it was fine. Consistency, dumping treats, plenty of exercise and toys are the path to crate training success.


  • @rhughes89 said in Crate Training Woes. Is it Separation Anxiety or Claustrophobia? Both?:

    I feel that there is a lot of misinformation about the breed out on the web being a good apartment dog and good indoors

    There is so much misinformation about our beloved Basenjis. Only yesterday I had yet another request for a puppy 'because they don't shed' <deep sigh>


  • @Zande, yes it's one of the "myths" about the breed! I would not want to have a Basenji in an apartment. Most don't bark, but wow, can they scream! An unhappy Basenji sounds like someone fighting with an axe murderer, and if your neighbours don't know what you have they may be calling the police!

    @Bill-T, I'm glad that approach worked for you. Basenjis are individuals. What works for one will not necessarily work for all. I have known some that will physically injure themselves if confined. I wouldn't like to generalize about what will or won't work, but I know what has worked for me, so that's what I suggest when people run into problems. It does make a great deal of difference if the dog has company, as crating next to another dog is reassuring and often successful.


  • @eeeefarm said in Crate Training Woes. Is it Separation Anxiety or Claustrophobia? Both?:

    An unhappy Basenji sounds like someone fighting with an axe murderer, and if your neighbours don't know what you have they may be calling the police!

    πŸ˜‚ πŸ˜‚ πŸ˜‚ I nearly spit my coffee!!! hahaha good laugh. Made my day!

    @Zande said in Crate Training Woes. Is it Separation Anxiety or Claustrophobia? Both?:

    There is so much misinformation about our beloved Basenjis. Only yesterday I had yet another request for a puppy 'because they don't shed' <deep sigh>

    I'm willing to admit that I was one of those people. What initially attracted me to breed for about 5 years was the "barkless-ness" because at the time I lived in an apartment right after college. Luckily I took a few years passively researching and visiting and talking to several breeders all over the country that I had a better idea of what I was getting myself into. I wasn't expecting that crating would be such a problem, however. But I wouldn't give my Oya up for anything and am willing to work with her.


  • @rhughes89 - To be honest, I have placed pups in homes that were apartments or townhomes... as long as you have the time to spend with them and lots of walks/runs they do just fine in those homes.


  • I have never placed a puppy in an apartment. Not particularly by design but it just panned out that way. Even the relatively high percentage I have exported have gone to houses with gardens of some kind and access to lots of exercise.

    Many of these myths have only really gotten a toe hold since FaceBook and social media generally. I had one potential owner visit a few times before deciding, yes, her allergies did not extend to Basenjis. She had three pups from me over a span of about 15 years before being an established and successful breeder herself.

    @rhughes89 Well done for wanting to persevere. I am sure that, with the will and the right mind-set, you will prevail !

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