Puppy crate training & Dog Separation Anxiety

Michael Peer, Professional Dog Trainer, Sterling, Va: Posted on Monday, March 18, 2013 1:08 AM

Spring is here & it's that time of year people bring home a new puppy. Chances are you're trying to do the right thing & keep Cutesy in a crate. That's a good thing but what if that pretty fur ball doesn't like it and whines every time she occupies it? First, it's important to try & make a positive association between crate & dog. If you simply order her in & when she looks at you with those longing eyes you still manage to work up the muster to push her in- she won't like it. She will immediately develop a negative association & even more so when you leave the room! Therefore, it's better to make a positive association before you send her into "solitary confinement". There are several ways to make a good impression for Cutesy & her home away from home. Try tossing in a couple of tasty treats while saying nothing, leaving the door open. When she goes into the crate to retrieve the morsels tell her in a happy voice "Good girl!".  After doing this a small number of times, simply touch (make a physical association) her crate door while dropping treats & tossing a couple inside. You can segmentally break down the entire process of getting her in & keeping her there if you make positive associations in steps from: nearing , passing, touching door, shutting door momentarily while dog's inside, re-opening while walking away, to short stints with door latched, to brief times away with puppy inside, and to quiet returns with uneventful releases.

When treating, ensure you say nothing & please refrain from standing there while marveling at how wonderful your little Cutesy looks devouring the goodies. The reason for this is to properly make the association of crate+treats= Positive! If you involve yourself too much you will be bringing into the equation all your "wonderfulness" rather than the simple association of Crate & Treat. Yes, we do want to praise our puppies when they do get involved with the crate so they will learn that certain behaviors they perform make their Persons happy (please us); this is critical because of dog's inherent need to please us. Remember unconditional love? As I often profess, it's our duty as Leaders to teach & ensure our fidos learn that acceptable behaviors please us and shall be rewarded while the unacceptable behaviors shall be discouraged. Please don't answer those whimpering whines for "help" when poor Cutesy sounds-off! You will only reinforce more of the same because it worked before. Eventually, your tiny ball of joy will give up on calling you back because her screams of woe were unanswered. If you develop a positive association & ignore the whines, you can prevail!