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The Chew: Why Some Dogs Hate the Crate

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The following bi-weekly column is written and sponsored by Dog Paws n Cat Claws, which provides a heart-centered and safe environment for your pets. Conveniently located at 5818-C Seminary Road in Bailey’s Crossroads, DPnCC offers doggy daycare, boarding, grooming, walking and training services, plus in-home pet care.

“When we rescued Lucy, we bought her a crate. The first time we left her in the crate for a dinner date, we returned home to find she’d rubbed her nose to the point of breaking skin and her gums were bleeding which we assume happened because she was biting the cage. Please don’t put her in one here,” said Susan S., one of our favorite clients, as she dropped off her pup for boarding.

Crates can be excellent training tools for dog owners and essential for puppies, but that doesn’t mean they work for every dog. You may discover that your rescue dog, who came to you with little information about their past, may hate their crate.

If you have a dog that reacts negatively towards a crate, she may have experienced some type of trauma while in a crate or during confinement. With patient training, many dogs learn to accept their crates over time. If you don’t have time for training, creating a larger space, such as a room of her own or a gated area, is less stressful for your dog and easier for you.

If you have a dog that’s done well in crates in the past and suddenly decides to protest, it may have something to do with the size. You want to make sure the crate is large enough for him to comfortably stand up and turn around without obstructions. When buying a crate for a puppy, keep in mind how big he will grow before deciding on a size. Most crates today come with dividers so you can partition part of the cage off and move it as your puppy grows.

Placement of the crate is also critical. They should live in a space free of noisy appliances, away from vents blowing hot or cold air, and far from the entrances of your home. It should be in a room where there’s human activity. You want your dog to feel like he is still part of the family, but doesn’t need to be involved with everything. If you have small children, teach them to steer clear of crates. Poking or banging on crates can be stressful for dogs.

If you choose to work on counter-conditioning your dog’s anxiety, the goal is to get your dog to voluntarily enter her crate. You want her to feel secure in her crate and enjoy her time inside. Placing treats inside the crate with the door open entices your dog to check it out. Keep the door open until she seems a bit more comfortable inside. Once you close the door, make sure your pup can see you and gradually work your way up to moving out of her sight line for longer periods of time.

If your dog barks while in the crate, ignore the behavior. Only reward when they are calm and well behaved using high-quality treats or a favorite toy. Stuffed Kongs are ideal. It keeps them busy and the act of cleaning out the Kong helps them relax. Another option is to cover the crate with a sheet, simulating the feeling of being in a den and calming to your pup.

If your dog continues to hate his crate and causes nothing but trouble when left to roam your home, dog daycare is another option. We have several dogs that come to daycare and boarding with crate anxiety. We have designed our daycare facility to include several small rooms called “zones.” When Lucy and dogs like her stay with us, we utilize these zones to keep them happy, calm and secure during their stay. At Dog Paws, we put extra effort into ensuring a crate hater will never see the inside of a crate.

Sara Schabach
In-Home Pet Care Manager

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