Dog behaviour is largely controlled by reactions to environmental cues. If dogs are exposed to events in their environment to which they do not have a learnt response, the process of deciding what to do can cause anxiety in susceptible dogs. Creating an environment with minimal environmental variation can decrease the risk of anxiety, and give your dog a happy place where they can relax without stress.
New experiences to which your dog has not learnt a response may make then anxious. That is where crate training can be very useful. When your dog is in the crate there is very little variety in their surroundings. Even better as you decide when they are shut in, and when they are let out they don’t even have to make that decision. The only option then is to sleep until you decide to let them out. It is better to view it as a womb rather than a prison. Remember we need to think like a dog here!
For this to work effectively we need to create the crate as a happy place, and this takes a bit of time and care. The following steps should create a happy crate, but you do need to be patient. Rushing the process can be quite damaging as the crate should have no bad associations.
- Your crate needs to be big enough for your dog to comfortably stretch and turn around. You may also need to consider providing water depending on location, and the length of time your dog will be in the crate for.
- Initially leave the crate open, with a familiar bed in it. Encourage your dog to go in to the crate with treats. Never force them in to the create. After a few weeks, you should find your dog goes in to the crate of their own accord to sleep.
- Once this pattern is well established (usually 4-6 weeks) you can start shutting the door for short periods of time. If you dog reacts use a quiet calming whisper to reassure them, but do not make physical, or eye contact. When they are calm, you can open the crate door. If your dog reacts very badly to the door being shut, open it again and use your calming voice to reassure them, and contact us for advice on how to proceed.
- Weather the door is open or shut should initially be a random event at your sole discretion.
- Be careful not to accidentally associate shutting the crate with other events, such as leaving the house.
- Now gradually increase the time for which the crate door is shut.
- After a few months, you should now have a safe retreat that your dog is happy to be in to protect them from the world.
- Don’t make a fuss of your dog when they go in to, or come out of the crate.