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DirectorMan

Rejecting the crate

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My dog Mocha is a deaf BC that I adopted four years ago when she was a year and a half old. A few months ago I taught her to stay in a crate. She is in the crate twice during the day and she sleeps in at at night. I always put a treat at the far end of the crate prior to her entering it. A week ago she began exhibiting reluctance to enter the crate in the late afternoon and when I put her to bed at night. She has no problem entering the crate in the morning, though. When I can get her to enter the crate in the afternoon and at night, she immediately paces in the crate, and it can take a half hour to an hour or more of my staying within eye's view before she will calm down and go to sleep. Is she becoming reluctant to enter the crate out of boredom? What kind of training can I do to get her to relax? I've tried Melatonin but it seems to have no effect. I tried Rescue Remedy yesterday, but I'm not sure if it helped, so I'm going to keep testing it with her. I am limited in the amount of exercise I can give her because I blew out my knees a couple of years ago taking her on long walks. I've seen suggestions about leaving her a frozen Kong stuffed with treats in the crate, but I'm worried that she'll go back to being anxious once she's gotten all the treats out of the toy. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

BTW, she has lots of issues to deal with, so I hope everyone on this forum will tolerate what will most likely be a lot of postings I'll be making asking for opinions/feedback.

 

 

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I'm just curios, have you checked her bedding recently to make sure it isn't soiled? Or the reverse, have you recently washed it with a new detergent?

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The bedding isn't soiled and I haven't changed my laundry detergent. If either of those items were true I would expect her to pace back and forth in the morning as well, but she doesn't.

 

I have blocked off as much light as I can from coming into the room because she is easily spooked by light and shadows. Could what seems to me to be minor differences in the amount of sunlight that comes into the room in the afternoon as compared to the morning be the cause?

 

The only other thing that I can think of that is different between the morning visit to the crate and the afternoon and evening visits to the crate is that I spray some lavender air freshener on her bedding in the morning.

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I'm wondering if she is associating the crate in the evening with you leaving her alone overnight, so a bit of seperation anxiety. Maybe try crating her in the bedroom and see if that changes anything.

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Could what seems to me to be minor differences in the amount of sunlight that comes into the room in the afternoon as compared to the morning be the cause?

 

It's certainly possible. When there's an irrational fear, well, it just doesn't need a rational cause. And they can be incredibly sensitive to even barely discernible differences.

 

I have a dog who's very sound sensitive. There was a period when Bohi was whining quite a bit; he seemed like he was in pain. I couldn't figure out why and took him to the vet, who did a thorough exam, took X-rays but found nothing. He prescribed pain meds to see if it would help, but it continued unabated. It was a period when I was having a lot of fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue flares and often found myself resting on the couch during the day, watching old TV reruns. One particularly bad day I lay there for hours, watching old episodes of Bonanza when I realized that Bodhi was whining pitiably every hour on the hour, just as a new episode would start with the theme music going. Yep, there was something in the music that set him off, and I've noticed since that the music from some other programs and commercials will cause him to cry. None are as bad as Bonanza's, though, and without fail he cries like he's in pain whenever he hears it. :wacko: (If you need a good laugh, search YouTube for dogs and Law & Order. A lot of dogs howl when they hear it, and there are [or were] dozens of videos of dogs singing along to the theme music. Oddly, Bodhi doesn't react to it at all. )

 

Good luck figuring it out.

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I'm wondering if she is associating the crate in the evening with you leaving her alone overnight, so a bit of seperation anxiety. Maybe try crating her in the bedroom and see if that changes anything.

I would love to test that theory out, but we have two dogs and two cats in the bedroom with us, and Mocha has aggression issues with them. Just one of the many "gifts" that Mocha brought us. :)

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I don't think it would hurt to make the crate more fun in the evening and see if that helps. Give her a stuffed kong, feed her dinner in the crate (you can put the food in the crate but not close the door. Just feed her there) or if she has something she loves to chew only give it in the crate at night. Every time you give her someone awesome in the crate you don't have to close her in, that way she can associate the crate with fun things but not always getting locked in.

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Another thing that might help is to put a light blanket over the crate. A dark color but light material would work well. This might help block off more light and create a Den type feel that might make her settle down quicker. At night you shouldn't have to use it if it's dark in the room. Another thing is sometimes people trick a dog into going in after a treat and then they shut the dog on them. So when they turn around they are stuck in something. Stay there a second and close the door when she has relaxed a little and isn't trying to get out. It's just a mental thing if she's trying to get out when you sit the door she will fight it more when you walk away. Just sit a second when she sits and relaxes put the blanket over the door and step back a little. Just something that has helped here sometimes if they are worried about whats happening outside the crate.

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Thank you waffles and chelstfrox for your advice. Mocha seems indifferent to most things that other dogs like to chew on, other than bones filled with marrow or treats, and it seems that every time I do an internet search for a safe chew toy, somebody has a reason why it may cause broken teeth, gastric distress, etc. Would you folks on the forum care to chime in with your experiences/recommendations?

 

I will try feeding her in the crate and see how that works out, as well as tossing an occasional treat in there and leaving the door open.

 

Currently I have a comforter over the crate. I need to follow your suggestion, chelstfrox and get something dark that is of a lighter material than the comforter, since summer will soon be upon us. I will try staying near the open door when I put her in the crate, but I am concerned that she won't go to sleep as long as I am there, and that when I close the door the anxiety will kick in again, but as my wife says "Nothing beats a failure like a try!".

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I just remembered that when I first put her in the crate months ago, I did not put a comforter on it, and she would occasionally bark at the closet door. My guess is that this behavioir ties into her general issues with lights and shadows. She can be fine in the kitchen in the early morning when the sun is first rising, but becomes anxious just an hour or two later and tends to hide between our legs and the cabinet doors. Just another thing to watch out for, I guess.

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Last night I tried spraying the lavender air freshener in Mocha's crate before putting her in. At first I thought that she was going to go ballistic, because she whimpered more loudly and paced back and forth more than before, but strangely enough she calmed down within five to ten minutes. Hmmm...

 

Just now I put her in the crate with her evening meal and kept the door open. After about five minutes I began closing the door bit by bit over the next five minutes. Then I slowly brought the comforter down over the door, which meant she was no longer going to be able to see me. Once she realized that she was beginning to lose sight of me, she stood up, and once the comforter completely covered the door, she began to whimper and pace a bit, but after a minute or so of that, she stopped. I could tell she was still a little anxious, but I decided to slowly make my way out of the room. It's been ten minutes and I haven't heard anything, so I will assume that she's settled down. Mocha is so smart, though that there is the possibility that she will figure out that getting fed in her crate means that I will be leaving her. Keep your fingers crossed.

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there is the possibility that she will figure out that getting fed in her crate means that I will be leaving her.

 

Don't always close the door and leave her when you feed her in the crate. She can't anticipate what you don't set her up for.

 

What you want to do is sometimes feed her in the crate with the door open so she can leave it when she wants to. Other times close the door, but don't go anywhere. Eventually sometimes feed her in the crate and leave. It should be random so she never knows which it'll be.

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Thank you, GentleLake. That's good advice. How would you suggest I approach using the comforter? I could randomize things so that sometimes I put the comforter on and sometimes I don't, but I'm concerned that without the comforter on the crate, she may be fine for an hour, and then suddenly decide to revert to her "barking at shadows" behavior.

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I'd leave the comforter or some other cover on all the time. That's not going to be the same sort of thing as the food. The food is a positive thing, to help her like the crate more, though you don't want it signaling that it means you're going to leave. The comforter is neutral, just to block light/shadows, more a part of the crate itself and, unlike the food, not likely to be paired with an emotional response.

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Is it possible that the comforter is the trigger? It's always on top of the crate, but I pull it down over the door when I leave to block her from seeing the "demons". Perhaps I'm feeding into her sense of isolation. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

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No meds at all. We started giving her St. John's Wort a couple of months ago. It may be helping her be a little more calm when she's just hanging around the house, but it hasn't noticeably helped her remain calm in the crate, but then I never expected it to be a miracle cure. I'm hoping that by following the suggestions made on this forum, and by spending a lot more time training her, that I will be able to greatly reduce her issues, if not eliminate them altogether.

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Using some type of drug while training may help. It is difficult to learn new behaviors when anxiety ridden.

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I should be more clear. I don't just mean for the moments of training. I mean some kind of daily med for reducing anxiety.

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I haven't ruled anything out, but for the time being I'll see what we can accomplish without drugs.

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