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Crate training and attachment

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Hi all,

So for those who remember my introduction the other day- we brought Dodger home this week. He’s generally a fabulous puppy, has picked up house training like a champ (only 2 accidents in 3 days, both of which were human error, not his fault), and has bonded really strongly to me already. 

Herein lies my question. He’s a fabulous pup if he’s near me - follows me, is eager to please, watches for any sign of a command and does his best to immediately adhere - but he HATES being separated from me already. His first night here he cried in his crate a bit, but settled after 10 minutes or so. Yesterday night he settled quickly. Today we went out to the store and I strongly believe he barked/cried the whole time. Tonight he will NOT settle in the crate. It’s been half an hour and he’s still going strong. If he can be with me he’s great. If he can’t see me he throws a fit. (And it’s ME, not just ‘a person’). 

Suggestions? Obviously I’m not interested in setting him up for a lifetime of separation anxiety. How do I nip this in the bud? 

I’ve never had a dog SO bonded so fast (or at all, really).  

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Is the crate in your bedroom, or in another part of the house? I would suggest moving it to your bedroom, preferably where he can see you. I know that doesn't directly address the separation anxiety, but there's no need to add to his stress.

In terms of when you leave the house, try not to make a big deal or a routine out of it. For instance, if he knows that when you get your keys, that means you're leaving, then randomly go get your keys when you're not planning on leaving the house, then sit back down. Do this several times at random intervals. Also, when you do leave, don't make a big deal out of it; quietly put him in his crate and give him a high value treat or toy that he ONLY gets when you leave. And again, when you come back to the house, don't go crazy with the greetings. Just quietly let him out of his crate and ignore any over the top greeting he gives you. It's not easy but you have to do it. Sometimes dogs pick up on signals from us whether we realize we're giving them out or not.

Also, in terms of getting him to like his crate, consider feeding him in there.

Good luck! You'll get through this!!

Edited by jfaircloth
edited for clarity

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It is very possible that your puppy didn't howl the entire time you were gone. Just when you left, and then started up again when he knew you were arriving. Unless someone there reports to you that it went on all day, I would suggest you don't assume it did. I say this from experience: he probably slept while you were gone, but then was very eager to see you again and saying "let me out!".

I would also encourage you not to call this separation anxiety, because I doubt that is what this is. More likely just puppyness, not wanting to be left alone.  If it were me, I would put the crate next to my bed at night; that would probably stop the noise, and the other plus is you can hear if he gets restless and get up and let him out. I think having the puppy crate next to the bed is a good thing to do in general, anyway. But that's just my approach.

 

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When my puppy cried over being crated I covered the crate with a sheet and she quieted down almost instantly. Maybe this could work for you as well. I was also worried about her being distressed when I left her alone crated for hours at a time. I bought a cheap web camera ($35) that I can monitor with my cell phone. What I've discovered is that she just sleeps 99% of the time when I'm not there, even though I put a bunch of hard chew toys in her crate to give her a way to occupy herself. 

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Thanks folks. The crate is in a corner of our kitchen/dining/living area (open concept). Putting it in my bedroom is out (I don't like dogs in bedrooms as I'm a VERY light sleeper, but also there's simply no space. We've already got our toddler's crib in there.)

The night after this post I put a cover over the crate and that seems to have solved the problem completely. He's slept right through every night since, with no crying at all. He whined a little when I put him in, I gave him a firm 'no bark' and told him goodnight, and he hasn't made a peep in the crate at night since.  Daytime is another issue entirely, however. He's happy to go in during the day if the door is left open (he often chooses to sleep in it, and also enjoys taking chew toys in there to chew on rather than to his bed in the living room. But as soon as you close the door he cries. I'm sure we'll get over it (I hope?!). 

Also, re: separation anxiety -  I know that this behaviour ISN'T separation anxiety yet... my point was that I don't want to reward behaviours that could turn INTO separation anxiety, or encourage anxiety around being separated from me. He already often cries when I'm out of site, regardless of whether there's another family member in the room. I want to help to curb this behaviour now, rather than reinforce it. That's what I meant.

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Also re: daytime and barking. No, neighbours confirmed that he barked almost the whole time we were gone that day. We were only gone for about 45 minutes, it wasn't hours or anything. When I left him yesterday though, he was quiet when I came home, so here's hoping he's getting used to it. I've tried my best to get him slowly used to being alone, and I haven't left him for longer than an hour yet. I'm slowly leaving him for longer periods, hoping that it makes it easier on him if it's phased in gradually.

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