Few canines enjoy being kept inside a crate for a few hours, but fearful dogs often have what looks like a mental breakdown when inside their new sleeping quarters. Keeping your scared pup from thrashing about and possibly hurting himself is a job that requires a lot of patience and even more treats.
Place the crate in the room your pup feels most comfortable sleeping in. For the anxious dog, that usually means your bedroom. The crate itself will be scary enough for your little guy. The more comfort he has around him, the less freaked out he'll be.
Open the door to the crate, and sit next to it. Call your puppy over with a playful voice. Let him inspect the strange object. Pet him, talk to him and ease his mind over what's going to be his new sleeping area. If he ducks his head inside the crate or puts a paw inside, give him lots of praise and a treat. Do this for a day or two.
Relocate your dog's food dish next to his crate. Associating one of his favorite things in the whole world with the crate allows him to realize that the big metal or plastic object means good things. If he's hesitant to approach the crate, place his food bowl a few feet away and slide it closer to the crate each day. Once he's eating next to his crate for two or three days, you're ready to move onto the next phase.
Fold up a blanket and layer the bottom of the crate with it. Call your pup over and toss one of his favorite treats inside. The second he pokes his head inside to get it, give him tons of praise. After a few repetitions, introduce a unique verbal cue, such as "inside" or "sleep time," as you're tossing a treat inside. Now you're associating the crate with something positive and the command with an action and a reward. Keep this up until your pup goes inside the crate when you say the verbal cue only.
Tell your dog to go inside his crate, and then feed him in there. After about two days of crate feedings, it's time to move on. Tell him to go inside the crate, close the door slightly, and then open it back up. Give him a treat if he just sits there. If he whines or cries, be faster with opening it next time and don't close it as much. Keep doing this until your pup doesn't give a darn if you close it all the way.
Call your pup over to his crate and tell him to go inside. Close the door all the way, latch it and take a seat on your bed. Despite all the positive reinforcement, he'll likely flip out. Keep your cool. Don't look at him and do not talk to him. When he's done whining, barking and throwing a fit, let him out. Shower him with praise, and throw him a tasty treat. Do this two or three times a day. When he stops freaking out every time the door closes, start crating him while you sleep.
Begin training him to behave in his crate when you leave the house. After your scared little guy responds well to sleeping in his crate at night, it's time to show him that being alone is no big deal either. Start out by leaving the room while he's crated and only return when he stops barking and whining. After he doesn't mind you leaving the room, walk out of the house and listen for him. If he remains quiet for 20 to 30 minutes, he should be good to go for a few hours.
An Item You Will Need
- Tossing a treat dispenser or a few chew toys inside the crate can keep your pup busy while you're away. Make sure the toys are safe enough that he won't be able to tear them into pieces.
- Sometimes placing a shirt that smells like you inside the crate will help calm down your little guy for the first few nights.
- Make sure the crate is big enough for him to lie down, stand up and turn around, but not so big that sections of the crate go unused.
- Never force your pup into the crate. This is the worst action you can take for a fearful pup.