The first night Idgie came home she screamed. She didn’t whine or fuss she full-on banshee-screamed. For eight hours. She didn’t stop.
My colleagues told me I had to wait her out. I had to be careful not to let her out of the crate if she was screaming.
So I did. Fast forward 8 years and I still had a dog that was largely unhappy about being crated. She crated ok at agility trials if she was in a quiet spot, and she always did well crated in the car. But crate her at home when I was there? Crate her at home when I was away? Crate her while I was at work and she was in another room? Nope, nope, and nope. Screaming, bar-biting, and way too much distress for me to accept. All that waiting her out had surely gotten me far; far into a hole I now I had to dig out of.
I embarked on a desensitization process with Idgie and she can now relax in a crate under most circumstances. The few circumstances under which she can’t be chill, she is not crated. But it took more work than it ever had to, and I don’t want this to happen to anyone else.
The truth is, my colleagues weren’t wrong; letting a vocalizing dog out of a crate will surely reinforce said vocalizing. But they weren’t right either, because my puppy was in distress. Positive trainers who split finely in most aspects told me to lump my puppy straight into what I would eventually expect of her: a quiet crated adult. What I needed to do was break it down into manageable pieces, employ some good strategies and tools, and most of all, show some compassion to the baby animal I had just ripped away from her mother and siblings.
Idgie’s story is why Happy Crating, a webinar and now an online workshop, exists. I want dogs to be able to relax in their crates in a variety of circumstances, and I know it takes work to get there. I also know that just feeding a dog through their distress about being crated is unsustainable. So there are plenty of non-food solutions in the webinar that fall under the “desensitization” category. I share it all here; everything I have learned about crating for the pet dog and beyond. I hope you will join me.
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