Back to crate training!

I get great pleasure from just watching Ray.

He may be wandering around doing whatever his intuition is telling him to do, or he may be deciding where to settle down to chill out for a while. Sometimes he is clearly following scents in the house and, given that there are no other animals around, it is assumed that he is hunting down minute tasty morsels. Regardless, it is always fascinating (and educational) to watch him. There is always a possibility that I may learn something that will be to my advantage when training him for some desired behavior.

There are occasions when he is clearly watching me and he is probably totally reciprocating my feelings! He is probably thinking that he may learn something that will be to his advantage when training me for some desired behavior!

For all the progress that Ray has made since adopting us in March 2013, there are two key areas which still need to be addressed – separation anxiety* and crate training. The first one is preventing us from having much of a life without him, and the second one would make treatment for a serious medical condition virtually impossible, as would crating him to travel. Given that German Shepherds are apparently known to have difficulties when confined in a small area (they tend to start spinning which, if left unchecked, could develop into tail mutilation and/or other body damage), we are moving very slowly with the crate training.

When Ray goes into his crate (den), he will usually turn round and lay down facing the opening (I would probably do the same!). What he also does is stops the door from being lowered by either making sure that his front legs are sticking out just a little, or sometimes his head is resting on the steel frame at the bottom of the opening. He has always gone to his den by choice so the prospect of being shut in there has not probably crossed his mind however, his strategic positioning has to be addressed in order to crate train him.

As Ray’s early morning routine (around 8:00am) is to wait until he hears me coming up from the basement** and then make his way into his den and await his biscuit, I was presented with a golden opportunity to start crate training. As I got his biscuit and approached him, I gave him a “turn around” signal and moved towards the back of his den. Ray dutifully got up and turned himself round so that he could get his biscuit through the rear of his den!

While he happily settled down to savor his treat (with his back to the door opening) I slid the door down. Absolutely no problems! Of course this is only a start and we need to slowly build up his time in there.

At the time of writing, he his quite content to be “locked in” for about an hour as long as he knows that we are around. Clearly we have a long way to go but, using the “Tortoise and the Hare” analogy, we’ll get there eventually!

*Related Post “Ray’s Skype Account” – Feb 2, 2015

**Related Post “The Bag of Biscuits” – Apr 23, 2015

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27 thoughts on “Back to crate training!

        • You may wish to reconsider. Getting Ray into a crate was never a challenge. Getting him not to lose his self control and panic his way into injuring himself while locked in there and without us around is the issue. This really should not wait until “you’re at the bridge” as you have no training time at that point. Hopefully Choppy has a healthy uneventful life, but what if surgery was necessary which dictated being in a cage for some length of time (overnight?) at the vets? Just some thoughts.

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          • All good thoughts – I may have to reconsider this. She’s only ever been in runs when she has had to go to the vet or kennel. She is fine with those (though she is a bit of jailbreaker and has to have a special lock so that she doesn’t get out and let all her new friends out as well).

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  1. This is really clever, Collin. I love the trick about getting Ray to turn around to the back so you can close the front. It really sounds like you guys are doing this in a manner that won’t cause Ray to be nervous or grow distrustful of your motives.
    Super smart.

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    • That’s the plan! The last thing we want is for him to feel that he is being punished as that would totally derail the training. Also his crate is his “safe place” (nobody touches him in there) where he can go if he needs some “space” etc. It is important that he maintains that perspective about his crate.

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  2. Your parents are very brave people to try this. I howl like a hound dog when my dad leaves the room, never mind put me in a crate. But I’m very good at staying in dog hotels, even as a day boarder, so they also get to go away on their own. Good luck with the training.

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  3. Good luck with the crate training. Sounds like you are making progress. I would also imagine as Ray becomes comfortable for longer periods in the crate it will also help to address the separation anxiety. If he is content and feels safe in the crate he may be less concerned with your absence. Keep us “posted” 🙂 on your progress.

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  4. Cats do not like crates of any sort. I have a rolling bag to take them to the vet which is top loaded. I never figured out the crate thing as I wouldn’t be happy in a confined space. Glad you are making progress because Ray needs to learn how to entertain himself somehow or you will not have much of a life. Of course you will know all the places that allow dogs!

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    • Our main concern (re the value of crate training) is if he required medical treatment that involved staying over at the vets, he would have to be in a confined area. Unless he is comfortable in those conditions, he could totally lose his self control and potentially seriously hurt himself.

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      • I know you rescued him (or he you). Was he crated at a rescue place? I know my old cat (who must be boarded if we go away because of injections) settles in and sleeps even though he is not happy about it. I’m not as familiar with dogs.

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        • Just a point of accuracy. We did not rescue Ray. He was rescued by the Oakville & Milton Humane Society and we adopted him from there. He was not crated at OMHS as such because he had an area around 5ft wide x 10ft long to move around in. Even that was an issue however and he was put on anxiety medication. GSD’s are apparently well known for potential problems in confined spaces.

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  5. Good approach. We had a cage when Maggie was small which was put in the bedroom. It was never used as punishment, and was always open during the day, with her bed (Hubby’s old jumper from her first night with us) at the far end. We used it at night and also when we had to go out and leave her. If ever she felt unsettled, she would go to her bed inside it, I guess knowing she was safe.

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