It’s hard to be alone. People know that it is hard to be alone, maybe that’s why it’s so common of a problem and dogs are so anxious, just reflecting their people? And so puppies enjoy attention, need attention and grow up not being able to be alone. Not alone in the house, the car, the crate… And it’s so much easier to introduce it steadily with a young pup (the puppy breeder should have it started), but hmmm…it’s easy to screw up too, just let them out when they bark or whine or pummel the kennel door open. Or always let them be out when you’re home and never practice leaving them, surprise, it becomes a problem…maybe a big one if your neighbors aren’t willing to hear any barking.
Our newest, temporary addition doesn’t yet know how to be comfortable alone. That means that all the rest of us know it too.
What is the strategy?
Well unfortunately since he is 6 months old and not reliable as a free-wheeling in the house entity, some of the strategy has to be a bit abrupt. A strong crate and a strong outside kennel and large tolerance for howling and barking. Especially for day one and day two.
Otherwise I’d rather have a less stressful for all of us approach and ease him into this.
Ignoring the noise, whines, gate bashing is necessary. He doesn’t get attention or release for craziness. But he does need to know what will get attention and release and play and treats. At first any brief end of noise and kennel pummeling got rewarded with food – his regular dog food, meat treats, peanut butter Kongs, pig ear strips, loaded bones. He needed to not be trying to force the door if he was to be released.
I did a fair (think lots of segments throughout the day) amount of offering treats/food for quiet, leaving if there was barking, coming back for quiet with treats and bonus for maintaining quiet. But often he didn’t get to get out during this if I knew he didn’t really need to yet (working from the idea of 1-2 hour windows for pee times). Oh, there was plenty of outside exercise, but no worries, that didn’t stop the inside ‘I’m alone in here’ barking.
I am doing hand feeding of his meals with crate games as the main work he does to get his food. Initially, he looked in the crate, I threw in some food. Then he went in I threw in food. Then he went in and turned around he got a jackpot of food. Now we’re up to him going in sitting or laying down, me moving the gate and then giving him food. I introduced him to the clicker and that helped him pinpoint what I liked in the crate at key points especially the lying down-gate move.
On the getting to get out of the crate, he needed to quit barking – I’d let him out. Then he needed to sit and quit barking. Then lie down, silent and stay in place while I reached for the gate. Now we’re up to lie down, quiet which includes no whining sighs when I’m about to unlatch the gate (I just move my hand away upon whine, and back to open upon quiet), he waits and gets invited to come out, he sits automatically and gets leash on. This is day 3. Voila, but we’re not done yet. Currently he’s in a bedroom so there’s no commotion around the crate, pretty soon it’s time to add a bit of view of action and go back several steps in the expectations.
And then after he’s successful with that we’ll be working on lying quietly at my feet under the desk and staying there while I do brief errands away from the desk – as this is what his owner will be doing with him at her work. But he still needs to be able to be quietly, comfortably waiting, at home, in the car, in a kennel alone.
FYI there’s no yelling QUIET or hitting the crate or water bottle or broom or whatever scary threat involved here, I want him confident and comfortable not threatened into submission. And even though I’m sure he was initially quite frustrated and irritated that his system wasn’t working, he’s understanding now and seems comfortable and quiet mostly. Thank goodness, big sigh…all the barking was chaotic.
- Puppy Crate Training: My Experience (dfs-pet-blog.com)