Talk­ing dogs

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - STYLE - LISA MOORE

QWe re­cently adopted a puppy from a shel­ter, and she’s sweet and adorable, ex­cept when we go to put her in her crate. Sasha will not come to me, in fact we must chase her down and then put her in her crate with some dif­fi­culty. I’m wor­ried that we are being too force­ful with her, but I can’t fig­ure out a bet­ter way. She does re­main quiet once she is in there, so is what I’m do­ing OK? — Katie

AI think you sense that it re­ally isn’t OK, Katie, and I would agree. If for no other rea­son than as Sasha con­tin­ues to grow and ma­ture, your problem in this area is likely to get big­ger and be­come even more dif­fi­cult to han­dle. My best ad­vice is to stop ev­ery­thing you are cur­rently do­ing in re­la­tion to the crate and start from the be­gin­ning. The goal should be to change Sasha’s con­di­tioned emo­tional re­sponse from a neg­a­tive one to a pos­i­tive one to the crate in general and go­ing into it in par­tic­u­lar. Since I don’t have all of your unique de­tails, I will do my best to cover all of the ba­sics.

First, don’t ever at­tempt to call your dog to you when you re­ally need her to do some­thing she finds un­pleas­ant. Not only will you be un­suc­cess­ful, but you can ruin a good re­call as well. So in the fu­ture, if you ever need to place Sasha in an area that she isn’t fond of — like the bath tub, for ex­am­ple — go to her. At­tach a leash to her col­lar and gen­tly lead her to where you need her to go.

Now on to the crate. I’m go­ing to as­sume that you have a com­mon plas­tic crate with a me­tal door. Take it apart; re­move the door and leave the bot­tom half of the crate in a place where Sasha can eas­ily ex­plore it. If she has a fa­vorite blan­ket or toy, place those in the bot­tom por­tion of the crate, too. Give Sasha the time and op­por­tu­nity to be­come at least less con­cerned about the crate.

You can help, too, by in­cor­po­rat­ing the crate into some ac­tiv­i­ties. For ex­am­ple, when watch­ing tele­vi­sion, sit on the floor and toss one of Sasha’s toys in the general direction of the crate. As she re­trieves it, keep throw­ing it, some­times land­ing it in the crate, giv­ing her a rea­son to step in­side to re­trieve the toy. If toys aren’t her thing, do the same with treats. You might also try bury­ing a hand­ful of treats un­der the blan­ket that is in the crate, and let her dig around in there to find and eat ev­ery one.

An­other good prac­tice would be to feed her near the crate. Be­gin by plac­ing the food bowl within a foot or two of the crate and let her eat on her own. At each meal, you can move the food bowl closer, and even­tu­ally place it

in­side the crate.

What these ex­am­ples have in com­mon is that they are pair­ing the pres­ence of the crate with some­thing pos­i­tive. With rep­e­ti­tion, and with­out pres­sure, Sasha will likely form a new con­di­tioned emo­tional re­sponse to the crate, and it will be a plea­sur­able one.

Of course, you will need to put the crate back to­gether again, but do it in stages. Put the roof back on but con­tinue to leave the door off. Give Sasha lots of rea­sons to go into the crate, by throw­ing toys

or treats into the back of it for her to get. Next, put the door on, toss some­thing into the crate and gen­tly close the door when she gets in. Leave it closed for only a sec­ond or two, then open it and let her out with lots of praise and play.

As you re­peat this process, add in a cue as she is go­ing in, like “In your ken­nel.” Grad­u­ally add to your du­ra­tion. Re­mem­ber, you are do­ing this out­side of the con­text of need­ing to put her into the crate — this should be sold to Sasha as no more than a se­ries of fun games.

Once the con­cern about go­ing into the crate has been re­solved, re­mem­ber these fi­nal

im­por­tant points: Have Sasha go into her crate for a few short pe­ri­ods each day, even when you are home, let­ting her out again after just a few min­utes. When you need to leave her crated for longer pe­ri­ods of time, be sure she gets a good amount of ex­er­cise plus some re­cov­ery time be­fore crate time — a tired dog is more likely to set­tle down and go to sleep. And fi­nally, place some­thing in the crate with her, like a raw bone or en­tic­ing chewy of some kind, so she con­tin­ues to main­tain a pos­i­tive as­so­ci­a­tion with being in the crate.

Spe­cial to the Demo­crat-Gazette/DUSTY HIG­GINS

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