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You are so pleased that your dog enjoys being in his crate. However, he's recently started barking for attention while crated. It doesn't make sense. He has an empty bladder and full stomach, and has a super-comfy bed, so what could he want?
He barks so much you feel duty-bound to check he's okay. But every time you go back in the room, there he is, sitting up wagging his tail looking happy to see you. Indeed, you began to suspect he was barking for attention and out of frustration, you start shouting at him to be quiet. This doesn't seem to work either as he still barks...louder and longer than ever before.
Unfortunately, what you failed to realize is you've accidentally rewarded the dog's bad behavior with attention. Popping back in to check on him and shouting are wonderful rewards, to a dog's way of thinking. Just how do you break this bad habit?
In an ideal world, in the first instance, your dog wouldn't start barking in the crate at all. This is achieved through correctly crate training your pooch so that he is happy in the crate and doesn't feel the need to bark. To do so, consistent training is needed along with providing a crate that is comfy and fun to be in. If your dog does get into the habit of vocalizing while in this happy place, there are tips to try.
The first move is to retrain your dog so that he discovers barking isn't rewarded. Know the dos and don'ts of a suitable crate and the experiences in it. And be aware of how to associate crate time as a good time. Apply the rules and methods in a kind but firm and unchanging way, because lapses send out mixed messages and can encourage your furry buddy to slide back into bad habits.
Also, don't expect the problem to be sorted overnight. The more established your dog's barking habit while in the crate, the longer it's going to take to correct it. Remember, the noise may temporarily get worse but will eventually stop. It's a doable task that takes just a few steps.
A few key points about the crate should be covered first. How about the size of the crate? Your dog should be able to stand up and turn around with ease. That is the ideal size because any larger, and it will not feel cozy. As well, some dogs with a crate that is too large will decide to use a corner as a spot to relieve themselves. Then, you have a whole other problem to sort out.
Make sure the crate is a welcoming place with a cozy bed. Some pet parents will even place an old, worn sweatshirt inside. This often soothes the dog, due to the familiar scent. Sturdy toys and a crate cover round out the comfort of the space.
Have treats on hand and be ready to exercise your dog regularly and fully. Finally, to get started in calming a barking dog, you may need to take a few steps back and train your dog all over again.
The Positive Association Method
Make the crate the best
Really, you want your dog's crate to be a place they want to rest in. Try covering the crate on three sides so that it is more like a private den, and a place your dog can call their own.
When your dog is outside with another family member, hide a few treats in the crate. Place them under the blanket, inside a chew toy, and at the entrance to the crate. This is to entice your dog to go there on their own. Let them seek the treats on their own time.
Once your pup has had a few days of finding fun treats on his own in the crate, feed him his meals there to continue a positive association with the space. On occasion, close the door when you feed him and leave him in the crate for 10 minutes afterward. Don't leave him any longer than that because he'll need a potty break after eating.
A dog should never be confined to a crate for hours on end when you are home. Dogs are social creatures and understandably want to be where you are. However, if you are working on a task such as using cleaners or painting, then the crate may be necessary. Other than when you are at work or not home, let your dog be part of the family.
If you are crating your dog at night, feel free to let them share your bedroom. Crating them away from you at night may set the stage for barking. If you eventually want them out of the room, crate them in the room and once they are over the barking phase, move the crate out of the room inches per night until they are in another space for sleeping.
The Dos and Don'ts Method
Do: consider your schedule
Before you begin working with your dog to break the habit of barking while in the crate, give thought to your schedule and work or home life requirements and work out a plan.
Do: consider your dog's schedule
Think about your pup's requirements. Take into account his age, potty training stage, best mealtimes, and so on. You want to pinpoint the most appropriate times for crate training and barking avoidance.
Don't: put him in hungry
Make sure that your dog is not hungry when you put him in the crate. The eating window shouldn't be any longer than 90 minutes before you put your pooch in the crate.
Don't: forget the pee break
Once you've fed your four-legger, take him out for a pee break before crate time. Remember, dogs often have a need to have a bowel movement in the morning after eating. Be sure to allow for plenty of time.
Do: provide toys and outlets for play
You can't blame a dog for being bored in the crate. Give your companion stimulating outlets like a Kong-type toy to lick and chew on when confined. Take the sturdy toy and fill it with moistened kibble and dog-safe peanut butter. Freeze it, and give it to your dog only on the occasions when he goes in the crate.
Do: tire him out
Exercise is a key component to a dog's life. A happy and tired dog who has enjoyed a long walk and a rousing gamer of fetch or two will relax and rest in the crate. When you are working to stop the barking habit, make sure your dog has had plenty of exercise to tire him out.
Don't: use the crate as punishment
Your dog's crate cannot be used as punishment. If you do that, your pooch will associate it as such. Make the crate a fun and relaxing place to be and the vibe will soon take over.
The Not Respond Method
Convincing your dog otherwise
Training your dog to not bark in their crate means convincing them that the action brings no rewards. This means no patting and no treats when they are vocalizing in a negative manner while in the crate.
Don't call out
Along with not responding through petting or any other type of face to face contact is to not shout from the other room, either. Calling out an order sometimes seems as though you are joining in, encouraging your pup to bark louder.
Music to the ears
If you have a pooch who is insisting on barking while in the crate, respond from afar by piping relaxing music into the room where they are crated. This may provide a distraction and will also drown out the sound for you so that you can be firmer in your resolve.
Your dog may be barking at the sounds they hear in the street or outside the window. White noise is a solution used in many circumstances as a way to drown out unwelcome sound. Give your dog a quieter space by running a fan or humidifier in the room.
Dog appeasing pheromones are a natural way that some pet parents calm a barking dog. After all, your pup is barking for a reason. Buy an infuser and plug it in near your pooch's crate. The DAP may provide a calming sensation for your dog.
By Pippa Elliott
Published: 11/08/2017, edited: 01/08/2021