Guide To Australian Shepherd Training & Care

Crate Training An Adolescent Aussie Accustomed To Ruling The Roost (And Eating The Roost Too)

by Ranee Ricky and Twister
(North Huntingdon, PA)

Rick 'n Twister

Rick 'n Twister

On another thread, someone asked about teaching an adolescent mini-Aussie to crate. Since I'm currently doing exactly that with Twister, (and was limited in my reply to 3000 characters) I'll share my experience here on a separate thread.)

Many owners make the very common (though kind-hearted) mistake of believing crating a puppy is cruel. In fact, NOT crating a pup can be dangerous to the pup--and VERY expensive as many have found out.

When a puppy becomes destructive when left alone, it's a sign that you are dealing with either boredom or separation anxiety. Crating all day while you work can make either worse if not handled well. Most of us are struggling in this economy (else we'd simply stay home with our dogs) but if it's at all possible, look into a doggie daycare in your area or at least someone (maybe you!) who can come in at lunchtime, let him out, give him a bit of a walk or playtime, then put him back into his crate. Aussies are NOT the type of dog you can just leave in a crate all day and many will react very badly. (Some, on the other hand, do OK so long as they have enough playtime/exercise and mental stimulation during the hours you are home, especially if they get a short break in the afternoon.)

If possible, introduce him to the crate gradually... begin feeding him in the crate, tossing treats into it so he has to go in to get them and leaving his favorite toy inside. (Make it a high-value toy --on he has to work at -- something like a stuffed Kong or Buster Cube is good.) Your ultimate aim is to make the crate HIS little kingdom... the place where he can go to relax and not have to do anything but be a dog.

Position the crate where he's not totally isolated. Especially in the early stages, you should still be in the house when he's crated off and on for 5-10 minutes at a time. If you can put him in the living room where you can leave on a TV when you go out, so much the better. (My dogs have always liked Animal Planet. LOL) I don't suggest putting the crate in the bedroom (or letting an adolescent dog sleep in the bedroom. An adolescent Aussie WILL begin to challenge-they're notorious for morphing into TEENAGE MONSTERS. Now is also the time to take an obedience class if you haven't and begin a refresher course or more advanced one -- or begin flyball or agility. It is necessary to reinforce YOU are the BIG DOG in the house and also to insure he has enough to keep his busy mind and body occupied.

Gradually increase the time he's in the crate if it's at all possible. Simply putting him in to stay for 8 hours without helping him get used to it can cause it's own problems. You may come home to a smashed pen -- depending on his strength, determination and the type of crate -- or BLOODY PAWS AND MOUTH with blood spattered all over the walls, floors and dog. Some dogs panic or just go into a rage over a crate if it's not introduced well. (I'm raising one right now that does precisely that because he was crated for 10 hours a day from 8 weeks of age and then got totally out of control.)

When you put him in the crate, give the command, "CRATE." (Even if you have to physically put him there he'll learn to go in on command eventually.) Since the behavior you described -- eating the kitchen floor -- could be more a sign of separation anxiety -- DO NOT make any fuss over him after you put him in the crate. A calm, "see ya" or no comment at all is best. (NEVER let him see you acting sorry for him for having to crate him. No "Ohhh... poor baby!... Mummy be backs soony-woony and luvs on her baby-waaby." ;-) )

When you come home, do not make eye contact with him when you go over to open the crate -- open the door and ignore him for a few minutes. (This establishes that comings and goings are simply no big deal to you and then he'll begin to follow suit.)

Patience along with your understanding can get you through this difficult stage. Best of luck.

Ranee, Ricky and Twister

Boarding, Grooming, Gift Shoppe & Pet Boutique
North Huntingdon, PA

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