We’ve had this bonny little lad come in for some training support around separation anxiety (particularly crate training) and resource guarding.
Reggie’s owners reached out looking for some help on getting him settled in his crate without screaming the place down. On an evening he’s absolutely fine and takes himself off into his crate himself, but during the day it was proving a very different story.
A byproduct of lockdown is a surge in dogs displaying a heightened level of separation anxiety, attachment and dependency. As we’ve all been home for an unprecedented amount of time and our dogs’ routines have changed, without applying the correct training, our dogs will suffer when the lockdown is lifted and things inevitably return to normal.
Reggie’s owners have been so proactive prior to getting him and have really took the time to educate themselves on all things dog owning. From reading training books, to following trainer content, researching about nutrition, and feeding the highest quality food and treats available. They’ve waited and planned to get their first dog pretty much for 5 whole years and this is something I wish more people would do.
During the session it became clear that Reggie had a negative association with the crate and was hesitant to work in any positive direction towards it.
One big issue we find when working on any training or behavioural problem is the effect of demotivating our dogs to work towards a goal by providing them with everything for free. By giving your dog access to graze at it’s own leisure and have access to a toy box, you simply reduce the value of the two biggest motivators we have at our disposal.
If you were given everything and never needed to work a day in your life, you certainly wouldn’t value or appreciate things like if you’d sacrificed and worked your face off to get it. Make your dogs work for food and rewards, even just basic obedience drills or recall. Bring the toys out and play with your dogs, don’t depend on toys to entertain them for you.
Once we’d encouraged Reggie to venture into the crate we began desensitising him to the environment. Placing him in for varied amounts of time, opening and closing the crate doors, adding movement before and after, disappearing out of sight, placing attention on him and taking it away, rewarding him and not rewarding him. Totally changing the image each time to break down the association between being placed in the crate and being left. By the end Reggie was so relaxed he was fast asleep while we discussed his resource guarding.
One of the worst pieces of advise that people regularly give is to teach your dog from a young age that you can put your hands in their food bowl. The reason they advise this is ‘I done it with my dog and they’ve never went for me’. The truth is, putting your hands in your dogs bowl is doing nothing but teaching them that someone may potentially take it away from them at some point. Correlation doesn’t prove causation. If your dog has never went for you, that’s simply because your dog doesn’t have a high enough level of resource guarding to care and would be exactly the same if you’d never put your hands in their bowl.
Another mistake is to chase your dogs to get something trivial out of their mouth like socks or a crisp packet. Chasing them teaches the dog the item is valuable because you want it back. Simply redirect them onto a toy or chew and remove the item and you’ll not have any issues. Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.
With how much time and effort Reggie’s owners have put into him already I know for a fact they’ll have his crate training cracked in no time!