The Weekly Q&A: Ask Way of Life™ Dog Training
Rescue Dog “Freaked Out” in Crate

Rescue «Freaked Out» in Crate

Q: Our newly adopted dog spent some time in foster care. When we asked about crating, the foster parents informed us that they’d attempted to crate him but then stopped because he apparently “freaked out.” Was that the right thing to do and what should we do now?

A: I will assume that by “freaking out” they were referring to protest behaviors such as barking, whining, scratching, and attempting to get out – behaviors that are very common when dogs are crated for the first time by people they don’t know. This is especially true of rescue/shelter dogs whose trust in humanity has been shaken. 

The response of the foster parents is all too common. It reflects the bad press about crating as well as the tendency in the dog training world to focus on surface behavior at the expense of root causes. We’re quick to think that the dog barking in the crate must mean he’s terrified, traumatized, and needs out at once. 

The initial resistance to the crate has less to do with the crate and more to do with the present relationship between dog and human. The dog’s resistance is a legitimate questioning of the human’s right to crate the dog, since there is no relationship to speak of. 

Crating requires that the dogs trust the humans doing the crating and this just doesn’t happen overnight. Before we jump to conclusions about why dogs are barking when crated in the early stages, going as far as to label them with “confinement anxiety,” let’s understand the dynamic underlying this process and remember that riding out this initial resistance is an essential part of decompression. 

How do we deal with this resistance? By staying the course and working diligently on our bond, knowing that becoming trustworthy in the dog’s eyes can take time. We carry ourselves with confidence, stick to our schedule, and ignore the whining and whimpering. This only adds to our credibility and speeds dogs’ acceptance of us crating them. As our relationship improves, so too will the dog’s behavior – whether in or out the crate.

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