Some days, it feels like crate training your dog is a never-ending battle. Progress seems to stall out, and you’re unsure how to get back on track.
If this sounds familiar, don’t worry – you’re definitely not alone. In fact, many dog owners experience regression during crate training.
Believe it or not, this is actually quite common and not necessarily something to be alarmed by.
Crate training regression happens during rebellious periods in puppy development, a sudden negative association with the crate, moving too fast with training or not being consistent enough, or developing separation anxiety. You can get back on track by going back to the basics, making the crate super comfortable, feeding meals in the crate, and being patient.
In this article, I’ll help you breathe a little easier and get your puppy back on track with crate training.
Fear not; this isn’t a forever problem. So, let’s get your pup back on track!
Everything seemed like it was going well… until your puppy began acting as if they had never seen the crate before in their life!
If your puppy has begun barking, growling, whining, or resisting entering the crate, you suffer from crate and training regression. This can happen for a variety of reasons.
All puppies (and even adult dogs sometimes) go through various periods and stages throughout their physical and mental development. Much to our dismay, the period that feels like it lasts forever is the rebellious stage.
Very akin to teenagers, when puppies begin gaining confidence and growing into themselves, they start to test boundaries.
This testing of boundaries tends to manifest in your puppy pretending they no longer understand you, not responding to commands, throwing an attitude when asked to do something, and (you guessed it) refusing to cooperate with the crate. This is a challenge to your control and authority over them, again, just like a teenager with their parents.
Adult dogs can go through another rebellious stage similar to the teenage-hood puppies experience. This tends to come about because your dog feels ignored or is not having their needs met, which means they’ll do whatever possible to get a rise out of you so that you can notice them once more.
You suddenly have an attitude on your hands like never before, and it can feel like all of the training you put in was for nothing. Calm those worries; the rebellious phase is very normal!
Puppies and shyer dogs are very impressionable animals. Unfortunately, they remember the bad times much better than the good times.
Even if you’ve done everything right during your crate training, a small instance of something spooking a timid dog in their crate can cause them to form an immediate negative association with the kennel. The newly applied negative connotation will quickly regress crate training, as your dog suddenly sees the crate as an enemy.
Equally so, this is a big reason you don’t want to use the crate for any sort of punishment or other negative reinforcement training. The whole goal of crate training is for the kennel to be a positive and happy spot, and doing anything to align it with something unpleasant is a big detriment.
Training has a lot of components to it, of which the main principle is patience.
You need to have patience in more than just waiting for your pup to understand what you want from them: you must have patience during their learning process, patience in waiting for the dog to be ready to move on to the next step, and patience in staying consistent with your training routine.
If you try to force too much on your dog or too fast, then you’ll effectively regress the training and end up at square one.
Some dogs have softer temperaments than others, and the soft ones tend to shut down and break if too much pressure is applied to them. Know your dog and have compassion for their way of learning.
Not being consistent in your training can also quickly undo all of your efforts. Dogs (especially puppies) thrive on consistency and routine, and breaking this can be problematic.
An unfortunate condition that may develop during the crate training process is separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is when your dog begins displaying panicked and anxious behavior in your absence. This can range from howling and crying to panting and drooling, all the way to attempting to escape the crate.
Since the crate signifies alone time (and you leaving), dogs with separation anxiety will regress in their crate training rather quickly due to the sheer panic of being away from you.
The symptoms of separation anxiety can also show themselves in your dog doing everything they can to not go into the crate.
Although it may seem dismal at first, you can absolutely get your puppy’s crate training back on track!
Pushing through this difficulty is well worth it, as you’ll be left with a well-trained dog at the end of the day.
Here are the primary ways to get back into the crate training swing of things.
The thing about training a dog to do anything is that you can’t let your own ego get in the way.
Humble yourself by going back to the most basic steps if you find that your pup is regressing in their crate training.
As much as it can be a bore to start all the way over, you’ll be surprised at how quickly your puppy will pick back up on the crate and begin doing what they’re supposed to do!
Go as far as to re-introduce your puppy to the crate and follow all of the steps laid forth as if your puppy had never been exposed to the crate before in their life.
The best way to tackle something seeming bad is to make it as awesome as possible.
If your pup is scared of the crate due to some sort of developed negative association, it’s time to make the crate ultra enticing.
Add lots of soft bedding, really amazing toys, and yummy treats to make the crate as comfortable and inviting as possible. Your goal is to change your dog’s perspective and feelings towards the crate into something positive!
When hunger calls, the past shall be forgotten for your pup!
Go back to feeding meals inside the crate to remind your pup that the kennel is the hottest post in the house.
Feed treats, breakfast, lunch, and dinner inside those crate walls. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your pup begins to associate the crate with something awesome!
Patience is a virtue, and if I can leave you with any sound advice at all, it would certainly be this.
Regression happens, but having the ability to wait and keep at it will make all of the difference. Remember, this is all well worth it in the end!