Crossposted from reddit.com/r/dogs:
We adopted Minnie in August. We started crating her around the New Year. Until now it’s gone very smoothly. She took to the crate right away. I tossed one or two treats into the crate. She went into the crate to get the treats. I closed the door behind her, gave her some high-value treats (deli turkey breast) through the bars, and went to bed myself.
The problem started a week ago today when we rearranged the furniture in the room where we crate her. That night, she got into the crate like normal. Next night, though, she wouldn’t get in for about 15 minutes of treat-tossing and repeating commands.
Mystery. Why would she be reluctant to get into the crate TWO nights after we rearranged furniture? If rearranging the furniture was a problem, wouldn’t that have surfaced right away?
Then I thought, aha, the crate is now under a window. Which is open. Probably something scared her the first night. So I moved the crate to another corner of the room, as far as possible from other open windows.
Nope. Didn’t work. She’s still taking about 15 minutes to get in the crate. She doesn’t show any anxiety about getting in, but neither is she happy about it. She looks, well, quiet and determined, while I stand there (or sit on the floor next to the crate) like an idiot, tossing in treats and saying, “COME on, Minnie! Go to bed!” in a fake-bright, chirpy voice.
I tried nubbins of cheese as a pre-crating treat Friday night, then cream cheese once she was in the crate. I’m pretty sure that’s what gave her diarrhea inside the crate Friday night. So that was no fun.
Yesterday I went to the petstore and got new bedding for the crate, some nice padding. Still the same problem: “COME on, Minnie! Go to bed!” At least no diarrhea the last two nights. But it’s still taking 15 minutes to get her to go to bed.
All this time I’ve been thinking the root cause of the problem is anxiety. I mean, she doesn’t look anxious. She doesn’t look happy, but she doesn’t look anxious either. She just doesn’t want to get into the crate, I thought. She’s like a little kid who wants to stay up just a couple of minutes longer past bedtime.
This morning as I was waking up it occurred to me: She’s training me. Like that little kid who wants to stay up a few minutes longer, she’s figured out that if she simply refuses to get in the crate until she’s good and ready, she can get lots of treats before she gets in. And lots of attention too — not skritching or playing, but at least I’m looking at her and talking to her, right? She gets plenty of attention during the day, but more attention is always good, right?
It’s like a negotiation. She’s watching the treats pile up inside the crate. When I’ve paid her enough to get in, she’ll get in.
So how do I break this pattern? I’m thinking tonight I’ll just toss in ONE treat, say GO TO BED in a bright chirpy voice, then sit with my back to her and the crate until she decides to get in. Sound like a good plan? Any other ideas?