Regardless of the explanation, barking in the crate is a canine behavior that cannot be tolerated. In Otis’ case, the barking seemed to be more of a demand than an expression of separation anxiety. Many dogs have been diagnosed with separation anxiety by their owners, but the reality is very few dogs have true separation anxiety. Usually these dogs with incorrect “separation anxiety” diagnoses simply have excess energy and lack a structured environment.
In Otis’ case, the barking was easily thwarted with a simple and easy dissuasion technique, the crate shake. There are several techniques that will convey your desire for the dog to be quiet while crated. This may initially be challenging for your dog because he is a social creature.
Understandably, he wants to be with the pack. It is, however, important for the pack leader to set rules and determine the best arrangement for the dog’s safe keeping and rest. Though you may understand why your canine friend wants to be released from his safe space, you cannot allow demanding and obnoxious barking to continue. You will need to convey to your dog that such behavior will cause you to address him, not in the manner he had intended, but in an unrewarding fashion.
Matthew always suggests starting with the simplest dissuasion technique and moving up to more involved techniques if needed. The simplest techniques would be things like covering the crate with a dark cloth or blanket and/or putting the crate in a closed, quiet room.
If that doesn’t work, then the next technique to consider is the squirt bottle. You will need a squirt bottle that can achieve a steady stream, not a mist. Fill the bottle with a mixture of water and either scented bath oil, mild perfume, or some type of vinegar.
Upon continued barking, calmly approach the crate and squirt the dog. Once touched by the stream of odoriferous liquid, your dog may smell pleasant to you (if not using the vinegar), but not so pleasant to himself. In addition to the “squirt” from the bottle (the intended consequence), the odor may be an additional deterrent to the unpleasant spray in the face.
The next technique to try would be a crate shake. I consider the crate shake and the squirt bottle as equals on the dissuasion scale of intensity. With the crate shake you calmly, quietly approach the crate and rattle it from side to side, enough to generate some movement.
This works best with a small plastic crate. This technique helped Otis realize that if he demanded attention by barking incessantly in his crate, the attention he would elicit would be undesirable. While the crate shake and the squirt bottle are both effective, there is still a percentage of demanding, determined dogs who would laugh at such mild deterrents. Fortunately Otis responded well, further confirming my initial impression that he is an agreeable fellow.
For the dogs that fail to respond to the above techniques, we will need to increase the severity of the consequence. The next level on the dissuasion scale requires a leash and collar correction. This technique also requires advanced planning. You will need a chain leash (the only useful purpose for this type of leash) and a standard training slip collar.
The idea is simple; if your dog barks, then you answer his call with a leash and collar correction. Time spent opening the crate door and attaching a leash to administer a correction takes away from the impact of the deterrent. Even if the dog is corrected with the leash and collar, by opening the crate door he generated brief contact with you and undermined your authority. So, to execute this type of correction effectively while minimizing contact, we suggest using a chew resistant chain leash.
To properly set up the equipment, feed the leash through the spaces on the door of the crate and clip it to your dog’s collar. (Again, plastic crates are preferred to avoid any tangling of the leash within the wire gaps.)
Secure the handle of the leash to the exterior of the crate with a metal clip to prevent your dog from pulling it into the crate with him, but allowing enough leash length to afford the dog free movement inside of the crate.
When the dog resumes his barking campaign, you will respond with a leash and collar correction (without ever opening the crate door) by grabbing the leash from the outside of the crate and correcting the dog through the closed crate door. For safety reasons, we don’t suggest leaving the immediate area of a dog with the leash fixed in this manner; this is a training technique only.
The next level in dissuasion would be using of a bark diminishing collar. Like the invisible fencing systems that use electronic stimulation to train a dog to stay within the bounds of his property, bark diminishing collars utilize a similar electronic correction. These collars, especially the elaborate ones, have a means of detecting vibration from your dog’s vocalizations, and the collar will deliver a precisely timed electronic correction. These collars work wonderfully. There is no harm to the dog, there is never a chance for the dog to view the corrections as personal (thereby preserving the handler-dog relationship), and you don’t have to be present for the collar to function.
I have never seen such neat and clean corrections as those delivered by these collars. Just like the invisible fence collar, when the bark diminishing collar is triggered it will deliver an electronic stimulation. This isn’t a “shock” as most people assume. It is more of a stimulation of the neck muscles. (This is a similar type of muscle stimulation to the version used therapeutically in some medical devices.) In essence, the stimulation causes the muscles in contact with the collar to contract for a brief moment.
More than anything, this surprises the dog because he can’t understand the source of the correction, but he will quickly associate it as a consequence to his bark. Though a mild form of discomfort, the dog won’t enjoy the stimulation, and he will decide continuous barking isn’t worth the consequence. I realize these collars are yet another expense to the dog owner, but the time and energy it saves you is well worth the investment.
For most dogs, only a few of days with 1-3 barking attempts per day are all it takes to stop the barking. How much cleaner, neater, and consistent can you get? Before using the bark diminishing collar, there is a conditioning period for the dog that will help avoid equipment awareness (refer to the Equipment Awareness blog). This is described in most owner manuals that are provided with the purchase of a collar.
Crates are an essential piece of equipment for dog owners. Avoiding their use will certainly bring about distress for you and your dog. As you attempt these techniques remember to be persistent and consistent. Most of all, don’t give up. Otis only required the crate shake, but it did take 4 or 5 shakes to convince him barking in the crate was not acceptable.
Related real scenario: We recently had a client who was in a real pickle. She couldn’t allow her dog to freely roam the apartment because of inappropriate elimination and destructive behavior, but her dog wouldn’t tolerate being left in his crate without barking. Our client was about to be evicted because numerous neighbors had filed complaints regarding her dog’s incessant barking while she was at work.
She was terrified that her only option was to surrender her beloved pet. She came to us in obvious distress, and she was soon relieved when we suggested purchasing a bark diminishing collar for her dog to wear while in his crate. While she could have deployed the aforementioned sequence of training techniques while she was at home, she couldn’t tolerate even a minor barking infraction while away. Needless to say, the collar worked as designed and now dog, handler, and neighbors are living in peace and harmony.
Go do some good.