Being in the crate or fenced area allows many dog owners to feel at ease, whether being unable to supervise their dogs, preventing potty accidents or other reasons. Every owner who place their dog in the fenced area would hope for a calm state. However, not many dogs take to this too well and may have other plans to lunge on the fence, bark, whine, urinate, defecate…basically making you doubt the option of crate training. These behaviours are completely normal, especially in puppies which are not normally fenced up in the wild.

1.   Overcome anxiety of being in the crate

Carrying a dog and placing him directly in a fenced area is a terrifying experience. Your dog should understand that he has to be relaxed inside, and this starts from him deciding to walk in on his own. Use a treat or a training leash to guide him in the fenced area through an entrance. Be patient with this process as your dog may be cautious initially. Once he enters the area, you may add in other forms of reward such as verbal praise or massage to let him know he did something great. This should be done before starting any training exercises to create a pleasant experience. Never put your dog into the crate when he is anxious, fearful or excited.

 2.  Tire your dog out

Your dog may be insufficiently exercised and is especially so for high energy dogs and puppies. To eliminate this possibility, make sure that you bring your dog out for a jog to adequately tire him out before putting him into the crate. A tired dog will never be able to sustain a long period of time barking, whining or pounding on the fence. The time needed to calm him down will be shorter. For puppies that are unable to walk in public, engaging in an indoor game of chase, walking on an indoor track mill or playing a game of fetch can be a suitable alternative. Eventually, your dog will associate being in the crate with calmness and therefore, rest in it.

3.   The need to eliminate

Recall the last potty time to determine if your dog is barking due to wanting to potty outside. If the potty area is in the fenced area, you can ignore this possibility. If the potty area is outside and the last urination or defecation was some time ago, leash your dog up and guide him to the potty area. If no signs of waste elimination are seen when he is brought to the potty area, you can safely assume that your dog just wants to get out of the fenced area and you can guide him back into the fenced area. Avoid letting him play if he fails to urinate or defecate to prevent the association of barking with something positive. 

4.   Ignore the crying and barking

Walking over to assure your dog when he barks is only going to encourage that behaviour because barking is associated with his desirable outcome of attention. Hence, avoid doing so as he is just testing if this method works on you. Click here to access the article on stopping excessive barking.

5.   Limit napping during the day

Some puppies cry and bark at night. This is either because your dog sleeps too much during the day or drinks excessive amounts of water just before sleeping. Placing the crate in your bedroom will only reinforce being close to you which encourages your dog to develop separation anxiety from a young age. This issue will get more severe if unaddressed over time. You can limit your dog's water intake after dinner, especially puppies that are trying to grasp the concept of holding their waste.

6.   Avoid unnecessarily crating your dog

Crate your dog only when needed, for example, when no one is present to supervise your puppy. Once your dog learns not to pick up items from the ground and other housebreaking rules, entering the fenced area should be voluntary. Click here to address the behavioural issue of stealing food. 

Common mistakes

  • Using commands

Saying "stop" or "quiet" may suppress the barking only in the presence of a human. This means that this behavioural issue will repeat itself and will only stop in your presence. Hence, to fully address the issue, make sure you address any underlying causes to prevent history from repeating itself.

  • Placing toys in the crate

Entertaining your dog may only increase the excitement, causing excited-related behaviours of jumping, barking and whining. Similar to a bedroom, you enter with the intention of resting, not running around. Forming associations of appropriate activities with locations form the basis of rules.

  • Keeping your dog fenced up for long periods

A crate or a fenced up area should only be used for resting. Your dog should not be kept inside for any other purposes for an extended duration of time.

  • Using the crate for punishment

The area in the crate should be seen as a place for relaxation and not a place for discipline. Relaxation and discipline are two different concepts that should never be intertwined. As mentioned above, the intention of the crate is similar to a bedroom, encouraging appropriate activities at the appropriate locations. 

  • Addressing separation anxiety

The fence and the door are mere objects that physically stop your dog from getting to you. The physical anxious behaviour displayed by the body is reflective of the mental anxiety. Hence, crating your dog up will not change the perception of your dog wanting to get to you. Crating a dog with separation anxiety may even be dangerous as he may accidentally injure himself while trying to escape from the crate. In such cases, refer to the article on separation anxiety by clicking here. If the situation continues to persist, consult an experienced dog behaviourist.