Crate Hater: Changing his mind one day at a time.

Gambit hates the crate, passionately hates it. It’s a problem we’ve had since I first brought him home. We’ve compromised and with a lot of work he is now able to relax in an x-pen when I am not home. If we are going to trial one day and also for attending some classes and seminars, Gambit will have to be able to relax in a crate either in my car or in a building. Up until this past November I mostly avoided working on crating Gambit because it was the opposite of fun.

But now we are finding ways to have fun with crating. We started out very simply. In the beginning I just rewarded Gambit for going in the crate and coming out for his release word. We built up a strong reinforcement history in the crate where going in the crate meant he would get some food and then be released to something fun such as a game of chase or his favorite ball. Soon Gambit was quickly running into his crate. Then we started practicing with the crate in other places.

This is a short video of Gambit working on going in and out of the crate on cue away from home.

We also practiced at home with Gambit remaining crated while his best buddy, Clover, trains. We started with Gambit being rewarded and released frequently and built up to longer training sessions with Clover working for longer periods of time and Gambit being rewarded for calm behavior.

We have been incorporating the dreaded crate into our everyday training. I’ve stopped avoiding working on it and Gambit has learned crate training is very similar to mat training and his job is to relax in the crate until released. Every time we train at home we use the crate. Every single time. Even when I don’t feel like getting it out, I do. And using the crate as part of our regular training routine is paying off.

This video is not very exciting but shows Gambit calmly relaxing while Clover works. I occasionally reward his good behavior.

But again, just like with the x-pen, Gambit and I have compromised. You may notice that every video and picture I post of Gambit relaxing in his crate, the door is open. This is not a coincidence. Our compromise is that Gambit goes and relaxes in the crate until I release him and I will leave the door open. Part of Gambit’s crate hatred persists. Having the door closed makes him very uncomfortable. And we have worked on it. He just really hates it. So we are finding a way to work together.

Last Friday, we took our show on the road and Gambit did fabulously. For the first time he was in his crate at the training facility while another dog – not his everyday partner – trained a few feet away. And I forgot to mention, this other dog that was training is extremely cute and a dog Gambit thinks he should spend every moment with. I was so proud of my boy. We still have a lot to work to do before Gambit will be able to relax in a crate at seminars and trials but this is a lovely start. Our everyday practice is producing great results.

This is a picture of Gambit relaxing in his crate at a training facility while his girlfriend, a super cute Toller trains close by.
Gambit relaxing in crate

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