Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Temper Tantrums

Iris has come so far since I first adopted her. Sometimes I really can't believe she's the same dog. But she does have one lingering bad habit I'd really like to work on with her.

Whenever I leave Iris in her crate, she throws a "temper tantrum." I really can't think of a better way to describe it. I'm pretty sure she's barking mainly out of frustration and not anxiety (although there probably is some anxiety too).  She barks and barks and scratches at the crate and then barks some more.  I think this goes on for about 15 min or so. Then she settles down and is quiet for the rest of the time I'm away. Living in a condo, I do really worry about her bothering the neighbors.  I generally try to time when I have to leave Iris for when I know my neighbors are at work, but sometimes that isn't possible.

A few things about the situation.
  • The barking is specific to being left alone at home.
  • She'll bark regardless of how I contain her at home (I've tried an x-pen, different crate, gated in a bathroom).
  • She does not bark if I crate her in the car and then leave her alone in the car, which is why I think it's more of a frustration issue than an anxiety issue.
  • When I come home, she's completely silent (when I first adopted her, we did work on not barking to get let out).
  • I've tried leaving her with a kong.  She won't touch it.  I might be able to get her to chew on it if I was right there.

Iris MUST be crated when I leave.  She's gotten herself in some really weird (and dangerous) positions during a seizure while I've been home and able to help her.  If she has a seizure when I'm not home, the crate is the safest place for her.  I don't generally leave her for long, usually only 1-2 hours.  Occasionally, I'll leave her for longer, but that's unusual.

So any ideas?  For the next couple weeks, I don't think there will be any days when I have to leave her home.  It seems like it would be a good opportunity to work on this issue.  I'm just not sure quite how to start.


Anonymous said...

I would teach her "go to mat" and randomly reinforce for quiet behavior on the mat. Then move the mat around the house, ending up with in the crate with the door open. If you have a manners minder, they can be adjusted to provide random treats thrown into a crate. when she hangs out quietly with the door open, I'd try closing it. Jeanine

Blue said...

Thanks Jeanine! She does know "go to mat" but I hadn't thought of using that with the crate. A manners minder is a good idea too so I don't have to be right at the crate to reward her.

Jenn said...

Steeler has the same kind of crate behavior at times. Mostly at new places - but also if I crate him for any reason at home. Like Iris, he is fine crated in the car, and he is fine crated at obedience class, and usually at trials/seminars he settles pretty quickly. I had been thinking about going back to Susan Garrett's Crate Games and working through all the steps from the beginning. I'll have to try the mat idea too. Good luck - and I will be curious to hear how it goes.