Hello pet lovers, it’s Ines here from Pets Haven Limited, and today we are going to talk about how I crate-trained my stubborn dog, Bruno. Bruno struggled with severe separation anxiety when I got him. It could be that his previous owners got him when he was only two weeks old. That was far too young for him to leave his mum and siblings. He did not have enough time to develop or socialise and learn from his siblings how to play or interact. His previous owners did not know how to train him.

I blamed his previous owners in the early days, but now I blame those dog breeders who sell puppies too young. Families on low income should get free dog training so that their dogs are not left to develop behavioural issues, which then force families to sell their dogs on.

Bruno wasn’t crate-trained. And he was very possessive of any space he was sitting on or sleeping in. If Bruno was on the sofa, you couldn’t go and sit down there even though there was ample space. He would growl and bite. If he was lying on the floor and you tried to pass him, he would attack you. At night I could see his red eyes glaring at me.

As it happens, I run a dog boarding business and had crates in the house that I used for dogs who came to stay with us. I was breastfeeding then, and you can imagine trying to nurse a baby while your new dog isn’t listening and giving the impression he wants to attack. The first night, he fell asleep on my bed and refused to leave. Being single, I had nowhere there to help, so I tried warding him off with my leg. I couldn’t get him to calm down enough so I could go downstairs to get a crate to put him in. So, I waited until the morning, but I couldn’t close my eyes that night. Those glaring red eyes kept me awake.

When you train your dog, they must identify the crate as a positive place to go. But, initially, I had to put our dog Bruno in there for bad behaviour. I could not allow him outside the crate when he misbehaved, and the children were around. He didn’t like it and would bark, bite the crate bars and destroy stuff there.

It was not the life I had imagined with my dog. The kids started complaining about the barking, complaining they could not do their homework, and complaining they could not watch television.

However, Bruno barked less on the third day and responded to me. So, I decided to retrain his thinking. I taught him to enjoy his crate. I began to teach him that the dog crate was his sanctuary and a place to go when he wanted his space.

I spent an entire day praising him, taking him for long walks, and giving him cooked food:  sausages, cheese, chicken and ham. He had a party. I bought some squeaking toys and placed them inside his crate. That night he slept inside his crate while my son and I slept on the floor next to the crate. He could see us, he felt safe, and by the fourth night, there was no barking.

And on the fifth night, when I said ‘bed’, he ran straight into his crate. He now knows he sleeps there. He knows it is his place, his place of sanctuary. And he waits there until morning when he knows I or one of the kids will let him out. There is no whining or complaining.

I still do crate -training with him. Even though it has been seven months since he became my dog, I could not be prouder of his amazing transformation.

The takeaway from my experience is this:  I realised that Bruno, poor chap, although he was displaying what looked like aggression to other people and me, was anxious, fearful and had nobody to look to for leadership.

When I did leadership training with him, his attitude changed dramatically. He looked at me as if to say, ‘Take charge, Mum’. Ever since I understood my dog and have taken leadership concerning him, he seems to me (and occasionally my kids) for his instructions. It is what he wants. He wants leadership. He wants to behave well. He doesn’t want to be an aggressive rebel. He wants our relationship to work. He didn’t know how to do it.

His life has changed. If you are doing any training with your dog, make sure you introduce them to the concept of leadership.

And remember, the key to training any dog is repetition. Do it over and over every day. I did some of the training every day. Other dog training got moved to weekly.

Here is a video of me training him. Please watch, share, and subscribe to my YouTube channel and this blog. You will be helping Pets Haven to grow, and you will also be helping other dog owners and their dogs.

And now my toddler loves to join in with dog crate training. Watch the video; cute!