Q: We have 7 month old rescue. Was told she was crate trained. We have tried wire and plastic crate. Anytime I leave her in the crate alone (even just for a few minutes) she does one or more of the following: excessive salivating and vomiting, crying, barking, growling; she has chewed the plastic crate, the plastic tray underneath the wire crate, bedding, a sheet we tried to cover the crate with, has been biting the wire crate, has rubbed the top of her nose raw; she somehow managed to get the plastic tray out from under the wire crate and chewed holes in our carpet. Have also tried to restrict her with baby gate (jumps over or crawls under) and have tried enclosing her in the laundry room and she has clawed and chewed at the door and walls. Give her several stuffed kongs, special treats, etc when we leave and she ignores them. She is fine in the crate if the door is open. We do not trust her yet to give her the run of the house. Any suggestions welcome!
Sounds like you have a tough situation on your hands. I would like to give you some insight from a behaviorist point of view, and then also give you some suggestions. If you are not seeing any results though, this problem sounds serious enough that I would suggest you find a good behaviorist/trainer to come to your home and help you.
Crate training is a term that has a variety of meanings to different people. When I read about your puppy, it is quite clear to me that ‘crate training’ meant she was locked in a cage far too often, and left their for extended periods of time. She is clearly extremely distressed by being confined, and is suffering serious separation anxiety. The fear is so severe, that the distraction of food for example, means nothing to her.
One method for you to try, is to put a leash on her, and have her sit on one side of the room. Tell her to stay, and move away from her. After a few seconds, return to her and praise her (using a clicker and treating her at this stage is a good tool). If she is good at this, you can start to slowly increase your distance from her, and the time you spend before you return. Once she is happy with this with you in the same room, do the same thing but move out of her sight into another room. Again, slowly increasing the time you are away. If she gets up, simply say, ‘no’, and return her to her original spot. If she continues to get up, go back to shorter distances and less time before moving on. The goal is for her to realize you always come back, and she does not need to be concerned. In addition to this, you want to try and leave her frequently for very short periods of time. Pick up your keys, walk out the front door, and then return 1 minute later, and then again increasing to 5 or 10 minutes. Never say goodbye or hello to her when you come or go. Make leaving a ‘non-issue’. Again, always reinforcing you will return.
I am concerned that her behavior in the crate will cause her further distress and even possibly injury. Until you feel confident leaving her in the house, I would use the laundry room or if you can find a way to section off another area where there is little to destroy, and just accept that you may have to replace the door. This is an issue that is going to take time an patience on your part. Try these techniques, and again if you don’t start to see some results, you may want to enlist the help of a professional.