Ask Alecia: My Dog Breaks Out of His Crate!

Dear Alecia,

My 100-pound lab has broken out of both crates I have bought for him. I try to make it a happy place for him, and at night while I’m in bed I leave it opened so he can just lay in it and chill out. I don’t lock him in it at night, as he isn’t destructive if I am there (although his destructive is knocking papers off the counter and once in a while trying to eat them)- In the morning when I leave for work I put him in his crate about 10 minutes before I leave and I give him a treat for going inside, and a treat for sitting down when asked. As soon as I close the door to my apartment, I hear a boom boom noise and he is at the door crying within minutes.

I have gone back in before and have made him go back inside, but he repeats this step. When he gets out, he doesn’t try to eat anything or be crazy, he just wants to sleep on the couch for the morning while I’m at work. SO around lunch time when I come home to check on him and bring him out, he is always passed out on the couch (not favorable to me) and when I come back inside, I usually just let him (lately have been) letting him just go back to sleep on the couch.

I don’t want to put too much trust in him because I just adopted him 2 months ago (1-1/2 year old dog) but I also don’t want to spend another $150 on a crate. He had a plastic one to start and now has a metal one with a door that slides up- he just pushed the door out and that is that. The plastic one he just had to hunch his back up and push the door out (clever dog). WHAT DO I DO!!:?? — Kate

Dear Kate,

Congratulations on your newest family member.

Sounds like you have your hands and your couch pretty full.

The first question that comes up for me to ask is: What is this dog’s training background?  Has he had basic training?  Does he know: sit, stay, come, down, how to walk with you on a leash?

The reason I ask is that I highly recommend a basic training class for all my rescue parents even if the dog has been trained.  The reason is that the dog needs to have a solid training foundation and bond with you, and even if he knows his commands it is always best to start out on the right paw with you learning to be and him feeling safe that you are his new leader.

Often times we don’t realize the emotional traumas or baggage that rescue dogs can carry with them.  And sometimes in the beginning with everything being new and exciting they don’t always show their fears or insecurities until they feel relaxed enough in their new home.

So first things first, lets get you both enrolled in a basic training class or if you feel comfortable enough you can practice the above commands with him for 3-5 minutes for 5-6x a day.  This will help build his confidence and allow him to feel safer when you leave.  From your email though it sounds like as long as he can be out of the crate he is quite content on the couch (and well mannered).    It is sounding like his real issue is with the crate, not as much you not being home.

I would recommend a dog bed other than the crate for him to lounge in when you are not home that you can reward him for when he lays on it and continue encouraging that behavior by not allowing him on the couch when you are home.

In addition, when working with dogs with separation anxiety, I will often use Bach Flower Essences as I have found them to be very beneficial with emotional issues.  You can find them in most health food stores.  They are easy to use and work very well.  I would put 1/2 a dropper full in his water 2x day.

1. Heather for separation anxiety
2. Rescue Remedy for Stress
3. Walnut assists with changes
4. Larch for confidence

I sense that between re-training, allowing him the freedom of the crate or not if he is behaving and the flower essences you and your Marmaduke are going to be just great. Paws up! Alecia

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Alecia Evans is the inventor of The Walk In Sync™ Humane Dog Walking and Training System with her exclusive 5 Minute Manners Makeovers using the Walk In Sync™ Harness and Accu-Grip Leash, along with her Walk In Sync™ 3 Easy Steps to teach any human/dog duos to Walk In Sync in just minutes.

The former host of the award-winning GrassRoots Aspen TV Series, The Whole Animal-An Alternative Approach to Animal Care, Alecia takes a natural approach to dog training and health care. Her work has been featured on Fox and Friends, The Sandra Glosser Show, NY 1, and in Aspen Magazine,, The New York Daily News and Woof Report.

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