Hello. My name is Toni and my husband name is Jimmy. There is not a dog that my husband and I have not loved or tried to help. Most all of our dogs have been rescues. I say most because my mother and I wet into a pet shop (shortly after the death of our boxer lab Storm and my step dad) and came home with a yellow lab puppy named Sunny. Sunny was 8 weeks old when we got her and is now 11 weeks old. We bought all the necessary items for Sunny and brought her into our home which has three cats and one 8 year old terrier mix named Colt. I cannot seem to get Sunny crate trained or totally house broken. The crate is the worst problem. Every time I put her in the crate she poops in it and smears it all over herself and the crate. I don't know what to do to help her. We have never had this problem before. Can you offer any help? Please!!! Thank you so much for your time.
I'm sorry to hear about the passing of loved ones in your family, and sorry to hear you are having difficulty with your new puppy.
First off, I would strongly encourage you to locate a knowledgeable trainer in your area (adpt.com is a great resource, but of course there is a broad spectrum out there and you'll have to do a bit of vetting to find someone you are comfortable with and who seems to have the specific behavioral experience you need, not simply obedience experience)
Now, without knowing too much about it, I'm going to make some assumptions here and conclude that the problems you are having now may be directly related to Sunny's very early puppyhood, and the conditions of where she was born. Ordinarily, dogs learn from birth not to eliminate in the same place they sleep and eat. However, dogs who are confined in very small crates or kennels are unable to learn this behavior at the earliest stages, and it can be something they never entirely comprehend. It will require consistent management on your part to help Sunny succeed, and she may never become as reliable as dogs you have had in the past, but you guys can definitely make strides towards improvement.
Personally, I would probably stop trying to use the crate for now. It sounds like she doesn't associate that with a space she needs to keep clean anyway, and may be further stressed at being confined. If you have not tried this already, you can try to desensitize her to the crate (create positive associations with it) and associate it with a clean space by feeding her near or in it (again, if she didn't learn not to eliminate in the same place she eats as a pup, she might never grasp this latter concept, but at least the presence of food will help her feel more comfortable with the idea of being in the crate). If she won't willingly walk into the crate, feed her as close as she will go willingly and be able to eat calmly (maybe right in front of the crate, maybe a few feet away). In small increments and over a period of time (don't rush it!), reduce the distance until her bowl is at the back wall of the crate and she has to walk all the way in to eat. Again, don't rush this. If she seems stressed and/or won't eat (or grabs her food and bolts), this is a sign that you've moved ahead to fast and you need to back it up a bit and find a more comfortable point for her. Don't close the door on her at any time she is in the crate. Just make the crate a safe and comfortable space that spontaneously and randomly produces amazing treats (give her a treat every time she goes into the crate on her own without prompting. Toss treats in the crate when she's not around so that next time she happens to sniff around, she will find a delicious surprise)! All that being done, the crate still may not be a place where she can be safely confined without supervision as the elimination and subsequent mess is brought on either by panic at being enclosed or a lack of association with keeping the space clean.
You can set up a puppy play pen for her as an area where she can stay safe and out of trouble but hopefully without the stress she feels at being in an enclosed place. Pat Miller's book "The Power of Positive Dog Training" has a great description of a good play pen set-up, as well as some realistic tips on daily schedules for life with a puppy.
It may help you to start a journal to chart the times Sunny eliminates in relation to play time, rest time and feeding time. Try to set up a daily routine and stick with it - all this will help you avoid accidents in the house. As she learns to anticipate the routine, she at least may learn the appropriate TIMES to eliminate, if not the appropriate places. Particularly in relation to feeding time: even if the rest of your animals are able to snack throughout the day, do not free-feed Sunny and make sure she does not randomly have access to food except the small treats you are using in training. Along similar lines, consider teaching her to eliminate only in a specific place, and only when given a specific cue (such as "be quick" or "go potty" - just choose something you don't use in everyday speech and that you're not embarrassed to say in public).
So these are just some of the prevention and management tools I would suggest, but, again, your best bet is to work with a local trainer or behaviorist.
All best wishes to you, Sunny and your family!
I forgot to mention, as you probably already know from previous puppies, that Sunny is still very young and no dog can be completely reliable until they reach emotional maturity (1-3 years of age). Some of her trouble may fade slightly with age, though age is not a cure-all.
Last edited by McMegan; 02-02-2013 at 02:28 AM.
Reason: additional information