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I recently got a 7 to 8 month old rescue, who I believe was previously abused / abandoned. He is loving towards people, but is extremely anxious when left alone. I am trying to crate train him, because I know that is often helpful for dogs that have separation issues, and it is necessary currently so that he does not damage the house. I'm home most of the time; the only time he is not with me is for a couple hours when I have to go out, or about 7 hours at night.

Three issues:

  • If left alone for any extended amount of time (a couple hours), he pees.
  • He is terrified of going in a crate. He won't go in even for all the treats in the world. I think a crate was used as a punishment for him previously.
  • He even pees in the crate. Usually dogs don't want to soil themselves, but he will actually lay in his own mess (gross).

What I have tried:

  • Associating the crate with positive things (lots of treats and praise). This has helped in that he is more calm while in the crate, but he continues to be terrified of going in.
  • Getting a crate that fits - His crate is approximately the right size; if he pees, he can't get away from it. I plan on trying making the crate smaller with another panel.
  • Frequent potty outings - When given frequent opportunities to pee outside, he seems to only go 2 to 3 times a day. He has shown that he can hold it for extended amounts of time when with me. There have been accidents, but the evidence seems to suggest the crate peeing is due to separation.

Most pressing question:

How can I have him not pee in his crate when I am gone?

Update from comments: The crate is in another room than where I sleep (thus the being separated for about 7 hours a night). My main concern with putting the crate in the bedroom is the carpet, in case accidents happen. That is something I can try though.

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    you mention 7 hours at night. Are you not home during that time? If you are sleeping, can you put the crate in your bedroom? I have found that dogs accept being crated very easily when in the room with a sleeping person. Also, try feeding him in the crate (with the door open) to help the crate be a positive place. – jalynn2 Dec 8 '16 at 18:28
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    * Does he pee in his crate often? * How much urination is accumulated in his crate? * Do you take him out and make sure he pees before you put him in the crate? * Is he house trained already? – Deirdra Strangio Dec 14 '16 at 21:53
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    Potty training our dog was certainly a challenge for a while, and we had similar issues with commonly taking the dog out but her peeing in the house. It seems to be a pretty typical problem (both for young dogs... and even young people!!!). Persistence would be my proposal, as eventually she did make the breakthrough, and now the crate is a thing of distant memory – JeopardyTempest Dec 17 '16 at 11:54
  • Could very well be that he was abandoned because the previous owner was not up for the responsibility of basic potty training? – Mr. Kennedy Mar 30 '17 at 8:29
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It sounds like you need to try a gradual process to getting him used to separation. His problem of peeing in his crate (if due to separation anxiety) will not go away by simply getting him used to the crate. If the issue for him is being left alone, this is the issue that needs to be addressed first. He may be terrified of going into the crate if he has learned to associate this with being left alone. You could try having him in the crate not only at night, but maybe even for short periods (i would suggest half hour or less to begin with) while you are still in the room. Feeding him while he is in there, staying in the room with him with the crate door open, a blanket/bed in there for him and letting him get used to the crate with you there can all help too.

In terms of the separation anxiety - try to vary your routine. Dogs and puppies become aware very quickly of our routines and what they mean. For example, at night if your routine is to get in your nightwear and brush your teeth and turn out lights before heading to the bedroom, he may now have learnt your routine and learned to anticipate a long time of being left alone when you do these things. Instead, you could vary it by, for example, putting on your nightwear earlier but watching TV in the same room as him instead, just to make it different to break that association he has.

You could also try to start teaching him that when he is left for a time, you will return, he will not be abandoned (many rescue animals have this anxiety sometimes due their past). Do this by leaving him in the room for short while to begin with, and giving lots of praise and maybe a treat when you return. If he pee's, has an accident or shows signs of discomfort when you come back into the room, just calmly sit down but don't give him any attention, eye contact or speak to him. It might sound harsh but by giving him that kind of attention when he is in a fearful or anxious state of mind may only help to re-inforce this, thus making it more likely for him to repeat this behaviour. Instead, wait in the room with him calmly until he calms down, then pet him, talk to him softly and praise him when he is calm. It will take a lot of patience but if you stick with it he will learn in time that being separated from you for a brief time is not a bad thing :)

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    excellent advice to analyze the issues and work on them separately to build trust and work through past associations! Only suggestion I would add is that while you vary your routine, you keep your puppy on a very regular eating, exercising, basic training (leash walking, sit, fetch & paw stuff) play time and "doing his business" routine. – Mr. Kennedy Mar 30 '17 at 8:25

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