Dog Training Today with Will Bangura for Pet Parents, Kids & Family, Pets and Animals, and Dog Training Professionals. This is a Education & How To Dog Training Podcast.

#148 Turning Crate Aggression into Crate Affection: A Step-by-Step Guide to Positive Muzzle Training: Dog Training Today with Will Bangura

February 21, 2024 Will Bangura, M.S., CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, FFCP is a World Renowned Dog Behaviorist, Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, Certified Professional Dog Trainer, and a Fear Free Certified Professional with over 36 years of experience with the most difficult of Season 5 Episode 148
#148 Turning Crate Aggression into Crate Affection: A Step-by-Step Guide to Positive Muzzle Training: Dog Training Today with Will Bangura
Dog Training Today with Will Bangura for Pet Parents, Kids & Family, Pets and Animals, and Dog Training Professionals. This is a Education & How To Dog Training Podcast.
More Info
Dog Training Today with Will Bangura for Pet Parents, Kids & Family, Pets and Animals, and Dog Training Professionals. This is a Education & How To Dog Training Podcast.
#148 Turning Crate Aggression into Crate Affection: A Step-by-Step Guide to Positive Muzzle Training: Dog Training Today with Will Bangura
Feb 21, 2024 Season 5 Episode 148
Will Bangura, M.S., CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, FFCP is a World Renowned Dog Behaviorist, Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, Certified Professional Dog Trainer, and a Fear Free Certified Professional with over 36 years of experience with the most difficult of

Send us a Text Message.

Ever wondered why Fido turns fierce when it's crate time? This episode is your key to understanding and transforming crate aggression into crate affection! Your host, Will Bangura, peels back the layers of this canine conundrum, ensuring safety first with a step-by-step guide on positive muzzle conditioning. Learn how to create a strong, favorable relationship between your dog and their wire basket muzzle, setting the stage for a stress-free training journey.

Join me as we embark upon a training adventure, designed to help your dog fall in love with their crate. We'll start from a comfortable distance, rewarding your pup as we inch closer, and teaching them that the crate isn't a place of confinement, but a personal paradise. The focus is on patience and positive reinforcement, observing your dog's signals and pacing the training at their comfort level. By the end of this episode, you'll have the tools to make crate training feel like a fun game, where the prize is a happy, relaxed pooch that sees their crate as a happy haven. Dog Training Today with Will Bangura

Support the Show.

If you need professional help please visit my Dog Behaviorist website.
Go here for Free Dog Training Articles

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

Ever wondered why Fido turns fierce when it's crate time? This episode is your key to understanding and transforming crate aggression into crate affection! Your host, Will Bangura, peels back the layers of this canine conundrum, ensuring safety first with a step-by-step guide on positive muzzle conditioning. Learn how to create a strong, favorable relationship between your dog and their wire basket muzzle, setting the stage for a stress-free training journey.

Join me as we embark upon a training adventure, designed to help your dog fall in love with their crate. We'll start from a comfortable distance, rewarding your pup as we inch closer, and teaching them that the crate isn't a place of confinement, but a personal paradise. The focus is on patience and positive reinforcement, observing your dog's signals and pacing the training at their comfort level. By the end of this episode, you'll have the tools to make crate training feel like a fun game, where the prize is a happy, relaxed pooch that sees their crate as a happy haven. Dog Training Today with Will Bangura

Support the Show.

If you need professional help please visit my Dog Behaviorist website.
Go here for Free Dog Training Articles

Speaker 1:

There's a strange phenomenon that many of you have not experienced with your dog, but some of you have, and perhaps it's really got you scratching your head wondering how do I address that.

Speaker 1:

And that's the whole issue of crate aggression A dog that is aggressive when they're in the crate, and this could manifest in different ways. It could be that the dog is viewing that space as a resource that it's guarding. It could also be associated with negative experiences. In some cases a dog doesn't mind going in the crate and having the crate door opened and closed, but it's aggressive anytime somebody walks by, and this could be crate aggression when people walk by. It could be crate aggression when other dogs or other animals walk by, or it could be both, and in some cases a dog has no problem going in and out of the crate. And the dog may have no problem with somebody walking by the crate. Their trigger could be something as specific as they're fine, except when you go to close the crate door, and then, as you go to close the crate door, the dog starts to become aggressive. We're going to cover crate aggression. All of that in 60 seconds.

Speaker 2:

Raised by wolves with canine DNA and is blood. Having trained more than 24,000 vets, helping you and your fur babies thrive, Live in studio with Will Bangura answering your pet behavior and training questions. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome your host and favorite pet behavior expert, Will Bangura.

Speaker 1:

Would you like to go on? Wookiees, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep. Good day, dog lovers. Hey, I'm Will Bangura. Thanks for joining me for another quick tip. We're going to be talking all about crate aggression Now. Some of you are seeing this on my Phoenix dog training YouTube channel. Some of you are just listening to the dog training today podcast. Wherever you get your podcast, whether that be Apple podcast, spotify, stitcher, buzzsprout, there's a dozen or more different platforms that you can go to.

Speaker 1:

Anyway, like I said in the opener, I want to talk about crate aggression and, as I started to say, crate aggression can manifest itself in different ways. It could be that the dog is fine going in and out the crate. The dog might be fine with you opening and closing the crate door, but once it's closed and you walk away, maybe anybody could be another person, could be you, maybe another pet in the household walks by that crate and the dog starts displaying aggressive behavior, maybe barking, maybe growling, maybe showing its teeth, maybe even biting at the crate door. There are some dogs that the problem isn't somebody moving or walking or standing near the crate. It could be just closing the crate door. So let's talk about a few ways that we can begin the process of modifying this behavior. Now, the first thing that we need to do is make sure that we're addressing safety and, because there's aggression, somebody can get hurt. So the first thing that you want to do is make sure that, if you need to hire a professional because aggression can be very, very dangerous and I don't encourage you to try this without the help of hiring a professional Find yourself a certified behaviorist, or find yourself a certified dog behavior consultant, somebody that specializes in aggression, like myself. Now, let's assume that the problem that we have is one where, any time somebody comes close to the crate or walks by the crate, the dog becomes aggressive. Maybe they're growling, maybe they're lunging, barking, snapping, showing their teeth. The first thing that you want to begin to evaluate is whether or not, when the dog is in the crate and when the dog starts displaying aggression, are you safe. Because if you can't guarantee that you're 100% safe, the first step is going to be to do positive muzzle conditioning.

Speaker 1:

Now, no dog likes a muzzle just thrown on them. So I recommend, first of all, that you get a well-fitting wire basket muzzle. That's something that they can breathe in very well. They can pant, you can put treats through the muzzle. I'm not talking about one of those mesh type muzzles that have Velcro. I'm talking about a basket muzzle, a basket muzzle that has multiple straps. But the first thing that I'm going to do is I'm going to set that muzzle on the floor and I'm going to put a trail of high value food rewards leading up to that muzzle and maybe even a couple in that muzzle, and I'm going to bring the dog out and what I'm hoping for is the dog's going to start eating all the little treats and just make its way down that trail to the muzzle and little by little, I'm going to have less of a trail and more of the treats inside the muzzle.

Speaker 1:

Now the muzzle's on the ground, I just want to create a positive association with the muzzle. Creating a positive association with that muzzle using high value food rewards. There's no pressure to actually have the dog put their snout in it right now. There's no pressure to have you put it on the dog or buckle it Right now. We just want the dog to show interest, explore the muzzle, and we're pairing high value food rewards with that and I'm going to do that every day for about three or four days and then what I like to do next is I like to take some clear packing tape and I like to put some tape on the inside of that basket muzzle. And then I take a shmere of peanut butter or Braunschweiger liver sausage something really yummy you can even make your own food paste if you want to and shmere that on the inside of that muzzle. But I don't want to get the muzzle dirty. So I put a little piece of clear packing tape so that if I'm shmereing something it's on the packing tape and not getting the muzzle dirty. And then I'm going to hold that muzzle out and what I'm hoping for is that the dog is going to stick its snout in there and start licking and eating the yummy food paste that I've got inside that muzzle. And I'm going to do that for several days, making sure that this is a positive experience for the dog.

Speaker 1:

If at any point the dog is showing any kind of hesitation, back up a little bit. You're moving too quick, too fast. Go back to the previous step. Spend more time there before you move forward.

Speaker 1:

Once I've got the dog wanting to stick its snout in the muzzle, I'm going to start labeling that behavior muzzle. Then I'm going to pull it away from the dog. Dog's going to stick its snout in there as it does. I go muzzle dog's lick, lick, lick, lick, lick. Remember there's a shmere of peanut butter or some food paste in there? I'm not going to let the dog just keep going lick, lick, lick, lick, lick. I'm going to let it have a couple licks, pull that muzzle away to try to get it to put its snout back in that muzzle again, over and over and over. I want to do that about 20 times in a row.

Speaker 1:

After I've done that for several days, then what I'm going to do next is I'm going to actually repeat those same steps, but next I'm going to take the buckles, the straps, and buckle the muzzle, and I'm going to unbuckle it immediately and take it off. Put it on buckle, take it off, put it on buckle, take it off, put it on buckle, take it off. Each time I'm presenting the muzzle to the dog again in front of its snout, hoping that it's going to put its snout in there and start eating the yummy stuff that's in there. Now, once I can get the straps buckled up, now it's about, little by little, gradually, systematically, adding more duration to how long the dog wears the muzzle and make sure that whenever the dog's wearing the muzzle, whatever is happening around the dog is positive, because a lot of dogs, their experience with the muzzle is negative. Maybe the first time they had a muzzle on, they went to the vet and they were really, really scared. And now here comes the muzzle which makes them even more fearful. Or perhaps not just then, but maybe grooming. Maybe you've got a dog that has some touch sensitivity, doesn't like its toes touched, doesn't like to be brushed, and maybe that experience, that negative grooming experience, is tied to a muzzle. So we want to make sure that we're spending enough time creating positive associations with the muzzle so that we can be safe.

Speaker 1:

Okay, now the next thing that we want to do is create positive associations with that crate, without closing the crate door and without having anybody walk past it, and this is easy to do. I just have a handful of high value food rewards cooked chicken, little pieces of hot dog cheese, whatever your dog loves the most. Listen, when you find that food reward that your dog loves the most, I want you to think about that as currency. Now, if I'm asking you to do something that you might not be thrilled about and I say, hey, listen, if you do this I'll give you a buck. Or I say, hey, if you do this I'll give you $500, which are you most motivated by? It's no different with food rewards. Okay, think about a piece of kibble being very low value currency and a piece of chicken or a piece of hot dog or cheese as being very expensive currency, like $100 bill. So the greater the value, the more you're going to be able to associate something positive with the crate, and the greater the value, the more motivated the dog's going to be.

Speaker 1:

So the first thing that I'm going to do is I'm going to start throwing treats near the crate, letting the dog eat those treats, and, as the dogs eating the treats that I'm throwing by the crate, I might, every time it grabs one, go kennel, grabs another treat, kennel. Throw another treat. Grabs it kennel. I throw another treat by the kennel or crate and the dog grabs that treat and I go kennel Again. There's a couple of things. I'm creating a positive association with high value food rewards being near the kennel and I am also using the commander Q that I'm going to use along with that high value food reward so that the Qer command starts to get conditioned positively right now and initially, where I'm throwing high value food rewards near the crate, then what I'm going to do is start throwing them in the crate from a distance, making the dog go in there, and I'll throw a treat in there and as the dog is going in there to get the treat, but before it actually grabs it with its mouth, I'm going to say kennel, and then the dog grabs the treat and most likely it comes out and if it does, I'm going to throw another treat in there.

Speaker 1:

Now there are going to be times as I'm doing this. Sometimes I'm going to throw in one, sometimes the dog goes in there for one and I'm going to throw in a second one while it's in there and I'm going to throw in a third one while it's in there, throw in a fourth one, and I'm going to vary that when I'm tossing treats in the crate. Sometimes it's three, sometimes it's one, sometimes it's four, sometimes it's one, sometimes it's two, sometimes it's two, sometimes it's two. You get the idea so that the dog doesn't necessarily know. Hey, after I get my food reward, we're done.

Speaker 1:

I'm trying to avoid what's called one and done, where the dog checks out, loses interest and thinks that whatever it is that we're trying to do is finished as soon as it gets that one food reward. It just allows us to be able to keep more focused attention from the dog. Then, if the dog gets conditioned, one and done what do I mean by one and done? Well, for example, a lot of folks have taught their dog how to sit on cue or command, and usually the way it's done is, as soon as that rear end hits the ground, they give them. They give them one food reward and everything's done. So the dogs get conditioned. Hey, you asked me to do something, I do it. You give me a food reward and boom, I'm gone. I check out. Oh, too bad, if you wanted me to do something else because we've conditioned one and done so. I'm trying to get that. I'm trying to get that conditioning to extinguish by creating a different pattern.

Speaker 1:

Now, little by little, I'm going to continue this process over days or weeks, tossing treats in the crate. But initially, when I'm tossing them in the crate and, by the way, the door is wide open, remember, the dog keeps going in there to get them Little by little, I'm going to start getting closer and closer and closer to the crate. Okay Now, let's assume that this is a dog that we can get in the crate. But as soon as we grab the door to close it, the dog becomes aggressive, growling, lunging, barking, trying to even bite at the crate door. Well, one of the things that I'm going to proactively do if my dog doesn't know it, I'm going to teach a place command, or a command where I give the cue go to your place or go to your bed, go to your spot, go to your mat. And I've worked on heavy distraction training so I've got a really reliable stay and I've generalized that to lots of different locations and at a distance.

Speaker 1:

I'm going to ask the dog to go to its bed or place or mat whatever we're calling it or spot, and then when the dog is on their place or their mat, they will be looking directly at the crate, but at a distance. Okay Now, I'm going to start by having a helper that is going to just be feeding treats to the dog, but I'm going to start to with the dog at a distance, on its place. I'm going to start moving towards the crate and have my helper begin to feed. I'm going to then stop short of going all the way to the crate and as soon as I stop, feeding stops. And then I'm going to take a couple more steps and as soon as I start moving towards the crate, feeding starts. I'm not going to go all the way to the crate again, I'm going to stop short when I stop feeding stops.

Speaker 1:

So the first thing I'm going to do here in this phase I'm starting to create positive associations with those high value food rewards, with me just moving towards the crate. And again, I'm starting at a distance. The dog's not in the crate. The dog is facing the crate at a distance, on its mat or place or bed, and we've done our due diligence, we've done our training to make sure that, hey, we've got a reliable stay, because the dog cannot be committed to staying on its bed or place or spot and being aggressive with the crate at the same time as I'm approaching it. Now I'm going to gradually and systematically start doing that approach from different angles. We're going to start generalizing this and doing it in different locations inside, outside, bedroom, living room, kitchen, you name it all over the place. I am going to be doing this over a period of days, over a period of weeks. I need to condition a very strong emotional response. That's positive.

Speaker 1:

And I'm not talking about listen when I say conditioning. It's repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition, where the dog has an automatic reflex. Hey, have you ever played an instrument? Or maybe you learned how to drive a stick shift? In the beginning it was brutal and you really had to think about everything that's involved in playing an instrument. You really had to think about everything that's involved in driving a stick shift. But as you continued to practice over and over and over, you got to the point where it became muscle memory, where you did not have to consciously think about the process of driving a stick shift, or you did not have to consciously think about the process of playing this instrument. At some point, after enough repetition, it becomes a conditioned reflex. Not only do we need the outward behavior to be a physical reflex for the dog, but it needs to create a conditioned emotional response that's also reflexive or conditioned.

Speaker 1:

Now, gradually, systematically, I am going to move the dog's bed or place mat whatever I have it on, closer and closer and closer to that crate. But what if, as we're getting closer, it starts to create some anxiety with the dog? Well, the only way you're going to know. That is through understanding canine body language. Dogs have a very sophisticated language with their body language and gestures that can tell us everything that we need to know about what they're feeling, what kind of emotional state that they're in. Are they completely relaxed or are they starting to have even mild stress? If we start to see body language in the dog, that the dog is displaying some stress signals what that means. That's feedback to us. That's telling us hey, listen, we are trying to progress too quickly, too soon. The dog's not ready for that. We need to dial it back a little bit, take a few steps back and spend more time at the step where the dog's comfortable and really condition that.

Speaker 1:

Little by little, we're going to get that dog on its better spot closer and closer to the crate. As we start to approach that crate and somebody else is feeding the dog, then the next thing that I'm going to do is I am going to take that dog on its better place and place that better place next to the crate, but a little bit back. So let's say I've got a crate that's four feet in length. I might put the dog back four feet so that the dog's on its better place next to the crate, but it's actually just behind the crate. Why? Because, again, what was the dog's trigger? Somebody walking up to the crate and closing the door. Now we haven't even bothered to deal with the door yet. We're just working on what are the cues, what happens before the trigger, because those are the things that build up to the trigger and we need to create positive associations with the steps that occur before the dog gets aggressive. So, with the dog slightly behind the crate and to the side on its better place, we're going to do the same thing.

Speaker 1:

We are going to start approaching that crate and somebody else is going to begin to feed the dog as we're moving towards the crate. Then we stop short of getting there, feeding stops. Then we start moving towards the crate. Again, the dog gets fed while we're moving towards the crate. Then we stop short of the crate, feeding stops. The whole idea here is to create a positive association in the dog's mind that hey, my movement towards that crate is what creates the high value food reward. So the dog begins over time to want me to move towards the crate because it brings about really great things. I get high value food rewards. Now, little by little.

Speaker 1:

My next steps are going to be to bring the dog forward, because I want to get to the point where the dog's bed is right next to the crate and I'm approaching the crate. And again, every time I approach, the dog's getting fed. When I stop, we stop feeding, so that it's my movement towards that crate that brings about the high value food rewards. And when the dog understands that, when the light bulb goes on, the dog starts wanting me to move towards the crate. But we have not even gotten to the point yet of me reaching towards that crate door or touching the crate door or even closing the crate door slightly, and that's the trigger for the dog. Now I am going to begin the process of reaching towards the crate door, but when I do that, we are going to back up to the first step in this process. What does that mean? That means that remember that safe distance away from the crate that the dog was on its better place. We are going all the way back there with the dog.

Speaker 1:

But now I'm beginning, instead of moving towards a crate, which I can do at this point, the dog loves me moving towards a crate, but now I'm going to start moving my hand towards the door, just like when I was moving towards the crate and we were feeding the dog, and then, when I stopped moving towards the crate, we stopped feeding. We're going to do the same thing with my hand movement towards that crate door and initially I'm just going to move it a little bit Feed, feed, feed and stop More feeding. Feed, feed, feed, feed, feed, feed, feed, feed, feed, feed. Stop no more feeding. Feed, feed, feed, feed, feed. So again I've got a helper standing next to the dog who's at a distance from the crate. I'm moving my hand towards the crate in tiny little increments and we're feeding the dog every time my hand starts to move towards that crate. And I'm going to do this for 10-minute exercises every single day, when I can move my hand all the way to the crate and I can touch it.

Speaker 1:

Now my criteria is going to change as to when the dog gets the food reward. Now the dog gets the food reward right before I touch the crate. So I'm reaching, reaching, reaching, reaching, food reward touch, reaching, reaching, reaching, reaching, food reward touch. Now some of you are saying wait a minute, will. Why are you rewarding before the touch? We want to desensitize and counter, condition the actual touching of the crate door. Well, remember, we're creating positive associations with what happens prior to the trigger. Then we'll move into the trigger. So the next step after that, again, I might spend a few weeks just reaching towards the door.

Speaker 1:

Then my next step is my criteria is going to change, where I don't reward the dog until I touch the crate, but when I touch the crate door. But when I do, it's for a brief second. So feed, hand away, touch, touch away, touch, touch away, touch, touch away. Touch feed, touch feed, touch feed. Duration of my touch is super short. Dogs at a distance keeping that very short duration of touch. Gradually, systematically, I'm going to bring the dog closer and closer and closer. The dog's facing the crate on its bed. I've got a helper feeding the dog. When my finger touches that crate door, as I move the dog closer and closer again, the duration stays very brief. Then what I'm going to do is what I did before when it was the approach I'm going to take the dog next next to the crate, but a little bit behind it, and I am going to start that same process all over again, reaching towards it, then eventually touching it for a brief second Once I've got the dog thrilled about my brief second touch.

Speaker 1:

I'm going to pull the dog back again because I'm going to change my criteria again. This time I'm going to hold on to it a little longer. I'm going to start adding duration to how long I hold it and the entire time there's touch by my hand on that crate door. The dog is being fed at a distance by my helper. Little by little, gradually, systematically, we're going to bring the dog closer and closer and closer and closer and then bring the dog behind the crate to the side and little by little then bring that place cot, that bed, that mat, that spot right next to the crate. Okay, and I'm touching it, touching that crate door, I'm adding duration. Once I've got that, we're going to back the dog up again to a safe distance.

Speaker 1:

Now we're going to work on movement of that crate. I'm going to touch it, give it a little movement. The dog gets fed on the movement. I stop moving it. No more feeding. I touch it, move it a little bit. Feed, feed, feed, feed, feed, feed. Stop moving it. No more feeding. Start moving it. Feed, feed, feed, feed, feed, feed, feed, feed, feed, feed, feed, feed, feed, feed, feed, feed. Stop moving it. No more feeding and the dog's at a distance. My helper is feeding the dog. Same thing, little by little, gradually, systematically, I'm going to bring that dog closer and closer and closer. Eventually put the dog behind the crate to the side on its better mat. Remember, if it's committed to staying on that mat, it can't be going after me at the same time. Now, at this point, we've done weeks of counter conditioning and desensitization.

Speaker 1:

Okay, the next step is going to be having the dog not on place but just standing stationary at a distance where it could move if it wants to, and start this process all over again. And, little by little, without the dog on its bed spot or place, we're going to move the dog closer and closer and closer. Then we're going to go behind the crate, by the side. Then we're going to bring the dog right next to the crate. Then the next thing we're going to do is we're going to have the dog go in the crate, come out of the crate, go to a safe distance. I'm going to move the crate door. We're going to feed Dog, goes in the crate. We're not touching or moving that door. The dog comes out, goes to the safe distance. I'm moving the crate door. While I'm moving the crate door, the dog's getting fed. Then what I'm going to do is get the dog in the crate and I'm going to make the slightest movement of my hand towards the crate door and we are feeding. Just that little bit of movement. I'm not touching the crate door, I'm just moving an inch or two towards it. The dog's in the crate Door is open, wide open.

Speaker 1:

If the dog starts to show stress, even slightly, you need to dial it back, rewind a little bit, go to a step that's a little further back that you had success with, stay there a little while longer, because you probably don't have muscle memory, you don't have conditioning, you don't have a conditioned reflex, and this is critical.

Speaker 1:

So what we're doing is we're taking this problem and we're putting it into little tiny slices and creating positive associations with that.

Speaker 1:

Eventually we get to the point where the dog's in the crate we can reach all the way towards the crate door. The door's wide open and we give it a brief touch and there the criteria changes again. The reward is the touch, then it becomes longer duration, then it becomes a little short movement, then it becomes more movement, but very gradually, very systematically, very slowly, we are going through this process and the most important thing is to have patience and to really read your dog's body language Every little, tiny step of the way. We wanna create the greatest experience for your dog, something that it will absolutely love, and your dog starts thinking about this as a game that it can play. Well, there you have it, folks. Hey, make sure that you check out my website at phoenixdogtrainingcom or dogbehavioristcom as well. I've got lots of articles up there. Be sure to subscribe, not only to this YouTube channel and hit that like button, but please subscribe and leave us a five star review on our podcast. I'm Addy here, everybody.

Understanding and Addressing Crate Aggression
Training Dog to Crate Positively
Patience and Positive Reinforcement in Training