Getting a timid dog out of her crate to potty

JMDay writes to me: “Hi – we adopted a shelter dog two weeks ago. She is a lab mix (emphasis on mix) and is extremely timid. According to the shelter, our girl is about 4-5 months old and was dumped in a bar ditch along the highway. She had lived at the shelter for a couple of months before we got her. Our vet has checked her out and says she is healthy. My husband and I are attempting to crate train her and want the crate to be her “safe” place. The challenge is getting her out of the crate to go outside to potty. There are no children in the house and we have another 10 year old dog that virtually ignores her. She will allow us to approach her and pet her. She “cowers” in the corner when we attempt to remove her. We know we must be very patient and kind, but we’re frustrated that getting her in or out of the crate is an ordeal without picking her up. Any suggestions… and thanks! ”

Adam replies:

It’s not an issue of being “patient and kind”. We already know you’re that kind of person, because you adopted a dog like this in the first place.

Here’s the real secret to helping a timid dog get over their timidity: You ignore the timidity. You treat them just like you would a normal dog. If she won’t get out of the crate, you call her name and then immediately reach in and BRING HER OUT. She will gain confidence by DOING. Doing activities.

But she needs you to make her do these activities. That means: You make her do it, you don’t “ask her” to do it, and then wait to see if she has the confidence to do it or not. You make her do it, and then after she does it a couple of times, she pokes her head up toward the sky and says to herself, “Hey– I just did that!”

This builds confidence in your leadership, too.

The trick is to make it “no big deal.”

When you make her sit, do not allow her to droop her head down. Sit means: Sit with your head held high.

You make the body do it, and the dog’s mind will follow.

Make sense?

Please keep me posted of your progress.


One thought on “Getting a timid dog out of her crate to potty”

  1. My fiance and I just adopted a 5 year old Lab and Pointer Mix. The dog was at a shelter from 1 month old till we adopted him on Dec. 3, 2011. We are just starting the process of acclimating the dog to the outside world. I needed to know that pulling him out of the crate was not cruel. The dog is making big steps, but we have a long way to go. One major problem we are having is that on walks the dog will completely freeze and shake. Any thoughts and advice are needed in helping this amazing dog to make it in the real world?!

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