Italian Greyhounds/Crate Issues

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Question
Hi Tracy,
I am hoping that you can help us.  We have an almost 14 week old female IG that we have had for two weeks.  She is doing reasonably well going pee outside but, we have a huge problem with crating.  Originally, we had an Expen inside of which we put both her small plastic kennel and a litter box.  We had issues with her pooping outside of her kennel and then stomping (circling)  through it and getting it everywhere.  Last weekend we were at my mom's for a night and I put her in the laundry room with kennel and both a puppy pad and litter box and I notice that she pooed and peed in the first 5 minutes of being confined and then ran around in circles in it.  I asked my vet about what we should do and he suggested taking her kennel out of the expen and putting it in our bedroom.  He thought that then she would hold it as to not soil the place that she sleeps.  However, this is not working either.  We have been trying our best to get her to poo before going into her crate but this is not always successful as she seems to think that her crate is where she is supposed to poo.  I just read the comments you made about circling because our puppy circles frequently when playing, and also circles frantically (small fast circles) right before a poo (and when in her crate).  I did not mention this to my vet but, wish that I had as I did not realize that this might indicate something more serious.  Apart from this, she seems to have adjusted well and does not seem to have anxiety about us leaving the room for a few minutes etc.  We are getting very worried that we may not be able to break her habits when confined.  Can you offer some advice on what to do?

Answer
Hi! Congrats on your new addition!

To get right down to the crating issues, many dogs (not just IGs) are not initially comfortable in a crate and to many it is a punishment, so first the crate needs to be changed into a "safe zone" for your iggy.  I would first recommend that you do the xpen again, since it didn't sound like your Iggy was pottying in the crate, but take the crate apart and only leave the bottom half. Put bedding in it and such and make it comfortable. everywhere outside the crate, put puppy pads, mattress pads or newspaper - whatever you are teaching her to potty on.  If she pees on the bedding in her box, then take the bedding away and move the piddle pads in, so she can only pee on the piddle pads. Usually they won't pee in their bed if they haven't been confined to their beds for long periods but puppy mill puppies and those that were confined for long periods have already learned to potty in their crate and have to be untrained first.
The reason to take the crate lid off, is to make it open so they can see and you can also see, so you  know if they did potty and they donut feel like they are completely confined don't enhancing stress. As they potty on the pads, remove a pad or two and slowly create a smaller area for them to potty on, they should go to potty on the area that they are familiar with it may take time doing this. Iggies are notoriously hard to potty train and most breeders will say that 80% accurate is considered potty trained in this breed.
To reinforce going outside to potty, when you take her out, do not come back in until she potties it may take a LONG time (I have been outside for over 3 hrs before) but put them on a leash and stand in one place, letting them stand around and near you . Let them sniff around but do not let them sit or lay down. If she tries to sit or lay down, move slightly so she is up again. As soon as she goes potty any type, praise her and give her a special treat (hot dog pieces work great!) if she poos then celebrate like you won the lottery and give her a treat. You will notice that the time needed to go outside will reduce but it will again take time. IGs very much want to please so if they get it in their head that you are celebrating when they do this and they get a treat (food reinforcement), they will want to continue to please as well as get the treats.  Pick a treat that is special that they get at no other time, only when they potty. She will get excited when she sees you get the treats.
I know it is frustrating, but also extremely rewarding, once you are successful. Keep in mind it can take years to get an IG to 80% accurate.  I always tell everyone that IGs don't mature until they are three years old, so don't expect a mature brain until they are three same with potty training, they may relapse many times but with consistency and patience you will make it.
I hope this helps. When you do get confident they are not pottying in their cage, you can put the top back on, but don't put the door on. To help them understand that their bed is a safe zone, they shouldn't be bothered when they are in their bed. When you put the top on (without the door), put toys in their bed, give them treats (other than those they get outside) in their box, feed them in their box, everything. This will teach them that this is their special place and that it is not a punishment. You will see that they willing go in their crate when tired, stressed, or want to be left alone. Also, they will go in when it is time for you to go somewhere because they are confident you will be back.

Italian Greyhounds

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Tracy Rousseau

Expertise

I can answer many questions about training, behavioral issues, health, and conformation. Also I can answer questions about what types of dogs these are and if this is the right breed for you.

Experience

I have worked with Italian Greyhounds in both showing and rescue for over 5 years, experienced almost every type of issue with this breed that could be imagined and have successfully trained, many "untrainable" dogs. I have been responsible to find homes suitable for IG's and have had an excellent success rate in placements into a "forever" homes of dogs given to rescue or turned to rescue by shelters that would have otherwise euthanized.

Education/Credentials
I have learned most of what I know through mentorships with breeders of the breed that have been involved for 20 years, asking a lot of questions and paying attention to the dogs signals.

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