Operation: Crate Love, Part 1

In The Doghouse

We are deep in the training trenches, my friends!

On Friday I put his big bed in the crate and just left the door open, he got in there several times on his own to nap, but when I closed the door on him Saturday afternoon he was back to being unhappy ­čÖü

On Sunday the local Bark Busters trainer came out and showed us the ropes of their training system. A lot of it was familiar to us, but some things were different than either Todd or I had learned in the past, and we’re in the process of training ourselves to train him.

The big ask is that she help Duncan with his crate training. Of course, to do that, everything else has to be worked on. While we’re meeting his basic, fundamental puppy needs already, the BB take on things is that in order to get him comfy in his crate he needs to see us as in charge so he doesn’t have to worry about one of his “pups” going off without him into the big bad world.

That’s a different way of looking at it compared to the “I’m lonely, please don’t leave me” side that we would normally think, right?

So, yeah, we’re working on his leash manners, commands like come and sit, and his attentiveness to us vs the plethora of things out there to distract him. We’re helping each other remember the relative body language cues–things like standing for corrections or redirections, crouching at his level for the fun things–and proper use of the correction command (that has us sounding like zombie sheep, Bahh!).

Overall, though, it seems to be working.

  • Night one, the same day as├é┬áthe BB visit, was a bit of a cluster. It was completely our own fault that we didn’t go to bed until the wee hours of the morning so Duncan’s hour of protest meant it was 2am before we got to sleep.
  • Night two was more on-time. (Actually, Todd tried to go to bed early, bless his heart, but Duncan wasn’t having it.) It was still the same hour of protest (he really would rather sleep with us, and we were tempted to let him, but we have to stay strong until he fully groks├é┬áhis crate is his den) but it was louder, more insistent, and less open to correction. And then, when he did quiet down and let us sleep, it was only for 15-40 minute intervals for the first several hours. Finally, around 3am, he exhausted himself and we got a few hours of uninterrupted sleep.
  • Night three, last night, was better, though! It only took him half an hour to settle and there was only one “relapse” of loud whining about 30 minutes later. After that he kept quiet and we all got a much-needed solid six hours of sleep!!!

Now, there’s a few things at work, I think, that made the difference between nights 1 & 3 and the hell that was night 2. Mainly, I suspect that it’s because I have had more time with him–between bringing him to work that week and a half plus getting home before Todd and having Fridays off with Duncan–so I’ve had more opportunities to work with him, I have more authority to him. Plus, Todd has been a little more indulgent with Duncan than I have, he’s a little more tolerant of the nipping, for instance, and other behaviors. Still, we’re both working on consistency. It could also have been that I was working downstairs while Todd was trying to go to bed early on night 2 and Duncan might have heard me moving around.

The FOMO is strong with this one, so I’m making an effort not to stay up later than Todd & Duncan to, hopefully, lessen some of that. (Though he wasn’t as bad about it when he slept with us, previously, when I’d come to bed it would definitely wake him up and he’d think it was playtime again.)

Sleeping in the crate is part of the process of getting him comfy with it, the other part is feeding him in the crate. This, I think, moreso than the night-sleeping, is what has yielded the biggest change: no messing in the crate during the day!

Granted, it’s early days yet, but Monday and Tuesday were mess-free when Todd came home and lunchtime as well as when I got home after work. That’s a big step for little D, and one that makes it worth toughing out the barking and whining at night.

Plus, we decided if he could keep up the good crate behavior for a week, then we might let him back up on the bed for a night and see if he maintained that habit. If so, we could all sleep easier and avoid the hassle of moving the crate downstairs and back up again each day. (We thought about a second crate, but that dilutes├é┬áthe “this is your home” vibe, and we can’t leave the crate upstairs in our room during the day since the upstairs tends to get very warm during the summer.)

The other crate issue, though, is the barking. Oh my stars, the barking. I’m not sure how we’re going to “cure” him of the incessant barking during the day, but we have to figure something out. The goal is that he gets used to his crate and doesn’t feel the need to voice his displeasure the same way he’s figuring out not to mess in there and that he’ll make the correction on his own.

As our Bark Busters trainer noted, though, Duncan is a smart puppy, and the smart ones are tougher to train (she said “I don’t get called for the dumb ones”). It’s a mixed blessing, that, but one we’ll figure out. There was talk of maybe a puppy cam with a feature where we could talk to him during the day. We’re leaving the TV on for him for some white noise, and have draped his crate to make it darker and cozier. While we’re currently leaving the soft bedding out of the crate until he proves he won’t mark it (the laundry spike was like having an infant, at first)–that was the trainer’s suggestion–he does have a couple of toys in there with him, and he gets a filled Kong each time he goes in for the morning, afternoon, and overnight in there.

If we can’t get the barking under control, we may have to look at the humane collars out there with various deterrents. There are scent-based ones, vibration-based ones, and ones that emit a high whine (that last one was used successfully by a friend with a headstrong Havanese). All with the idea to distract them from their barking and├é┬ákeep them from ramping up into a full-blown fit without shocking them or other harmful methods. We’re not ruling it out, but we’re hoping we can avoid it, too.

Overall, we’re really pleased with the progress he’s making and definitely happy with the Bark Busters system so far. We have our follow-up appointment in a couple of weeks to see how we’re doing and reinforce her training, and in the mean time we’re doing our homework by working with Duncan a little bit every day. More than that, though, the trainer helped us (okay, mostly me) feel like less of a puppy-training failure by assuring us that, no, Duncan really is a smart little bugger and that he’s pushing limits and testing us.

And if you read through all of that, thank you! Here’s a well-deserved treat: some clips of Duncan being the sweet boy he can be, and the reason why he’s worth all this training hassle.

Direct link for the feed readers: Puppy’s First FroYo

Wish us luck! (And sleep!)