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Crate Training

by Rosamar Garcia

I am no expert on training, but here's what I've done with my new V puppy to get her used to the crate. I feed all her meals in there and periodically throw in a cookie for her to walk in and find. Lots of her toys are stored in there too. After a few days of just playing in and out, I made sure she was really tired and actually sleeping before I put her in for a nap on top of a huge pile of comfy blankets that convinced her this was better than the couch or my lap! I also rubbed my smelly feet on the blankets in there.... "eau de alpha human".

All those times, I'd leave the crate open, without a door, so that she felt happy to come in and out as she pleased. Next step was to put her in when she was falling asleep but not quite asleep and I sat guard outside the opening (still no door). Everytime, she tried to come out, I'd gently plop her back in and say "settle down". Whenever she sat or made any motion to relax, I'd praise her and give her a tidbit. I made sure that I took her out physically at the end of the session saying"Okay".

Third session was the same, still no door, me sitting in front of the opening, guarding. This time though, my expectation for settle down was for her to actually lie down. Lots of praise and treats when she did or when she relaxed and a firm, "no, settle down" when she tried to get up and
leave. This session took a bit longer. I didn't put the door on until I felt she could stay in there reliably without the door. I didn't want to door to be the thing that kept her in. I wanted her to decide on her own, "I'd better stay in and wait till I'm told to come out." And I also made sure that anytime I put her in she was good and tired and ready, begging for sleep. She's now able to nap for about three 1/2 hours in there and I make sure I let her out before she gets antsy. I call her out when she's still kind of groggy, praising her for waiting. She only gets to come out when she's relaxed.

Once I put the door on and shut it, we did have one huge, loud howling session which I'm sure woke the dead, but luckily when she saw me, it
didn't take her long to calm down and I was able to let her out when she was more relaxed. This was hard, not giving in!!!! I think rewarding the relaxing body language is important, otherwise, they get restless in there and want out. Also, I think it helps to make the crate a safe place to be, not a prison sentence. I never put her in there when she's rowdy. While she's in the crate I want her to think, "Ah, peace and quiet at last!"

P.S. Before she was crate trained, at night, I would have her sleeping in the crate beside my bed, but with the lid off and the puppy tethered to one of the slats. That way, she was sleeping in her"special spot" without any of the anxieties of being" locked in" before she was ready to cope with the top part of the crate and the door going on. She was quite happy to do this. I didn't put the lid on at night until she was happy to be in the crate with lid on ( and no door) during the day. It took a few sessions, but it was worth not rushing her through it.

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