I can do this. I know all there is to know about crate training a puppy! I have crate trained every dog I have had since 1985and there have been a few. One, two, three, four, five. Yes five I think – no six, plus the ones that have come in for residential training –they all start with crate training, and there have been a few of those too. They all learn they get nothing if they make a noise. The only way out of a cage is to go to sleep. They quickly learn that no-one even looks at them when they are noisy. People talk to them when they are quiet but as soon as they vocalise they are ignored again. Nice things are often in crates. Chewy things and special toys that they only ever get to have in the crate. The crate is a nice place to be. But the only way out is through silence.
Before putting the puppy into the crate you ensure he has been well fed, mentally stimulated and physically exercised according to his age, and toileted – his every need has been met and he is ready for sleep. Then you put the pup in, close the door and sit beside him reading a book or relaxing so they don’t think they have been abandoned. Then just let the pup cry itself to sleep. Easy. Repeat this a few times and before you know it the pup quickly settles every time he is put into his crate.
However, the Golden Wonder had not read the rule book. He screamed, and he screamed and he screamed.
After three hours of my friend and I trying to talk, trying to enjoy our glass of wine, trying to relax (!!!) ignoring the caterwauling, my friend said, ‘should we cover him up?’
Cover him up? I knew that!
My handouts say ‘if your puppy screams for attention, "punish" him by covering the crate with a blanket.’
It must be the noise muddling my brain – or is it the wine? I don’t know. Maybe it’s the shock of suddenly being a new ‘Mum’ again! But honestly I did know that. ‘Ok, what a good idea, let’s cover him up.’
I found an old blanket and when he screamed we covered the crate, when he was quiet we uncovered him.
...We covered him up, we uncovered him. We covered him up, we uncovered him. And so it went on. We kept drinking the wine...
This routine stayed fairly much the same over the next three weeks (except my friend’s holiday came to an end and she went home) and still the Golden Wonder did not learn to be quiet in his crate. Was it me, or was he thick?
But he is sooo pretty...
Meanwhile, in between bouts of (not) crate training there were many exercises to teach; tug, fetch, come, sit, down, etc. Of course he had to come out of the crate, so at times when he paused a second or two for breath, I quickly let him out.
Collie puppies usually enjoy playing tug games. That will help us build a relationship. He will enjoy tug and later I can use the game to reward other exercises (like tracking). Good idea, I will teach him to play tug. I usually start by teasing with a soft tuggy toy and keeping the toy just out of the pup’s reach so he really wants it -and then allow him to get it. I know if they think you want them to have it, often they quickly loose interest. Think of the puppies playing together. The best game is trying to get the toy the other puppy has. I have to pretend I want the toy, I that am having fun with it and I do not want my puppy to get it, but quickly let him ‘win’ it. He is only very small and will not focus for long.
Here we go then, sit on the floor with a soft ball on a rope, tease, tease, tease, oops not so keen. Try again. Oops, - oh dear never mind. Let’s try again, tease, tug, oops never mind. After several attempts this was clearly not working for the Golden Wonder.
Ok I thought, play fetch is usually easy and fun for a collie.
I will try throwing the toy, he is sure to like the chase if he does not like to tug. Just a short throw because at six weeks he is not co-ordinated enough to see it move far. I roll the ball and he goes after it. Great. Oops he has lost interest. He started to chase it and then walked off the other way. Never mind let’s try again. Oh dear he has forgotten it again. Never mind let’s try again...
Oh dear never mind! Not much of a play drive but then he is only young and he is sooo pretty...
He will make a great pet dog, but I do really want to work him as well!
How about food?
As a clicker trainer I started to ‘charge up my clicker’ from the day he came home. That means building an association between the sound of a click and eating. So instead of just putting his food on the floor in a little bowl, I put the bowl of food on the worktop and fed him one piece at a time from my hand preceding each piece with a click. After two or three meals fed like this The Golden Wonder soon realised that whenever he heard the click a piece of food was coming.
He went through the usual tummy upset that puppies tend to have on leaving the litter – even though I kept him on the same diet, and after about three days his tummy settled. Thank goodness.
Now I can start clicker training him.
Wow, he can eat! He likes his food! He has worked out how to ‘work’ the clicker!
He might not have a strong play drive, but I have found what motivates him – food! And he is not thick. He just did not see the point of the previous interactions!
Yes, yes, yes! I have found a way forward. He might not be anything like the collies I have had in the past but he is greedy. My beautiful Golden Wonder is greedy. Thank goodness I have found something that motivates him. Now I can begin to train him