Often times pet owners say, “I wish you could live with us for a week.” I can’t do that. But we’ve recently started fostering again. We’ll have a stream of puppies – each with its own unique temperament and challenges.
These are their stories. As I write about these things, owners can start to understand what goes through the mind of a trainer.
With that, I’d like to introduce Waffles. She’s a 9-week-old female mixed breed rural rescue with ARF Ontario and she’s apparently an escape artist. She can break out of her crate.
First order of business was a stop at the pet store. It was later in the day. We stopped at one of those big chain stores and purchased a medium plastic cargo crate.
Once general introductions are made between the various people and animals, crate training begins. It starts by simply tossing food treats into an open crate. This allows the puppy to walk in and out without feeling trapped or frightened.
After many successful repetitions, the door is briefly closed. All of this is to prepare for the night. I do not like having sleepless nights. The more work that can be done during the day – the better.
Evening comes. Waffles goes into the crate along with a stuffed Kong toy. Once she realizes I’m leaving her, the meltdown begins.
The crate is right beside my son’s bed. It was his idea. But it seems that sleeping children don’t get woken by barking dogs. The decision is made to move the crate next to me – at least for a couple nights.
Remember, the new cargo crate? I decide to carry the whole crate to the new location with the dog still inside. Should have known better.
Less than a meter into the trip, the clips securing the top and bottom burst open. Crate bottom, door and puppy come crashing down. So much for crate training one positive step at a time. Set backs happen to everyone.
Truthfully I’m angry at myself for not driving out of my way and buying a crate with a more secure latching system.
Waffles scurries off in a panic. I find her curled up next to Kiki on the coach giving me a look that can only mean, “I’d rather sleep here.” It’s after midnight and I’m am extremely tempted to give in.
After a complete failed first attempt I pull out my old extra large crate from the farthest reaches of the basement. It’s surrounded by at least a dozen boxes that need to be moved first. It’s that or the couch. Taking the easy route now usually causes headaches later.
The Kong is refilled and Waffles goes into the larger crate. It’s really too big. But she’s close enough to see me. She’s also close enough to bore holes into my skull with her glare. I swear she’s trying to send telepathic messages of “I hate you.” Or at the very least she’s begging to be let out.
When that fails she makes a ferocious attempt at barking hoping I’ll crack. Here’s where trainers often differ from new pet owners. I know she’s not nervous because I’ve worked with too many dogs. I know she’s pushing – trying to see if barking is an effective strategy.
I also know that I cannot react. The simple act of saying “quiet” would be a mistake. It’s a question about whether my no means no. It’s about who has more patience – me or the dog?
After five minutes of barking she snorts and gives up. She spends a few minutes licking the Kong before curling up in a ball and falling asleep. Around 3:00 in the morning she starts moving about so I take her out to the bathroom. She promptly goes. Good girl!
Once back in the crate she tries to stare her way out of the crate again. She fusses at the latch for a while. But I know she’s not breaking out of this crate. The bars are too close together. She doesn’t even try barking. By morning she is quietly waiting for me to take her out. By the time her afternoon nap comes around, she settles in quickly and a minimum amount of fuss.
Day two goal: Returning the crate to the big box pet store. Note to self – buy quality.