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Crate Training

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So ages ago I used a crate with Caspian, my younger dog. But we phased it out pretty completely as he got older. Both dogs are reliable in the kitchen for hours and hours, and reliable in the house for a few hours at a time, so I always felt more comfortable leaving them loose, or only confined to a room. Caspian will still go into his crate just fine, but as soon as he runs out of stuff to chew on he starts to whine and bark. Kaia never liked the crate - we did some work on it off and on, just treating her for being in it, but I've never worked on duration or anything.

Things have changed a little, because I've decided I'm moving back to California early next year. That means I will be staying in a hotel for at least a few nights (I live in Colorado), and that means it would be wise to have crate trained dogs. (They have seat belts in the car, so that's less of a concern.) So a few days ago, I decided I'd really need to crack down and get to it on the crate training. A friend helped me rearrange my living room so the crates are side by side (it's really hard to work with one dog at a time, because Caspian would rather work with me than do anything else), and I got started. The first day was a refresher course of go in the crate, get treats, stay in the crate until released. Kaia doesn't like having the door closed, so I'm doing my best to make the door completely irrelevant: once in the crate, my dogs will be expected (once trained) to remain in the kennel until I've released them, whether or not I close the door.

Yesterday I added a few things, since they were doing pretty well. I faded the lure for Kaia, so I'm now asking for a hand target in the crate to get her in rather than throwing treats in, and the treats only come out once she's gotten into the crate. Caspian will happily go into his crate. He'll even happily stay there, so long as he has something to do and isn't left alone. I'm wondering if that means he'll be better if Kaia is in the kennel next to him, once we're further along with the crate training.

I also started working on keeping them in there for longer. So yesterday they went in, got some treats, and each one got a greenie. I shut and latched the kennel doors while they ate the greenies, but made sure the latches were open again before they finished. A few more treats for being in the kennel, then treats for staying in the kennel even with the door open, then I released them both and called it a day. I'm really impressed: I thought Kaia might quit on me when I lowered my treat value from bologna to greenies, and she had no problem. She lay right down and finished it off, without any issue.

The moral of the story: it's not my dogs who don't want to be crate trained. They haven't had any horrible experiences in a crate, and aside from Caspian's having trouble staying still and Kaia's slight distrust of being shut in, they're blank slates. They won't be any harder to crate train than any other dog, I just don't like crates all that much and I've been dragging my feet on it. Today, I think I'll feed them in the crates. Either their raw diet, or the extras of egg and yogurt they usually get. I doubt they'll have a problem with it. I think I'll start spacing treats out by a second or two today, and maybe move a foot or so away from the crates while they're eating. I really think that, by the time I move, I'll be able to at least leave each dog in a crate in a hotel room with a bone or something to work on. And that's all I need by then, so that's awesome.