Training was put on hold for a little while because I was at the APDT conference all last week. (Which, by the way was awesome. All except for the CPDT exam, which was stressful and I'm impatient to get my results. But the seminars were great.) And then my dogs get another week off from classes this week, because we're in Wednesday classes and our facility is closed for Halloween. So I figure this is my week to work with my dogs. I got some nifty stuff at the conference, and am hoping to make some progress on a play retrieve, and I can keep going with the crate training.
So today I get home from lunch and decide to feed the dogs in their crates. I go to the fridge to get their food (my dogs are on a raw diet, today's lunch was chicken necks and backs) and brought the tupperware container over to their crates. Caspian hopped right in, of course - what we need to work on with him is duration in the crate, and being in the crate while Kaia and I are doing something else. What surprised me was that Kaia ran into her crate, too, with only a hand signal from me. I tossed their food in, closed the doors, and went to put the tupperware away and wash my hands.
By the time I came back with a few treats, they had both finished eating and were quietly sitting in their crates, waiting for me to come back. I fed them a few treats in the crate, then opened the doors. I've been very careful to teach them that the opening and closing of crate doors is irrelevant; they don't get to leave the crate until they've been verbally released. So they both stayed in the crates when I opened the doors, and got a few more treats. Then I released them...and both dogs stayed in their crates!
I think the next step is going to be working up some duration, and working with me not always being in sight. I like how crate training nicely combines with my tendency toward lazy TV watching - my plans right now involve treating them for getting into their crates, then sitting on the couch watching TV, with a timer set to treat them every 30-90 seconds. Next time, I'll do every 60-120 seconds. Once they're both okay with that, I think I'm going to start feeding each of them at different times - putting Cas in the crate with his chicken while I work with Kaia, then switching them out. That's going to be the hardest - Caspian hates it when I'm working with Kaia and not him. In the past, I've put him in the back yard with a whole steak fillet and he's refused to eat it because I'm inside working with Kaia. But I think if I keep things really short at first, and sneak the duration up really slowly, that it'll work out.
Ultimately, when we move, all I'll need is for one of them to be willing to stay in a crate with a project toy while I go to the car to get the other one. If Caspian isn't there by then, I'll bring Kaia in first - she's much less likely to throw a hissy fit, and much more willing to enjoy food and treats even if I'm not there. I don't think I want to bring them in at the same time, even if I have a friend with me to help, because if we do happen to run into another dog in the halls, they'll be even worse together than they would be one-on-one. I'm excited - I can't wait to be home again, and I think by the time we leave, I'll have two crate trained dogs who can handle the road trip and hotel stays.