4/24/10

Back in the Jailhouse Again

When Chase first came into my life, I decided to crate train him. Maybe not immediately…I remembered when my Mom was training my childhood dog, Drummer. Pieces of furniture contained him in the kitchen, some newspaper was thrown on the floor, and magically the dog was housebroken! Well, that was how my nine-year old self remembered it. Since I was more modern, I purchased a baby gate, confined Chase to a small hallway and threw down a puppy pad in the corner.

Chase flung himself at the gate until he knocked it over and decided that the puppy pad was a toy that must be shredded. Undeterred, I replaced the gate, added all four dining room chairs in front of it to reinforce the barricade and duct taped the puppy pad to the floor. Chase tore the center of the puppy pad into tiny white and blue-backed confetti and peed on the floor next to it. He attempted to climb the barricade and howled for hours. I couldn’t take it and made a trip to the local pet store, handed over one hundred dollars and hauled a cage out to my car.

Crate training, while effective, took a lot of discipline on my part. I remember one night, lying in my bed listening to Chase cry, whimper and howl for forty minutes. As I started to creep from my bed, my roommate intervened and told me to be strong and let him howl. It was a long night but in the end, my dog was crate trained.

Unfortunately, two years later, he was out of the crate and into the bed. Not exactly 100% my choice but I won’t go into it here. It soon became clear, though, that my dog needed consistency, boundaries and a routine. I tried, unsuccessfully, to reintroduce the crate. At the mere sight of it he would run and hide. I couldn’t shove him inside as he would make himself as large as possible by spreading his legs and thrashing his head around.

A friend suggested that I try a different crate instead of the travel crate (with wheels) that I had purchased in case he ever had to fly in an airplane. I tried an all-metal crate that resembled a mini prison. I put his favorite blanket inside and ordered him in. Chase obliged but wasn’t happy. He made the most mournful and sorrowful cries and I felt like I was tormenting him in a cruel manner. After twenty minutes, I caved and let him out. A few weeks later, I tried again. This time I put his rectangular dog bed inside, a stuffed animal and his blanket. My friend encouraged Chase to enter the crate and stayed with him for thirty minutes until Chase relaxed.

It didn’t take very long for Chase to think of the crate as his own private space. Maybe it was because of the other three dogs who happily utilized their crates for sleeping or just having a place of their own. When Chase was upset or just wanted to be left alone, I could find him lounging in his crate. He would get very agitated if he caught one of the other dogs in his space and if he was sleepy, he put himself to bed. I very rarely latched it. He stayed in it all night and wouldn’t come out until morning.

I never thought it was possible to reintroduce the crate to Chase, in fact I had insisted that it couldn’t be done. I’m glad I was wrong and that Chase now views it as a safe haven rather than a punishment. I don’t need to worry about disturbing him in the night which is good since he gets agitated if he is suddenly woken from his dog dreams. It’s his own private room with a view from all sides and while I may close the door, he can still nudge it open so he doesn’t feel like he’s back in his old solitary jail-like cage.

1 comment:

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