We’ve been working on Luke’s crate training for a while now. He had a crate as a puppy, which he loved, but when he outgrew it we let it go. I didn’t anticipate having another use for it in the future, but I was wrong. Since Luke is afraid of strangers coming to the house, I wanted a place for him to go where he could feel safe while getting used to having people around. Even though I doubt he’d ever bite anyone, it’s not a chance I’m willing to take.
We had great success when a friend visited for the weekend recently, keeping him separate in gated rooms. He was able to get used to having someone else here without having to have any direct contact to stress him out. But being gated in other rooms doesn’t get him as much exposure to the people as I’d like. The new house is open concept and we’ll be spending most of our time in the open area, with no options for gating him where he could see us. In addition, he wants to be with us. I am willing to have him on a leash at times, but when you’re entertaining company, that’s not an easy option.
Thus the crate seemed like the best solution, but when we brought a new one in something happened to make him afraid of it, and now we’re trying to work through that with positive training. It’s been a slow process, but Luke has managed to make it fun along the way.
We tried shaping, letting him take gradual steps getting in, and clicking and treating as he advanced, but we just couldn’t seem to get to the step of having him put 4 or even 3 paws in at once. You’ll see in the videos how he can stretch all the way to the back of a pretty big crate! I had read in one of the books I have that I shouldn’t lure him in, but that was the only way I was going to be able to get him all the way to the back. So our routine was to do some shaping and if we didn’t progress there, I’d put treats as far back as I could in there.
The crate is set up all the time, and I got in the habit of throwing all of their toys in there so he’d have to step in to get one when he wanted it. I left them in there when we were training, and one day he decided he wanted to try a new game; he would pick up and pull the toys out of the crate! At first I thought “oh great, another distraction” but then I decided to go with it. It could be another way to make the crate a fun and safe place for him. Sometimes he’d pick the toys up and drop them inside the crate still, but it didn’t take long to train him to bring them all the way out. Our first video shows Luke’s new game.
If we can’t make the progress needed once we’re in the new house, I will probably try a different kind of crate. I just don’t want to give up on him (or spend more money!) too soon. We may find ways to make this even more fun as well. I might bring his toy box in and have him put all the toys away in there. He already knows that trick so that should be pretty easy. Either way, we’ll keep having fun with this and hope that it pays off in other ways in the long run.
We are joining the Positive Reinforcement Pet Training hop this week. It begins on the first Monday of every month and runs all week long. The hop is hosted by Cascadian Nomads, Tenacious Little Terrier, and Rubicon Days. Please visit them as well as other blogs through the links below for more positive pet training tips.