Sunday, August 14, 2011

Crate Training

Crate training with Fi is going so well!  In a matter of 5 days she has gone from being scared of the crate, to happily going in, laying down, and letting me close the door.  The first couple of sessions, however, were difficult. The metal tray in the bottom of the crate would make a scary noise when Fi stepped on it, so she would run out of there as fast as possible.  Through counter-conditioning the noise, she was able to tolerate it and could lay down in the crate, but she was clearly still not comfortable with the idea.

Then I had an "Ah-ha" moment!  Since she had layers of bedding in the crate, I could remove the tray altogether. No more scary noise!  In the video below you can see how fast and confidently she now trots into the crate.

This is the first behavior for which I have laid out a detailed training plan, and let me tell you, it pays off!  After the first couple frustrating sessions I decided I would chart out exactly what steps to take so I couldn't get overwhelmed.

The Plan (click for each step):

Head and neck inside crate (no legs)
Paw lift
1 paw in
Other paw lifts while one in crate
2 paws in
Paw lift with 2 paws in crate
1 step forward
2 steps forward
Half body in crate (no hind legs)
1 hind leg move
1 hind leg step
Second hind leg moves
Second hind leg steps
1 hind leg in
Other hind leg moves with 1st in crate
All legs in
Touch crate door
Move crate door half way closed
Close crate door

This is just a short video of the progress we've made.  I'm also working on adding duration to being in the crate.

  • I recommend starting with mat training, as in my previous post. This will speed up the crate training significantly.            
  • Depending on the dog, you may need to take more time for the sit/down in the crate. Because we had already worked on this without the crate, she did it almost immediately.                                                   
  • When you first begin crate training, some dogs will be confident enough to go in the crate if you just toss a treat in there.  Fi was not one of these dogs.  If your dog is more wary of the crate, just click for any movements toward the crate, and shape the behavior gradually.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Mat Training

Today I ordered a crate for Fi.  After this week with the in-laws (see previous post), I figured we should have a place that will keep both Fi, and other people safe.  The crate won't arrive for a few days, so I have started some preliminary training.  I'm using a blanket that Fi likes to lay on as a mat that will eventually go inside the crate.  A few weeks ago we began working on mat training with a dog bed, which I will post below.  I am switching to the blanket because Fi has never taken to liking the dog bed (figures).

Because Fi already understood the concept of going to a mat, it was pretty easy to transition over to the blanket. Once I get the crate, I will put the blanket on the metal bottom without the sides and train like that for a while before adding walls to the crate.  Below is the second session with the blanket.  I never cue her to lay down, I just waited for her to do it on her own.  That way I don't have to release her from the down.

Mental Meltdown

I think I may have mentally recovered enough from this week to write a post.  My in-laws came to visit for 4 days this week, and I was very excited for them to meet Fi for the first time.  We had previously had a friend spend 3 days at our house and Fi was great the whole time, so we had no reason to think it would go otherwise with Clint's parents. 

Boy were we wrong! 

I felt we did everything right, I brought Fi outside to meet them instead of them just barging into the house unannounced.  She was timid, but took treats from them and accepted some petting.  We got inside and it was a whole different story.  She barked and growled with ears back and tail between her legs.  We removed her and put her in our bedroom to chill out.  The next day Fi got more comfortable with Dan and Lynne, and we were actually able to go out shopping and leave Fi with Dan alone and it was totally fine.  Later that evening, however, she began to react again, which went on for the rest of their visit.  We kept her in our bedroom whenever Dan and Lynne were in the living room.

I had a complete mental meltdown.  I so badly want a dog who I can take everywhere with me, and hang out with my friends and family.  I could just see all my dreams slipping through my fingers.  It's been one thing after another, but I have to deal with the fact that she's here to stay, and we just have to work through it.

I have a consultation tomorrow with a trainer who specializes in dogs who are reactive/aggressive/have behavioral issues.  I am hoping she turns out to be responsive to my wishes for Fi.  For some reason I always get the impression that trainers talk to me like I don't know anything, or that everything is my fault.  Although I tend to be overly sensitive.

I will post updates about everything as we go.