For those of you who may be interested, I thought I’d spend some time over the next few posts chronicling what I’m doing to train Bean and how it’s working out. Because he’s so young, I’m not really giving him hard core training or anything, but there are small things I’m doing to teach him how to be a great dog and for the most part, he picks them up pretty quickly.
The first thing I decided on for sure was crate training. Bean’s first mom and dad did a great job of getting him and his littermates used to being crated overnight, so I’ve never had a problem with him crying all night long even during his first night with me. He goes to bed around 11pm (sometimes earlier, sometimes later) and we get up at 6:30. In my pre-Bean life I used to drag myself out of bed at 7:30 or 8 if I was really feeling sluggish, so that earlier start has been a tough adjustment for me. But he hears when my alarm goes off and starts making noise, so I couldn’t ignore him even if I wanted to.
I had been doing a ton of reading on training techniques, and on a whim one day I decided to see if I could train him to go into the crate on command. I am using treats and a clicker to train him. He only gets treats when we’re working on commands, so they really are treats more than snacks, and I also only use the clicker when we’re working. You can pick up a clicker at Petsmart for like a buck (they keep them in buckets at the register), or there are fancier ones you can order online. The cheap one works fine for me.
So anyway. To get him to go into the crate on his own, I started by chucking a treat in there, saying “go kennel,” and patting the top of the crate. The minute he crossed the doorway on his own, I’d praise him and press the clicker. We did that several times in a row, and he was totally pumped about the treats. Next, I hid several in my hand and just gave the command while patting the crate top. He smelled the treats and kept nosing at my hand for them, but I ignored him and repeated the command. Finally, I could nearly SEE him thinking, “Well, I guess I could go in there and see what happens.” And so he thought about it for a second, and then went on in the kennel, and it was a total awesome lightbulb moment. I praised the hell out of him, he got a treat and a click, and we were off to the races. We repeated it several times until it was obvious he was getting the idea, and then I stopped for the day.
I’ve grown up with dogs, but this is of course the first time I’ve raised and trained a dog all on my own, and many of the techniques I’m trying are different from what I grew up with. This training exercise took maybe fifteen or twenty minutes, so it was not time intensive at all. I had maybe one more lesson dedicated to “go kennel” and have been reinforcing it at random moments each day in addition to when I actually need to crate him for some reason. I know he understands it because he doesn’t really like going into his kennel, but will do it when commanded (even if it sometimes takes two or three tries).
I waited about four or five days until I was sure he had “go kennel” down cold before I moved on to the next lesson. I’ll write about that one tomorrow or so.