Monday, November 9, 2009

Puppy: Uncrated

Finn is one year old now. One of the ways we are celebrating his first steps out of puppyhood is by starting the uncrate training process. Crate training him was a piece of cake. He loves his crate. He’s never really complained about being in there. When he’s tired, even mentioning the word “bed” out of context sends him galloping up the stairs to his room.

The problem was we felt that he was spending way too much time in his crate. He would come out, have some breakfast and then lead the way back to his bed. Later he would come out again, take a walk or go to the dog park, have some dinner and then be ready to have us put him back in again. After a nap, he’d come out again to sit on the couch and chew on a bone while we watched evening tv.

This wasn’t really working for us for a couple of reasons. First, we felt guilty. Second, he was rambunctious and annoying every time he got out of his crate because, I guess, he wanted to make the most of his freedom. Third, one of the big reason we got Finn in the first place was to have a velcro dog; a dog who would, amiable and companionably, trot along after us and accept loving pets whenever he passed us by.

So, if everyone wanted the same thing, then why couldn’t we just make it happen? We had a pretty major problem: Finn couldn’t sleep outside his crate. He rarely even put his head down. When he did, he would pop it back up, refusing to admit that he might have been even the slightest bit tired. We began to suspect that he was being disobedient just to be sent to his bed (crate) so he could get some sleep.

One day, I just decided to break the cycle. I made up my mind that no matter how annoying or aggravating or infuriating Finn was, he would spend the entire day out of his crate.

We took a nice, long, three-mile walk on the greenway (for some Aussies three miles wouldn’t be considered long, but it is for Finn) and then we came home and he roamed around in the backyard while I read a book. He probably also played some soccer with Ryan. We basically gave him no choice but to have to put his little head down and nap.

And he did. Very briefly. By the end of the day he was red-eyed and exhausted and thrilled to eat his Milkbone and collapse in his crate. The next day, we did the same thing. And every day after that.

Now, when he’s tired, he just lies down. He’s even fallen asleep on the couch a few times. He’s fantastic to be around and far more mellow than when he was only out in shorter bursts.

Of course, new problems have cropped up. He’s in a horrific counter-surfing stage at the moment. However, for every major issue we’ve resolved with him I become more confident that we can handle the new problems that will inevitably arise.

For now, all I have to say is, Yay, to tired puppies!

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