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Building a Positive Association with the Crate

Building a Positive Association with the Crate

Introducing Ruby: A Miniature Bernedoodle’s Journey

Picture this: it’s my first day with Ruby, my 8-week-old F1b miniature bernedoodle, and I’m already in over my head. My fiancée and I had just brought this adorable bundle of fluff home, and let me tell you, the crate training process was not going as smoothly as we had hoped.

You see, Ruby was a sensitive soul who just couldn’t bear the thought of being alone, even for a moment. If either of us left the room, she’d erupt in a chorus of whines and cries, as if she thought we had abandoned her forever. And when it came time to put her in the crate, forget about it – she’d freak out, convinced that we were sentencing her to a life of solitary confinement.

The Crate Training Conundrum

My fiancée and I found ourselves in a bit of a pickle. On the one hand, we knew that crate training was crucial for Ruby’s well-being and safety. After all, a crate can be a dog’s safe haven, a cozy space where they can retreat when the world becomes too overwhelming. But on the other hand, we didn’t want to traumatize our precious pup by forcing her into something she clearly hated.

It was a classic case of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” My fiancée was adamant that we needed to take a slow and steady approach, building a positive association with the crate through treats, toys, and plenty of praise. Meanwhile, I was convinced that we needed to just rip the Band-Aid off and let Ruby “cry it out,” slowly getting her used to being alone.

Seeking Advice from the Puppy Experts

Frustrated and unsure of the best course of action, I turned to the one place I knew I could find answers: the r/puppy101 subreddit. These seasoned dog owners and trainers had seen it all, and I was determined to get to the bottom of this crate training conundrum.

As I scrolled through the comments, a few key pieces of advice stood out:

  1. Take it slow: Crate training is a process that can take days or even weeks, depending on the pup. Rushing it or trying to “cry it out” too soon can backfire and create even more anxiety.
  2. Associate the crate with positive experiences: Fill the crate with high-value treats, toys, and comfy bedding to help your pup see it as a safe, rewarding space.
  3. Gradually increase alone time: Start with short periods of crate time, even when you’re home, and slowly work your way up to longer stretches.

With this valuable advice in hand, my fiancée and I knew we needed to find a balance – one that would keep Ruby happy and comfortable while also preparing her for the inevitable times when we’d need to leave her alone.

Putting the Pieces Together

Armed with our newfound knowledge, we set out to create a crate training plan that would work for our little Ruby. We started by placing her crate in the family room, where she could still be part of the action even when confined. We made sure it was cozy and inviting, with a soft blanket, her favorite chew toys, and, of course, high-value treats hidden inside.

Whenever we needed to put Ruby in the crate, we made it a positive experience. We’d use a calm, soothing voice, offer her a tasty morsel, and praise her profusely when she settled down. And when it was time to let her out, we’d do so quietly, without making a big fuss.

Slowly but surely, we started to see a shift in Ruby’s attitude towards the crate. Instead of frantically whining and scratching, she’d often voluntarily wander in, sniff around, and make herself at home. And during her crate naps, she’d wake up rested and relaxed, instead of stressed and anxious.

Balancing Alone Time and Positive Reinforcement

Of course, the real test came when we had to start leaving Ruby alone in the crate – even if just for a few minutes while we ran a quick errand. We followed the advice of other puppy owners and made sure to keep our departures and arrivals low-key, avoiding any overly enthusiastic greetings that could amp up Ruby’s separation anxiety.

And you know what? It worked! Ruby would whine a bit at first, but after a minute or two, she’d settle down and relax. We’d return home to find her happily napping, no worse for wear.

Of course, this wasn’t an overnight transformation. It took time, patience, and a whole lot of positive reinforcement. But as Ruby grew more comfortable in her crate, we were able to gradually increase the duration of her alone time, all while maintaining that crucial sense of safety and security.

The Crate as a Haven, Not a Prison

These days, Ruby is a pro at crate training. She’ll often wander in on her own, plopping down with a contented sigh and a chew toy in her mouth. And when it’s time for us to leave, she may whimper a bit, but she knows that the crate is her safe haven – a cozy retreat where she can relax and recharge, not a prison sentence.

As I reflect on our journey with Ruby’s crate training, I can’t help but feel a sense of pride. Sure, it wasn’t easy, and there were moments when we doubted our approach. But by taking it slow, building a positive association, and balancing alone time with plenty of love and praise, we were able to turn a potential nightmare into a success story.

And you know what they say – a well-trained dog is a happy dog. And a happy dog means a happy family. So if you’re struggling with crate training your own furry friend, take heart – with a little patience and a lot of positive reinforcement, you can help your pup learn to love their crate, just like Ruby did.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think it’s time for Ruby and I to curl up in her crate for a well-deserved nap. After all, a dog’s work is never done, especially when you’re a miniature bernedoodle on a mission to conquer the world, one crate at a time.

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