Sometimes it takes an “event” to provide the impetus for a lesson.
A client of mine who lives with six dogs recently had the four younger ones in a kennel. The Weimaraner and the most recent rescue got into a bad fight there. This was not the first time they had fight but it was certainly the worst incident to date.
After they came back from the kennel there were a couple more incidents. The friction usually happened while the dogs were let out into the open to play…so it was clear that we had to work on making the release moment less exciting, be it at the door, be it from the crate.
The dogs were always released from their crates and then left to their own devices. This meant usually a mad dash to the toy box and then wild play with one another. Also they would all be released at once.
Clearly we needed to change the meaning of the crate door opening from: BURST OUT AND BE WILD! to: THE DOOR IS OPEN, SO WHAT?
BEING INSIDE THE CRATE IS JUST AS GOOD AS BEING OUT OF THE CRATE.
Then I remembered watching Susan Garret’s impressive DVD called “CRATE GAMES”.
Basically the idea is to re-associate the sound and the movement of the crate door from a “rush out” cue to a “sit/wait” cue.
It was amazing how quickly the pointers and the Weimaraner picked up on this.
Not only does the opening of the door not equal “RUSH OUT OF THE CRATE” anymore, but they will voluntarily walk right back in and stay in there with the door open. All those dogs were already crate trained and walked into their crates when asked to do so but this took things a step further.
It was fun and I only wish I had worked on this sooner.But then, like so often, we don’t “fix” things until they are “broke”. I should also mention that we put the toy box into a closet!