Most of you may know that I have a new puppy in the house! Torch is here, learning to be the best Torchy he can be until he can make it to his forever home.
Part of being a well civilized house dog, and eventually a well civilized sports dog, is that he can be left alone in this crate or expen, watch other dogs participate/receive attention calmly, and also stay focused on his task while other dogs are doing things around him. I've spent Torch's first week carefully selecting my approximations for him to do just that, to avoid FOMO (fear of missing out) from developing. Some dogs may need more splits while some dogs might do find with more lumps, but here has been my general process, especially surrounding the morning routine of wake-up, potty, and have breakfast.
The thing to remember about ANY training task is that the behavior you are looking for HAS to be within reach inside the dog's mind. 9 week old puppies are (typically) not magically quiet in their crates while the rest of the world is happening. So, you have to build on what they ARE capable of doing.
Day 1: I knew that there was no way Torch would wake up, potty, and return to confinement with his breakfast while I took care of the other dogs. Being with us is important to him, so my routine was:
1. Wake up and potty Torch
2. Stuff Torch into my coat so he could go with me to take care of my other dogs. In my home, this is done in 3 groups: Skittles/Smack, Shrek, and Skrik/Shock.
3. prepare Torch's breakfast and place it in the expen and close the door.
4. Play with Torch (he had no interest in going into his expen to eat at first – he wants to DO STUFF!)
5. Torch *offered* to go into his expen to eat. This was an easy meal that was thawed and in a slow feeder. As he was finishing, he was invited back out for more play and a walk.
Day 2: Looked pretty much like day 1, except I gave him an EASY frozen puzzle for breakfast, so he had to stay focused on his meal for longer, while I did boring things like drank my coffee and stared at my phone.
Day 3: Well now, something is different! As soon as all of my dogs were put away with their breakfasts, Torch didn't want playtime, he wanted HIS breakfast, and immediately asked to go into his expen when I added his food. This time, it was a thawed meal, but a more difficult puzzle.
Day 4: Looked pretty much like day 3, except I increased my activity: made coffee and breakfast while he was eating, so I was not visible to him the entire time.
Day 5: Torch is VERY into breakfast now. He's becoming impatient with me while I take care of other dogs. He wants in his expen for breakfast more than he wants to be with me doing stuff. I'm able to do lots of chores while he eats.
Day 6: Torch helped me take care of Smack and Skittles, but he requested breakfast before Shrek, Shock, and Skrik. He was put into his crate with a thawed meal inside of a familiar puzzle and was able to stay engaged with his breakfast while dogs ran by him, I went inside and outside several times, gave medication to dogs, and put them away.
Day 7: Looked just like day 6, except for a more difficult puzzle. He is comfortable with being put away for breakfast just after his first potty break, which is what my schedule looks like for the long term. As adults, my dogs spend the morning in their crate with a frozen breakfast so that I can work. Torch is well on his way to being able to do this. Yeah!
Separately, I have been increasing the activity around him while he naps. I make sure he's good and tired. He usually falls asleep near me, and I pick him up and put him in his expen or crate. He sometimes complains for 10 seconds or so and then remembers that he's exhausted and was asleep anyways. I have increased the amount of things I am able to do while he naps. First, starting with things he isn't interested in – laundry, emails, reading, etc. Then, another dog in the room that may be walking around, but generally just there. In the last couple of days, i've been able to increase to playing ball with Shrek while he naps. He's learning that when he's confined, he's to be relaxed and sleeping.
This will eventually translate to when he isn't sleepy as well, and I'm already seeing glimmers of that when he is awake and confined while people and dogs are doing other things. Remember, you have to select from what they know they can do, so you have to choose your approximations based on what they are already showing you and increase the difficulty in small increments from there.
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