So it seemed to me crate training was a bit like getting the baby to sleep in its crib. As far as potential stress, time commitment and rewards. All the expects agree it's a good idea, but they all seem to circulate the same vague information on how to achieve this. We were suprised last week that Mike's dad told us he had crated his puppy right from the start. The more I thought about it the more I figured most people don't have a choice. We knew that puppies bladder muscles don't mature until 12wks and up until then they have a 2-3hr bladder capacity at most. That worried us as well as the idea of rushing the whole crate idea.
At first everything we were reading was the same. The crate's their den-like quiet space it keeps them safe and helps house train them. Never use it as punishment. Make sure they get in voluntarily and have a pleasant experience. Ok, great...We tossed treats and toys in there. We only praised her when she's in the crate, never make a big deal coming out. Always let her out when she's calm never associate crying with being released. That was all fine, but how exactly to we get to the point of crating overnight?
This was the first video/article we found that described the progression. We had already diligently "introduced the crate". Now it was time to start feeding her in the crate. You put the dish in the back and shut the door while they eat. At first you open the door right away when they finish and you gradually increase to 10min after eating. She was doing so well with this during the day I decided to try crating her overnight. I worried that we waited too long. That it would be harder because we hadn't made her sleep in there with the door shut from the start.
We had moved her in there when she was sleeping and left the door open a few times. She's even gone in and laid down herself a few times with the door open. So after a rockstar day eating and hanging out in her crate with the door shut on Monday we decided to try overnight. We took her out to potty, played with her for awhile and then threw a treat in her "room". She settled down happily at first, but got anxious after about 6-7min. Mike laid on the floor next to her crate until she fell asleep. When she woke up to go potty in the night Mike took her out and didn't have the heart/wakefulness to put her back in and shut the door.
Yesterday, we continued to close her into her "room" to eat and hang out. She didn't do as well, but not terrible. We stayed up later last night than we had the night before. We took her out to potty and then praised her when she went in to her "room" and laid down. Mike and I were in sight in our bed watching a movie. After a few minutes of calmly laying down she sat up and tapped the door to be let out. Then she whined and cried. When we didn't respond she started barking it was awful pained barking. Then Mike got down on the floor next to the crate and she mellowed out. This time she woke up several times crying during the night it was terrible. After Mike took her out to potty during the night he put her back in and shut the door. I think she slept 20 more minutes, at least that's what it felt like. It was a horrible night.
We both dragged ourselves out of bed upset and exhausted. We agreed to do more research. We think moving her a little closer to us may help since she calms when someone is next to the crate. Other than that I re-read that first article, which didn't really get into overnight. I found this article. Right away, I felt better. They suggest increasing the time in the crate with the door shut up to 30mins slowly before leaving them home alone in the create. They also specifically discuss overnight saying you do have to take them out to go to the bathroom during the night which seemed obvious to us. They also say this about what happened to us last night: If the whining continues after you've ignored him for several minutes, use the phrase he associates with going outside to eliminate. If he responds and becomes excited, take him outside. This should be a trip with a purpose, not play time. If you're convinced that your dog doesn't need to eliminate, the best response is to ignore him until he stops whining. Don't give in; if you do, you'll teach your dog to whine loud and long to get what he wants. If you've progressed gradually through the training steps and haven't done too much too fast, you'll be less likely to encounter this problem. If the problem becomes unmanageable, you may need to start the crate training process over again.
This morning when I put Leeloo's breakfast down and she went in and I shut the door, but she didn't eat. This time instead of leaving her in there the 5-10min and then releasing her I just let her out when she calmly indicated she was ready. Then I took the food dish out and set it on top of the crate and left the door open. The prior two days she was going back in and eating with the door open until someone noticed on occasion. After 20min she went looking for her breakfast and I put the bowl back in. She went in and ate with door closed at that point. Mental note: this is the way to go. Hopefully, if we play our cards right during the day (when she almost never whines or cries with the door shut) and make a few adjustments at night maybe she'll do better.
Although letting her "cry it out" was suggested most of my research indicates it simply isn't necessary if you do it right. They say crying indicates you increased time with the door shut too quickly and to just back up a bit. They also suggest a little crying the "first few" nights is ok. Which implies to me she'll be done fussing after a week of this. It's hard, just as hard as listening to Riley cry when she was 2mos old. At this point all though we were ready to, as dawn found us with more fingers on one hand than hours of sleep, give up we will persevere. I worry about her getting bigger and harder to contain at night and getting hurt. Parenting is so hard even when it's a furry baby. Wish us a peaceful night.