I now had a dog walker. I had a plastic crate on loan from my mother. I had purchased several towels (not a good idea – Ayla ripped through those) and fleece baby blankets (good idea, she leaves these alone) from Goodwill for bedding. And I had just picked up my puppy.
I had a friend who had been texting me during the day asking why I hadn’t sent any pictures. I got two blurry pictures of Ayla on my rug the first day, but then it was about a week until I snapped the sweater picture.
If I was holding my camera snapping pictures, I wasn’t petting, playing, or wearing out my puppy and that was a waste of my energy. During the first week, it was a major success for me if I managed to make myself a hot dinner and or vacuum up the confetti of shredded cardboard in between devoting my attention to my puppy.
But back to crate training…if you have the time to ease your puppy into the crate training process with games and positive reinforcement, you should probably do it that way. However, as a single working pup parent, the advice I’d been given by my friend with the Corgi was to immediately jump into your work routine. She got her Corgi on a Saturday, so on Sunday, she packed up her second dog, put her Corgi in a crate, and left her home for a few hours. The Corgi did much better in it’s crate than Ayla did during our initial crate training.
My plan had been to follow in my Corgi friend’s footsteps and go out for a few hours and do groceries, but that didn’t happen. In part, this was because I barely got any sleep that first night.
After getting Ayla home that first day, I began to wonder if my loaner crate was too big. When curled in a ball, Ayla took up about 1/5 of the crate. In general, I’ve read that your crate should be big enough for your pup to stand, turn around, and lie down, thus making it a bed that they’d prefer not to wet. I tried to leave Ayla home that evening to go get a smaller crate, but she made such a fuss that I popped her in the crate in the car and took her with me to Petco. She didn’t have her immunizations yet, so I left her in the car with the windows cracked since it was a cool night.
I joke with my breeder that I now understood why you see commercials with parents driving around with babies asleep in the backseat, because when I came back out 10 minutes later Ayla was asleep.
My breeder had recommended that I put her crate next to my bed at night. This is a popular recommendation and one that many of my other dog owning friends have followed successfully. The rationale is that it allows your dog to be comforted by the fact that you are nearby, and it allows you to hear them whine if they have to go out to use the bathroom. This did not work for me and Ayla.
Ayla really hated being confined in her crate. It did not matter that I was right next to her. She let me know very loudly that she WAS UNHAPPY & DID NOT WANT TO BE IN THIS CRATE. The first few times she cried, I got up to let her outside in case she was crying to use the bathroom. However, German Pinschers are known to be a little manipulative and this set a precedent where she kept crying because she wanted out. I tried to coo and give her treats at her when she was quiet and being good, but her reaction was more along the lines of OH YOU ARE AWAKE! I DO NOT WANT TO BE IN HERE. LET ME OUT!
We went to bed at 9PM. She wailed all night, except for two hours. Unfortunately, this left me with two major issues. My first issue was that I live in a townhouse and I was highly concerned that my neighbors might be able to hear my little banshee. My second issue is that typically I am the kind of person who needs 9 hours of sleep, and I have a condition that makes me extra tired, so 2 hours was especially bad. Around 3AM, I started panicking about the noise and put Ayla’s crate in my master bath, which muted the wailing a little, but not a lot. I got up at 5AM, took her out for a pee, then put her back in, grabbed a blanket from the bed, and went to sleep on the floor in front of her crate for another hour.
I think the breeder knew that first night was going to be rough, because the next morning she texted me to ask if I’d gotten any sleep. She also suggested I practice through the day warming Ayla up to the crate. This activity involved putting Ayla in the crate and when she stopped crying for 10 minutes, take her out for a bit, and reward her. Then increase to 20 minutes of silence for a reward. Well. I never go to 20 minutes. This is about when I called my mother in tears. My mom listened patiently, gave me her two cents, and then I gave up the exercise until I had to do groceries than evening. I had a hard time driving away, because I just didn’t know what to do – I could hear Ayla in the house bawling. Luckily, my breeder was still trying to help me adjust and had called up the Maryland breeder for further suggestions, and I was given a plan.