Lessons in Puppy Ownership: Crate Training is Grating

Olive was unimpressed with her grooming experience Monday at PetSmart. Her hair was straightened and she was given a bandana, leaving her feeling altogether violated.

We’ve decided to crate train our four-month old goldendoodle because we’d like to contain the pee-and-poop storm for the time being. Dogs are, after all, den-dwelling creatures, so the sooner we can get acclimated to a crate, the better.

Olive thinks otherwise. Olive thinks her kennel is Rikers Island. Olive thinks she’s being thrown in solitary confinement without proper cause. So, she, likes most puppies who are crate trained, whines until she collapses from exhaustion.

According to several videos on YouTube – which yes, has been a surprisingly regular source for puppy training advice – it’s important to ignore whining as a puppy gets used to being left alone in their crate. They whine because they miss their pack – in this case, Olive misses me and my girlfriend. If we respond to the whining, she’ll think it works. It’s like ignoring a fire alarm hoping the fire just goes out on its own.

Olive’s whining tests my psyche in ways I never knew possible. Last night, I broke out in hives. On her second night in the crate, I nearly went Jack Torrance in The Shining. It goes against my every last instinct to ignore something that’s in distress. Each night, as she whines herself to a coma, I think, “Shit. The zombies are here.”

To her credit, Olive’s whine game is top notch. When barking doesn’t work, she’ll start to channel other animal sounds – a cat, a llama, a goat, a rooster, a zebra, an ostrich. She crows. She yodels. She howls. She whimpers. She yells. She coos. At times, she sounds like she can breathe fire. At other times, she sounds like she’s about to combust.

These are the joys of owning a puppy. For every puddle of pee we have to clean up, just when we think she’s out to sabotage our apartment lease by way of rancid urine, she’ll do something worthy of our forgiveness. She understands when the leash is on that we’re going for a walk, and where she once would play dead and drag along the frozen sidewalks, she now walks at our side. She knows tug of war now. She’ll roll onto her back and let you pet her stomach.

She’s learning. As dog years go, these must just be the terrible twos.

Last night, I wanted nothing more than to sit on a heating pad while eating pretzels with peanut butter and jelly and watching the Vikings-Giants game. Olive wanted to play. She also wanted to sniff every odd corner of our apartment, looking for fallen food or treats, ultimately settling for dust bunnies and crumbs, forcing me to yank debris out of her mouth every three minutes. I’m always concerned she’s looking for a shoe to poop in or a dark-colored shirt to pee on so that one of these mornings we’re left with a little surprise.

She’s a surly little bastard, and she’s curious about her strange new home, her strange new owners and her strange new crate. I’m fine with that. I just wish she would be a little quieter about it.

Someday.

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Lessons in Puppy Ownership: Yeah, They Whine – A Lot

Beth, Olive and I pose for our — I guess — first family Christmas photo.

My dog would rather I wasn’t blogging right now. Each time she hears me tapping at the keyboard, she pokes her head between my legs and starts to whine. It’s all about her, obviously.

And so is this post. Beth and I have owned a goldendoodle puppy now for less than a week, but she’s already come to know us as:

  • The people who pick up her poop with a grocery bag.
  • The people who use soft, high-pitched voices to say, “Good girl, Olive! Good potty!”
  • The people who lay awake, rigidly, desperately trying to maintain sanity as she whines and barks when we put her in her crate at night.
  • The people who give her food and water, but never enough of it.
  • The people who put her on a string and pull her around the block.

Olive is a sweet, slight dog. She doesn’t clumsily run around the house, scratching up our wood floors. Her accidents have been few and far between, usually a matter of us missing signs she needs to go out or a result of her afternoon freak-out session after Beth’s put her in the crate. She’s getting good at tricks like “sit” and “fetch.” Most impressively, she hasn’t pooped indoors — yet.

But nighttime. That’s when things get dicey. We chose to crate train Olive because we knew there would be hours out of the day we wouldn’t be home, and she needed a place she felt was hers. She’s ever-so-slowly taking to domestic life, but not without a fight. A loud one, at that.

As living arrangements go, ours are not ideal for raising a whiny puppy. We’ve been putting her to bed at 10 p.m., knowing she’ll throw a fit before collapsing in exhaustion. The hard part is knowing above us lives a first-year law student and a first-year graduate student who are quickly coming up on finals. We lay in bed, ignoring the whines as we’re supposed to, but both picturing the neighbors above plotting to help Olive escape.

Maybe now wasn’t the best time to get a puppy.

But when would it ever be the “right” time to get a puppy? We’re always going to be employed or we’re always going to have vacations scheduled or money issues or unforeseen life obstacles. Throughout this process, we’ve shot down any doubt by reasoning dumber people have owned happy dogs.

At least I hope that’s the case.