Hoping to get some advice on Crate or, more so, Pen training for my new 8-9 week old Australian shepherd pup (I have read through a lot of guides, but would like to hear others' experiences also)
TL;DR: Am I doing this right/have you guys had similar experiences? My 8-9 week old Australian Shepherd puppy cries and shrieks the entire time she is awake while I am gone during the day despite adequate space, toys and food... and 2 or 3 visits throughout the day (never left alone for more than 3 hours at a time).
Indie (Short for Indigo) came home about 6 days ago, adopted from a family friend’s farm where her parents and extended family all live. She was born on March 7th, so she is only about 9 weeks old. She has been an adorable pleasure and is already lighting up my life. I just wanted to get people’s takes on training her to calm down while left in the pen during the day.
I have done a lot of reading and research, and have also fostered young pups in the past, so have some experience and I think I am doing things correctly for the most part – but would love to hear advice/other people’s experiences. I want to make sure I am not causing her unnecessary distress, and that the current set-up is conducive to proper development, independence, and no separation anxiety.
Current set-up during the DAYTIME:
- X-Large Exercise Pen attached to her Crate, not near any outlets or anything she should get to but in the living room downstairs where most of the activity in the apartment takes place
- Pen is far too tall for her to get out and is secured with dumbbells
- Pen has a dog bed in it, a bowl of water, some safe, chewable toys, a pee pad in case she has to relieve herself, and some treat stuffed brain-training toys
- Pen is attached to Crate which is covered securely with a crate cover to keep it dark and den-like, and inside are some of her safe, chewable toys and a heartbeat simulating toy for her to cuddle with
Set-up for NIGHTTIME:
- Larger crate upstairs in my bedroom – bigger for when she gets older, but currently with a divider to keep the size compact, comfortable, and den-like and similar to the size of her crate downstairs
- Crate is not right next to the bed but is kept in the corner where she could still smell/sense my presence
- Crate is lined with a chew-resistant, plush crate liner
- Keep some of her favorite chew-resistant toys and heartbeat simulating toy for her to cuddle with at night
Here is how I am handling the Crate/Pen TRAINING so far:
- Never use the crate or pen as a punishment
- Always making the pen and crate an inviting and happy place that she associates with treats, extra petting, and calming praise
- Get in the pen with her throughout the day and play with her in there so she knows this is her place
- Always feed her in the crate attached to the pen (and make sure to pet her during some feeding sessions so she doesn’t get territorial of her food) – so she associates her crate with good food, pets, and positivity
- Never force her in and shut the door – always make sure she goes into the crate/pen on her own volition
- Always make sure to tire her out and get her relaxed / calm before closing the door – never close the door while she is restless/wants out
- NEVER respond to whines, whimpers, or yelps when she wants to get out of the pen/crate setup downstairs – I don’t coddle her or comfort her when she whimpers, and I do let her know that I don’t like when she lets out loud barks/shrieks (can’t have this happening throughout the day because we share walls on both sides of our condo)
- Always make sure to give her calm praise and “good girl”’s when she is quiet and relaxed in her pen/crate
- Try to leave her in there throughout the day when I’m going about my business and praise her when she is quiet and relaxed, so she knows she doesn’t own the whole house and that the pen is HER place
As I mentioned above, I check In on her with a camera during the day and it appears that if she is awake, she is constantly whining, barking, shrieking, and pacing around her pen during the day. She has come a long way since day one in terms of crate time at night. She is now quiet instead of crying for a half hour and waking up/getting scared throughout the night. She only wakes up to relieve herself. My concern is the pen/crate setup during the day and the crying, shrieking, and restless pacing. She can do this for up to an hour and a half at a time until she tires herself out and falls asleep. She usually ends up sleeping in the middle of the pen on the hardwood floor rather than in her comfortable crate for some reason. I wonder/worry that this could be bad for her to be crying for that long, but I also read that this is normal and should subside after time passes. I am hoping she will grow out of it and get used to it. I also don’t plan on keeping her in a pen like this as an adult, but for now while she is a young puppy I wouldn’t want her to somehow get something dangerous to her (i.e. swallow a piece of the rug, bite off cloth /material from the couch and get a blockage, etc.) Eventually she will be trained and can have free roam of the doggy-proofed apartment, but for now, I don’t want to risk it.
Any advice, input, or shared experiences would be greatly appreciated! Is the pen attached to the crate an okay setup? Is there a way I can train her better to accept the pen/crate during the day and calm down a bit? Should I be doing something different? How long did it take for your pups to relax a little while left at home alone for 2-3 hours?
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