Tuesday, October 18, 2011

"Kennel, Kennel"

I was talking to a friend today and telling him about our Asha and all the mayhem that has ensued since her arrival at our home. As I was telling him, he said "You can't make this shit up". I told him how exhausted we have been, overwhelmed, wondering what the hell we got ourselves into, how we can survive this, is this our new normal? He and his wife had twins about 18 months ago and he said "you just described how I feel every single day". It was good to know that I am not alone. So many times, I feel like the rest of the world has it together and wonder what is wrong with me because I don't.

I read an article about the Mayor of New York and his dogs, how one day, they got out of their gated area in the kitchen and destroyed things. Its nice to hear that even powerful people can't control their dogs all of the time.

When I stop and really think about it, we have made HUGE progress with Asha. She sleeps through the night, doesn't pee and poop so much in the house, is calm in the mornings and in the evenings and is doing pretty well on walks. She still barks uncontrolably during certain times of the day and can be very destructive when we leave her at home alone.

Our other two dogs are crate trained. They LOVE their crates. When its time for bed or for us to leave, we say "kennel, kennel" and they run to go upstairs, go right into their kennels and lay down. I love that about them. I don't have to worry about leaving them alone, they are content to be in their kennels whenever necessary. I know that they are safe there.

Asha, well, she's a different story. When we first brought her home, 3 months ago, we attempted to put her in a kennel. She went nuts. One of the big issues she had in the shelter and in foster care was her anxiety - she would spin in a tight circle and bark like crazy. We worked very hard to break her of that habit. When we put her in the crate or in a smaller room like the bathroom or laundry room, she would start the spinning again. It seemed that any progress we would make with her would go away after she was confined. We decided it would be better to let her roam free than to cause her any more damage. She was also having seizures and the anxiety seemed to be a trigger.

Its been three months and it is really time to get her crate trained. There are several reasons for that - the first is the amount of destruction she has done in our home. Its not her fault, its totally our fault. I know that and it actually makes me feel worse about it. I just didn't know what to do about it. I've talked before about all the things she has done. For about a week she did great, no destruction. Then, last week, the full moon came and it set her off (at least that is what I am blaming). She started chewing on things again. So I sprayed all her favorite spots to chew with bitter apple. That made her angry and so she found new things to chew on. Last night I came home and she had torn the molding off the laundry room door and moved it into the TV room to chew on the ends. It was an 8 foot long piece of wood. I need a camera at home to see how these things happen.

I worry about her safety more than anything. Our stuff is just our stuff, sure I'd prefer it not be destroyed, but I really prefer that Asha stay safe.

We have a dog trainer who comes once a week and today we started to work on crate training. Our trainer believes it should be pretty easy to get Asha comfortable with being in her crate. After our first session today, I believe that too. It will take time, but I feel like it is possible.

Training is actually pretty awesome for Asha. We take a bone, a super yummy special bone and she only gets it when she is in the kennel. That makes the kennel a happy place for her, not a punishment. We put her in there with her bone for 10 or 15 minutes at a time and when she wants out, she gets out. We did that a couple times today and it seemed to work well. I am also hoping that the time spent focused solely on chewing that bone will exhaust her chew muscles and so she won't have to chew on the woodwork, wires, books, picture frames, etc.

Here she is in her spacious kennel, if you look closely you can see she has her bone and the door isn't shut.
These are just the first steps, there's lots more work to do.

I worry about her. Heck, I worry about all of them. I don't want any of our animals to be sad or lonely for even a second. I know that's not realistic, but that's my goal - total happiness. We are getting closer to that, it is just requiring a lot of work. Now that we have asked for help and have a great dog trainer, I believe the progress will come much more quickly. Asha will never be able to hear us say "kennel, kennel" like the other two, but we'll come up with a sign for that and hopefully she'll run to get in her kennel too. To me, that would be a dream come true....

1 comment:

Tiffa said...

For sidney, we call it "bedtime". We Only put her in there when we eat or are cleaning and we even left the door off now. She loves to get praised for going in there, but sometimes she will try to sneak out (especially if food is involved). Good luck with crate training Asha! It was a lifesaver for our patience for Sidney's first 18 months