Sunday, June 19, 2011

How To Crate Train Your Dog Without Really Crying

We had to make one of the toughest decisions I've faced as a not-quite-parent. We had to start crate training Bea.

Her separation anxiety has gotten to the point where we can't go in another room without her crying. Luckily our apartment only has two rooms. But she's got to be in the same one with us.

We've been fairly strict not-quite-parents. We don't let her sleep in our bed, and we don't even let her on the couch anymore. But we have to step it up a notch if we want this dog to be a well adjusted mutt. I've thought about reading 'Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother' for inspiration.

I was gone through yesterday afternoon, so Sara did a bunch of crate training without me. Sara took Bea's favorite toys, food, and treats, and only gave them to Bea inside the crate. The hardest part is that Bea also only gets attention in the crate. So we are no longer allowed to pet her, smile at her, even look at her unless she's in her crate. She's got to learn to love it there. It will be good for her in the long run, but it is killing us in the short term. It's like 80s music when it first came out.

After a day and a half of terrible travel, including three fat people next to me on planes and four hours of sleep spread over two nights, all I wanted to do was come home and love my dog. But I could not. My job was to leave her in her crate until she calmed down, then walk her and ignore her. I feel like a deadbeat dad.

I know that it's good for her, but it is hard on us. Both Sara and I melt when Bea looks at us with her wide eyes and wants to play, but we can't unless she's in the crate. She has to learn that her crate is a wonderful place, filled with love and chicken flavored dog treats.

How do you ignore this?

It is incredibly hard to go through this process - we feel like we're being cruel to her. But I got a great reminder of why we're doing it on one of my flights. There was a small child with the volume of a large village shrieking at her mother that she wanted her toys. That reminded me of two things: one, we are doing this so that Bea can be well behaved, independent, and a pleasure to be around. Two, we don't want kids.

Another disappointing piece of this process is Sara has chosen the word "house" for Bea's crate. Every time I'm watching TV and Sara says "house!" I think she's telling me there's a new episode on our Tivo. Only to set myself up for disappointment.

Today is my niece's Bat Mitzvah, so we dropped Bea off with Sara's aunt and drove to Long Island. My first Father's Day and I've sent my daughter away. No wonder she didn't get me anything.

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