Friday, January 13, 2012

Thank goodness for the Thundershirt!

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Pooch (not her real name!), our boxer dog, is about 3 years old. Actually, she will be three in May. We, like many people, crate trained her. We only used the crate when she was a very little puppy to sleep at night, and we used it when we left our house. She was easily house broken- we only had minimal accidents when she was a puppy. We never used the crate for punishment because we did not want it to have mixed messages. That being said, Pooch went into her crate without any issues, however, I would have liked her to use it more willingly. By that, I mean that I would have liked her to go into her crate, by choice, other than when we were just leaving the house. Now, she sleeps with us, or on the floor next to us, and we still use the crate when we leave the house.

We've tried, on multiple occasions, to leave Pooch out when we headed out to run errands. We've tried short periods like 5-10 minutes, but we had no luck. Within such a short amount of time, Pooch managed to chew books, chew knitting needs, unwind a whole ball of yarn, chew on the end of the coffee table, among other things. Now, we were warned that boxers tend to take longer to be able to be left loose- that's just who they are. And boy, were they right! They just take time to mature. I also attributed it to separation anxiety because she would start to whimper, pace, and get anxious when we were going through our typical routine of getting ready to leave.

Well, a few months ago, I saw a commercial for the Thundershirt- I describe it to people like a hug vest, or a weighted vest. I could not wait to get it on her to try it out. We bought special treats to give her, only when we put her hug vest on. I read all of the instructions, and we decided to just get her used to wearing the shirt while we were home, just hanging out. After a few times of this, Christmas happened, and my plans of beginning to leave her run loose at home got put on hold because our schedules were all out of whack. Well, these last two weeks, I have again began the process of trying to get pooch to be able to stay home out of the crate, while hubby and I are gone.

Within the last two weeks, we have gone from no time out of the crate, to 2 hours and 15 minutes at one time, and we have done a total of 4 hours in one day! I am so excited by this, but I am afraid to truly get my hopes up until we can go for a whole work day without having to crate her at all! Thanks to the Thundershirt, and Pooch's Kong, we are slowly making progress towards no crate! We fill the kong with peanut butter, wrap her in her shirt, give her a special treat, and head out the door while she is otherwise preoccupied! Thanks Thundershirt and Kong!

How have you trained dogs to be left loose while you are away from home?

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