We had talked about getting a dog on our first date.
Having a dog, eventually, was the reason we scouted out apartments with a dog park in or attached to the building. We were so ready and so passionate about it that we bought every imaginable supply, toy, training tool before even getting a dog. We grinned as PAWS checked off their questionnaire list and tested our preparation. I was lucky enough to have a month between jobs which meant that I was going to spend all that time dedicated to training this dog. But nothing could have emotionally prepared me for having a brand new puppy.
We loved her instantly. She was small and sweet, scared of her own reflection and fell asleep as soon as we got home. She was ours.
After reading about a million articles on crate training, and determined to have her potty trained and not sleeping in the bed with us, I felt prepared to let her cry it out that first night (and any night that followed).
**Rule of thumb, for puppies, is that however many months old they are +1 is how often they should go outside.
We got Mimi when she was 3 months old, so we took her out every 4 hours.
Like clock work.
Even in the middle of the night.
During the day, I had a routine. It was draining, emotionally and physically but in the two years we've had her she's had 4 accidents, all in the first two weeks and has absolutely no issue with her crate.
**You want to make sure that your pup has enough room to stand up and turn around in the crate, but not enough room to use half the crate as a bathroom and sleep comfortably on the other.
15 minutes in the crate. (You in a different room, probably curled up in a ball crying)
Outside for a potty break.
Half hour of play time. (Lots of treats, with little bit of training thrown in).
Right back into the crate. If puppy falls asleep, let it sleep! You get to sleep! Eat! Drink a glass of wine. Call your husband and beg for human conversation while he's busy at work.
Max out the nap before the age +1 time limit and move to Step 2.
If puppy is not asleep, wait the 15 minutes and then move immediately to Step 2.
Repeat. all. day. Every. day.
I did this. Me. Every day. For a month.
Important things to note that helped me stay sane during that month
- She stopped howling at night after the first 3 nights.
- This beginning suffering for me would result in her having a sense of structure, stability while letting me and my husband establish order.
- A crate is meant to be a dogs safe space, her fussing was because she didn't get her way, and me giving in to her fussing would only deter that safe space.
- When she was out of her crate for her potty break and playtime she was happy, tail wagging, playful and alert.
- Every day there was progress and every day it was easier to leave her for those 15 minutes & those naps.