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Dear Inquisitive Canine (December 2011)

Joan Mayer on December 23, 2011

Dear Inquisitive Canine,

Hellooo, my name is Hazel and I have a question. I am an 18-month-old crazy retriever mix – a little Chessie, Golden and Lab all rolled into one.  I think I am pretty smart, and I am definitely cute. I have been crate trained, but want to move to a nice comfy bed without borders.

The problem is that my people aren’t sure I can be trusted not to chew things in the middle of the night, including wallets, cell phones, TV remotes and sunglasses. (And books because I LOVE paper). I’m also quite adept at standing on my hind legs and grabbing stuff off shelves and tables.

I have a dog friend in the house. She is 17 years old and has a special bed in the people’s room.  Do you think I can be trained to sleep in my own bed, in the room with my people and leave my crate behind?  Or maybe I could even have my bed in the boy’s room – my boy is 9 and he has lots of toys, but I would love to sleep in his room too. Can you or Poncho help?

Arf! -Hazel

Dear Miss. Hazel,

Poncho the dog here. Thank you for taking the time to write in. You sound like one fun-loving energetic pup who has taken her retrieving skills to the limit! It also appears you are quite clever; first at figuring out what you want, then taking steps towards getting it. You’re quite the problem solver! If I’m ever in the position to hire an assistant I’ll contact you first.

I see that you have a couple of matters you’d like to deal with. First that you want to move out of your crate and into a bed which offers a little more freedom, while still being able to be with your humans. And secondly that sometimes having too much freedom can lead you into temptation.

After consulting with my mom, we decided I would go over the “moving into a grown-up bed” pointers since I learned the same thing when mom and dad brought me home. Being a certified professional dog trainer she also teaches these same strategies in her dog training classes.

There are a few ways your folks can help you transition to a “grown-up bed” with ease. Have them read through these dog training tips, then choose the one that best suites your situation. Additionally, visit my dog training blog for an overview of the important do’s and don’ts for crate training.

Additionally, you’ll want to remind your humans to do some dress rehearsals before everyone wants to go to sleep. You can practice with the following training exercises:

Plan A

  • Your New Bed Plus a Leash: Have your folks choose a designated area (their room or the boys room) along with what you’re going to sleep on. Make sure it’s next to a large piece of heavy furniture such as their human bed or dresser. They’ll also want to keep you close to their bed so they can give you a treat for staying on your bed and being quiet. It’s important that they reward you to reinforce desired behaviors so you’re more likely to repeat them even when you’re not training. They can then use a comfy harness and leash, and tether you to the specific piece of furniture to help prevent you from wandering off. Keep in mind though, that it’s best to attach the leash to a harness and not a flat collar - helps prevent choking and other mishaps.
  • Once you get the idea of sleeping in a different room and on your bed, they can remove the tether. If you decide to go wandering in the night, then they can hitch you back up.

Plan B

  • From Crate-to-Bed: In case it’s too much of an abrupt transition, instead of the tether they can use your crate for management. Begin by sleeping in your crate but in the room of choice. Either your people’s room along with your sibling, or in the boy’s room. (Or both eventually). This way they can manage your environment to help prevent you from wandering while you get used to your new sleeping arrangements.
  • Once they determine that you can sleep through the night, they can either leave the door to the crate open or go to Plan A - using the tether.

More often than not, us adult dogs are able to sleep through the night and understand that when it’s bedtime it’s bedtime. If you haven’t displayed behaviors that say otherwise, then this should be an easy transition. If you are the type of doggy that would enjoy playing all night long, then they’ll definitely want to use some of the above recommendations along with the following dog training tips:

  • Reward you with petting, praise and even a treat whenever you’re lying on your bed minding your manners.
  • Make sure you have gone potty and have had enough mental and physical enrichment during the day to help motivate you to want to sleep all night long and not go on an evening excursion.
  • Keep bedroom doors closed, especially once you’re without the tether.
  • Inform other family members they should make it quiet time when going to bed, and to refrain from playing so as not to get you all riled up. They can even read you a bedtime story, which is one of the various fun and effective activities recommended in the Out of the Box Dog Training Game.

As for the latter issue of rummaging throughout the house, we suggest you and your folks check out this Dear Inquisitive Canine post about a similar canine who enjoys counter-surfing and creating scavenger hunts.You’re sure to find some handy management and dog training tips that will help set you all up for success.

Segueing from a crate to a grown-up bed is a big step. But with management of your environment, teaching you what they want, and practicing beforehand, it is one that can go smoothly.

Dear Inquisitive Canine is written by Joan Mayer and her trusty sidekick Poncho. Joan is a certified professional dog trainer and human-canine relationship coach. Poncho is a ten-pound mutt that knows a lot about human and canine behavior. Their column is known for its simple common sense approach to dog training and behavior, as well as its entertaining insight into implementing proven techniques that reward both owner and dog. Joan is also the founder of the Inquisitive Canine and developer of the Out of the Box Dog Training Game, where her love-of-dog training approach highlights the importance of understanding canine behavior. If you or your dog have questions about behavior, training or life with each other, please email them directly.

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