Sunday, September 2, 2007

The Trials and Tribulations of "Troubles"

(Note: Along with PBRC's News and Views, we'd like to present The Pit Bull Experience as seen through the eyes of our volunteers. Below is the first such story from Nely about her "Troubles.")

The background to the super cage:

Troubles has broken out of 3 crates. One of them was said to be a super strong crate. The manager at the dog supply place assured me it was just the thing for a strong, separation anxiety dog like Troubles. I had it specially ordered and.... about a couple months or so later, she was out of it. *SIGH*

She has either pulled the bars apart (she's so good about finding a "weak" spot) and in one case, she chewed up the pan and then somehow was able to open a space at the bottom (since the pan wasn't there). She has hurt herself numerous times. It's embarrassing - it looks like I have an abused dog or like she has been in a fight. She even broke a tooth.

She drooled and whined and shook and panted and panted. But if she were out, she would be destructive. Not every time but we had lost enough couches, window blinds, etc, etc to take chances! Not to mention how much safer it is for a dog to be in a crate in case someone breaks in or for some reason... you have a boyfriend who doesn't always close the door all the way and then you would worry about the dog getting out.... but I digress...

I was flipping through the PetEdge catalog and saw a crate that was advertised as "the Alcatraz of dog crates" and the picture showed a pit bull inside a crate that looked like you could keep a tiger in -- PERFECT!

It was expensive, but it was SO WORTH IT. If I had only found that before the other crates she destroyed, it would have been much more affordable! This Hannibal Lecter crate is so well built. Super strong and the bars are thick and rounded (Troubles can't hurt herself!). The pan is steel so she can't chew it and it's UNDER another set of rounded bars on the bottom! There are 2 sizes only. The smaller size is appropriate for a pit bull but I had a sneaking suspicion that Troubles was claustrophobic... she was OK in the other crates UNTIL you shut the door. So I got her the bigger size, so it's nice and roomy. She has blankets in there and she can pace and spread out.

It's my fault for waiting until she was an adult to crate train her and I tried for so long that I gave up a couple times and then started again later. It seemed like she would NEVER be crate trained. She is so difficult and anxious. She just freaks out.

But it happened! With time and patience, of course. I went through all the normal crate training and calming routines. The separation anxiety things that I usually do. I also incorporated more training sessions which even though have nothing to do with the crate, helps. More NFL-type of things in normal life. More ignoring the crying and barking. More walks and me getting in the crate non-chalantly to get her interested. Eventually she got to the point that she is today. She will sometimes pant and cry and shake and drool.... only while we are still in the house. And if she can hear us outside. But when she doesn't see or hear us anymore, she is fine. We have snuck back to the house (we leave the radio on for her so she couldn't hear us) and peeked in the window to see her perfectly fine. Sometimes laying down and sleeping, sometimes just sitting there. But fine. No anxiety behavior. Lots of the time, if it's during a normal routine time like me going to work, she's OK when she can still see me. She goes into the crate willingly. She actually seems to like it and she goes to it expectantly because I always put a "surprise" in there for her ( a treat). She goes into it regularly just to get a "good girl" or a treat.

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