“The Crate” Or How Urban Legends Get Started

“The Crate” Or How Urban Legends Get Started

The weather has been stellar in Chicago this week and the neighborhood kids have started emerging from their houses to play together outside.  Our house tends to be party central for K and two of her neighborhood buddies. Here is living proof that sometimes spending too much time with her mother can get K into some hot water:

Neighborhood Girl (NG): Mrs. K?  What do you put in that giant metal cage* you keep in your basement?

(*Note: We lock our dog in the crate for her safety when we are not in the house.  She get’s too nervous if she is left alone and the vet recommended it.)

Me: Oh?  That thing?  We put K in there when she is misbehaving.  It’s perfectly safe.

NG:  (To K) Is that true?  Does your mom really lock you in that cage?

K:  Oh yeah!  Tons of times!  (Whispering to her friend) I think that she likes to put me in there.

NG:  Uh, Mrs. K?  I think I hear my mother calling me to come home for dinner.

(Note: It was 3:00 in the afternoon.  Unless it’s a holiday, who has dinner at 3:00?)

Yup.  I wonder if NG will be venturing over to my house any time soon?  If you know my daughter, husband or me, you also know that there is NO WAY that K WOULD EVER be locked in a cage!  As if!  She’d figure out how to get out of it in 5 minutes!  🙂

A Dog & Her Crate

Now, her locking me in the cage, well, that is another story.  Just Kidding!

Can you really teach on old dog new tricks?

Maya in the Snow

A month or so ago, friends of ours came over for dinner.  After several glasses of wine, the conversation inevitably focused on the dog and my frustration with her immense dislike of other dogs.  Of course everyone had an opinion on the best way to curtail this behavior.

If you have every had a pet who has a nasty habit, albeit humping strangers’ legs, barking incessantly at its shadow or scratching its butt by dragging it across the carpeted floor, then you know that any criticism is taken personally.  Well, at least I did/do. So, while offering advice and labeling it as “we were just trying to help” our friends innocently stepped in it with me, and told me that I needed to get a prong collar.

I am DEAD SET against these collars!  They look like a torture tool and I promised myself that I would NEVER buy one.  So, of course, I reacted defensively and passionately when they offered their opinion.  My reaction was so severe that I seriously thought my husband was going to kick me in the shins to get me to stop “attacking” our friend’s opinion. In the interim, when not recommending the torture necklace, they told me that spending upwards of $500 was too much to pay for one on one training for a “Dog Whisper.” The evening, needless to say, did not end well.

The next day, one of my friends called and, after asking me if I had recovered, suggested that I call a canine training facility in Grey’s Lake, IL: TOPS. http://www.tops-k9.com/ TOPS is well known for training police dogs.  If anyone can get through to Maya and tell me if she was a lost cause, my friend said that these trainers would. She urged me to stop contacting dog trainers and call TOPS.  But I still wasn’t convinced that this was the answer to my dilemma.

After taking Maya to PetSmart the next weekend and watching her charge at anything with four legs, I decided that I needed to call TOPS.  They set up an appointment with their lead trainer, Luis.  Last Friday, the family, the dog and I drive the hour north to Greys Lake and placed the fate of our dog in the hands of this stranger.

Would he be able to train our dog and allow us the ability to take walks during the light of day?  Or would we be destined to walk Maya at off hours and late at night to avoid any interactions with the neighbors and their seemingly friendly pets?

Let’s just say that the sign telling us to LEAVE THE DOG IN THE CAR PRIOR TO CHECKING INTO THE OFFICE told me that we were not alone.  It was a relief that there were other families encountering the same problem with their dogs that we were. So, I left Maya in the car and checked in. The trainer, Luis, was quite unassuming, grabbed a leather leash and, of course, a prong collar, and told me to get the dog.

To say that she was pulling and lunging as I took her out of the car is an understatement.  Maya was out for blood!  She wanted to attack all the dogs hanging out in the facility; and the blisters on my hands proved that she almost did. But the minute (the second really) that Luis put that collar and leash on my dog, and quickly but sharply pulled up on the collar, Maya stopped lunging and growling.  She was a different dog. She didn’t cry out in pain or growl at Luis; she just ceased being aggressive.

He took her into the training center, where yes, there were other dogs, and at first she tried to lunge at the other dogs.  With one quick pull (no yelling) and the command to sit, Maya learned to stop being (his words)” a bully”.  By the end of the hour, Maya could not only be in the same room as other dogs, she could walk in front of them without even giving the dogs a second glance. The prong collar worked and my dog was not in pain.  She just stopped the abhorrent behavior. And I purchased the collar and leather leash on the spot.  Thoughts of torture left my mind as visions of communal neighborhood picnics flooded it.  If the pronged collar meant that we would no longer be pariahs.

And so, it is time that I admit that I was wrong.  Yes, E & J, I have admitted it: You were both right and I was wrong.  Had I listened to your advice in the first place, I would have saved myself the many (now healing) blisters and embarrassing moments with my dog.  Thank you for getting me to the right place.  You saved me quite a bit of $$ and my ego.  And for these gifts, I am grateful.  What better way to show my appreciation than to publicly announce that I was wrong and should have listened to you.

Now, any recommendations for how to get the dog to stop crapping in the house? 🙂