I have a pretty good track record of crate training our rescue dogs. It does not take long at all. They are all crate trained on day one. All but Tasha,Tasha the husky is different. Socializing this complelty wild pack dog was not going to start with crate training.
Successful feral dogs are independent, resourcesful thinkers and are usually good at making their own decisions. There are pros and cons to that. You are never going to get Tasha to do anything she does not want to do. Treats don’t work, they actually make her more suspicious and less likely to co-operate. She analyzes everything. She can not be tricked or bribed; she has to give you complete buy in before she will do whatever it is that you want.
At Gypsy Dog Ops, we’re big fans of learning by example and of taking advantage of a dog’s innate curiosity and need to be part of a pack. When we bring in rescue dogs, the house dogs generally teach the new guy the ropes. We have a herder in the group that helps keeps everyone in line. Chankla loves to show off and show the new guys the ropes. This method involves a lot of monkey see, monkey do.
The monkey see monkey do helps the dogs learn the ropes from everything from how to jump on the dog house, to who to bark at, and how to get in line for your treats. It’s a pretty good system. If the other guys are doing it and seem to really, really like it, the new guy tries it out. It’s how they all learned to eat carrots and green apples.
At first, the street dogs spit out the carrots and look at you like you just fed them poison. Around the third time the other dogs eat up the new guy’s carrots, they change their minds and start eating and enjoying carrots too! All the dogs get in line for carrots, apples, and vegan spinach Pirate Booty as if you were serving a big raw steak.
So I wondered how you could apply this thinking to training our feral husky to crate train. Tasha has an amazing ability to NOT be anywhere she does not want to be – to the point of injury. She has seen all the other dogs use their crates. She knows that they like their crate, she has seen me go in the crate with her… So, how do you make a kennel a desirable place? How do I get her have fun in their?
I had heard an interesting story on NPR about getting people to change their behavior and it made me think about Tasha more. The NPR piece summarizes an experiment at hotels to see what would make people more likely to re-use their towels. Here’s my overly simplistic summary: people do what other people are doing in certain situations. Like when you go to the library, everyone is quiet. So, if everyone is doing it – it’s cool and accepted. If you can relate to who is doing it, even better.
The article says “we’re definitely more likely to follow the herd when we’re uncertain about how to behave. And it turns out that we’re also more likely to follow the herd to the extent that we perceive the herd as sharing our circumstances.”
Uncertain, Tasha was definitely uncertain about that kennel. I just needed to get Tasha to follow the herd. But who exactly is the herd? It’s not just the dogs, she sees them use their kennels all the time. It was me too.
So I thought, what’s more persuasive than me hanging out in the kennel with the other dogs? How could we have a shared experience? Kennel parties – we all share the circumstance and it’s a big fun awesome time!
This seriously started to work – Tasha wanted to come in the kennel with us. And she did.
The “hotel experiments suggest, remember that when pitching an idea, proposal, or a product to your audience, the more similar the person giving the testimonial is to your audience, the more persuasive the message becomes…”
I took this piece of advice from the article and I tagged myself out of the party. Similar persons were now partying in the kennel. Pit Bull was giving her testimonial to Tasha – the kennel is cool. And for a few minutes, Tasha seemed to be perfectly happy to be in there
I’m not sure how I am going to repeat this concept this with the idea of closing the kennel door – I fear it means there will be pics of me locked in a dog crate with a pile of dogs. Stay tuned. Here’s a link to the full Psychology Today article, it’s pretty interesting stuff.
A few days after I started this to write this post, the most amazing thing happened. Tasha, unpromted, walked in to the kennel, laid down and took a nap.
And few days after that, while I was sitting here finishing up up this story, as if on cue, Tasha went into the kennel. A total non event. Virginia, there is a Santa Claus!