I decided today to try crate training Lola... for the third time. I brought the crate back into the living room (where it was when we first started, and where we spend the majority of our time), and decided on different rules: no whining allowed at all, the door is constantly unlocked, and the crate is a Great Place To Be.
Because of her habit of going to the toilet in the crate (often regardless of whether I was sat right next to her or not), I took her out generally every six or seven minutes. We started out with a kong stuffed with nuked cheese, which kept her quiet for about eight minutes, and then I let her out to the toilet. As she'd finished the kong, I made a fresh one with bread soaked in liver stock, and gave her that - and she loved it. She had about three of those the entire time, and was in the crate (including the minute-long breaks to toilet outside) for almost four hours!
About an hour into the training, she started whining quietly, and rather than let it escalate by ignoring it (which is how I've ended up with her full-blown howling when she goes in, in the past), I just told her 'no', which we use as a 'this behaviour is not going to get you anything' marker. She immediately settled down, and after a couple of minutes of lying there and staring at me she sighed, put her head down, and fell asleep! She was asleep for about half an hour, whilst I sat on the couch trying not to vibrate with excitement, as she has only ever once fallen asleep in the crate outside of when we first started and I slept by the crate with my fingers through the bars.
After she woke up, I took her outside to the toilet, and then we had a half-hour break to play fetch and tire her out some more. She went back into the crate, and only whined a couple of times when she was bored because she'd finished her kong - and she immediately shushed up with a soft 'no'. I also intermittently praised her for being a good girl when she was quiet, and especially if she was lying down or licking a kong.
Today has shown me, however, that I'd obviously in the past skipped some steps between being in the room with her in the crate, and leaving - at one point I went to the toilet, and as soon as I was out the door she started screaming. I called down 'no', and she shushed immediately, and that happened three or four times throughout the nearly four hours that she was in the crate. The fifth or so time I left, to take some washing upstairs (and was gone for about three minutes), she stayed quiet the entire time - she didn't whine, howl, scream, bite the bars, scratch at them, etc. When I came back, I praised her, let her out after a few seconds, and took her outside, and she pooped: which meant she'd held it! It was only a few minutes, obviously, but this is from the puppy who has previously peed and pooped in the crate when I've been in the room and just taken my eyes off of her.
Just minutes before writing this post, too, the scuffling noise of Lola digging through their toybox (which is currently in the crate) ended, and I glanced over at the crate to see her laid down in it! Voluntarily! I'm super excited that we might finally have cracked it.
So for now, crate training means putting her in it for at least an hour a day, shushing her if she whines, and making my leaving the room for around two minutes something she doesn't even notice. I have all summer to get her used to it, and hopefully by the time I go back to university in September she'll be able to hold it for three-four hours between me leaving, my mum letting her out halfway through the day, and then again til I'm home.
In other news, we spent Lola's breakfast on some 'hit it' treibball training. We aren't using the mat right now (though we spent dinner on directional cues around the heater and hoover to her mat) because I want to get her enthusiasm up for hitting the ball - which shouldn't take too long! Hopefully, I'll soon be able to send her to the mat, and then release and reward with being allowed to hit the ball. My main issue with treibball right now is making the damn ball stay still, I think I overinflated it! She's also not too great at hitting it in a straight line, but right now I'm more interested in getting her excited when making contact; in future we'll probably play in the narrow hallway, to make it easier for her.
I think she likes it so far! Three times now, she's nudged/scratched open the door to the front room where the ball and mat are kept and sat by them (they are stored with the mat on top of the ball), watching them.