Larry, crate training and the Genius of Dogs

It seems like the goddess of spring had a lot planned for me this year. I’m no longer working where I used to work but instead have quite a lot of time on my hands. While looking into master’s courses at the local university, I’ve also been reading quite a bit about canine behaviour and intelligence. It’s a fascinating subject, but I’m probably over-fascinated because of Larry. He’s a Spanish Water Dog and he moved in with us around a week ago aged 8 weeks. Here he is with a toy I got him the other day:

Larry with his toy

While I grew up with a dog (Jack) and my mum has two dogs (Rosie and Skippy), I’ve never actually trained a puppy. It’s a big responsibility because I want Larry to be well behaved at home and outside, and a great walking partner. So before he arrived, I started to seek out advice and that’s when I stumbled upon crate training.

Crate training seems to be the big trend in the USA at the moment, and it’s popular in England too. Many of the kennel clubs and dog websites recommend it as a ‘must do’ element of training a new puppy. The amazing thing about it is that crate training really consists of keeping your puppy locked up in a small cage for hours on end and ‘rewarding’ it with moments of freedom.

I’m really quite shocked by how popular crating seems to be. As with many other barbaric ways that humans treat animals, its adherents are viciously defensive of the technique. Which reminds me of Louis CK’s story about pony punching  which ends with the delicious line: “People who don’t punch their ponies in the face make me sick”.

In my studies, I’ve been re-reading parts of In Defence of Dogs and I’ve stumbled upon The Genius of Dogs – and both make for good reading even for a non dog-owner. The latter’s updated theories about the process of how wolves became domesticated are particularly interesting.

Spring is as good a moment for changes as any other and dedicating time to reading, training a dog and considering my academic options seems like a good investment.

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