Kona, like every other dog, is a creature of habit. Since she came to live with us we have given her stuffed kongs when she is crated. First it was loose kibble with a bit of peanut butter to get her used to the crate and to like being in there. As she got older we began soaking the kibble and then freezing it in the kong (a kongsicle) so that it would last longer.
I’m not sure when we started, but for as far back as I can remember we give Kona a kongsicle while P and I are eating dinner. It keeps her occupied, quiet and ensures there is no begging at the table.
Normally, we tell her to “go to bed” when we want her in her crate, including at dinner when she gets her kongsicle. A few weeks ago I noticed that when I was ready to serve dinner she would look at me, then walk to the crate on her own without anyone telling her to. I’m still not sure what signal she is picking up on – removing a dish from the oven? P joining us in the kitchen? Grabbing plates from the cabinet? But whatever it is we no longer tell her to go to bed at dinnertime because she goes there on her own.
Then we noticed that we didn’t need to lock her in the crate. In fact, the crate door can be left wide open and she will stay in there until the kong is empty. Only once did she pick up the filled kong to bring it outside the crate but she promptly returned there when told to go to bed.
A few nights ago we decided to try something different. Instead of bringing the kong to her, P called her over to join him by the fridge. She wasn’t sure what to do at first – anytime we do something slightly different from her routine she acts as if we are testing her. But since he was holding the kong and telling her to “come” she eventually left the crate and joined him. P put the kong on the floor and told Kona to “take it”, then to “go to bed”. She didn’t get it at first, she kept looking at the kong then at P wondering what she was supposed to do. It took some repeating, but eventually she picked up the kong and went to her crate.
The second night the experience was repeated and this time she tried to chew the kong in the kitchen at first, before relenting and going into her crate.
The third night she took the kong and went straight to her crate, without being told.
We’re pretty impressed. This is by far the easiest thing we have ever trained her to do, but then, it is based on months of routine!