OK, I'm back.
Firstly I have to say this. There cant be many people who, after getting a puppy, don't at some time think that they have made the biggest mistake of their lives! We all do, believe me! But they don't stay a puppy for ever, and they grow up into the most wonderful creatures.
I'm old, and was brought up into dogs years before crates were invented, and fought against them for years. Then with two successive pups I lost my kitchen floor. So for domestic harmony I brought a crate. Now I would never ever have a pup again without using a crate. When my Chloe was a baby I spent a year going backwards and forwards into hospital, several days in hospital and nearly 8 weeks of having to go to hospital every day. And the fact that I knew Chloe could not get up to mischief was a godsend. But they need to be approached correctly. It should NEVER be used as punishment. That would put all the wrong connotations in the pup's mind. It is her den, her refuge from a busy world. I feed my pups in the crate so to start it becoming a nice place. I give treats in there, and even a certain amount of "Baby talk" can help, such as, when I want my pup to go in the command I give is "Go by by's time sweetheart!" (And I'm one of those hard hearted working gundog people, so if I can use that language so can anybody!!!
) Don't just put puppy in at night, do it at intervals during the day when you are around. If you see her getting tired, pop her into the crate, close the door and continue what you are doing. I find it important that they see you doing things, because it takes their mind off being shut in and gives them something to watch. This is where I AM a little hard hearted. I ignore all protests. When I say bed time then it's not a debating point. I don't tell pup off, I simply ignore it. My routine at night is always the same. I go to bed at 11pm and I get up at 6am. I start with getting up for toilet breaks at 1am, 2am and 4am for the first night or two, but if I find it's not needed then I reduce to 1am and 3am, then reduce even further to just 2am. Since using a crate I've never needed more than a week before my pups can go through the night. It's all about gradually stretching the time out. And any crying after I leave them is ignored. I think Chloe cried all night the first night, the second night she cried for about an hour and the third night it was down to 10 minutes. She did tend to call me in the morning, but she was a spring puppy so the mornings were getting lighter. But Lexi is an autumn puppy to the mornings are drawing in, so that will make it easier.
I think it’s important that you understand whats happening. What you describe is so normal for Labrador puppies! Part of the problem is that they are so much a social breed, they love everybody and want to be with them. They want to play, and they want to involve their “human” in their game. And of course dogs cant play cards or computer games. Puppies are pre-programmed at birth to play “War Games.” This is equipping them for their future in the wild, catching their food and defending themselves and their pack. Puppies, and many other creatures in the wild will practise and hone their skills on each other. I’m so lucky in that I have a private wood that I can walk in and often in spring I’ve stood and watched Fox cubs playing these war games. They have no intention of hurting each other, just have a lovely game.
But then onto domestic dogs, and thats where things all go wrong. We take our puppy out of the nest and away from his siblings at around 8 weeks old, just about the time when the pups are beginning to get active, starting to think about things other than eating and sleeping. So his natural actions now would be to play his war games, but he has no siblings to play those games with! So effectively you are the surrogate sibling! In the wild this is where he would start to learn bite inhibition. As a baby he would have no idea that biting hurts! How could he? So he nips his sibling a bit hard, brother says, “Oye! Pack it in! If you are going to play rough I’m off!” In other words he walks off and leaves his brother. Brother soon works out that biting too hard hurts and finishes the game. Particularly if it’s him that gets bitten too hard! So the pups start to learn to control their biting.
Why do they single out one particular person? Because they think that person is nice, so they want to play, and play in the only way they know. So really, much as you dont want it, it's really a compliment! Your puppy feels happy and confident with you.
This is where the theory of “Time out” came from. It’s us trying to replicate what would happen with puppies naturally in the wild. “That hurt! I’m not playing anymore!” So you stand up, turn your back on the pup, get your hands up high so there is nothing for the pup to take hold of. But you have probably noticed that things are worse in the evening. Just like children, they can lose a certain amount of self control when they get tired. All day you are busy so they spend a large part of the time sleeping, but in the evening, when you want to sit quiet, resting from the day they want to play. And as they get tired so the play gets rougher. I have always made a point of popping my pups into their crate at about 7pm for an hour, so they get use to having an hours sleep in the evening, and I get a chance to recharge my batteries. Interestingly this has built a habit which has continued for all of my dogs lives. Every evening they put themselves to bed and we all have a rest.
I know puppies are hard work, and the alligators can make your hands really sore, but believe me, it does get better. Yes my dogs still love to involve me in their games, but it’s now lovely. Amy takes hold of my wrist so gently and leads me to where she wants to go, or Chloe will take hold of one finger to involve me in her war games, but oh so gently. Somehow you never notice things getting better because it is a slow change in pressure. But one day you realise your hands are no longer sore and you cant remember the last time you told him to pack it in. Given time they become the most wonderful of creatures.