Monday, 5 April 2010

Crate expectations

The frustrating saga of Bingley & the Bingmobile ended up lasting much longer than I thought it would; but now, I’m pleased to say, that phase is well and truly behind us. So much so that last month we entered the final stage of this long project and bought a car crate!

Sometimes the best lessons are those which are the hardest to learn. I’ve come to realise that one of the problems which we created for Bingley was giving him too much space in the back of the car. If he’d been comfortable with travelling in the back and had settled down at once it might not have been too much of an issue; but as it was he had more space than he needed in order to be able to feel secure. Partioning the back of the car with a small crate, I came to realise, would likely be the answer.

But before then we had to get Bingley to want to get into the car. That, as you know, took a long time. Nevertheless, with the help of a lot of patience and two or three tons of cheese we eventually managed to convert him into a car enthusiast.

Once he was happy about climbing into the car it was then time to start getting him used to travelling in it. For the past few months we’ve had him on the back seat, secured with a harness and lying across Jane’s lap. It wasn’t an ideal scenario but it served to boost his confidence regarding car journeys; and once we’d achieved that we knew that we could start thinking about the final stage of this long project and start looking for a car crate.

Finding the right crate turned out to be as involving as finding the right car, but eventually we settled on a design which looks good, fits both the car and Bingley, and even more significantly has been crash tested so Bingley should not only feel secure in the back of the car, he should also be safe.

Having spent so long getting Bingley used to the car in the first place, we were determined not to spoil things by rushing this final stage. Once the crate was fitted, I spent a week simply getting Bing used to jumping in. Then I started shutting him in the crate, gradually shutting the boot door as well, and eventually doing all that with the engine running.

Finally, and I knew this would be the big test, I drove the car out of the back yard and tried to get Bingley to jump into the crate with the car in a different context. Having done this previously with Bing just jumping into the boot, I was expecting difficulties: dogs don’t generalise well and changing the context can make a huge difference. But as it turned out all our hard work has paid off: Bingley did hesitate for a moment, but it simply took a little bit of encouragement in order to get him to leap in willingly.

Continuing the slow but sure approach, over the next couple of days we began to introduce short journeys – initially just to the end of the street, but after a few days we were driving down to the coast. Although he seemed comfortable, on the first two or three journeys he wouldn’t lie down but instead would just sit there gazing out of the back of the car and looking, for all the world, like a real life nodding dog!

To give him an extra incentive to lie down Jane suggested adding a little cotton bolster to the vet bed lining of his crate. Bingley likes to have something to rest his head on as he sleeps and this bolster turns out to be just what he needed. I’m thrilled to say that we’ve now got to the stage where he’ll not only jump into the crate unbidden, but once in there he’ll lie down straight away and is usually asleep within minutes of us setting off on a car journey.

It’s hard to believe that this time last year he wouldn’t get into the car at all!

We’ve added a few extras to the crate in order to ensure that Bingley remains comfortable: a crate fan, window blinds, and even a wireless thermometer so that we can keep a check on the temperature in the boot. But all this is just the icing on the cake: Bingley is now fully mobile and, although it seemed to take forever, we can now start making the most of our car.

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