Kirby has just turned six months old (or so we think, based upon the vet's birthdate estimate). He's not getting very much bigger, and he still has a "puppy" look to him, but he's definitely maturing when it comes to his behavior, particularly at bedtime.
Up until a few nights ago, our bedtime routine usually involved taking the dogs out for the last backyard visit of the day, then watching as Baxter trotted into the bedroom to curl up on his bed while Kirby headed underneath the couch or another hard-to-reach location. After literally dragging the pup out of his hiding place, we'd carry him into the bedroom, where he would reluctantly saunter into his crate.
It's not that he dislikes his crate -- he's never put up a fuss. It's just that he's seldom been ready to go to bed when we are. He's shown moments of promise, particularly when we have enticed him into the bedroom by praising Baxter for going to bed, but it has never been on his own and it never lasted more than a night at a time.
Something has changed. It's as if Kirby has finally caught on to the nightly pattern and is OK with it. Three nights in a row now, he's come in the door and cheerfully followed Baxter and/or me into the bedroom. The first night we hadn't moved his crate back in there yet (we keep it in the living room for his morning and afternoon naps) and when I walked in with it, Kirby was standing in the middle of where his crate was supposed to be, giving me a look as of to say "well, I'm here, where's my bed?"
Since then we've had the crate in its proper locale and when Kirby and Baxter come inside, they both head for the bedroom. Baxter curls up on his bed and Kirby stands in front of his open crate door waiting for me to take his collar off. He then goes directly into his crate and curls up for the night.
I don't know what sort of switch goes off in a puppy's brain to make him suddenly realize what he's supposed to be doing, but we're certainly not complaining. Let's hope this new pattern sticks.