Many people think of putting dogs in a kennel as a punishment, but it is far from that, especially for certain breeds. While leaving a dog in a kennel all the time when it is not performing a certain job is certainly not the best path to pet ownership, being able to secure your dog in a kennel when you have company, are gone for extended periods of time, or even when they are sleeping can be very helpful.
So what is kennel training, how do you do it the right way, and what does it really mean to your dog? Here are some answers for you.
Giving Your Dog a Home
Kennel or crate training as it is often called is far from cruel. In fact, it takes into account your dog’s natural instinct to have a “den” like wild canines do. It gives them a dark, cool place to rest where they feel safe and secure. Most dogs actually love their crates, and even when you don’t ask them to go there or close the door with them inside, they will enter their crate and remain there.
The important thing is to know your dog and their breed and respond accordingly.
The Reason for Kennel Training
One of the primary reasons pet owners use crate training is as a part of their potty training routine. Since dogs don’t like to “do their business” in their den, keeping them in a kennel often motivates them not to make a mess in the space where they live.
The other reason is to keep your home, your belongings, and your dog secure when you are not home. The kennel is not a behavioral solution that will correct disobedience. Your dog still needs training, but a kennel can remove them from temptation and keep them secure and away from things that could be harmful to them.
One of the keys to kennel training is to start young. While sometimes an older dog can be kennel trained, they will often feel frustrated and angry if they have not gotten used to being in a crate early.
- Start by feeding your puppy in their crate, right inside the door at first, and steadily moving the food further inside each feeding time.
- Put toys or dog beds and other safe items inside, things your puppy likes and plays with.
- At first, only close the door of the kennel for a little while. Sit quietly by the crate for ten minutes or so, leave the room, and come back about ten minutes. Sit by the kennel again for a few moments before letting your dog out.
- Praise your dog for going into the crate, staying in the crate, and offer them praise when they wait inside patiently for you to open the door.
Once your dog has learned to love their crate, you can experiment for leaving them inside for longer periods of time.
Kenneling Your Dog When You Leave the House
This is an important step in your dog’s training, and it is important that you get the steps right. If you don’t, your dog can get confused and even revert to not liking the crate.
- Use the command for going in their kennel, and give them a treat. Remember, only leave toys that are safe in their kennel with them.
- Vary the moment you leave, so that your dog gets used to being in the crate while you get ready. This step will give you a lot more freedom with your routine as they get older.
- Don’t make a big deal out of saying goodbye. This can cause anxiety. Instead, put your dog in the crate, treat them, and move on with as little emotion as possible.
At first, vary the amount of time you are gone, at least at first. Some dogs will adapt better to long absences than others. A part of any aspect of training is getting to know your dog and what they do and don’t like.
Kenneling Your Dog While You Sleep (and they do too)
Many dogs love to sleep in their crates because of their desire to den up, and it helps keep them from trouble at night while you are sleeping. This can be a problem for some dogs at first, who want to be close to you when they are sleeping, especially as puppies.
The way to get started is to keep the kennel close to you at first, even in your bedroom. This can cause issues though if your dog can see you and won’t rest with you closeby. Sometimes a separate room is better, or even covering their kennel with a blanket to make it darker and to keep them from being distracted.
If your dog is comfortable sleeping close to you, that is a good time to bond, but many people prefer their dogs to sleep in another room. This is fine too, and once your pet gets used to the kennel or crate, having them sleep elsewhere is fine.
Problems You Might Encounter
First, it is important to note that while some dogs take to kennel training right away, others take time to do so. Patience is key, and kennel training is as much about you the owner as it is about your dog.
Your dog may whine at first when you kennel them. The key is to reassure them when you put them in the crate, but never reward the whining by letting them out, giving them a treat, or even with sympathetic language and talking. It is better to wait until they are quiet before you let them out.
If your dog keeps whining, especially when they are a puppy, make sure they don’t really need to go outside to use the bathroom. If you use the outside or potty command, and they get excited, take them outside, and repeat that command. If they go, praise them. If not, simply call them inside. Always return them to the crate afterward though, and don’t offer praise or a treat if they don’t use the restroom.
This can encourage your dog to act like they have to go, even if they don’t, to get out of the kennel. Be aware of this, and take appropriate action.
Don’t use the kennel as a punishment. Your dog will be fearful and reluctant to go inside. Also, don’t try to use the kennel as a treatment for separation anxiety. This may make things worse, and your dog may even injure themselves trying to get out of the kennel. There are other methods to deal with this problem, and if you can’t resolve things on your own, work with a professional animal trainer. They can teach you proper coaching and coping techniques.
Kennel training is extremely valuable and can be a great thing for both you and your dog, but be sure that you are doing it right. A bad kennel training experience can be bad for you and your pet. But if you follow these steps, you’ll have a dog that is happy, safe, and content to use their kennel even when you don’t command them to.