Kennel training is something I recommend to all my clients with young puppies and most newly adopted dogs. Kennel training fast tracks the house training process and provides your puppy a safe retreat.
Who doesn’t need their own space every once in a while?
BENEFITS OF KENNEL TRAINING:
• Prevents counter surfing
• Prevents chewing
• May prevent developing separation anxiety
• Grooming, dogs that get groomed will almost always have to go into a kennel at some point in time. A dog that gets stressed out in the kennel will be even more stressed when he goes to the groomer.
• Showing, dogs that are shown need to be kennel trained.
• Emergency Situations: If your dog has to go to the vet due to illness or injury there’s a good chance that he’ll have to be kenneled. If your dog isn’t comfortable in a kennel this will only add to the level of stress. They’re also situations such as family emergencies. Your dog may have to go to a kennel to get boarded, another example is when national disasters strike like Hurricane Katrina or Harvey. Dogs that are displaced often end up temporarily being kenneled. These situations are already stressful for your dog, so even if you don’t plan to use a kennel for day-to-day life it’s still a good idea to crate train your dog.
WHEN KENNEL MAY NOT BE HELPFUL:
• Separation Anxiety: If your dog already has true separation anxiety then kenneling your dog may not be an ideal solution. Dogs with true separation anxiety will often self-mutilate in an attempt to escape the kennel. While you CAN still work on teaching the dog to be kenneled it will NOT solve the anxiety. IF YOU HAVE A DOG WITH SEPARATION ANXIETY THIS ARTICLE WILL BE MORE HELPFUL Complete Guide to Understanding Separation Anxiety
• Containment Phobia: Much like separation anxiety and oftentimes confused with separation anxiety these dogs will self-mutilate to escape their confines.
WHAT SIZE KENNEL SHOULD I GET MY DOG?
Grab a tape measure and measure your dog while standing, taking a measurement from the nose to the base of the tail for its length. For its height, have your dog sit and then measure it, as some dogs are taller while sitting. Add between 4 inches to both measurements for the ideal crate height and length.
WHAT TYPE OF KENNEL SHOULD I GET MY DOG?
• Good for dogs that get hot easily, due to either living in a hot climate or having a heavy coat
• With some models, you can buy a divider to section off the crate. This allows your dog’s area in the crate to start small and get bigger as he grows.
• Many wire crates fold flat for carrying or storage.
• There is a removable floor tray that is easy to clean.
PLASTIC AIRLINE KENNELS
• Good for dogs who like cozy spaces and tend to sleep in corners or under tables.
• Can be used for airline travel – if your dog is acclimated to this type of crate, flying with him will be easier.
• The top half of the crate comes off and can be stacked inside the bottom half for storage, but more difficult to take apart than a wire or pop-up a kennel.
• Great for taking to puppy class, shows, and the clinic with you.
• Highly portable and folds up and pops open.
• Dogs should already be comfortable in kennels and trained in kennels as they are not durable.
• Used by a lot of police dogs, search and rescue, and other professional handlers because it is very durable. It will outlive multiple dogs even destructive ones.
• More expensive, but has a guarantee.
HOW TO TEACH A DOG TO GO INTO HIS KENNEL
Many people mistakenly think that you kennel train a dog by just putting him in a kennel and gradually building time or by putting him in a kennel and waiting for him to stop crying. While this sometimes does work specifically in very young puppies it more often than not will fail. It can also cause bigger issues like growling when grabbing the collar to be directed into the kennel, containment phobia, running away when it’s time to be kenneled, or destroying the kennel when in there. Dogs will have much better success when properly introduced to a kennel so that it is associated with positive feelings and calmness.
TIP: Keep in mind that if your dog has already had negative associations with the kennel then spending more repetitions at each step will be needed.
Step 1: Creating a strong desire to enter the kennel
Place a yummy treat in the back of your dog or puppy’s kennel. I like to smear cream cheese or peanut butter on the back of the kennel tray. Then shut the kennel door with your puppy on the outside of the kennel, so that he can’t access the treat. Watch your puppy for a few minutes as he tries to figure out how to get inside the kennel to access his treat. When he seems like he’s trying to get inside of his kennel, open the kennel door and allow your puppy to retrieve the treat.
Don’t shut the door behind your puppy instead allow your puppy to exit the kennel whenever he chooses. Repeat this step until your dog or puppy is pawing at the kennel door in an attempt to enter the kennel.
Step 2: Adding a verbal cue “Kennel”
This step is going to be very similar to the previous step of kennel training. You’re going to place a treat in the back of the kennel and shut the kennel door let your puppy show interest in the yummy treat for about 30 seconds, then say “Kennel” opening the door right after you have given the cue, “Kennel”.
Watch your dog or puppy for any hesitation to enter the kennel after he hears “Kennel”. You may also see that your puppy no longer rushes out of the kennel. If your puppy chooses to stay in the kennel give your puppy a few treats for choosing to stay in the kennel instead of rushing out. You want to see that your puppy is slightly worked up about not being allowed access into the kennel. That will help with our next step. Repeat this step at least 20 times before moving onto the next step, but make sure you are letting your dog tell you if he isn’t ready.
Step 2: Sending your puppy to the kennel from a distance
Put your puppy on a leash then show your puppy that you’ve placed a treat in the back of the kennel with the door open. Keep your puppy from entering by having your puppy on a leash 1-2 feet away from the kennel door. Then say “Kennel” and then immediately release your puppy to go in his kennel and retrieve the treat.
Repeat this step until you can get at least 5 repetitions where your puppy doesn’t hesitate at all going into the kennel. Make sure you’re not shutting the kennel door it’s important to let your puppy out immediately after.
Step 3: Adding distance
This step is going to be a lot like step 2, except we are going to say kennel 3-4 feet away from the kennel. Put your puppy on a leash then show your puppy that you’ve placed a treat in the back of the kennel with the door open. Keep your puppy from entering by having your puppy on a leash 3-4 feet away from the kennel door. Then say “Kennel” and then immediately release your puppy to go in his kennel and retrieve the treat. For every five that your puppy does correctly move 2 feet farther away from the puppy’s kennel until you can be in the next room.
I find that by the time I get to this step it becomes a fun game that the whole family enjoys.
I love to play kennel games like this with my dogs when it’s too cold to go outside. You can practice send your dog across the house into the kennel or even try sending your dog from one kennel to the other. Dogs that are kennel trained to love their kennels and find their kennels safe and comforting!
Now that you’ve got your puppy entering his kennel on cue your next step is teaching him to feel comfortable staying in his kennel.
When teaching your dog to stay in a kennel with an open door you’re going to need a lot of yummy treats.
If your dog is really food motivated, I recommend just using pieces of kibble that he normally would eat for dinner.
If your dog or puppy isn’t easily motivated by food or doesn’t seem as into the exercises like the last one you may need to use something yummier like tiny pieces of freeze-dried liver or boiled chicken.
HOW TO TEACH YOUR DOG TO STAY IN HIS KENNEL
Step 1: Teaching that it pays to stay in the kennel.
Tell your puppy “kennel” just like you did before, but now when your puppy enters the kennel “jackpot” treats to your puppy feeding them one at a time for as many as you can before he chooses to leave the kennel. Do this for either 20 seconds OR until your puppy leaves the kennel. If your puppy wants to leave the kennel in the first 20 seconds let him and don’t try to body block him. Teach your puppy he should want to stay in his kennel by ignoring your puppy for 30 seconds to a minute. Let him think about what happened and why his treat party stopped.
If your puppy decides to stay inside the kennel after the first 20 seconds then you are ready to progress.
Step 2: Decreasing the frequency of the rewards.
Once your puppy is choosing to stay in the kennel for 20 seconds, start treating your puppy every three seconds instead of as many as you can. Remember to toss the treats to the back of the kennel and only toss one at a time.
If your puppy chose to exit the kennel during step 2 don’t worry! It’s no loss to you. You’re not missing out on any super yummy treats, your puppy is.
When the puppy exits the kennel simply pause the training for 30 seconds to a minute.
If your puppy goes back into the kennel to see if he missed any treats then say “Yes” and go back to step one where you “jackpot” your puppy with treats.
If he doesn’t after a minute you can prompt your puppy to reenter the kennel by giving him his cue and starting back at step one.
Once your puppy is choosing to stay in the crate on his own for 20 seconds you can continue to gradually add duration in between treats. Go from every three seconds to every five seconds then from every five seconds to every ten seconds and so on.
Before you know it you’ll be having to talk your puppy out of leaving the kennel.
The goal is to have your puppy have the mindset of “Why would I ever leave here? This is a very rewarding place to be. If I stay in here on my own choice I get treats, but if I exit the kennel I get nothing.”
Step 3: Getting your puppy to stay in the kennel while you walk away.
Take one step away from the kennel, if your puppy stays go back to the kennel and give a treat to your puppy.
Once your puppy is successful at that for multiple repetitions then you can try to take two steps away, then three gradually building distance away from your puppy.
Remember don’t correct your puppy if he exits the crate. It’s his choice, but he’ll learn soon enough that leaving the kennel means he’s missing out on exciting rewards.
Tips to help your dog be successful in a kennel the very first time you leave your dog in the kennel.
• Plan to do at least 3-4 days of Kennel Training for sessions that last 15 -20 minutes BEFORE trying to leave your dog in the kennel.
• Make your first trip a short one, less than an hour.
• Set up a camera to watch (If possible) this will give you an indication of where your dog is at and if he needs more work before a long session of being left alone.
• Leave a high-value chew bone in the kennel that will last. I use Tucker’s Raw Frozen Beef Bones because they are super high value, will last all day. Plus I don’t have to worry about even one of my large powerful dogs chewing it to a point where choking becomes a hazard.
• Play background noise when you leave. A white noise machine, playing a static channel on tv, or playing a book on tape are great options.
Hopefully, this gives you a strong head start on kennel training your adult dog or puppy.