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Kennel Training - Page 1


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Click for a PDF of "Canine Positive Portable Kennel Training" by Dr. Tripp, published in the  Pulse Journal (Nov 2007) of the Southern California Veterinary Medical Association.

Portable Kennel Training

What is a Portable Kennel or "Crate"?
From your dog's point of view, a portable kennel fills many roles: a refuge, a bedroom, a security blanket, a hangout, and a private space that satisfies a natural instinct inherited from the wolf, to have a den.

Many owners tend to think of their dog as a furry four-legged person, so they're appalled by the idea of enclosing her for hours.

From the human perspective, a portable kennel may seem like a form of solitary confinement. Many owners tend to think of their dog as a furry four-legged person, so they're appalled by the idea of enclosing her for hours. Yet dogs, unlike humans, derive a sense of security from being in a small space.

In fact, a portable kennel can be a wonderful tool for teaching your dog good habits and curbing all sorts of destructive behavior, from digging to chewing to house soiling. What's more, it makes traveling with her a breeze. The molded plastic kennels are airline approved, while the wire kennels fold down small.

Portable kennel-training requires a proper introduction and some time and effort on your part. If introduced and used correctly, you and your best friend will gain peace of mind in many situations.

Training Tips
Ideally, a dog gets to know her portable kennel when she's very young. A puppy will acclimate to a portable kennel much more quickly than will an older dog. Successful training begins slowly in small steps. Be patient as you encourage your dog to love her portable kennel.

Do's and Don'ts:

  • DO keep the kennel indoors so your dog knows someone is nearby.
  • DO make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise every day, ideally 2 walks off your property after a puppy reaches 12 weeks of age.
  • DO use the portable kennel when your dog needs a "time-out" (a period for calming down when she's gotten nervous or riled up) but only after she is comfortable and relaxed about being confined there.
  • Do NOT put your dog in the portable kennel for the first time and suddenly leave her.
  • Do NOT let your dog out of the portable kennel if she's barking or whining. Jiggle the door or say, "Quiet" until she has stopped for 5 seconds, or she may learn that crying is her ticket out. If she has to eliminate, get 5 quiet seconds and take her out.
  • Do NOT punish your dog if she barks, whines, or has an accident while in the portable kennel; you want her to have only good associations with it. Don't let her see you cleaning up any accident, or the attention you give the clean up, may motivate her to repeat the process.

How Long?
During housetraining, a rule of thumb is that you can leave a puppy in her portable kennel one hour longer than her age in months. For example, a 3-month old puppy can wait about four hours. For an adult dog, the maximum time shouldn't exceed nine hours.

Step 1: The Introduction
Entice your dog to explore the portable kennel on her own by dropping a trail of treats along the floor and into the portable kennel. Hide treats in the portable kennel throughout the day so she finds secret treasures when she goes inside. Put her favorite toys inside. Praise her lavishly any time she enters the portable kennel on her own. Move the portable kennel to a spot where you spend a lot of time. Prop the door open, and make the interior comfortable by laying a blanket, a towel, or a kennel pad inside. Bring your dog over to the portable kennel and act interested in it. Stick your head inside, and speak to her in a happy tone.

Step 2: The Portable Kennel as a Restaurant
Feed your dog regularly in her portable kennel. This will increase her positive associations with it. If she's anxious, feed her near the portable kennel, moving her bowl closer at every meal, until the food is at the back of it.

Once she'll go inside, teach her the "kennel" instruction by hand-feeding the first 10 kibbles of every meal in this way: Get her attention, then say, "Kennel Up!," and toss each kibble (or tastier treat, if necessary) into the portable kennel so she goes after it. Then give the "COME" instruction so she returns to you. Repeat several times, and finally, give the rest of the meal inside the portable kennel as a reward.

Once your dog regularly dines inside the portable kennel, close the door while she's eating, and open it as soon as she finishes. After each meal leave the door closed just a bit longer than the last time, until she can easily stay in the portable kennel for 10 minutes or more after eating.

Step 3: The Portable Kennel as a Hangout
Call your dog over to her portable kennel with a treat, give the "Kennel Up!" instruction, and toss a treat inside. When she enters, close the door, and praise her. Hang out with her for five or 10 minutes, leave the room for a few minutes, and then return and wait another few minutes before letting her out.

Repeat this process several times a day, increasing both the time she's in the portable kennel and the time you're out of sight. Once she can handle a 30-minute stint in the portable kennel without anxiety, she's ready for an overnighter. Some dogs love sleeping in the enclosed portable kennel the very first night.

Note: Keep your room departures and arrivals low-key. When you leave, do it quietly and quickly. Have her be quiet for at least five seconds before releasing her from the portable kennel. When you release her, don't act excited. Spend some time with her and your head inside the kennel talking softly.

Step 4: The Portable Kennel as a Bedroom
At bedtime, place the portable kennel next to your bed. Give your dog the "Kennel Up!" instruction. When she's inside, lock the door and praise her with "good quiet!"

A puppy or dog who's being housetrained may need to be let out in the middle of the night. If you hear whining, take her to her toilet area. If she only seems to want attention, don't give it to her. Put her back in her bedroom. If she continues to whine, say, "Quiet," and then rap once on the side of the portable kennel to startle her. Wait till she is silent for five seconds, and gently praise her with "good quiet."

Note: Don't punish your dog if she has an accident in her portable kennel. Instead, make sure you take her outside right before bed, and consider removing her dinner and water bowls earlier each evening.

Step 5: The Portable Kennel as a Safe Haven
If children come over, let them know that when the dog is in her portable kennel, she is to be left alone. This gives limits and safety to the children, and the dog.

What to Look for in a Portable Kennel

  • A portable kennel should be large enough to allow your dog to stand, turn around, and lie down – but not so big she has room to eliminate at one end. The dog does not need to be able to sit up in the kennel.
  • If your dog is a puppy, purchase a portable kennel that will fit her when she's fully grown. For now, partition the back off with a box. An alternative is to place a separator in the middle, then newspaper in the back. That way, she has an option if she needs to eliminate in an emergency.
  • You can choose either a wire portable kennel or a molded plastic "airline-approved" portable kennel. Either can be used at a motel, but the molded plastic model will also serve for air or car trips. Make sure the portable kennel has a comfortable place to lie like a kennel pad fit to the space. Wire portable kennels have the advantage of being collapsible, but the dog is more exposed, so it is recommended you cover a wire portable kennel with a blanket to make it more "den-like" to satisfy that deep wolf-like instinct.

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