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Positive Dog Parenting

by Rolan Tripp, DVM and Susan Tripp, MS/P

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Kennel Training Basics

Kennel Training Steps

Pet Professional Tip
Offer to help clients with
kennel training.  Start a daycare program that involves kennel time with food puzzles, elimination training
and play time.

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What is a kennel?

A kennel can be made of molded plastic, wire, or cloth. What's important about a kennel is that it's designed to be viewed by dogs as a natural den. Dogs like wolves are "den" animals.

How to introduce the kennel

When the kennel is first presented to an older dog, you may want to offer only the bottom half or leave the door open so that the dog may go in and out freely. Make sure you provide a very comfortable bed or resting pad inside. The best pad fits the kennel exactly so that the dog is not tempted to chew the pad's edges. Pad covers typically have a fleece side for warmth and a nylon side for cooling to be flipped as the seasons change.

Initially, you may need to convince dogs that kennels are their very own private dens and safe havens. Begin by keeping the door open at all times. Feed the dog inside the kennel, and place treats and toys inside it during the day. If training an older dog, contrast no attention when the dog is OUTSIDE of the kennel during the teaching phase with tons of attention when the dog is INSIDE the kennel, making it clearly worth the dog's while.  Click here for Kennel Training Steps

You may need to withhold your attention, praise and toys for when the dog is INSIDE the kennel to make these goodies more valuable.

If you do not have water for 12 hours, then water has more value. If your dog does not get your attention around the clock, your attention has more value.

 Exercise tough love by ignoring the dog when he or she is outside the kennel. If practical, keep the kennel near you during the day and in your bedroom at night.

The kennel is used for house training, preventing destruction, and protecting the dog from household dangers. The goal is to teach the dog that his or her kennel is the most comfortable place to be.

Once the dog will go in the kennel often on his or her own free will, then begin to close the door of the kennel while the dog is eating. Stay right there and praise the dog for accepting this next phase. Open the kennel while the dog is still showing happy, relaxed behavior. Gradually, increase the time the door is closed. Stay close but begin to phase out continual praise by silently counting from 1 to 5, then 10, etc., in between singing the dog's praises.

Always provide a chew toy and rotate other playful toys inside the kennel. If the dog is barking to get out, try to get the dog to be quiet for at least 5 seconds before opening the door. This can be done be asking the dog to "sit," or, to respond to the "quiet" instruction. If the first two techniques do not work, distract the dog by doing something like jiggling the handle of the kennel or making another noise to interrupt the barking. This way you reward the quiet and not the barking.

"Kennel up"

When the dog enters the kennel, say, "Kennel up!" in a happy, upbeat voice. Later, you will use this cue to mean, "Enter your kennel now please." Here's a fun game to play. Before a meal, take the first few kibbles and toss them one by one into the kennel. Say, "kennel up" as your dog goes inside to eat the kibble and praise the dog. Then, say "come" as the dog comes out of the kennel and give another kibble and praise. Repeat this game several times at each meal until "Kennel up!" results in your dog running happily in and out of the kennel.

Elimination training

Keep the dog under immediate supervision for playtime and companionship and then put the dog back inside the kennel. Once the dog has earned your trust, gradually increase the amount of time that the kennel door is left open and the dog is allowed access to the rest of the house.

TIP:  Use baby gates to keep the dog inside of a kitchen. The kennel  becomes the most comfortable place for the dog to nap. If the dog has an accident during housetraining, it will be easy to clean. (If dogs smell a spot of urine on the carpet, they are more likely to go again in that spot.)  At night, allow no food or drink for at least 2 hours before bed.

As the dog earns your trust, he or she can be allowed access to increasingly more sections of the house.  You must take the dog out and NOT expect the dog to signal you. Not all dogs learn to go to the door. Some people miss this signal anyway.

Once you have established a routine and there have been no accidents for a couple of weeks, expand into one more area at a time. After the dog is "proofed" in every room in the house, you will be able to leave the door to the kennel open most of the time since the dog has earned the privilege to be free in the house.

Contented confinement gives a dog more freedom

A dog that has learned contented confinement can be with you more. When you travel, he or she can likely go along. Kenneled dogs in molded plastic kennels are safe traveling in cars and planes, and are often accepted at motels. If company comes over and the dog is too excitable, the kennel becomes his or her "safe place" to chill. If young children are too fascinated with the dog, kenneling your dog may keep both the children and the dog safe.

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