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Dog Behavior Library

Pet Perception Management by Rolan Tripp, DVM


Portable Kennel (Crate) Training A Dog

What is it?

The goal of kennel training is that a dog will willingly go into the crate or any other
enclosure (e.g. cage at the veterinary office) for any reasonable period of time. A properly kennel trained dog will perceive the crate as his "den" or "bedroom", and will often spend time inside when bored.

Since dogs are den animals by instinct, kennels create a "Safe Place" for the dog.  The crate should not be used as a punishment, and should be introduced to the dog as young as possible.

Crate training is an excellent thing to do for any dog. Since dogs are den animals by instinct, it creates a "Safe Place" for the dog. The crate should not be used as a punishment, and should be introduced to the dog as young as possible.

Size matters

When purchasing a crate, choose one just large enough for the dog to stand, turn around and lie down, as an adult. If too large at first, place a box in the back. If there is any chance you will be air shipping the dog, choose a molded plastic "airline approved" crate. If it is more likely you will car travel with the dog, choose a collapsible "Wire" crate. If you use the wire type, it is best to drape a blanket or towel over the crate to give the dog the sense of being in an enclosed den. If it is left open, the dog senses that others can see him, but he cannot escape.


Ten steps to crate training

  1. When you bring home the crate, act very interested in it and put your arms inside.
  2. Put a comfortable bed inside the crate. The crate should be the most comfortable place the pet is allowed rest. Leave the door always open at first, and if needed,  remove the top half to be open some of the time.
  3. Feed the dog in the crate every meal.The goal is for the dog to go into the crate without hesitation. Toss kibbles and say, "Kennel!" to mean "go inside."
  4. Ignore the dog more so you can give attention for being inside (until crate trained)
  5. Hide treats or favorite toys inside the crate. Close the door during meals.
  6. Praise and give a food treat for entering the crate. Ignore him when exiting.
  7. Overnight is the first time to lock him in for hours. If the dog is too unsettled in the crate, try moving the crate next to your bed at night.
  8. If he whines at night, take him to his elimination area but be "robotic" with no attention. He needs to learn not to wake you up for attention only.
  9. If he continues to whine and you know he doesn't need to eliminate, try saying, "QUIET". If he doesn't stop on a voice tone, then rap on the crate to startle him. Gently praise silence (GOOD QUIET). Gradually increase the interval between praising if quiet. (10 seconds, 20, 30, 1 minute, etc.)
  10. No trespassing of children allowed inside the crate. (A dog can get away from children in his safe place, including no teasing or pestering while crated)

When accidents happen

If he messes in the crate, don't punish, just clean it up and re-evaluate the feeding and confinement schedule. You may need to take the dog out more often. Consider removing food and water earlier in the evening, and take the dog out later before bed.

A crate alternative

A tool related to the crate is the tether. This is a 3 ft lead used to tie the dog to a solid object IN YOUR PRESENCE (e.g. while reading or watching TV). The idea is to bond the dog to you, confine movement to prevent housesoiling, and get the dog used to the useful notion of being tied. This technique is called, "Close Tethering."

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