Puppy Kennel Training
By Dr. Jessica Kleiner, DVM
Teaching a pet to accept a kennel/crate as a familiar and safe location is important for all dogs but is essential for training puppies and for protecting them when they cannot be actively observed. Even if dogs do not use a crate on a regular basis, there will be times in their lives when they will be in a kennel and will need to be relatively calm. For example, kennels are used before and after surgery and during hospitalization. Kennels should not be viewed as “cages” but rather as safe retreats for our pets. Properly trained pets are excited to return to their crates and will seek them out during times of stress.
There are many types of kennels and each has advantages and disadvantages :
- Wire crates allow for air flow and for pets to see each other. Wire Crate Option
- Solid walled kennels offer more separation and light/sound protection. Solid Wall Kennel Option
- Heavy duty kennels for heavy chewers and escape artists. Heavy Duty Kennel Option
Kennels should be tall enough for your pet to raise their head above the shoulders and long/wide enough for them to lie on their sides without pulling legs up and neck down. Where you place the kennel in the home is personal preference, but most dogs do better if they are in low traffic areas.
When beginning kennel training, keep in mind that the goal is to associate it with positive emotions at all times. No punishment should ever occur while he/she is in the kennel. The easiest way to start kennel training is to feed all meals in the kennel, leaving the door open at all times. Most dogs will signal that they are ready to start having the door closed when they willingly run to the kennel as you begin to fill their bowl. Slowly increase time in the kennel. Mild whining is normal in the beginning. When it is time to remove your pet from the kennel, stand quietly at the kennel door until your pet is calm. If you open the door when your pup is whining then they will learn that they can train you to open the door when they whine.
If your pup whines in the middle of the night, remove them once they are calm, take them on a brief potty break, then put them back in the kennel. At all times you should remain calm and all-business/no-play. Blankets, beds, and toys that you have already observed to be safe with your pet may be added as well to aid in comfort. I find treat dispensing toys like classic Kong or Starmark treat dispensing balls to be great for kennels.