Senior Trainer - Taylor Melady
Though a kennel can seem like a menacing thing to a first time dog owner, behaviorally they are a lot more kind to your dog than they are cruel.
For dogs, often times freedom is a burden. When you think of a dog at its true mental capacity they operate close to a two year old. Because of this they cannot always be trusted to make good decisions on their own. Would you leave a two year old alone to roam your house free of guidance? Probably not unless you have taught them exactly how to behave and you were sure they would adhere by your guidelines... Even then you probably wouldn't want to.
A dog is no different. What happens all too often is a dog is left with freedom unsupervised and this makes them anxious and/or bored. These emotions are what lead to those undesirable and destructive behaviors such as destroying the couch, eating your shoes, and dragging your thawing dinner off the counter. Then, the dog often gets yelled at or gets in trouble. By the time you are reprimanding them they no longer are able to make the connection between what you are mad about and what they did wrong which leads to more anxiety of being alone. Hence the continuation of destroyed items and soiled floors.
All of this though is preventable. Though a kennel looks like a jail, what it is really supposed to simulate is a den. Wolves out in the wild choose a small den where they reside when they wish to relax. For a dog a kennel acts in the same way. When used correctly a dog should love their kennel and be able to decompress in it.... so how do we get there?
Using the Ten Rules of Kennel Training
- Never leave a dog outside of its kennel alone unless you are sure it knows how to make the right choices for itself.
- Make the kennel fun, leave a kong filled with yummy treats (or even frozen soaked kibble)
- Play Kennel Games. To do this throw a treat in the kennel and let your dog follow the treat in. Get excited and say 'kennel' when your dog has fully walked in. Close the door and wait for them to sit. Then open the kennel door and say 'release'. Repeat this cycle until your dog understands the game and is comfortable. This helps alleviate any anxiety associate with the kennel and teaches your dog how to go to the kennel without you physically taking them there.
- Never chase your dog into its kennel and never pay any attention to them while they are in it. This is their safe zone to relax free from any distraction.
- Feed your dog's meals in the kennel, this will help them get used to it much faster (Don't leave the bowl in there as this can lead to destructive behavior)
- When you put your dog in the kennel as you are leaving try to do it 15 or more minutes before you actually go so that your dog does not make the association between kennel time and being away from its person.
- When you come home ignore your dog in its kennel for at least 15 minutes. Otherwise they may be anticipating you coming home too excitedly and this also can cause kennel anxiety.
- One of the most important rules is to not only put your dog in the kennel when you are leaving. This is going to cause them to make the association between going in the kennel and their favorite person leaving.
- If your dog is new to crate training sometimes covering the kennel helps to alleviate the anxiety of being alone. It helps the dog to decompress and relax.
- Leave your dog in the kennel at night (Not on your bed... we know you humans). This behaviorally will help in so many ways. Your dog will begin to respect you more and it will probably be a lot cooler for them than your hot bed.
All in all, yes the kennel can look and be intimidating but used correctly it will be the best tool you invest in for both your dog and for you. No more destroyed furniture. No more anxiety. No more torn shoes and an opportunities for breaks of rest for both you and your dog.
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