Crates, or kennels, can serve as many different places for your dog. It can serve as a bed, as a safety place/”in-trouble” zone and even a traveling device. Below are some in’s and out’s about how a kennel may be beneficial to you and your dog.
Uses for the Kennel
The primary use for the kennel is to housetrain dogs. Dogs don’t like to soil their kennels, therefore this would be a great tactic when trying to potty train. When you purchase your kennel, buy one that allows your dog to stand up and stretch, turn around and potentially store a bowl of water and food in. DO NOT buy a kennel that’s meant for a Saint Bernard when you own a Shih Tzu. Too much room is not better. If it’s too big, they will relieve themselves in the back of the kennel and still have room to hide from their mistake. The main purpose of having the size fit is to train them to keep their bed clean. Nobody wants a soiled bed!
The kennel can also limit the access to the rest of the house while they learn the rules. Keep in mind though, the kennel is not a jail. Your puppy should learn that the crate is a refuge for when they’re tired. If the situation isn’t used correctly, a dog can feel trapped instead.
- Don’t leave them in the kennel for too long. When kenneled for long periods of time, they’re not allowed the allotted time for exercise and human interaction. Also, being in there for long hours, they tend to get depressed and/or anxious. If you have to kennel for long hours, consider hiring a dog sitter or take them to a doggie daycare that allows them to run and stretch their legs.
- Puppies shouldn’t be kenneled for more than 3-4 hours max! As pups, they can’t control their bladders. Same goes for adult dogs that aren’t housebroken. Physically they can hold it, but they just don’t know how to at this point. For more information, check out our house training page.
- Kennel them only until they know not to destroy the house and the items within. After they get a hang of that, the kennel should be a place they want to go voluntarily.
When Selecting a Crate/Kennel
Kennels come in different sizes. Like we said above, you want to make sure that you get the proper size. You want the kennel to be big enough for them to stand and turn around in. If you’re buying a kennel when your dog is little, research the breed and pick a kennel size you think will best accommodate them. Be sure - if they’re still puppies - you block off parts of the kennel so they learn not to use it as a restroom.
As for the type of kennel you choose, that’s up to you as the owner. There are plastic kennels that offer a bit more privacy to your pet and there are wire kennels that also tend to be collapsible for easy storage. Ask around to your friends and family that have dogs and see what they like better. From there, you can discover what you would like for your dog.
Crate Training Process
The training process can take weeks even with consistency. You have to remember to stay patient. Two things to keep in mind while training:
- The kennel should always be associated with something pleasant.
- Training should take place in a series of small steps. DO NOT rush it.
- Introduce them to the crate. Place it in an area in the house where the family spends a lot of time. Place a soft blanket, a towel or a dog bed at the bottom of the kennel. Take the door off and let them explore the kennel on their own terms. Some will start sleeping in there on their own terms, but others you have to slowly coax. To help with that:
- Talk to them in a soothing, happy voice and bring them over to the kennel. Be sure the door is open and secured so that when you bring them over, it doesn’t hit them in the head and scare them.
- Encourage them to enter using food or treats. Make a small trail starting nearby the kennel and have it end inside the kennel. Once they get inside the kennel, praise them. If at first they don’t go all the way in, it’s alright. Remember, don’t force them to enter.
- Using the food trail may take several days until they are comfortable. If the food doesn’t work, try tossing their favorite toy or snuggle blanket inside. Having something with their owners scent is also calming to them.
- Feed them in their kennel. After they are used to the kennel, start feeding them their meals in the kennel. This will help create a pleasant atmosphere.
- If they’re entering the kennel on their own, start by placing the food bowl in the back of the kennel.
- If they’re still indifferent about the kennel, start by placing the food bowl towards the front of the kennel. Each time you feed them, place the bowl slightly further back in the kennel.
- Once they’re standing comfortably, you may close the door as they’re eating. Be sure to open the door as soon as they is finished eating. After each feeding, leave the door closed slightly longer then the time before until they stay in the kennel for 10 minutes after eating.
- When they begin to whine, you may have increased the time too long. Go back in time a little bit and shorten the amount of time the door is closed. If the whining continues, don’t let them out until they stop. Otherwise they will think that by whining, they will get their way and keep doing so.
- Lengthen the kenneling periods. Once they have no more fear or anxiety of being in the kennel while eating with the door shut, you can start to confine them in the kennel for short time periods while you’re at home with them.
- Call them over to the kennel with their name and give them a treat when they arrive.
- Give them a simple command, such as “kennel” or “home”, to enter their kennel. As you are giving this command, point towards the kennel and encourage them to enter while holding a treat in your hand.
- Once they enter, praise them, give them the treat and close the door.
- Quietly sit near the kennel for a few minutes, about 5-10 minutes, and then sneak away to another room for a few more minutes. Go back into the room and sit for yet another few minutes and then let them out of the kennel.
- Repeat this for several days and slowly increase the amount of time that they stay in the kennel.
- Once they have mastered staying in the kennel for 30 minutes quietly with you mostly out of sight, you can start to begin leaving them along when you’re gone for short periods of time (such as a quick trip to the bank). Again, this process may take several weeks. Be patient!
- Kenneling when you leave. Now you’ve mastered the kennel for short periods of time, you are ready to leave them in there while you’re out of the house.
- Still use the command that you choose for kennel and the treat method to get them to kennel up. You might want to leave some belongs that they like (such as their favorite blanket or toys).
- Figure out a time in which you plan on leaving the house. You don’t want them in the kennel for too long before you leave. You only want them in there for about 5 to 20 minutes prior to leaving.
- Don’t prolong your departure and be sure not to make it emotional. It is ok to say good-bye but sometimes too much is a bad thing.
When you get home, don’t praise them for excited behavior. Keep arrivals low key to avoid any increase in their anxiety they may get when you get home.
- Kennel them at night. Place them in the kennel with the usual command that you created. If they’re puppies yet, it’s not a bad idea to place the kennel in your bedroom or in the hallway near the bedroom so that you can hear when they wake up and need to go to the bathroom. Once they feel comfortable sleeping in the kennel at night, you may start to slowly move the kennel towards the location in which you would prefer it to be. With older dogs, they don’t necessarily need to be in the bedroom, but it’s recommended that they too are close by in case anything where to happen.
- Whining. Sometimes it’s difficult to decide if they are whining to be let out or whining because they need to be let out. If you’re following the guidelines above, it is likely that you may have released them when they whined before. If this is the case, just ignore it the best that you can. Eventually they will understand that they’re not getting to come out. They may just be testing you. Whatever you do, do not yell at them or pound on the kennel. Doing so will scare them or just make things worse.
If the whining continues after several minutes of you ignoring them, use the phrase that you choose that they will associate with outside. If they respond, then they may need to use the restroom. Be sure to take them straight outside and let them know that this trip out of the kennel is for a purpose and not for play time. If they don’t respond to outside, don’t give in to letting them out. This will just teach them to whine louder until they get what they want. If you have made your way through the training process slowly, you shouldn’t have this problem as they are older. However, you may need to go back and retry the steps.
- Separation anxiety. If your dog already has separation anxiety, placing them in the kennel won’t help a bit. This may cause them to become destructive and they may even injure themselves in attempt to escaping the kennel. If the anxiety problems progress, you may want to talk to your vet about some ways to help with it.