Training your dog to be comfortable in a kennel is helpful for many reasons.
A new dog or puppy in your home should be supervised or confined. Everything must be earned by your dog, including freedom. A new puppy or dog coming into your home will need to learn the rules of the house, including when and where to potty, what is acceptable to chew and play with, and where it is acceptable to rest in the house. Keeping your dog confined to a small area when unsupervised will help prevent bad behaviors from happening in the first place.
Dogs are den animals and can easily learn to love a kennel, crate, or smaller confined area (such as a bathroom or closed off hallway). Make sure that your dog’s area is always a positive place. NEVER use your kennel as punishment! We want our dogs to love their kennel area because they will be required to spend extended periods of time there.
To start getting your dog into the kennel for the first time, toss some high value yummy treats inside. When your dog enters the kennel, use your cue word (such as “kennel” or “house” or whatever you want to call it), then praise with your Marker Word (“Good” or “Yes”). Repeat this several times until your dog starts to get more comfortable. Some dogs may try and keep their back feet out of the kennel and still get the treat. If this happens, try putting the treat further back in the kennel, or luring them to the far side from the outside of the bars (sticking your treat inside the kennel). Praise lavishly every time your dog goes into the kennel. Once the dog has all paws inside the kennel, calmly close the door. Praise and treat again. Get your dog to do a Sit or Down inside the kennel and praise again. Tell him to Stay and walk away. Stay in sight at first and wait just a few minutes, then go to let the dog out.
When letting your dog out of his kennel, take your time. Door open does not mean rush out. Each time your dog tries to rush out of the kennel, the door goes back closed. I start by simply putting my hand on the lock, then unlatch the lock. Next open the door a crack. Then another inch, and so on until you can open the door wide and the dog is waiting. If at anytime the dog tries to rush the door, mark with your “Uh-oh” while closing the door back and starting from the beginning. Be sure to remain calm and patient. Once you can open the door wide and the dog remains waiting patiently, give the dog his release cue and walk away. NO TREATS once the dog is released. Only give treats INSIDE the kennel.
If your dog is barking and/or whining, do a loud clap with your hands while marking the bad behavior with your “Uh-uh.” Give a cue word such as Quiet or Hush. Wait for 5 seconds of quiet, then reward with a calm Good. If the dog barks/whines as you are trying to let him out, go back to the beginning with the door shut and start over.
Some helpful ways to get your dog loving their kennel…
Feed your dog his regular meals inside the kennel. Give your dog something special and amazingly yummy in his kennel, such as a bone or Kong filled with yummy treats.