I’ve lost count over the years of how many clients have called me to help them with problem behaviours like house soiling, chewing and general destructive behaviour. Almost every single time the dogs are left roaming the house both when the owners are home and when they are out. The dogs range in age from new puppy (8 weeks) to senior (over 13 years old!). It seems to be a major goal of new puppy owners to be able to leave their pup loose in the house as soon as possible.
From a dog training perspective it doesn’t make sense to be in a rush to leave a dog loose in a home unsupervised. A lot of things that dogs naturally enjoy are incompatible with our expectations. This includes not peeing where you want and leaving that couch alone! Or those of you who prefer your dog doesn’t help themselves to that loaf of bread on the counter.
And you know what my answer is? It’s almost always the same. I believe in kennel training dogs. All dogs with a few exceptions (very few). The exceptions tend to fall in that separation anxiety group and sometimes their needs are different. Both generally speaking the answer is to kennel train.
I’ve heard so many people say that it’s cruel. And then I look around my house. I’m home with my dogs most of the day, everyday (lucky me!). And you know what I see? At any given time at least half my dogs tend to sleep in their kennels. I have 4 extremely comfortable dog beds around my home and still they choose the kennels! In fact here’s a photo of Heidi right now. She’s in there 90% of the time. It’s her bed and she’s safe in there. She has her comfy blanket and her water. She can see me but also has privacy from the other dogs and my stepdaughter who’s running around playing. There’s nothing cruel about kennel when a dog has a positive association with it.
Please note that both Heidi (Miniature Schnauzer) and Remi (French Bulldog) are rescues with a trauma background. Heidi was not kennel trained when she arrived in my home and in fact she hated it! Remi was a rescue from a Puppy Mill and she did find comfort in her kennel and we used that to help socialize to her when we went somewhere new (scary for her). And now you’re saying well that’s great but how can I get my dog to want to be in their kennel too? Easy. Here’s my steps.
- Feed your dog in their crate. Start with the door open and work your way longer and longer.
- Place the kennel somewhere your dog would like to be. My kennels are in my office because I’m there frequently, there’s great air flow and the room doesn’t get too hot.
- Choose the right size and type of crate for your dog. Heidi prefers wire, slightly larger than she needs, covered with a towel and multiple blankets for nesting. Every dog is different. She also insists on having her water topped up. My Pointer Ari prefers a plastic kennel, quite large and with a dark blanket (the softer the better). He couldn’t careless if there’s water or not but he gets it anyway. My Aussie Marco doesn’t have a favourite type but he likes one blanket that he can move out of the way so he can lie directly on the cool plastic. He also likes water in there. Play with the format and see what your dog likes. It’s easy enough to buy a used kennel, wipe it down with bleach and leave outside for 24 hours. If your dog doesn’t seem to be doing well with it then sell it and try another kind.
- Give special treats like bones in the crate. I also feed stuffed kongs in there. This helps keep the peace as well as teaches my dog to relax in there.
- Give your dog plenty of time to get used to using it before leaving them alone in the crate. The timeline varies dog to dog depending on background and individual needs.
Why do I do this?
- Gives my dog a safe space to be where I don’t have to worry they are developing bad habits.
- Gives my dog a place to eat or enjoy a treat undisturbed.
- Gives my dog a sense of security.
- Gives my dog a stable environment that they are comfortable when we are travelling.
My dogs sleep in their crates at night and stay in them when I go out. I can leave them out if I like as we’ve done so much working on preventing boredom behaviours that I don’t have to worry about them getting into the garbage, chewing something inappropriate or urinating around the house however I do use them when I go out about 75% of the time. My goal isn’t to have my dogs loose in my house – it’s to keep my dogs safe and happy.