The Ultimate Guide to Kennel Training
There is a lot of material out there on puppy and young dog training. Much of it is great. However a lot of it focuses on training and sticking to a step plan. As a person who has trained many dogs, I can tell you there is no step plan. The problem with most puppies and young dogs is they have an array of issues going on. With some puppies you can ease them into their kennel with encouragement and treats. However, with many other dogs and puppies this alone will not work. The older the dog the deeper the issue might be. If the 'How To Crate Train" your puppy articles aren't working for you, you may want to stick around and have a read.
I am willing to bet the majority of you have ventured to this article for this issue alone. I have good news and I have some bad news. The good news is that after reading this article you will be prepared to tackle this issue. Your dog will respond in desirable ways and after a bit of chaos the noise will stop. The bad news is that your puppy or young dogs problems may go beyond the crate. So many crate training articles exist with people desperately asking for help in the articles comment section. I notice that generally these authors do not know what to say or do. They normally just post the steps they have provided and insist the dog owner try again. The major issue with this logic is that they do not know your puppy or young dog. Often they assume that their steps will work the desired way in every case. That is wishful thinking indeed. With that in mind, I will list some of my steps and explain them in detail. I will also address a lot of common issues and try to help you identify the real reason your dog is howling in the night.
Crate Training A Puppy(8 weeks old - 24 months)
- Buy The Appropriate Crate - Having the right crate size matters. In nature many animals burrow but less often do they take up entire caves to do so. Having a large area isn't always the best thing when kennel training. A proper crates should be able to hold a bed for your puppy and a puppy pad. Yet, having a crate that only holds a bed is a lot better than a crate that could hold multiple beds. Having a crate that isn't as tall is better than having a crate that towers. Dogs enjoy small and warm spaces and not so much the shotgun floor plans. Keep it simple! If you've purchased a very large crate for a small puppy who will grow, use the divider to your advantage in the beginning. DO NOT PUT THE KENNEL OR CRATE WHERE YOU SLEEP! This can create an issue down the road called separation anxiety. Some dogs go on Xanax for this issue. Yes , XANAX...
- Crate Feeding - This part is likely to take a lot of time and effort. Conditioning is key to successful integrating your dog from open space to the crate. The first step is to place your puppies food and water inside the crate. Only allow them to eat and drink from the crate. No matter how stubborn they are your dog will eventually enter the crate. As time passes your dog will become more acclimated to the idea of eating in the crate. Limiting your dog's food consumption is also key. Small amounts of food given a few times during the day is better than large amounts given at once. Remove the water and food and place them in a place they cannot be reached. Do not leave food or water with your animal overnight.
- Create A Crate Reward System - I suggest buying multiple treats. One for training outside the kennel and one for inside the kennel. Use a dry, bone like treat for training outside the kennel and a juicy, beef like treat for inside of it. This will not only show your puppy that it has done well by getting inside the kennel but will condition them to want the better tasting treat. Place your puppy in the kennel and make sure to say their name and "kennel" while placing them in. For example, my recent puppies name is Bell. I would say "Bell, Kennel" while placing her inside. Attempts at escape while placing them in the kennel are normal and should not be acknowledged. Simply shut the gate and continue. At this point you want to utilize language such as "Good BOY!" or "Good GIRL!". Go overboard with praise while offering the treat. After time your puppy should start going to the crate on their own when they hear or see you going for the treat. Eventually you will start to condition them to go to the crate when you say your puppies name in combination with the world kennel. Follow up with the reward immediately when this happens. If this conditioning fails, try placing them in the kennel without saying "Kennel" at times. Do not offer praise or rewards during these times. Then follow up by saying kennel and offering the rewards and praise again. Your dog is smart and will catch on.
- Playing With Them In The Kennel- Despite many tutorials suggesting you ease and play with your puppy while its in the kennel, I do not suggest it. While the logic behind easing them in seems to be sound, dogs are very territorial and aware by nature. As the pet owner you want to create the image as Alpha as soon as possible with your animals. This will help you a lot with other behavioral issues we will discuss down the road. Do not spend time with your puppy near the kennel. You could do more harm than good. You want to reward them and walk away. The only easing I would suggest is to put them in with the reward and wait for the crying. When they begin to cry and whine show them no attention. Do not acknowledge them and act as if everything is normal. When they quiet down you can release them from the kennel but do not make eye contact with them as they whine or cry. Absolutely no sad faces or feeling sorry for them! This is a good and safe place for them to be and you should encourage that by not reacting. Think of it this way, if a child wanted to sleep on the playground alone at night would you let them? Of course not. Your puppy can be in danger at night on the loose and can cause serious damage. It can even hurt your relationships and lead to abuse. Your puppy is a good thing, focus and keep it that way! However, DO NOT LEAVE THEM IN FOR LONG PERIODS OF TIME DURING THE DAY. It's important your puppy realizes when you sleep, they sleep. Using natural sleep cycles also helps them sleep better. Do not put your dog in the kennel for longer than 15-20 minutes during the day while still in early stages of crate training.
- Kennel Your Puppy When You Eat- Start a good habit now. Do not allow your puppy to beg for food. Take the time to place them in the kennel when you sit down for meals. You can take this time to feed them as well. Do not react to any negative behavior and do not release your puppy until it has stopped crying and everyone has finished eating.
- Before Bed- Take steps before your normal sleep cycle to help the puppy or small dog get ready for sleep as well. Make sure you play them and walk them. You should encourage they eat a small amount of food and drink a small amount of water. After 30-45 minutes you should take them to potty. This will help them clear their systems and last longer inside of the kennel. Most younger puppies can only go three to five hours without a bathroom break. This complicates training. Allowing them a small amount of food and water can help push digested food out of their systems and lead to small accidents. Make sure your puppy or young dog has walked or ran a bit before bed. Get up and walk with them as its good for you as well. Harness has much better results down the road than a collar but younger puppies seem to respond to collars better. If you are lazy don't let your puppy be! Try tug-o-war with a rope or tossing the ball. If the puppy seem disinterested , try feeding them a small amount of peanut butter then places some inside of a ball and allowing them to sniff it. This should add some interest now!
- Time For Bed- I would strongly advise you plan on three to ten days of sleeping issues. It is best to start on a Thursday. This will allow you to be good and tired by Friday night and nap during Saturday and Sunday. With any luck your puppy will stop its crying a few days in. However, this is not the NORM! Normally it takes at least four to five days however some puppies and young dogs can take weeks or longer. These cases are usually not just the kennel issue but another behavioral issue combined. The most common cause of this is separation anxiety. I will have another article on separation anxiety soon. If you suspect your puppy or young dog may have this anxiety then you must make a choice. You can go a long time without sleep or you can fix one issue then address the next. In these cases I suggest moving the puppy or young dog into your room. Remember , you can not acknowledge the behavior. Do not wake up to take them outside because they are crying. Do not yell at them to stop. Act as if they do not exist. Earplugs can help you here. Do not moving them in your room when they are crying for the sake of sleep. This is a bad idea. Wait until the next day when they are no longer in the kennel then move the kennel or crate into your room. Do not give in! The madness will be worth dealing with it all in the end.
- Toys- Puppies love to chew and dogs in general like toys. Keep some in the crate at night. If your dog has a blanket they like , also place that in. The dog is even less likely to have an accident on a blanket or bedding they like more than others. Puppies love to chew so messes are likely but controlling what they chew and where the messes are is the victory here.
- Safe Space- No, I am not talking going to get political here. Safe space is what the kennel or crate is for your puppy. You must respect that space. If you are screaming at your puppy or young dog for chewing up a shoe, you must stop when they enter their kennel or crate. If you are going to pop their butt or show them what they did wrong, you must stop trying if they enter their safe space. You want to build the idea that this area is a place of safety they can go to. You do not want to ever punish your dog with the kennel or crate . What will eventually end up happening is your dog will retreat to this area willingly when you are upset. Your dog will be thankful for it. It will also help your dog realize they have done wrong. This is the most effective way to punish them. Your animal will realize its submitting and naturally try to correct it's behavior. The principal behind this is a lot of psychology. Basically , animals do not like when they self submit and it leaves an impression. You may come home and see your dog retreat on their own for the crate. At this point you should probably assume they gave in to temptation and some shoe strings are chewed. Do not kick or strike your dog in the face, ever. When you react this way to bad behavior you are giving attention that is unhelpful. They do not fear their actions, they fear you. You might as well just be handing them a treat at that point for eating your Xbox remote. If they become lonely or feel you are not showing enough attention the animal might actually lash out by eating more of your stuff.
- Sleeping Medicine - Can you give a dog human sleep medications? Yes, but NO. You can harm them or even kill them. In fact, the majority of non disease causing deaths of dogs between the ages of 8 weeks and 2 years is accidental overdosing. This include things you can use on your animal like tranquilizers and Xanax. Do not give your puppy any medication during its training. You aren't training them at that point, you are drugging them and it will fail. Give it at least several weeks before you consider any of these options. If after these weeks you still have an issue try natural means first. Lavender is very calming for all animals and humans. I am not going to dial up green tea and herbal remedies here but i will inform you that Melatonin is a natural sleep aid you can use. It is the hormone that all animals create during hormonal switches in night cycles. It helps animals wind down and start the sleep process. This medication can help with separation anxiety issues. There are many weight and dosage guides out there but in general I would suggest you do not go over 1mg. The size of your dog doesn't matter here. This is because you want to boost their natural levels and higher dosages will lead to issues with your animals regulation of hormones. The body naturally fluxes by 1-1.5 mgs per night so 1 mg would be in that natural range. Do not use natural Melatonin as it may have been gathered by an animal that had a disease. Instead find synthetic or laboratory made Melatonin. I know, I know! Natural is better! Yea, not so much in this case.
Follow these steps but remember there are other issues such as separation anxiety that might prevent your dog from taking to a crate. Try to remember that just because your dog stops crying doesn't mean the training is a success. Keep up the conditioning for at least 6 months to a year after the dog takes to the crate or kennel.
I Recommend This For Your Dogs Anxiety
Dogs Are Curious Just Like Cats
Covering The Kennel Or Crate
Sometimes the issue is visual. Adding a blanket over the crate or kennel may actually stop the whining you are experiencing at night. Normally, the culprit of this anxiety is that pesky old cat. While the cat may not engage or even like the dog, at night time they can't help but tease them. Other things such as people moving around and the wind rustling trees can also be a factor. Use a blanket only when your animal has adequate space and breathing room. This little trick might save the day! Thanks for reading. Check out my other articles soon to come on potty and separation anxiety training. I will also being doing an article on clicker training and basic commands.