Crate or kennel training frequently gets a lot of criticism from “ animal lovers”. Our mindset must adjust to the fact that dogs are den animals, and of course, they are dogs! If a dog feels insecure he wants to hide in a closet, under a table or chair. Dogs are predisposed to finding enclosures comforting. There are many reasons for crate training your puppy, which we will approach individually.
When first bringing a puppy home, a crate should have been purchased. It should be only large enough for the pup to lay, stand, and turn around. Many crates come with a divider that is moveable and removable as training progresses.
The puppy should be introduced to the kennel by putting the pup inside with a hard, waterproof toy. Close the door and walk away. Return when the pup is quiet and open the door. A treat may be given at that time. Always remember, treats are REWARDS for good behavior, not just for fun. It will ruin the importance of reward if he gets treats no matter how he behaves. The puppy will learn quickly that in the kennel, he will not pee or poop or he will make a mess of himself. When you take the pup out of the kennel, immediately take him to his potty station, again rewarding after a successful relieving of waste matter. Its important to be consistent when crate training your puppy
Once there are no mistakes in the kennel, no pee or poo, the pup may then be moved to a larger kennel or the kennel divider may be moved to increase his living area. During this initial training, there should be NOTHING in the bottom of the crate except non-absorbent toys. The purpose of this is to avoid the pup soiling a towel or other item that can soak up any liquid or waste, which can then be pushed away so as the pup remain dry and clean. In most cases a few mistakes and having to deal with his own waste, instills the need of retaining potty actions. You, as the master, must let the puppy out to the potty station every few hours at the onset, and as control of the bladder is strengthening. Once the pup has gone potty, followed by your phrases of approval and a treat, playtime can begin!
Repeatedly, I use the phrase “potty Station”. This place can vary according to your life’s situation. In most cases it is outdoors. The same area should be used so the scent of the urine and feces will promote and reassure the pup that this IS the appropriate spot to relieve himself. ANY place YOU chose may become the potty station. For example, older folks, or condo livers may decide to allow their dog to be house trained on the lanai or porch. People living in high rises, use elevators to leave the building, frequently find this option more realistic. The same process is involved, but using a potty pad or one of the relief areas that are artificial turf. The main object is the same Puppy remains in the kennel until the pup has relieved himself and then the pup may come out to play. Always keep in mind, a puppy needs to relieve himself frequently, and it is up to you to watch for the signs of circling, sniffing, running erratically with nose to the ground, as signs the pup needs to go to the potty station. We, as the “intelligent” ones, need to learn the signs the puppy is displaying, to let you know what is going to happen. In cases such as those, and the OWNER misses the signal, guess who is at fault, NOT the pup!
During the nighttime the puppy should be in the crate to avoid and messes. The same is throughout the day, if the puppy is not supervised, he belongs in his kennel,
This brings us to the second reason for kennel usage.
The safety of the pup or dog.
As with unattended children, our canine friends can get into places that are unsafe for our fuzzy charges. The ability to watch you pup every moment of the day is naive. Every corner can bring a new point of danger, electrical cords, stairs, small objects to swallow, and here in Florida the worse danger of all; swimming pools. Thus, when the puppy or dog is NOT SUPERVISED, the crate does it’s purpose. Kennels are NEVER used for punishment, this is your pet’s personal space, or den. Assuming potty training is achieved , more comfort items may be introduced to the kennel. Considering the stages of teething, pick toys that are appropriate.
Another “safety” purpose for the dog is to prevent him from chewing on other items which not only makes your arrival back home terribly unpleasant but very dangerous for the dog .
Dogs and puppies have lost their lives or have gone under major surgeries due to stuffing entangled in their stomachs and intestines. At the best, this makes a very unpleasant moment of entering a room. If the pup had been in the kennel as he should have been, this entire situation would be avoided, and a happy welcoming face would be the image, not destruction. A good reason to commit to crate training your dog or puppy!
This is an area that seems to be neglected when there is a discussion; traveling with your dog. Since the dog has developed a comforting relationship with his crate, the stress is relieved to a monumental extent by bringing his “den or bedroom” with you. We, as humans, feel stress when traveling and tend to bring items of comfort. The dogs home, which can be folded and transported brings much comfort and helps to relieve that uneasy feeling being in a strange environment. This also creates a much more welcoming feeling from those you visit!
One more point I must make, living in hurricane zones, tornado or flooding areas, the concept of evacuation is a reality. Having your dog kennel or crate trained creates a situation of one less concern.
All of my dogs ( most pushing 100 pounds apiece) are crate trained. The phrase “kennel-up” relates to them as not a negative , but a positive and comforting command.
Breeder and Trainer of American Bulldogs
Over 30 years experience with domestic and exotic animals