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KENNEL TRAINING FOR CATS AND DOGS

As you can see my dog Cody is happily hanging out in his kennel (crate) licking out a Kong stuffed with some dog food.  I do not confine him in a kennel very often but I think it is important for all dogs to learn that a kennel is a great place to be.  I often find him sleeping in there on his own as it is a comfortable and happy place for him to be.  If they travel or have to stay at the vet, they will be much more relaxed if they are OK with being confined.  With time and patience, your dog will love their kennel.   The methods used here apply to both dogs and cats.

There are many different types of kennels.  If you are using the kennel for housetraining your dog, it should be just big enough for the pet to stand up and turn around in.  Cody’s kennel would be too big for housetraining so we used a cat kennel for that.  Some pets like very dark enclosed kennels while other prefer more open kennels like the one shown.   It also folds down for travel.

During my Manner Class with Cody I was introduced to a wonderful video on crate games that will get your pet begging to go in their crate.   I haven’t watched the whole thing but I loved the part I watched and if you are the type of person that prefers to see something vs. read about it consider this. 

Go to the following site and click on preview for a video preview and site where you can purchase it if you like:

The only suggestion I would have that differs from this video is I would not use their crate for time outs if the dog or cat has been engaging in an unacceptable behaviour.  Have a different area for time outs that are for punishment.  The crate should always be a happy place and when you put a dog in a time out they may feel your annoyance or anger. 
If you prefer step by step written instructions, I’ll go through one method below:

  • For a few days leave the kennel open and sprinkle treats around and in it.  Use a highly valued treat and use a small handful a few times/day. 
  • Once the pet is offering to go into the crate on its own, start feeding the pet in the crate with the door open.
  • Also, have several sessions a day where you send the dog into the crate and reward immediately with a treat.  Progress to having the dog wait a few seconds in the crate for the treat. 
  • Then, you can start closing the door.  Close it part way and reward the pet through the bars near the back of the kennel.  If your pet accepts this well then progress to closing the door and waiting a few seconds and  then give a treat.  Occasionally let the pet out and play or pet them for a few minutes.  Do several short sessions of this a day for a day or two.
  • Next step is to have the pet go in and use the door to block them from coming out by gently closing the door if the pet steps towards it.   When they stop open the door again.   After a few repetitions the pet won’t rush to the door.  Then you want to reward the pet through the bars at the back of the kennel then open the door and give them a come out command. 
  • Progress until your pet will stay in the kennel with the door open.   
  • Throughout this process continue leaving treats in the kennel between exercises.  Let them out in the yard and when they can’t see you hide treats in the kennel.  Start hiding them under the blanket or mat.  Anytime you see the pet go in the kennel praise them and give them another treat.  Also, consider tying a favoured toy to the kennel bars at the back and putting some honey on it.  This will also encourage them to go in and stay in.
  • Then progress to short periods with the door shut giving occasional treats through the back of the kennel  but making the interval between treats a lot longer.
  • Then try a one minute stay where you go out of site.  Come back and if the pet is quiet reward at back of kennel and then release and play.  If the pet is not quiet, simply sit by the kennel ignoring the pet until he/she is quiet, then reward and release.   You may have to go back a step or progress more slowly if your pet is having trouble.
  • Work up to longer periods being sure to vary short and medium and longer periods.  Increase the long periods by 5 – 10 minute intervals.

There are many similar approaches to crate training but these are the basics as I see them.  Remember, it should be fun.  If the pet is stressed, slow things down.   In adult pets that have had bad experiences or have separation anxiety you may need to start with a different type of kennel and you may have to start 10 feet away from the kennel.

Other tips:

  • Exercise the dog or play with the cat and make sure they are calm before longer stays in the kennel so they will want to snooze.
  • Have a Kong or other stuffed toy to keep them occupied in the kennel.  Save it as a special treat for the kennel. 
  • Playing classical music can help calm pets and may cover up outside noises that would cause barking or fear.
  • Never leave your pet kenneled more than 5 hours.  
  • If leaving your pet kenneled for long periods ensure they get lots of exercise and mental stimulation otherwise. 
  • Putting a kennel, secured safely, on a high perch can also encourage a cat to use it. The kennels with doors on each end are great in multi-cat households so that the cat won’t get cornered.   Remove the doors or secure them open. 
  • Another product that is good for kennel training is the Manner’s Minder.   Go to this link for an overview:

So I hope this helps and that next time you go to the vet you aren’t struggling to get your pet forcibly stuffed into a kennel.  It is like they grow extra legs.

Dr. Liana Mawer