Helping Diamond Get Over Her Fear of the Kennel

By: David Codr

Published Date: March 5, 2014

DiamondMeet Diamond a two-year-old Siberian Huskie who’s separation anxiety was so bad she had broken out of several kennels. In addition to the separation anxiety, Diamond’s owner told me that she pulled on the leash, tried to dash out of any open door, begs for food, jumps on guests and was destroying the landlord’s house.

One of the first things I ask a client is what rules and boundaries the dog is expected to follow. Diamond’s owner shrugged her shoulders when I asked the questions before telling me the dog really didn’t have any.

While humans enjoy a more relaxed and less structured lifestyle, for dogs, especially those with behavioral tics, clear rules boundaries and limitations can be extremely beneficial. Having these rules and boundaries in place help define the leader follower relationship which helps the dog learn to defer to and respect their humans.

After suggesting a few simple rules to introduce, I demonstrated a leadership exercise to help build up Diamond’s respect for her owner. It only took Diamond three repetitions before she understood the exercise, at which point I coached her owner through it as well. By repeating this exercise a few times a day for thew next week or two, Diamond will become accustomed to look to her owner for guidance.

I also showed her owner my techniques to stop Diamond from jumping up on guests and pulling on the leash. Then I showed her how to claim an area like the doorway when guests arrived as well as when they are eating. By defining the boundary we ask the dog to respect, and disagreeing any time the dog forgets, we can help Diamond learn to keep a respectful distance during those activities.

Next I had her owner show me where the kennel was. Often when I work with dogs who have a fear of a kennel, part of the issue is the kennel being placed in a basement or other room that the dog doesn’t spend much time in. Since dogs are pack creatures, locating a kennel in a place like this can cause the dog to think its being intentionally isolated away from the other members of the pack. To eliminate this factor from the equation, I suggested that her owner relocate the kennel into their living room.

Next I tossed a few tasty treats into the kennel to gauge Diamond’s fear of entering. As soon as I did Diamond went to the far side of the room. I placed a few treats on the floor leading to the kennel then walked away from the area. Diamond waited a few seconds, then slowly walked over to investigate the treats on the floor. She gobbled the floor treats up, but when she got to the ones in the kennel, she paused and then cautiously stepped inside to retrieve them.

As this is an obvious cue that she has some fear of the kennel, I spent a few minutes tossing treats into the kennel from a distance. At first she only entered cautiously, but as time passed she started to show more confidence.

As soon as it was clear she no longer feared going into her kennel I showed her owner an exercise that will help her learn to stay calm in the kennel. In this exercise we leave the kennel door open and communicate the dog cannot come out until given permission.

It only took two repetitions before Diamond understood what i was asking and surrendered to the exercise. Once she did, I coached her owner through the exercise with equal success.

Adding new rules, changing the kennel’s location and practicing the leadership and kennel exercises will help Diamond get over her fears of being left alone as she builds up her confidence in these scenarios.

By the end of the session, Diamond was laying on the floor contently. It will take a week or two before these new behaviors become permanent, but once they do, the new confident Diamond will be an even better companion.



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