Introducing a Kennel to Fred the Right Way

By: David Codr

Published Date: May 2, 2014

FredThis is Fred, a two-year-old male St Bernard. His owners recently rescued him and ran into a problem whenever they left Fred home alone so they tried a kennel.  Actually they tried a few kennels but Fred busted out of each one of them and proceeded to get into trouble. One time, after busting out of a kennel he busted through a window and ended up on the roof to the family home!

When I arrived for the session, Fred was inquisitive, but not at all aggressive or over excited. As I usually do I asked what rules and boundaries he was expected to follow. As is often the case with my clients, Fred’s owners struggled to come up with any.

I suggested a few simple rules for his owners to adopt to help Fred see them as pack leaders. Simple things like asking a dog to sit before he gets petted or let out a door can have a big impact on a dog’s perception of itself and its behavior.

Fred’s owners had ordered and assembled a new wire kennel in their living room before I arrived. I always advise clients to place a kennel in a main room rather than a laundry room, basement, etc. When we kennel a dog in a room we rarely  use, its not uncommon for the dog to think its owners are still in the next room.

Dogs are communal or pack animals, so to be sequestered away from the family is one of the worst things for a dog to deal with. Placing a kennel in a room the dog has little exposure to can create a feeling of abandonment.

By placing the kennel in a room the dog and family use frequently can help the dog relax as it knows no one is home rather than thinking the pack is intentionally isolating the dog away from them.

Next I tossed in a few high value treats to gauge Fred’s perception or fear of the kennel. Because this was a brand new kennel and it was positioned in the living room, Fred did not assign any negative feeling towards it and walked in calmly to retrieve the treat.

I repeated the process a few times to confirm Fred didn’t have a fear of the kennel. Once I knew that was the case, I tossed in another treat and followed right behind him stopping at the kennel door. This position blocked Fred from exiting the kennel.

I remained in position for a moment, then took one deliberate step backwards. Once there I paused and waited to see if Fred tried to exit. Because Fred remained in place, I took another step back so that I was about five feet from the kennel. After I did, Fred started to move toward the kennel’s door so I immediately and briskly marched back to the kennel door to block him. As soon as I started to move towards the kennel, Fred stopped, so I did the same. By mirroring the dog this way, we can communicate throughout movement and positioning that I want him to remain inside.

After Fred stopped moving, I took another step backwards, paused and waited again before taking another step. At this point Fred sat down so I took another step backwards then paused and waited. I repeated this process until I was all the way across the room. A few moments later, Fred laid down in the kennel which was his was of communicating he was no longer trying to come out. As soon as he did this, I dropped to a knee and gave him the recall command to exit.

After repeating this exercise a few times, I coached the members of the family through it to equal success. Even the preteen son was able to get Fred to stay inside the kennel despite the fact Fred was probably double his size or weight.

By practicing staying in the kennel with the door open with the members of the family in the room, Fred will learn to relax inside the kennel. Once this is the case, his family can move to the next step – closing the kennel door, but remaining in the room and only letting him out once he lays down.

This exercise changes a dog’s perspective of the kennel as keeping him away from his pack to staying int he kennel makes his pack leaders happy. Because he responded so quickly and calmly, Im confident Fred will learn to relax inside and stop breaking out of kennels altogether.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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