Free Kennel Training Tips and a Great Way to Teach a Dog to Stay

By: David Codr

Published Date: January 18, 2017

Nicki is a rescued Black Lab who lives in Santa Monica, California. Her guardians set up a dog behavior training session with me to put a stop to her Separation Anxiety and some kennel training to get her over her fear of the kennel.

I actually met Nicki the day before this session. Her guardians are friends of a friend so I had taken my dalmatian puppy Quest over for a little play date.  While we watched the dogs play together, the guardians mentioned that Nicki had a severe case of separation anxiety and had broken a few teeth trying to get out of her kennel so we set up a dog behavior session.

I sat down with her guardians and spent about an hour going over a number of small changes that they can make to their day-to-day routine to help Nicki feel more confident and stop going into a panic attack when left alone. Many of these are dog training tips that ironically are missed when people call in a dog trainer for a dog behavior issue.

After sharing a number of dog training tips and dog behavior secrets, I came to the conclusion that a big part of Nicki’s issue was lack of self-control. Whenever she demanded attention, her guardians immediately petted her. Anytime that she was nervous or anxious, they used a “good girl” or “it’s OK” phrase over and over.

Because dogs learn through association, repeating a phrase over and over when a dog is excited, anxious, fearful or nervous can actually become a command word for that behavior. So by trying to soothe Nicki, her guardians were unintentionally reinforcing her insecurity.

I recommended the guardians start to practice my petting with a purpose method. By asking Nicki to earn praise and attention by sitting or laying down, her guardians can help her transition into more of a follower’s mindset. Instead of telling the humans what to do (Pet me), she discovers the best way to get petted is to do what the humans ask first. In time, this will transition Nicki into “prepaying” for attention by coming over to her guardians and sitting in front of them to ask for attention.

This will also help Nicki develop some self-control and is a great way to use positive reinforcement to motivate your dog to do things that you like them to do.

I also recommended that they get into a habit of narrating when they pet Nikki. Every time she comes to them, they should pet her and say the word “come.” Every time she sits down near them, they should pet her and say the word “sit.” I call this passive training. If her guardians can get into this habit (it takes a concerted effort for a week or two to become habit), they will basically be training Nicki each time they do and they wont even think about doing it.

By training Nicki to ask for attention instead of demanding it by pawing or nudging her, the guardians will be helping her develop more self control and move into a follower’s mindset.

If a dog feels responsible for a human, this can add pressure and stress. Helping Nicki clearly see her humans as the leaders will reduce this feeling of responsibility which will help lower her stress and anxiety.

Another thing I noticed during the session was that the guardians would tell her to stay multiple times. This is usually an indicator of a dog that was not properly trained to stay until released.

Because training a dog to stay is an activity that requires a lot of control, I thought this would be an excellent skill for her to develop. I spent the next few minutes demonstrating how to train a dog to stay.

It will be important for the guardians to practice the stay exercise in short sprints multiple times a day. I would like to see each of the two guardians practicing the stay with Nicki a minimum of twice a day. Keep in mind these practice session should be short; only after time should they be able to get up to something as long as five minutes. Until then, these practice sessions should be short minute-sprints.

Once the dog can stay for up to five minutes, then the guardians will be ready for the next step which is teaching the dog to stay for distance.

The Stay is an awesome command for a dog to master, but it takes a lot of practice. I have found that the most effective way to do this is to make short practice sessions a part of your morning and evening ritual. So before the guardians go off to work or after breakfast, each one of them should take Nicki aside and practice the Stay. Same thing with coming home from work and before or after dinner. Getting into a habit will help the humans get into a rhythm that will help keep the progress going.

While building up self-control is going to go a long ways towards helping Nicki feel more confident and avoid that panic feeling when left alone, the guardians are going to need to be able to use the kennel to keep her from destroying anything.

Any time a dog is hurting itself trying to escape the kennel, it’s a serious situation. I knew that the guardians were very exasperated by this and so I spent a couple of minutes doing some crate training to demonstrate how they can help Nicki learn to be calm inside of the kennel.

Just like the stay, kennel training is something that needs to happen multiple times a day, every day. Its the cumulative practice that helps the dog. Essentially we are helping it practice staying calm in the kennel. At first for very short periods of time, then progressively longer once she lays down and relaxes.

I suggested that they work their way up to 20 minutes in the kennel before moving on to the next step. However, this is just a guess. Some dogs need to practice longer.

Studies have shown that for dogs with this problem, practicing staying calm for two hours is the maximum needed. Once a dog crosses the two hour threshold, they can go longer without incident.

After explaining that, I went over the next steps in this kennel training technique with Nicki’s guardians.

By helping Nicki practice being calm inside of the kennel while the guardians are present, they remove one of the factors that was causing Nicki to panic, being left alone. Breaking things into individual or small steps is a dog training tip I have seen work over and over in my years as a Dog Behaviorist.

ROADMAP to SUCCESS

  • Avoid using “Good girl” or “its OK” when Nicki is excited, unsettled or anxious.
  • Avoid petting Nicki when she demands it by Petting wth a Purpose.
  • Pet or correct Nicki within 3 seconds maximum.
  • Use the command word when petting Nicki anytime she does a desired behavior like; sit, come or down.
  • Look for opportunities to ask Nicki to wait to help her develop more self control.
  • Enforce rules and boundaries consistently (Not within seven feet of anyone eating food, respect personal space, etc) to help Nicki move into more of a follower’s mindset.
  • Each guardians should practice the Stay exercise two or more times a day.
  • Each guardian should practice the kennel training exercise two or more times a day while gradually increasing the time she practices staying inside it calmly.
  • Teach Nicki some new commands to help build up her self esteem and develop more control.
  • Suggest teaching one new trick a week for 8 weeks with the guardians taking turns each week as her instructor. Start this after the kennel and stay training are complete.
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