Kennel Training a Boston Terrier Puppy Using Positive Reinforcement

By: David Codr

Published Date: August 7, 2016

Penny (Boston)

Penny is a one-year-old Boston Terrier in Omaha. Her guardian arranged a dog obedience training session with me to stop her Separation Anxiety, deep fear of the kennel and get some potty training help.

Penny was curious and playful during my arrival. She did try to jump up on me quite a bit and while she was clearly excited, she was not out of control.

I sat down with her guardian to discuss how I could help. The number one priority was to stop Penny from having accidents in the house.

The guardian had tried to utilize a kennel early on, but Penny showed an extreme reaction to being left alone in the kennel; drooling, vomiting and urinating inside of it.

I asked the guardian how he introduced the kennel to Penny and like many dog people do, he simply placed the dog inside and then left for work. For a lot of dogs this is fine, but for other dogs, we need to teach them first how to be left alone without panicking as well as how to become comfortable with being inside the kennel.

The guardian had come up with a great work around; he had started placing Penny in his bathroom when he left. This extra space and or the the familiarity to the bathroom helped Penny deal with being left alone without going into a panic. She even started to jump into the bathtub to do her business. But the guardian wanted to put a stop to Penny’s elimination anywhere in the house as she was occasionally having accidents outside of the bathroom.

Based on what the guardian wanted to achieve, I felt the best course of action was to help Penny get over her fear of the kennel so she could stay there during the day; but NEVER for more than 5 hours at a stretch. Leaving a dog in a kennel longer than that will result in stress, anxiety and can easily lead to other behavioral problems.

I recommended that the guardian start taking Penny to doggy day care during the day while she transitions from a negative perception of the kennel into a positive one.

When you are trying to help a dog adopt a new behavior is important that you set the dog up for success by eliminating any possibility of the dog having a setback or negative experience. In this case we want to eliminate Penny’s ability to have an accidents in the house or go in the bathroom while we are changing her perception of the kennel.

I went over some potty training basics with her guardian as it sounded like a couple of steps may have been missed. Assigning a command word and clearly communicating it to the dog with good timing is a crucial element in teaching a dog to eliminate outside.

I had the guardian retrieve the wire kennel and set it up in the living room so that I could help Penny start to feel good about going inside it.

I must admit I was surprised at how quickly Penny got over her initial kennel fears. I recommended that the guardian practice the techniques that I demonstrated in the above video multiple times a day for 3 to 7 days before heading to the next step. It’s crucial that Penny get so comfortable about the kennel that she is going into it on her own, even without a treat present. Preferably to head in there to take short naps from time to time.

Next I shared some secrets and tips that will help Penny not only feel comfortable about the kennel, but increase her desire to be inside of it.

Once Penny is hanging out in the kennel on her own and not hesitating at all, then the guardian will be able to transition to the next step.

I pulled out some additional high-value treats and then showed the guardian how he can communicate to Penny that she needs to stay inside the kennel until given her release command despite the door staying wide open.

For many dogs, the fear of the kennel is twofold; being secured inside of the kennel and the guardian leaving the dog alone. The best way to rehabilitate a dog who has a fear of the kennel is to isolate these two issues and help the dog practice each one independently.

It’s going to be important for the guardian to practice this kennel exercise multiple times a day every day and also not place the dog in the kennel at all if he needs to leave. This will set the process back substantially. That’s why it’s so important to utilize doggy daycare in the interim.

The process of helping the dog get over the fear of the kennel requires going through the same procedure three or four times. I spent a couple of minutes detailing this for the guardian.

Because he works longer hours, it will be important that he arranges a minimum of a 30 to 45 minute break for Penny after 4-5 hours. To this end I highly recommended that he utilize a dog walker or someone to not only give the dog a break, but also offer a constructive way to burn off some of her excess energy.

I also strongly recommended that the guardian exercise the dog quite a bit before he leaves for work in the morning once he starts kenneling her. Putting a young dog in a kennel for hours at a time without burning off their excess energy is almost cruel. The old adage a tired dog is a happy one is very true in this regard.

If the guardian takes her to doggy day care while practicing the kennel exercise a few times a day and only progressing when the dog is able to handle it, Penny should be able to progress nicely. It will probably take a week or three, but in time, Penny will have a positive perception of the kennel. Combined with assignment of a command word and lots of positive reinforcement, her accidents and kennel pooping should be a thing of the past.

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