As you welcome in the holiday season and prepare for guests, parties, and large meals, you may need a place to put your pet during all the craziness. That place should make them feel safe and comfortable while you run all over town to pick up gifts and groceries and then return home to cook and clean. Then when you're done, you can let them out to enjoy the fun. That safe haven is your dog's kennel.
Dogs will claim spots as their own, but there's no guarantee they will innately choose their kennel as that spot. Many kennels look like cages, so there's a good chance they won't enjoy it immediately. Dogs learn well with positive reinforcement, which means you want to reward them with treats for going in their kennel to show that good things happen when they do. Be sure to pair the action of going in the crate with a word or phrase, such as "kennel," "crate," or "Go to your bed."
The kennel should be a place where they feel safe. You don't want to use the crate as a punishment because your dog will learn to resent the crate as a place where they go when they are bad. On the contrary, you want your dog to enjoy their crate while they are in it. Make it comfy with their favorite blanket, pillow, and toy. When training your pet, try to avoid startling noises or movements so that they don't feel scared when they are in their crate. That way, they will actually choose to go there when they are frightened.
The kennel should be a place they want to go. After you've trained your dog about the safety of the kennel, you may start to notice them go in it without a command. This is a good sign because they view it as their little cave where they can sleep, chew on a toy, or simply get some alone time to think. If they start to avoid the kennel, you may want to consider how long you're keeping them in it or if your pet has a bad association with it.
The kennel should be a place your dog respects as their own. When you are raising a puppy, it's normal for them to have accidents in their crate. In fact, that's probably the preferred place for potty messes because it's not on your precious carpet or walls. However, you should be taking your puppy out often enough so they don't have too many messes in their crate. As they get older, they should eventually learn to keep their kennel clean because they don't want to sleep in a mess. If this doesn't happen, you may need to encourage more frequent potty breaks or check with your veterinarian to see if your pet has a health issue.
The kennel should be used to prevent trouble. If your pet enjoys their kennel, you can tell them to go there so they don't need to be punished in the first place. Have an overexcited pet? Put them in the crate before guests arrive so they don't jump on everybody. Struggling to sleep with a pet that wanders at night? Have them calm down in their crate so they are asleep by the time you are ready for bed. This way, you are encouraging the act of being in the crate without the need to punish them for bad behavior they might display while they are loose.
The kennel should be not too big, not too small, but just right. Your dog should be able to stand and turn around in their crate, but not too much more than that. When raising a puppy, buy a crate that is large enough for their full size and use dividers to shrink the size of the crate until they reach adulthood.
The kennel should be kept away from fragile or dangerous items. As your dog becomes more accustomed to their crate, you will likely leave them alone in it when you leave the house. Even with a camera on them, they still will have plenty of unsupervised time to get into trouble if they are able to unlock the gate or grab items through the bars.
Successful kennel training is a lifesaver for all times of the year, not just the holidays. It's a vital part of raising a puppy, and it's something that will benefit your dog as they grow into an adult and senior.
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