New puppies come with new responsibilities. Whether you’re a first-time pet parent with your first puppy or you’ve had dogs all your life, you know that puppies have additional needs adult dogs don’t. One of those needs is training. Of course, dogs can be trained at any age, but it’s much easier to start training your puppy as soon as you bring them home. The earlier you start training, the more you can accomplish together.
One type of training many pet parents wonder about is kennel training. Kennel training has many benefits, including helping with house training, keeping your puppy out of trouble, and giving them their own sanctuary space for when they want time alone. Additionally, kennel training can help prepare your dog if they’re ever boarded while you travel, or become injured or need surgery and need to be confined for healing. Doggy daycares and vets use kennels and crates to keep dogs separate and out of trouble when they’re not taking potty breaks or socializing with other dogs.
Many people don’t want to lock their puppies up overnight or while they’re away at work. However, kennel training a dog can prevent destructive behavior, and your dog won’t feel like they’re locked up. Instead, they’ll feel like they’re in their own part of the home that exclusively belongs to them. Learning how to kennel train a puppy can help you establish boundaries and begin the training process while making life with a puppy much easier for both of you. In this article, we’ll discuss what kennel training is and how you can start kennel training your new puppy.
What Is Kennel Training?
Kennel training is the same thing as crate training. However, kennels are typically used outside and with a more permanent structure, while crates are similar to cages. That being said, many pet parents use the term “kennel” for indoor dog crates and vice versa. In this article, we’ll use the term “kennel training” to cover both crate and kennel training.
Kennel training is the process of teaching your dog to spend time alone inside a confined space. Since dogs instinctively seek out safe areas to play and sleep in, a crate can be a perfectly safe space for your dog. Using a kennel can help keep your new puppy safe and prevent destructive behavior when you’re away while ensuring they have a nice clean area to sleep in.
While dogs may naturally find themselves in areas where they can spend some safe time alone, they may not enter a crate of their own free will without some training. Therefore, training can help your puppy become more comfortable in their kennel, making it easier for you to get them inside the crate and keep them happy while they’re there.
For many dogs, kennel training can be an effective tool to help them understand where they can seek out some alone time. However, kennel training isn’t for every dog. Should you crate train your dog? Well, that depends on your individual dog and your willingness to put effort into kennel training. Kennel training isn’t for every dog — some dogs are simply uncomfortable in confined spaces and shouldn’t be pushed to do so.
Some dogs have spent too much time in kennels throughout their lives, especially shelter dogs, so you may choose to let trained dogs free roam when you’re not home to prevent the anxiety that may make them try to escape from the crate and hurt themselves. Additionally, if you’re going to kennel train your dog, you must ensure their physical and mental needs are met, so they’ll need regular walks, access to food and water, and mental stimulation throughout the day.
Kennel training is not a tool for punishment. You can’t “send your dog to their room” when they’ve had an accident or chewed something up because you want your dog to associate their crate with a positive or calming experience rather than one that’s fear-based. Fear-based training can make your dog more anxious and doesn’t create a clear connection between undesirable behaviors and punishment.
Instead, crate training is a simple and effective way to keep your dog out of harm’s way when you can’t watch them. It can also aid in house training because dogs don’t like to urinate or defecate where they sleep.
Kennel Training Vs. Crate Training
Kennel training and crate training are essentially the same things. However, they utilize different equipment. Crates are more portable and smaller. They should be large enough to let your dog turn around and stand up. Meanwhile, kennels are slightly larger and more permanent structures. Kennels are often used outdoors, but many people mistakenly use the terms interchangeably. They can also be used indoors and are made out of more permanent, less portable materials like wood.
Crate training and kennel training are the same process of teaching your dog that a specific, confined area is a safe space for them; that space, whether it’s a crate or kennel, will provide them with comfort and prevent puppies from destructive behavior when you’re away.
How To Kennel Train
Since crate training and kennel training use the same process, if your dog is already crate trained, you may simply have to get them used to a new kennel before they begin using it. However, if you’re kennel training for the first time, follow these instructions:
1. Introduce Your Dog To The Crate
Your dog must learn that their crate is a safe space for them. Making it comfortable with bedding and blankets can help them understand that it’s a good place for a nap where they’ll be safe from the regular hustle and bustle of your home. You can keep a crate somewhere where your puppy won’t be lonely, including in your living room or bedroom.1
Don’t force interaction with the crate. While you might be impatient to have your puppy start using the crate immediately, you don’t want them to be afraid of it or resistant to going inside. Instead, you can leave the crate open while you’re home during the day to let them come and go on their own and get used to it. Every time your dog enters the crate, even if it’s just a single paw, give them a treat to reward them.
You can also speed up the process by putting treats inside and around the crate to entice them to enter on their own. Treats are essential for training because a reward lets your puppy know when they’ve done something right.
2. Feed Them Meals In Their Crate
You can continue to get your dog comfortable with their crate by feeding them meals around or inside the crate to help them start building positive associations.1 If your dog already enters the crate or spends time in the crate on their own, you can put their food bowl as far back in the crate as it will go to help them start building those positive associations while fully inside.
Once your dog begins eating meals inside the crate, close the door and let them finish their meal. When they’re done eating, open the crate up to let them out. If your dog begins to become fearful or anxious at any point, you may have accidentally rushed the process. Let your dog calm down before opening the crate to let them out.
3. Build Up Crate Time
Once your dog is willing to go inside the crate on their own for at least a half hour, you can start shutting the door behind them and building up the amount of time they spend in the crate. If you’re trying to learn how to kennel train a puppy at night, you can expect puppies to whine in the crate, especially when crated overnight. To combat this, make the crate a fun and safe space by feeding them their meal in there, giving them a food puzzle, or feeding them treats in their crate.
If you’re worried about your puppy in their crate alone at night, consider setting up a pet cam that allows you to watch them from another room. Of course, puppies may whine in their crates because they have to relieve themselves or are anxious or panicked. If it’s been a few hours and your puppy starts whining in their crate, take them outside one more time and put them back in the crate immediately. If they start whining again, then you’ll know they’re just trying to get out of their crate.
When you crate your dog during the day while you’re gone, don’t prolong goodbyes and try to remain calm when you come home. It’s best to have a normal morning routine that helps your dog understand when you’re getting ready to leave.
Kennel Training: Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to kennel train a puppy?
There is no secret solution for how to kennel train a puppy fast. How long to kennel train a puppy depends on how much time you dedicate to it and your individual dog. Some dogs will be happy to enter their crates on their own, especially if you have used rewards-based training to help them build positive associations with it. However, dogs that are used to free roaming the house may have a difficult time being kennel trained, making it a longer process.
How long can you leave an 8-week-old puppy in a kennel?
A puppy that’s two months old can likely hold their urine for up to three hours. Therefore, you should not kennel your puppy for more than a few hours without taking them outside to relieve themselves. As your dog gets older, they will have better bladder control, but even adult dogs should be let out of their kennels throughout the day. Additionally, all dogs need physical and emotional stimulation, so you shouldn’t kennel your dog for prolonged periods of time.
How do I stop my puppy from crying in their kennel?
When kennel training a puppy, you can expect some whining. Puppies must learn to self-soothe, which can help them learn to stop whining in their kennel. You should also avoid rewarding whining. For example, your puppy may whine to be let out of the kennel. Even though whining might make you think twice about putting the dog in their kennel, they’re likely crying for attention, and letting them out of the kennel teaches them that whining gets them exactly what they want.
Of course, puppies cry for other reasons, too. If your puppy has been in the kennel for a few hours and begins whining, it may be because they have to relieve themselves. If your puppy starts crying, take them outside to let them urinate or defecate, then put them back in their kennel. Whining can also be a sign of separation anxiety or fearfulness. Your dog should not be afraid of their crate, so you may have to start the kennel training process over again to ensure they feel content and safe.
Kennel training a puppy takes time and patience. Puppies are already experiencing a lot of new things when you bring them home, including new people, environments, and maybe other pets. Introducing your puppy to their crate in a calm manner is essential if you want them to feel safe and secure. Never force your dog into their crate or use the crate as punishment for bad behavior.
Of course, some dogs will be more difficult to train than others. For example, dogs with behavioral issues or separation anxiety may panic when locked up. If you believe your dog has separation anxiety or kennel training hasn’t helped you prevent destructive behavior, consult a Dutch vet behaviorist who can help you learn different ways to improve your dog’s health and wellness. Dutch helps pet parents treat and manage behavioral issues like anxiety and fearfulness that can prevent your dog from being happy in their kennel.