I find it interesting when people react in a negative manner at the idea of using a crate or kennel as a place for their dog to stay when you are not home (for the appropriate amount of time). I also find it interesting when people tell me the story of how their dog destroyed or continues to destroy their furniture, shoes, clothes and all sorts of other valuables when left alone. They always manage to laugh about it, but really folks, is it funny to have things destroyed and your dog possibly injured because you won’t take the time to train and use a crate for your dog?
What I am talking about is providing a safe and secure place that you dog will enjoy going to on its own or when you tell it to “kennel up”. That’s the phrase I taught my four Labradors when I want them to go into their kennels. I’m not talking about using a crate as a way to forget about your dog or for not training or spending time with your dog. You need to train, play, walk, and run and have your dog be a part of your family. Toys need to be provided for them to chew on or play with.
I use the open wire frame kind in the appropriate size for a Lab. I have set up my kennels (crates) in a location away from the blare of the TV or stereo but in view of their human so they know when I am around. My 4-footed gang will actually go into their kennels on their own to nap or when they just want some quiet time in their own space. Let me emphasize that – their own space. It is important for a dog to have its own place to hang out. I also provide bolster donut type beds for them for lounging around in when they want to.
I never use their crate as a place of punishment. It is a happy place. I start out using a crate when I first bring a puppy home. It gets fed in it, it gets drinking water in it, it sleeps in it, it naps in it and when I can’t pay full attention to a young puppy, it stays in it so that it can’t get into trouble. Treats are given in the crate. They learn the kennel or crate is a good place. Yes, they may whine or cry when first introduced to them but I just ride out that noise as I have a long-term goal in mind. And, I will admit when I have brought a new puppy home, I have slept on the floor by the crate for a few nights so the pup knows it is safe and I can get up for their 3am bathroom break and take them outside.
This is how I work with my dogs and their place in a kennel. I start by making sure that they have had a bathroom stop outside and I have seen them defecate. I get them to go to their crate and go inside of it with a treat (kibble works good) and I always make sure I use a happy voice. I use praise when they go to their kennel and once inside I provide a treat, a kind word such as good boy (or girl) and then close the door and secure it. I might provide a chew stick for them. They usually lay down in a matter of minutes and go to sleep.
When I let them back out of the kennel, they get an immediate trip outside for a bathroom stop before coming back into the house to be with me.
Why I use kennels: Someone has arrived who is not comfortable with dogs, kennel up, a delivery being made, kennel up, I need to run errands, bathroom stop then kennel up, bed time, bathroom stop and kennel up.
In my 16 years of sharing my home with Labrador Retrievers I have not had any furniture damaged, shoes chewed, walls or doors chewed on, or anything else destroyed. Yes, I have spent time training them early on and making sure they have chew toys, stuffed animals, and keeping teething puppies away from interesting household items that they like to chew on.
As I mentioned above, my Labs get daily walks, playtime, car rides, trips to the pet store, training time, retrieving time, and lots of fresh air and exercise and have gone on vacation with me. As they have gotten older and I know I have properly trained them, I do share my bed with them and they do get to sleep with the crate door open or in their donut shaped beds.