It may seem daunting but there is light at the end of the tunnel when crate training your first dog.
The whining finally made me cave despite all my attempts to resist the fluff ball in the other room that wanted nothing to do with being in a room alone. This was that time that all new dog owners come to. They put their foot down, this is the time I will let him stay there till he settles. As I approached the kennel it became evident that his communication with me was not about the kennel but more “urgent” business.
Soon both the little puppy licking my face and myself were in the shower trying to clean the disaster that ensued. I felt unfit, unqualified, I felt unprepared. My attempts at kennel training were failing on multiple levels and I was to new to figure that out.
More than once I have found myself looking back at what seemed to be an impossibility on training a pointing dog. The end product would never come, it just was not in the cards. But the reality in the long run is that it DOES come together. You just need a plan.
A Crate Training Plan
A simple Google search will reveal a large spread of puppy training resources, in fact you could get lost in them. Avoid any type of plan that may involve forcing a puppy into bad situations. Crate training should be a positive experience for a puppy and just shutting them in and throwing away the key will fail.
Eventually we started again at ground zero on kennel training. The door was left open, a comfy blanket inside, treats often hidden in the back. My larger error of not having a regular house breaking plan that involved taking the puppy out hourly was eventually resoled.
As he began to make his way into the kennel on his own we would say the word kennel with excitement (maybe because I was very excited to have progress). Before I knew it, he would stay in their silently for longer and longer intervals with the door shut. That hurdle made the kennel part fall right into place, looking back maybe I was putting the cart before the horse.
Not all Crate Sizes Work
There is actually such thing as to much space in a kennel. This can actually make for the hidden expense of having to upgrade kennel size as the puppy grows. Dakota 283 began working to resolve this issue some years ago by creating the Forever Kennel Insert. This divider allows the opportunity to invest in the larger G3 Medium Kennel and have the puppy grow into it over time.
The bars work in conjunction with the side holes of the kennel and as the puppy grows it can be stepped back and eventually removed all together. These smaller spaces make a dog feel safe and like it is in fact in their den. They should be able to stand up and turn around in the space. But remembering anything past that makes the experience less inviting for both the dog and the owner.
The Rewards of Crate Training
Soon my puppy and I were regular vagabonds. We would go on road trips lasting days and he would willingly and excitedly find shelter in his crate. My wife and I could take comfort in the safety of him riding in a crate while driving. For him it became what it was supposed to be, a place of safety, a place of comfort, it became his den.
Over the years the discipline of sleeping in the kennel at night would ebb and flow. Sometimes we would fall asleep on the couch and his sleepy face to much to bare in disturbing to go to the kennel. He would have long stretches of life outside the kennel and since I worked at home he did not have much of a reason to be in one unless I was traveling.
The first trip I took after a long stretch at home I expected him to resist his kennel life. But as I cracked the bed of my truck he leaped up inside and got in the kennel with no direction. It made me understand that not only was he smart enough to remember that this was an indication of adventure but also the inherent instincts of dogs. They are den creatures no matter how we cut it and their DNA makes them find peace in such conditions.
There are a few pieces of advice to find in this story. The first is that remember that kennel training needs to be mindful of other aspects of training like housebreaking. Second is to have a clear plan that you learned from a professional. Plenty of resources are online to give you the tools of a proper plan to stick too (including trouble shooting).
The third is that no matter how hard and difficult it will feel at moments it will work. Dogs are incredibly smart and they will take on the cues eventually. In fact we should take comfort in the fact that crate training a dog is satisfying their instincts not going against their freedom or natural behavior. The benefits of a crate trained dog takes form in many ways, but above all is safety. Whether it is in the car, a party at your household, or to prevent unsupervised mischief that can result in injury.
Eventually living through crate training will become a story told over dinner parties. It will even fade as with the simple word “kennel” your dog will willingly go to its den without any resemblance of resistance to you. They will make us forget that it was any form of a challenging experience.