By their nature and instinct dogs are denning animals and most dogs will create their own dens, either by sleeping in corners, behind the sofa or maybe under tables. An indoor kennel (or dog crate as they are also known) is basically a secure area that should be slightly larger than your dog’s bed or basket. When selecting one, you should make sure that your dog has enough room to stand up and stretch his legs and to turn fully around. Indoor kennels can be very useful if you have a young puppy, they are somewhere safe you can put them if have to go out for a short while, so no wires, cables or furniture gets chewed and they can also be used overnight.
Training, or rather conditioning a dog or puppy is fairly easy provided it is done correctly, especially if it is done from the first day home. If you are introducing the indoor kennel at a later date then the older puppy or adult dog should not be shut in until he is comfortable in it and uses it of his own free will. You can start to get your dog used to using it by placing some familiar bedding; toys and water bowl inside and begin feeding him inside without shutting the door. Once you notice that your dog is going in and out of the indoor kennel regularly or begins to go in it for a snooze then you can start shutting the kennel door while you prepare his food, this is so that he gets used to being shut in for brief periods. Then feed your dog his meal inside the kennel, again with the door closed. As well as feeding inside the kennel, whenever you give your dog a treat, make sure he is in the kennel to receive it. This way he learns that going into his indoor kennel is always a positive experience. Normally this introductory period should take no more than a week, but it can take longer in some cases. If you have children, teach them that the kennel is the dog’s safe haven. When he goes in on his own he must be left alone, again this reinforces that the indoor kennel is a place for safety and peace and quiet.
Indoor kennels can also be used to help with house training, no dog wants to soil in its own nest and this is something that most puppies learn at a very early age. Whilst it is important that you accept that puppies defecate and urinate frequently and cannot be left for long periods without access to a proper toilet area, they can be put in an indoor kennel for short periods when you cannot supervise them properly. From there they can be taken out to their normal toilet area and rewarded when they relieve themselves. Just as with normal house training it is vital that you never tell your pup off for going to the toilet in his kennel, ignore him, clean up, and reward him if he toilets outside. This will increase the speed of which he is toilet trained as he will associate that he gets no attention if toilets in his kennel but is rewarded if he does it outside.
Indoor kennels should never be used as a punishment, your dog or puppy will not understand why he has been told off and isolated from the rest of his “pack”. Continued use of the kennel as a means of punishment will lead your dog to make negative associations with it and that it is only to be used as a place to hide when you are angry. If you think that you need to put your dog into his kennel for a short period of “time out”, do so without appearing angry and make sure he has something nice to chew on. It should also be remembered that indoor kennels are not suitable for your dog to be in all day. When your dog is older and is comfortable with being inside he should be left for no more than 3 – 4 hours at the most, while young puppies should only be shut inside for short periods of time. They should always have access to fresh drinking water. It is also recommended that collars be removed when they are inside to prevent them from snagging or catching on anything, and they should never be muzzled whilst inside an indoor kennel.