Dog in Kennel Run

Q. Getting my dog into her kennel run is a chore — she runs away when I call her and won’t go in the kennel. Some days it takes half an hour to get her inside. Help!

A. If you are putting your dog in her kennel run primarily when you leave the house, it is easy to see why she is resisting it: She knows that going into her kennel means the end of your attention and all the fun things that come with that. Fortunately, there are some simple training tactics you can use to get a reluctant dog to enter her kennel eagerly and to relax comfortably inside.

Your first step is to determine if your dog’s behavior could be the result of separation anxiety. A dog suffering from serious separation anxiety can panic and become destructive, have urinary or fecal accidents, bark or whine incessantly and even injure herself when left alone. These dogs may also show signs of anxiety when you get ready to depart, such as panting, pacing, shaking, urinating or vocalizing. If you suspect that your dog’s refusal to go in her kennel is related to separation anxiety, start by talking with your veterinarian about how to address your dog’s behavior.

If your dog is only mildly stressed when left or if she simply prefers the freedom of the open yard to the confinement of her kennel, there are some simple ways to teach her to love the kennel.

Make Her Kennel Run Cozy

Start by turning the kennel into a comfy den area. Place cushy bedding or elevated beds in the kenneled area. If possible, play classical music or Through a Dog’s Ear inside the kennel to make the environment more soothing. You can also give your dog something to watch — believe it or not, there is a dog channel on television now, dedicated to programming that will entertain your canine friend.

Provide your dog with some exercise about 20 minutes before you leave, such as a walk or game of fetch. This will make her less restless and more likely to settle down once she’s in her kennel. If she’s dog friendly, consider taking her to doggy daycare on days when you may be gone for a longer period of time, rather than leaving her in her kennel all day.

Use Positive Reinforcement

Offering your dog a reward will make entering the kennel more appealing. Stand next to the run with your dog on leash and toss a couple of treats, one near the entrance and one further back in the kennel. If she’s hesitant to go inside the kennel, walk in with her. A food lure can also be used to lead her inside. After she gets her reward, let her out immediately. Repeat this process over and over; your dog will quickly learn that she will get a treat for going in her kennel and immediate freedom afterward.

Once your dog is willingly entering her kennel, substitute a verbal cue or hand signal for the treats. Start by using a word, such as “kennel,” while standing next to the kennel. Your dog may anticipate what you are asking and run inside right away. If not, hesitate a second or two and then move your empty hand inside the kennel, either shaped like you have a food treat  as a lure or mimicking the tossing of a treat. Most dogs will understand what you’re asking and will move in even without the treat. Once your dog is inside the kennel, give her a a real treat as a reward.

When she is reliably entering the kennel on cue, practice giving her the cue while standing further away from the kennel, or asking her to follow you in from the yard to her kennel. Practice on leash to begin, and graduate to off leash once she’s willing to come to you from anywhere in the yard and go happily into her kennel. If needed, back up and work with your dog on coming when called, separately from learning to enter the kennel.

No More Kennel Stress

Some dogs are hesitant to enter a kennel run because when they do, the door shuts and their person leaves. Instead of luring her in and leaving her alone, spend some time with your dog in her kennel. Make the kennel fun by lavishing your dog with rewards, such as praise, petting, play and treats, while you’re hanging out in the kennel. This is also a good opportunity to practice lying on a mat, which can help your dog relax. To further your dog’s association of the kennel with pleasant consequences, feed her her daily meals in her kennel.

Reassure your dog that going in her kennel is not synonymous with being left alone. I suggest using a 5 to 1 ratio when you’re training: For every one time you leave your dog alone in the kennel, create five occasions for her to be in there with you still around. Put your dog in the kennel, shut the door for a brief period and then release her again. You can even turn and walk away or go in the house for a few minutes and then come back, reward her and release her.

Once your dog realizes that going in her kennel ends with a reward, she will learn to be more relaxed about getting in the kennel in the first place, even when going in the kennel means that you are leaving.

When you need to leave her alone for an extended period, give her a dog-safe indestructible toy or a variety of food puzzle toys to keep her busy while you’re away. Having something productive to focus on will make the time go by faster for your dog and will increase her positive association with the kennel.