Why Dogs Don't Like Kennels

Common
Concerning

Introduction

As a pet owner, at some point, you will have needed or will need to leave your Best Furry Friend (BFF) at home for an extended period of time. Whether it is just for the day to work, an extended business trip, or a vacation, you will need to find somewhere to keep your BFF safe. Many pet owners use a crate during the day to confine their dog at home so he does not trash the house. Owners also place their dogs in kennels should they need to go out of town. While this is common practice, a lot of dogs do not like being in a crate or going to the kennel. The kennel and crate are not for every dog, especially those that have not been properly trained and prepared for the experience and those who have had negative experiences. Rest assured, there are many alternatives that will allow you to leave your home for periods of time and return to a happy, well-adjusted pup.

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The Root of the Behavior

A crate can be either hard plastic or made from a metal collapsible frame. A kennel is a large facility where you can board your dog, and it typically has areas sectioned off with fencing to keep dogs separated from each other. Like wolves, dogs are pack animals. Also like wolves, dogs need plenty of rest in a cozy secluded area. However, neither wolves nor dogs naturally live in a den. They are social animals that need a lot of physical and mental stimulation. Dogs kept in a crate for extended periods of time, as well as dogs that are kenneled, can exhibit signs of distress that can lead to permanent problems. Crate training can be very helpful with a new puppy or dog new to your home, but it needs to be a part of the training that is positive. 

Puppies need to relieve themselves often and should not be left in a crate that is soiled. It is recommended that you give puppies a potty break every hour plus one for the months of their life. For example, a puppy that is four months old would need a break every five hours. Dogs who have been forced to sleep in or near their own excrement often have negative associations with the crate. At times, they can also be overstimulated if the crate is left where they can hear a lot of what is going on but cannot be a part of it. People bumping into or banging on the crate is also stressful to your dog. While it is a great disciplining tool, scolding your dog while he is the crate is not recommended as he can associate the crate with negative interactions. Dogs left in a crate too long can become destructive to items in the crate as well as begin to self-mutilate. If a dog does not like his crate, he definitely has a negative experience with the crate that he cannot let go of and forcing him to be in the crate is not a healthy option. 

Boarding your dog in a kennel can cause him a lot of stress. Dogs are social beings, and many have difficulty being alone and separated from their owner or fellow dogs. A recent study shows that kenneled dogs show the same distress as humans suffering from a mental disorder. Dogs monitored overnight in a kennel showed repetitive behaviors such as pacing, spinning, circling and bouncing off of walls. The behaviors seemed to increase and start over every time a caretaker would come into their cage. Dogs in kennels do not get as much attention as they do at home, nor do they get as many exploratory walks. Often dogs are exercised in a group, and a battle for pack leader can ensue. Due to fear, some dogs become aggressive, stop eating, and begin to bark excessively. They do not understand why they are not home, who these people are who are feeding them, or why there are all sorts of new dogs around. While dogs like adventure, this is too much change for many canines.

Encouraging the Behavior

A lot of owners and trainers swear by the efficacy of crate training, but it is not for all dogs and there are limitations that are not always heeded. If you adopt a puppy and want a safe place to keep him for short periods of time or do not want him to have free reign of the house, a crate is a great option. However, he should be introduced to the crate slowly for short periods of time. Ideally, he will be so comfortable that it will be a place he wants to nap. The crate should be big enough for him to stand up and turn around in, lay on his side with legs straight out, and have bedding on the bottom. Begin with the door being left open, and perhaps give him a food-filled Kong to chew on so he associates the crate as a place where he gets treats. Make sure the crate is somewhere he does not feel isolated but also in a quiet enough area that it will not be too stimulating. Many trainers believe a crate should only be used in puppy training until the dog can be trusted to be home alone without creating a mess and for air travel. After that, experts often recommend that a dog is allowed in the home without the small constraints of a crate. If you want to crate train a puppy or use it with an adult dog new to your home, a trainer can be very helpful in ensuring it does become a safe and happy place for your pet.

Because there are times when sending your dog to a kennel may be necessary, it is recommended you take several measures to lessen the stress on your dog. Research the kennels in your area and visit them without your dog. Ask them how often your dog will be left in the kennel, how much time he will get with a caretaker, and how he will be exercised. If they exercise the dogs in a large area altogether, ask how many people per dogs will be in the exercise arena and will they be there at all times. It is important that there are people keeping an eye on the dogs to limit the chances of bullying or fighting. Once you have selected a kennel, have your dog spend one night at a time there to see how he reacts and to get him acclimated. If he seems to tolerate the kennel, then you can start to leave him there for longer periods of time.

Other Solutions and Considerations

Dogs all have unique personalities, and there are some that will never accept a crate. Other options to contain your puppy or new adult dog are the XPen, which is a series of metal frames that can be set up similar to a child’s playpen. There is no top or bottom and they can be made to be bigger or smaller depending on your needs. Dogs can also be kept in a well ventilated and temperature controlled garage, basement, or small room that has little for him to destroy. Kennels are often associated with a jail feeling, but if you have to go out of town without your pet there are a plethora of options. Your vet has kennels that are smaller and quieter than most large-scale kennels, but they can be over-stimulating during the day as patients come and go. Doggie daycares have sprung up everywhere and offer overnight services. They tend to offer more plush accommodations, more personalized time and additional services such as extra walks and quiet outside time. Dog walking services often offer overnight stays, which can be ideal if you have a dog that does not like to sleep anywhere but in his home. Some dogs can even be left alone at night, so hiring a service to come feed and walk your dog two to three times a day is also an option.

Conclusion

A crate can be a great tool while housebreaking a puppy, and a kennel is an option when having to leave your pet for one or more days, but both can be an issue for your dog. If your dog is destructive or barks and whines in the crate, he most likely associates it with a negative experience and is stressed to be there. A kennel can be over-stimulating, lonely, and scary to some dogs and has been shown to cause signs of stress similar to mental illness in humans. If you use a crate to train, make sure to follow established guidelines and consider working with a trainer to make it a positive and useful experience. Going out of town happens, just make sure to take steps to provide your dog with accommodations that work with his temperament and needs.