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Like many other breeds of dogs, your Doberman needs a place to call his own. This is a natural instinct left over from a time when dogs lived in the wild and needed a den to call their home. He needs one place in your home where he feels it is safe for him to retreat to when things in the house get to be too much for him.
You should never use your pup's kennel as a form of punishment, this will discourage your pup from wanting to be in it. You want the entire experience and going into the kennel to be a positive one for your pooch. This will make it much easier for him to see the kennel as his "den", a place where he can go and no one will bother him.
In essence, you are taking what is a natural instinct that has faded to a background need and bringing it back to the forefront of your pup's mind. By doing this and working with your puppy, he will learn to see the kennel as his private place or den. Working with your Dobie while he is a puppy will make this training go faster, as in the wild the puppies are kept in a small den while the rest of the pack is off hunting.
Be aware that Dobies grow very quickly. Start out with a smaller kennel at first and then upgrade to a bigger one as your pup grows. Alternatively, you can start out with the bigger kennel, just block it off to make it smaller at first. Your dog only needs enough space to stand up, turn around, and stretch out comfortably. More than that and he may choose a spare corner for a potty spot.
Beyond choosing the right size crate, you need to turn it from a metal and plastic cage into a nice cozy den for your puppy or he will never want to spend any time in it. The best way to accomplish this is to cover the floor with a nice piece of thick carpet. Buy him a comfy new bed to go in his den, add a few new toys, and a hanging water bottle. You may even want to use a blanket to cover the top, back, and sides to make it even more cave-like.
Beyond this, you need a large bag of your pup's favorite treats, tons of time, and a plethora of patience. It is going to take you a few weeks working with your pup until he masters the skill of staying in his den when you need him to, but in time he will see it this way and start spending time on his own in there.
The Good Things Inside Method
In the beginning
As with any type of training, it all starts at the beginning. In this case, we mean getting your puppy the right kennel from the outset. Since Dobies tend to grow significantly larger than when they are pups, you may need to plan for two kennels. One to fit him when he is small and one for when he is all grown up. Place the kennel in a spot where he can be part of the family, but out of the main flow of traffic, and then close the door for now. Then walk away and leave the kennel alone.
Hmm, what's this?
Curiosity may have killed the cat, but in this particular case, it will bring your pup over to see what this big thing in your living room is and why it smells so much like his favorite treats. Give him plenty of time to get excited and start pawing at the kennel. When you think he is ready, open the gate and let him go inside in his own time. He will probably grab the treats and bolt back out, but when he goes in, be sure to praise him.
On his way out
While you need to praise him on the way in, you should not do so on his way out. This is to teach him that he gets good things for going into his kennel, not for coming out.
Back in again and again
Continue working with your Dobie by tossing the treats farther and farther into the kennel, forcing him to go deeper into the kennel. As he enters the kennel, start introducing your cue word. Use something simple like "crate" or "kennel" so your pup can pick up on it quickly. Close the door and repeat the above training method and start extending the time he spends in his kennel.
Continue working with your pup until he can stay in his kennel for as long as necessary. Be aware that until he is an adult, you should not leave him in the kennel for more than two hours as he may not be able to hold his bladder that long.
The Mealtime Method
Say hello to your new den
Get your pup's new den set up in an area of the house where your family spends the majority of its time. The idea is that you don't want your pup to feel isolated. Leave the door open and give your pup plenty of time to start exploring it on his own. Chances are he will go in on his own out of curiosity. If not, try tossing a few treats in to encourage him to explore. Keep this up until he will walk in to see what he can find all on his own, you may even find him napping in there.
Place your pup's food and water bowls outside the door to the kennel at meal time. This is a good way to help your pup associate the kennel with good things. Do this for a few days, then move the bowls to a spot just inside the door. Move in further in every couple of days, until you finally reach the back. When he is happily going all the way in for his meal, go ahead and close the door.
10 minutes and maybe more
For the first time, open the door immediately after he has finished eating and take him out to pee and stretch his legs. Keep adding to the time between when he finishes eating and when you open the gate and letting him out until he can stay in the crate for up to 10 minutes.
Introduce your cue
Now that you have your pup going into the crate and staying there quietly, it's time to introduce the cue word to your pup. Choose a simple one like "kennel" and keep it consistent. Give him the command, let him go into the kennel and close the door. Find a comfy spot to sit and wait quietly for about 10 minutes, if he is still quiet and happy exit the room.
Keep working with your pup using this training method until you can leave him happily in his kennel for several hours at a time. This can take several more weeks, but don't give up, keep working it until your pup sees his kennel as his den and may actually start going in it on his own.
The Crowding Method
Toss a treat
Toss one of your pup's favorite treats into the kennel and be sure your pup sees you doing it.
Guide him in
Leading your pup by his collar, gently guide him into his crate, crowding him from behind using your legs.
Once your pup is inside and has eaten the treat, he will probably turn around and look at you. Be sure to praise him.
Let your pup come out of his kennel and take him out to pee. Repeat this for several days.
Close the door
Now it's time to close the door and let your pup get used to being in his crate for longer periods of time. If he barks, let him. It won't last long, try leaving the room, this should make him quiet down more quickly. When he does, praise him and let him out for a little playtime. Keep repeating this training until he will stay in his kennel for as long as needed.
By PB Getz
Published: 02/09/2018, edited: 01/08/2021