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Max the Retriever cross loves to be with his family in their house, but sometimes they need him to stay out in the yard, like when dog- allergic friends and family are over, or when no one is going to be home for several hours to let him out. Because they have a very secure yard and have provided him a nice dog house to get out of the rain, wind or cold weather, his family figures he should be fine outside. But Max won't use his doghouse. When his family puts him outside, even when it starts raining, Max just sits out in the rain, looking like a drowned rat, shunning his doghouse, what gives? Why can’t Max figure out that his dog house would keep him warm and dry? What does his family have to do to convince him to use his home?
Some dogs automatically take to their dog house, treating it like a den and happily diving on in and making a comfy nest in there. Others need a little more convincing to understand that a dog house is not doggy jail or a black hole about to gobble them up!
If you provide your dog a dog house when they are a young dog or puppy it may be easier to convince him this is a good place to shelter. Dogs tend to like “dens” and young dogs especially like to curl up in a den where they feel secure. An older dog that has not been exposed to a dog house before may be more reluctant to enter the dog house and find it confusing or view it as a trap or punishment. If this is the case you will need to take steps to counteract your dog's negative view of the dog house and replace it with positive associations. Eventually, you will want your dog to be comfortable going in and out of his house and sheltering there, especially during inclement weather. You will want your dog to feel comfortable in his house and consider it his den.
Before training your dog to use his dog house, make sure it is the right size for your dog. Your dog should be able to easily walk in and turn around. Put a favorite blanket or dog bed in the dog house, or fill the dog house with straw to create a comfortable resting place. Using food and a favorite toy to reinforce using the dog house is advised. You can also use clicker training, especially if your dog is familiar with using a clicker, to reinforce the dog house and its use. Introduce the dog house to your dog when the weather is good. Although this may sound counterintuitive, you do not want distractions or to feel rushed or stressed while teaching your dog to go in and out of his dog house. Never punish your dog for not using the dog house or try to force him into the dog house, as this will create a negative association.
The Reinforce with Food Method
Put food around house
Have a container full of tasty treats and approach the doghouse with your dog. Place treats around the doghouse. Allow your dog to take them and praise him for being near his dog house.
Put food at entrance
Place several treats at the entrance to the dog house, let your dog have them. Place a treat inside the door to the doghouse let your dog reach in to get it
Toss food inside
Throw a treat in the dog house for your dog to get. When your dog goes to retrieve it, praise him, talk excited and give him lots of praise and attention.
Allow the dog to exit.Do not force him to stay in the doghouse as this can be frightening and seem like a punishment.
Once your dog is going in and out of your dog house comfortably, ask him to lie down when he is in the dog house after retrieving a treat. When he complies, provide another treat while your dog is lying in the dog house. Stay with your dog while he is in the dog house and talk to him, regularly provide treats to reinforce the doghouse as a good place.
The Capture & Reward Method
Sit outside your dog's house with your dog and a clicker and treats. When your dog approaches the dog house, click and treat.
Require your dog to actually touch and sniff the dog house before providing a click and treat. Start clicking and treating only when your dog approaches the entrance to the dog house.
Click and treat for your dog putting his head in the dog house. Encourage your dog into the dog house. When he goes in click and treat. Encourage him further in.
Reinforce 'lie down'
Once your dog is going into the doghouse ask him to lie down. Click and treat.
Gradually reduce the click and treat but encourage your dog into the house and keep him company, praising and showing affection. Your dog will start using the dog house in his own now that he is comfortable with it.
The Hide & Seek Method
Play with your dog and his favorite toy near the dog house.
Play near entrance
Drop your dog's favorite toy in the entrance of the dog house for him to retrieve.
Fetch from dog house
Throw the toy into the doghouse for your dog to retrieve.
Play hide and seek
Hide from your dog behind a tree or building, call him and get him to find you, when he does play with the toy with him provide affection and attention.
Hide in dog house
Hide in your dog's doghouse, call your dog to come find you. Reward with toy and affection. If the dog house is too small enlist the help of a child that can fit easily.
Once your dog is comfortable going in and out of his dog house to find his toy (or you), encourage him into his house and ask him to lie down. Sit outside the door and talk to your dog, keep him company and give him attention until he is comfortable staying in the house by himself.
By Laurie Haggart
Published: 12/14/2017, edited: 01/08/2021