How to Train Your Dog to Use a Dog House

How to Train Your Dog to Use a Dog House
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon1-2 Weeks
Behavior training category iconBehavior

Introduction

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!

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Defining Tasks

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.

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Getting Started

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.

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The Reinforce with Food Method

Most Recommended

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1

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.

2

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

3

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.

4

Allow exit

Allow the dog to exit.Do not force him to stay in the doghouse as this can be frightening and seem like a punishment.

5

Reinforce 'stay'

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

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1

Reinforce approach

Sit outside your dog's house with your dog and a clicker and treats. When your dog approaches the dog house, click and treat.

2

Increase approach

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.

3

Reinforce enter

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.

4

Reinforce 'lie down'

Once your dog is going into the doghouse ask him to lie down. Click and treat.

5

Reinforce 'stay'

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

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1

Play

Play with your dog and his favorite toy near the dog house.

2

Play near entrance

Drop your dog's favorite toy in the entrance of the dog house for him to retrieve.

3

Fetch from dog house

Throw the toy into the doghouse for your dog to retrieve.

4

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.

5

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.

6

Provide company

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

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Colt

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Mini Aussie

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5 years

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Question

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He won't use his dog house. It has an 10 inch lip to get into it. He is crate trained inside house and does great. His house is in his outdoor kennel but, he just lays next to it. He sits in the thunderstorms and gets soaked. I'm stumped. He does everything I ask of him except this one issue. I want him to have protection while I'm at work. He loves his kennel also.

Sept. 24, 2023

Colt's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello, He might be fearful of it, especially if he isn't comfortable in a crate. I would place a bowl with treats in there periodically - only leave it for a short period of time each time to avoid ants and other animals getting it. I would stuff kongs with low sodium liver past or real chicken and place one in the dog house often. I would crawl into the dog house yourself if you fit, to get your scent in there, or add a matt to make the floor more comfortable. Also, consider where the dog house is pointing. Is there a particular direction he likes to face while resting - perhaps towards the far end of your property or towards the door you come from. If the dog house entrance doesn't allow him to look in that direction also, that could be an issue for him. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittende

Oct. 9, 2023

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Mr. Blue

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Bernese Mountain Dog

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Three Years

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Question

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Mr. Blue used his insulated dog house in the past, with a door matt and stayed warm in there the past 2 winters. Recently we had racoons and assuming they had been in there. I cleaned the dog house just to make sure it doesn't smell. However, Mr. Blue totally refuses now to go into his dog house, not even for his favorite treats. Do you see any chance we can get him to go in there again? It's getting cold now and we are worried, it's too cold for him to stay outside. Any advise is appreciated.

Nov. 4, 2022

Mr. Blue's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello, Because of the strong association with the Racoons, the easiest thing to do in time for winter is likely to purchase or build a new dog house, that looks different than the design of the previous one. You can thoroughly clean the current house with a clean that contains enzymes at least three times, throw away the previous bedding and replace it, move the location of the dog house if you can, then gradually ease him back into the house, but with the current house it's likely to take at least a month or two of daily practice to get him comfortable with it again. Using a new house will likely be much quicker if time is running out with the weather where you are. Make sure the new house doesn't look like the old one or that may slow the process down. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Nov. 4, 2022


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