A kennel is a training tool to keep your pooch safe and secure while you’re away -- but don't forget about him in there. Even though you can leave him locked up for a little while during your workday, you can’t keep him in there all day. The amount of time he can stay in his den depends on his age and training. If he’s younger and still not fully potty trained, he’ll only be able to stay in the confined area for short periods of time.
In the Beginning
Introduce Benson to his crate a little at a time. Place the crate in the living room, so it becomes a familiar part of the furnishings and leave the door open. He’ll curiously sniff around. Toss a treat in there to help encourage him to go inside and start using a command, such as “kennel” when he goes in. Once he feels comfortable inside, begin feeding him his meals in the crate and closing the door. Let him out as soon as he’s done eating. As he continues to associate his kennel with positive experiences, put him inside several times a day while you’re home, just for a few minutes at a time. Slowly work his way up to a solid 30 minutes in the crate with no whining or howling. Once he feels content, you’ll be able to leave him in there for short periods while you’re away, like while you’re at the gym or grocery store.
The Age Factor
The amount of time your fuzzy pal can be left alone in his crate depends on how old he is. An 8- to 10-week-old puppy, for example, shouldn’t be crated for more than 30 to 60 minutes at a time, suggests the ASPCA. Between 11 and 14 weeks he can stay in there for up to three hours, while at 15 to 16 weeks he can hang out in there for up to four hours. Once he’s fully potty trained and reaches 17 weeks of age, he can stay in his crate for up to five hours at a time. So if you work 10-hour days, make sure you swing home on your lunch break or have a neighbor let him out to go potty, giving him a quick break in the middle.
Crate your canine while you sleep. Move the kennel into your bedroom so he is still close to you. This way you’ll be able to hear him if he starts to whimper to get out. You’ll start to learn his crating patterns, allowing you to figure out exactly how long he’s comfortable in there. Some adult dogs sleep an entire eight hours in their kennels with no problem. Your dog may need to be let out sooner than this, depending on his needs.
If Benson is howling when he’s in his crate or if you have to force him in there, he isn’t ready yet. It may seem harmless, but if he has separation anxiety, he can soil himself while you’re gone and chew on his crate, cutting up his mouth. You don’t want to associate the kennel with something mean and scary. Take a few steps back and keep working with him to make his den a happy place. Feed him in there with the door open, put his favorite toy inside or secure him in there with a bone when you’re home to watch him. He’ll learn that his kennel is his special place, not a box that keeps him isolated from the family.
If you have an outdoor wire type of kennel for multiple dogs, the time frame is a little different. Building a kennel with a long run is helpful if you need to keep your canine pals locked up while you're away at work all day. They'll have a place to walk around and go potty. If your outdoor kennel doesn't have space for your pups to run around and relieve themselves, you'll need to let them out midday. You'd probably be miserable if you were bunkered down in a tiny room with all of your siblings all day. Your pooches feel the same way. Let them out at least for a short walk on your lunch break, after they've been cooped up for around four hours.
Melodie Anne Coffman specializes in overall wellness, with particular interests in women's health and personal defense. She holds a master's degree in food science and human nutrition and is a certified instructor through the NRA. Coffman is pursuing her personal trainer certification in 2015.