How to Persuade a Dog to Use a Doghouseby Chris Miksen
"This is how this thing works, right?"
For all your pup knows, his new doghouse could be a one-way ticket to doggy prison, where he ventures inside and is never let out. Make him understand that's not the case and persuade him to use his shelter by alleviating his fears. A bit of nice weather, a comfy bed and irresistible treats are your ultimate fear-banishing tools for this job.
While maybe attractive and appearing homey, most doghouses feature a bare floor. Although you can help your pup adjust to a hard-floor house, it’s a whole lot easier to convince him to take shelter by making his new home comfortable and stylish. Add a doggy bed, a few of outdoor-approved toys and something that smells like you, like an old shirt. A few old towels can work in lieu of a bed. A doghouse is new and quite scary, so the more things he has to comfort him, the less he’ll stress out and feel anxious when venturing inside. It’s just like getting a puppy used to his crate.
Your pup thinks the prospect of a new doghouse is awful enough without terrifying gusts of wind, annoying rain and the oh-so-awful bangs of thunder. Introduce him to his doghouse in fair weather only. Depending on the time of season and where you live, that might mean a few days between training, but that’s fine. If something bad happens to him when he’s checking out his doghouse those first few times -- such as a thunderstorm rolling through -- your difficulty of persuasion will increase exponentially.
Once you’re ready to begin your pooch’s doghouse training, head on outside with a handful of treats. Casually walk up to the doghouse as if nothing is strange or amiss. Show your pup the tasty treat and place it at the doorway of the doghouse. Chances are, he’s going to take the bait. If he doesn’t, move it a little farther away from the doorway. Inch the next treat a smidgen closer, the next one closer and so forth. If your pup hesitates or doesn’t go for the treat, bring it back to the previous spot where he wasn’t so anxious. Once he’s regularly going inside to retrieve the treat, issue the "lie" command when he goes inside, and then offer him another treat. Sit by the doorway when he lies down, give him a nice ear rub and gush about how good he’s being. After a few days, he’ll likely be completely desensitized to the doghouse and won’t have any fears of going inside.
To avoid making your pal even more nervous or scared of his doghouse, never hit him, yell at him, force him inside, prevent him from exiting or become frustrated if he’s a bit of a slow learner. Keep your training sessions to about 5 or 10 minutes each and practice those sessions two to three times a day, weather permitting. A doghouse provides a wonderful shelter for your little guy, but it's not acceptable as a permanent home. As the Michigan Humane Society puts it, dogs who live outside become bored, anxious and develop bad habits.
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