How to get a dog to use his doghouse?
November 9, 2006 6:50 AM   Subscribe

Why won't Mickey use his doghouse?

I'm asking this on behalf of the owner of an 8-month-old Golden Retriever. It's getting colder now, but he'd still like to be able to leave Mickey outside at least for part of the day, so he built him a lovely doghouse. Problem is, Mickey won't use it. Even in the wind and rain, he doesn't seem to get the idea that he'd be more comfortable inside. Anybody got any ideas? Or do some dogs just refuse to use doghouses?
posted by JanetLand to Pets & Animals (14 answers total)
Have you tried putting food or treats inside it to lure him in? And is there any bedding?
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:00 AM on November 9, 2006

Food, treats, yes, although here in Baltimore that would just make it into a Rat House. I'd suggest bedding that smells strongly of the owners.
posted by OmieWise at 7:03 AM on November 9, 2006

Has Mickey discovered that it's smarter to stand outside and look pathetic and be let into the nice warm house overnight rather than to curl up in a cold box and put up with the night?

Is it big enough? Is the door too big and therefore the house too cold to bother sleeping in? Does it smell funny? Is it made of stinky pressed board? Is Mickey afraid of being taken away to the vet in a carrier? Is it in a place that feels safe to Mickey? If I lived in a doghouse, I'd want the door facing out to where I could watch things coming and going, the back up against a safe place, a wall maybe.

Put Mickey's favorite something inside. A bed or blankey. Then go to bed and stop looking outside to see if he's OK. Every time you look, he remembers to beg to get back into the house.
posted by pracowity at 7:06 AM on November 9, 2006

These are good ideas -- I should have mentioned what's already been tried.

1. Treats/food/toys in the house: done it, doesn't seem to matter.

2. Bedding: yes, there's a nice rug from the house in there.

3. The doghouse is built into the back of the shed, so it backs up against something safe as pracowity suggests. It's plenty big, and the walls are insulated so it should be plenty warm. It doesn't smell as far as I can tell, but I suppose that's a possiblity, seeing as how dogs can smell so much better than people.

The problem isn't really him standing out there looking pathetic while we peer at him from the house. His owner wants to leave him out while he's at work (he comes home for lunch so we're talking four-hour stretches at max); Mickey's inside at night. So he does this, and then when he gets home for lunch, it's, say, pouring rain and Mickey isn't in the doghouse. He's worried about when it gets even colder and when the snow comes.
posted by JanetLand at 7:27 AM on November 9, 2006

Mickey's probably already figured it out-- but he's young and impatient and sitting out in the rain doesn't bother him very much when he's anxious for his owner to get home and pay attention to him. When he's older and the cold and wet bugs him, he'll use it if it's the best available shelter.

Also consider that he might be using it when he wants it, but he can hear his owner's car a long time before his owner can see him.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:43 AM on November 9, 2006

Mayor Curley, I think your last paragraph makes a lot of sense. My dog used to wake himself up in the back seat of the car when we were a couple of miles from home and sit up at the ready. I always felt he caught a scent of hometown combined with road sounds that equalled 'home'.

Now that I'm reminiscing (he's gone, sadly), he was also good at predicting my daughter's middle of the night asthma attacks. He would wake me up with a nudge-y wet nose just before she woke up with a wheezing/coughing fit. I think he just heard more keenly her pre--attack tossings and increasingly labored breathing and whatever else I (and she) was sleeping through.
posted by thinkpiece at 7:56 AM on November 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

Thirded that he's probably using the dog house but running out when he hears his owner's car. Check the bedding inside the dog house for dog hair!
posted by hazyjane at 8:07 AM on November 9, 2006

Try adding a window. Seriously. The claustrophobia (or similar experience) that animals get can turn them off to an enclosed space. If they can see outside, it sometimes makes them more comfortable and secure. This worked for us.
posted by tdischino at 9:22 AM on November 9, 2006

Maybe try a kong filled with peanut butter and the best biscuit treats (ie. something that will take a while to lick and eat) and attach it to the inside back wall of the dog house with short enough rope that it couldn't be taken out of the dog house so he has to be inside to eat it? Half an hour of peanut butter bliss would be the best association my dogs could make with a place.
Also maybe another layer or two of bedding to make it irresistable?
posted by iurodivii at 9:36 AM on November 9, 2006

Our dog was reluctant to use his dog house, until I put his food just OUTSIDE the dog house for a couple of days. Then just inside for a couple of day. (at that point only his head was in the dog house. then I gave him a couple days with the food a little further in (now he has to step in with his front legs.) He hesitate a little there, but gave in soon and had his dinner.
Finally, I put his food in the dog house so far he had to go all the way in to get it.

So he uses the doghouse when he wants. Of course, it might help that he's a big baby about rain. (60 lb Golden Retriever - hates to go out in the rain. Swimming is fine, getting rained on is nasty. Go figure!)
posted by davereed at 9:47 AM on November 9, 2006

This may not be an option but my mom's dogs have a dogrun connected to a similar fenced in area in the garage that's their outside area. They can move around see and still be sheltered.
posted by dagnyscott at 2:23 PM on November 9, 2006

So try sneaking up on him (park the car elsewhere) or set up a camera and see what the truth is.
posted by pracowity at 2:28 PM on November 9, 2006

In actual winter, a rug is nowhere near enough insulation for a Golden, even during the day. You need straw or something similar. And I hope the doghouse is both the right size for the dog and elevated off the ground - any combination of bedding, size, location, materials and elevation can make a doghouse too uncomfortable for a dog to bother with.

That said, he may just not want to use his doghouse, people's ideas of comfort and dogs' ideas of comfort sometimes don't intersect. What is your friend doing for water for the dog outside? Does he have a heated water bowl for him?

I hope your friend has a properly fenced yard (at least 6' privacy fencing with a locked gate), or else he may well be coming home to an empty yard one day. People steal dogs from yards all the time (for breeding, for fighting dog bait or just to steal), no way no how would I be leaving a dog outside unattended, especially not of a breed like a Golden.
posted by biscotti at 2:49 PM on November 9, 2006

If anyone is still reading, the Mayor's advice turned out to be right -- it just wasn't cold and uncomfortable enough for him yet. It is now.
posted by JanetLand at 8:35 AM on December 12, 2006

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