If you go to the trouble to find and buy a good hunting retriever puppy, one of the first things you need to think about is how you’re going to keep it. Your pup’s living environment is part of your training strategy. You are not only taking care of his physical needs, but also setting up a controlled training environment. From day one, the repetitive nature of your daily routine allows you to begin training your pup – the actions of feeding, watering, airing, and training all set the scenarios for this to happen.
The puppy needs an outside kennel that’s clean, safe and comfortable and a size-appropriate dog crate. For the kennel, I’d use welded wire panels to construct a 6x4x10 pen. Pour your concrete pad 8×14 feet for a surrounding 2 foot walkway. The concrete flooring should be broom-finished with an epoxy coating to seal it from bacteria. The kennel floor should slope 1/4 inch per running foot, so that it will drain and dry quickly. Make a trough-type drain that is wide as a flat tip shovel for easy cleaning. Slope the trough 1/4 inch per running foot to the sewer.
Clean water is a necessity and stainless steel buckets are the best. Galvanized buckets have the tendency to freeze in the winter and spring leaks and plastic is too porous to clean thoroughly. Hang your bucket in the shade where it won’t get knocked over and high enough for a male dog not to pee in it.
In the summertime, especially in the Midwest and South, make sure your dog has shade during the heat of the day. I’ve never seen a dog die of being cold, but over the years I’ve known several people who lost dogs to the heat.
When choosing a dog house, look for one that’s warm in the winter, easy to keep clean, and takes up as little space as possible in the kennel run.
Always remember, good animal husbandry precedes good training.
You can also use a dog crate as a training tool. The crate, like the outside kennel, is a controlled environment. Keeping the pup in a crate sets up a routine of cues that establish habits. Being fed, going out to potty, training, coming back in – all give opportunities for molding behaviors.
John Amico, Deep Fork Retrievers