Crate training gives dogs a safe place that they can be comfortable in. Crate training is best done with puppies, but can also be done with older dogs.
When crate training a dog, you need to make the crate comfortable, make sure they go to the bathroom before entering the crate, give your dog a toy or treat to distract them, and practice leaving them in the crate for short periods. With practice, your dog will love being in their crate.
In this article, we will go over all of the steps for how to crate train an older dog. Being put in a crate is not and should not be a punishment for a dog, but rather a place of comfort and safety for them. We will walk you through this so that you can feel confident in teaching an older dog new tricks!
As a long-time dog owner and lover, I am going to walk you through the process of crate training an older dog. This type of training can seem harsh and neglectful, but when taught and used properly can be beneficial to dogs. Let’s get started!
How Do You Crate Train An Older Dog?
Crate training is an excellent tool for most dogs and owners, yet many people do not bother to crate train their dog as a puppy. Therefore, many people are left needing to crate train their dogs when they are older.
Crates should be a safe and comforting place for dogs rather than a place to be put as a punishment. Crates help keep dogs out of trouble when their people aren’t home, are useful during house training, and can keep dogs safe when unsupervised.
When crate training your older dog, you will want to make sure their crate is comfortable, that they have recently used the bathroom, that they have toys and treats to entertain them, and that you start by leaving them in the crate for short periods of time at first.
Some dogs do not like being in a crate, so it will be important that you comfort them, let them know that you will come back to them, and distract them while they are in the crate. No dog will enjoy being immediately locked in a crate for long periods. The best way to crate train a dog so that they are comfortable and happy in a crate is to introduce them to a crate slowly.
Make The Crate Comfortable
Before you put your dog in its crate, you need to make sure it is comfortable for them. Keep in mind that the crate should never be used as a punishment. Instead, the crate is a safe space for your dog that they should be able to use at any time.
You can place a dog bed and maybe some blankets inside the crate to keep it comfortable and so your dog can sleep in there if they want.
Take Them To The Bathroom First
Your dog’s crate is their space and comfort zone. Your dog will likely try very hard to not use the bathroom and create a mess inside their crate. Make sure you take them outside to use the bathroom before putting them in their crate.
This will not only help prevent an accident but will allow them to calm down more easily once they are alone. If you lock a dog in a crate with a full bladder, they will immediately try to get out to relieve themselves. By taking them out right before putting them in the crate, you are giving them a better chance of being calm and happy in the crate.
Give Them A Toy Or Treat
When you leave your dog in their crate, it can help to calm and distract them to give them a toy or a treat. You don’t want to give them so much food that they need to use the bathroom within a few hours, but just enough to entertain them.
Some dog owners like to use toys with hidden compartments for treats. Others like to use toys that let you freeze peanut butter so the dog can spend a lot of time trying to melt and eat the peanut butter.
Other dog owners prefer to just leave their dog with a favorite toy to comfort them while they are in the crate. Whatever you decide, be sure to choose something that will comfort, distract, and entertain your dog while you are gone. The hope in doing this is that your dog is so occupied that they don’t get anxious when they notice your absence.
Leave Them In For Short Periods Of Time At First
When you start crate training your dog, you will want to leave them in the crate for short periods, at least in the beginning. Many older dogs that have never been crate trained will feel anxiety when shut inside the crate.
When you first put them in the crate, only leave them there for a few minutes at a time. It may even be helpful for you to stay in the room so that they can see you. Try to ignore them while they are in the crate, though. After a few minutes you can let them back out, then repeat the process later.
Once they are comfortable in the crate while they can see you, you can leave the room and check to see how they react. If they seem calm, you can try leaving your home. We recommend only leaving for five minutes or less. If your dog shows signs of anxiety when you leave the room, you will want to take the training very slowly, only leaving them alone for a few minutes at a time before coming back. The key is letting your dog know that you are coming back for them.
When you come back inside or back into the room, don’t immediately check on them unless something is wrong. Try to ignore them. This will teach them not to get too excited when they see you come home. If you immediately go to the crate and release them when you come home, they may start jumping and acting out of control every time they see you come home, which is not ideal behavior.
Slowly increase the time that you leave them alone over time. If your dog is particularly anxious, it may take a long time to work up to leaving them alone for several hours at a time.
If you don’t practice leaving your older dog alone in the crate for short periods at first, then you run the risk of your dog becoming scared of the crate altogether. Dogs that experience separation anxiety will respond best when they are given time to get used to the crate and learn that it is okay.
Let Them Use The Crate While You Are Home
Finally, you will want your dog to have access to their crate at all times, even when you are home. The crate is supposed to be a safe and comfortable place for your dog. Ideally, they will enjoy spending time there and may even choose to spend time in the crate while you are home.
If your dog chooses to relax in their crate even while you are home, you will know that your dog views the crate as something positive. You will know that they are probably comfortable when you leave and that they are fully crate trained.
This is easiest to achieve when your dog is a puppy, but can also be taught to older dogs.
We put this tip last on the list because we want you to try everything else first. If you can get your dog to be calm and happy in their crate with traditional training methods, then that will be best for them. However, some dogs experience extreme anxiety when left alone in a crate. This is especially true for dogs that are being crate trained for the first time as an adult.
Some dogs may try to destroy their crate to escape it and end up hurting themselves in the process. In extreme situations like this, medication can be a useful tool. If you decide to use medication for an anxious dog, be sure to get it from your vet and follow their instructions.
While following any recommendations from your vet, we recommend giving a calming medication to your dog before putting them in their crate. The hope is that while you are gone, the medication will keep them calm enough so that they realize that they are not in danger and that you will come back for them.
Try using medication for one or two days, then try to practice leaving them without the medication. You may need to give them small doses of medication before practicing the crate training steps that we have outlined in this article.
The goal of using medication for crate training is that you will eventually no longer need the medication. The medicine is a tool to help your dog feel comfortable and calm while they learn that the crate is safe and comfortable. Medication is not meant to be used to drug your dog every time you leave the house.
About THE AUTHOR
I have had dogs my whole life and have always trained my own dogs with patience and positive reinforcement. My dogs are my life. My family always had dogs growing up. I've trained dogs for clients while working at a local dog daycare. I hope that my research and experiences are helpful to you as I share them here.Read More About Russell Wright