Are you wondering whether it’s possible to crate train adult dogs? Well, it is. Whether they were rescued in their adulthood or they were just not trained when young, it’s never too late to crate train an adult dog.
If you are in this situation, keep reading this article to learn how to crate train an adult dog. The guide provides the procedure, purposes of the training, when not to put a dog in a crate, and other information on crate training adult dogs.
But if you’re bringing home a young pooch for the first time, here is our comprehensive training guide for new puppy owners.
Reasons for Crate Training an Adult Dog
You may have different views on crate training dogs but it is of great importance. The impression of dogs on crates depends on how you introduce them. During crate-training, ensure you create a positive impression and not the impression that a crate is a sort of punishment.
Dogs with traumatic experiences should not be put in a crate. Other than that, dogs should be crate trained for the following reasons:
1- Easy transportation of your pooch during travel
Using a dog crate is the safest way to carry your dog when traveling; whether by air or road. It is not allowed to have dogs walking around i.e. in planes. The crate offers protection in case of an accident or bumpy travel.
It also keeps the dog calm and gives him a sense of protection from the new faces around and, therefore, providing a comfortable and safe place during such high-stress situations. If you are staying at a hotel, it is more convenient to keep your dog in a crate to minimize movement.
2- Security preparation for emergencies or disasters
Although nobody wishes to experience a disaster, we must be prepared just in case. Imagine a situation where there is a fire outbreak and your dog is stuck in the house! There is no time to start looking for them, and the fire might be so loud that they might not hear when you call. If your dog was in a crate, it would be easier to locate them and get them outside.
3- Keeps your dog safe when you are not around
If you are busy in the house or you are not home, your dog is safe in the crate even without your supervision. It protects them from potential harm like chewing electrical cables or swallowing toxic inedible items around the house. Since you can decide what goes into the crate, it is safer to keep your dog there whenever it is not possible to offer your supervision.
4- Solve behavioral problems
Crating dogs is part of solving behavioral problems. Such vices include jumping on visitors, chewing couches, and snatching or begging for food at the table. As much as training is the solution, management solves the problem at that time. Crating reduces the frequency of unwanted behavior thus making training easier.
5- Confine dogs when they are ill or in injury recovery
If your dog is ill, she will require a quiet comfortable place such as a crate to rest after treatment. If you have multiple pets, it is safer to use a crate if one gets sick. This prevents transmission of the disease while allowing ample time for recovery.
The crate also becomes useful when your dog gets injured. Being in the crate minimizes movement and active behavior, therefore, speeding the healing process.
6- Makes house training easier
In case your dog has not been house trained, keeping them in a crate makes the process much easier. Dogs do not often excrete where they are sleeping and eating. Therefore, they will learn to wait for you to open the crate then they can go do their business outside.
Once they learn this, they will practice it in your actual house, and you won’t have to worry about keeping a vigilant eye on them. Since most dogs that dirty the house do it at night, sleeping in the crate can prevent that.
7- Makes it easier for you to do your household activities
Your dog could be an adult but still want to play all the time. This is natural, but how will you finish your house chores? Keeping them in a crate gives you space to do your work without disturbance. All you have to do is place a few dog toys in the crate to keep your furry friend occupied throughout the day.
How Hard Is It to Crate Train an Adult Dog?
Crate training adult dogs can be challenging. For starters, it will take longer than crate training young pups. This is because older dogs are not ready for any change in their routine therefore, they might refuse to use the crate.
On the other hand, young dogs easily welcome change since they are excited to explore new adventures. However, it is patently false to say that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” After a lot of patience and practice, your older pooch will finally become accustomed to the crate.
How Long Does It Take To Crate Train An Adult Dog?
It can take days or weeks to crate train an older dog depending on the dog’s temperament, age, and past experiences. During the training, it is very crucial to keep in mind that it should be broken down into a series of steps and the crate must be associated with pleasant things. Don’t force or scare your dog into the crate. Instead, encourage the dog to have positive emotions while in the cage.
Don’t crate train your dog when you still have negative feelings about the crate. This could bring out terrible results since your dog can tap into your emotions. It is also advisable to exercise the dog before training to be relaxed and attentive.
Step 1: Introduce your older dog to the crate
Place the crate in the family room since it is the part of your house that gets a lot of attention from your family members. A much older and calmer dog would, however, prefer a quiet place away from interference.
Ensure that the crate is large enough to allow your dog to comfortably stand, lie down, roll, and turn around. Put soft and comfortable bedding in the crate. Open up the door to allow your dog to explore the crate during their leisure time. For some dogs, this will be the end of the training since they will find it comfortable and start sleeping inside. Otherwise, move on to step two.
Step 2: Entice your dog to go in
With the door still open, bring your dog over to the crate as you speak in a soft voice. Begin by placing some yummy treats at the entrance to build positive associations. Entice your dog to go inside willingly by throwing some treats inside the crate.
Once inside, reward the dog with more treats and in case of fear or anxiety, focus on reassurance. Loosen up the situation by making a fuss of the dog while inside. After spending some minutes inside, call your dog outside and repeat the same until there is no hesitation when going in. You can introduce commands such as ‘go in’ and ‘come out’ by throwing a treat inside the crate and outside respectively.
Step 3: Feed your dog in the crate
Once your canine friend is comfortable with the crate, place a bowl of dog food and water inside the crate, but way at the back. You can go for mixed wet and dry dog food or a bigger bull stick or bone, as long as it makes the dog stay longer in the crate. Once inside, close the door and open once the food has been gulped. Repeat this and after each successive feeding, extend the time you spend before opening the door. Do this gradually while watching your dog’s reaction.
If the dog whines to be let out, it could mean you prolonged the time too quickly. However, if the dog keeps whining each time, don’t let them out until they stop it. Otherwise, they will keep using whining to be let out each time. Ensure that each time your dog is inside you stay around until you let them out.
Step 4: Train your dog to stay longer in the crate
If your dog finishes eating and appears calm with no signs of fear or anxiety, begin confining them there for shorter periods. Sit quietly near the crate for about ten minutes then try going into another room then come back. Repeat this step while gradually increasing the time that your dog stays in the crate while you are away.
Be patient for it can take several days or even weeks for your dog to be able to spend over 30 minutes in the crate. If it turns out successful, you can leave them inside for longer periods and even let them spend the night there.
Step 5: Crate your dog and leave the house
If your dog is comfortable staying in the crate for more than 30 minutes with you out of sight, crate them and leave the house. Don’t stay out for a very long time though since your dog can become emotional. Find ways of keeping your dog busy while you are out such as giving them safe toys.
When you return home, don’t display any enthusiastic and excitement behavior. Keep your arrival low-key to prevent increasing your dog’s anxiety about when you’ll come back. Avoid keeping your dog in the crate only when you are leaving the house, but also when you are around. This prevents the dog from associating the crate with loneliness.
Step 6: Train your dog to spend the night in the crate
Using your regular commands, let your dog go into the crate and reward them as usual. Leaving your dog in the crate to spend the night is different altogether. Initially, it is a great idea to keep the crate in the hallway or your bedroom so your dog doesn’t associate it with social isolation. The focus is to help your dog develop a positive attitude towards the crate.
At times, your dog might whine during the night to be let out to answer the call of nature. Another reason why you should keep the crate nearby is that your presence strengthens the bond between you and your dog. If you must change the location, you can wait till your dog is asleep before moving the crate.
Step 7: Leaving your dog in the crate for work
Is it possible to leave your dog in the crate and leave for work? Well, it depends on your work schedule. At no point should you ever leave your adult dog in the crate for more than 8 hours. That is absolutely cruel and some dogs might become withdrawn and even refuse to come out of the crate. This is why you need to evaluate your life and incorporate your pet’s full plan before assuming responsibility for it.
Dogs need to be taken care of; they need to feed, play, drink, sleep, and excrete frequently just like you do. If you are not around, ask a friend to watch over the dog for you. You also need to give them enough time to learn and adjust. You can’t get a dog today and expect them to be crate trained over the weekend so you can leave for work on Monday. You need a lot of patience and understanding, especially since this is an older dog.
Measures to consider when crate training an older dog
When crate training your adult dog, take the following precautions to prevent nasty incidences:
a- Keep Your Dog Entertained
No matter the age, dogs have the instinct to play. Therefore, you need to select some activities for the dog to do in the crate while you are away. Leave them several interesting toys but ensure they cannot cause a swallowing hazard. Dogs are also choosy, so ensure they like the toys.
If you do not plan any activities, your dog will eat, sleep, and then sit idle. Since there are no entertaining activities, your dog will start thinking of you and how long you are taking to be back, developing anxiety in the process. If you are around or you come home to pick some lunch, consider giving your dog a visit.
b- Consult your vet
It is important to consult your veterinary before crate training, especially if your dog is exotic since it is not recommended to crate train certain dog breeds. Some breeds are so massive that they would require a lot of room in their crate.
c- Make the crate as enticing as possible
The crate should be a safe space for your dog. It should have a soft comfortable pillow, blanket, and mattress. Make it more enticing by stocking it with all your dog’s favorite things. When you do this, your dog will find it okay to visit the crate anytime and develop a love for it. You can go the extra mile and put some soothing music for them to keep them calm.
d- Choose the correct Type Of crate
You have to choose the correct crate for your dog. Ensure the door cannot slam and close behind the dog during exploration. Although the crate has to be big enough for your dog to move comfortably, it should not be excessively big. If you get a very spacious crate, your dog will excrete at one end and still be comfortable to sleep at the other end.
e- Ensure the safety and comfort of your dog
Ensure the materials you leave in the crate cannot hurt your dog. Remove the dog harness or flea collar to prevent choking and snagging. Additionally, the material used to make the crate should be safe without sharp protrusion. Dogs are very territorial. So, once they have a private space of their own, do not allow children to go there and tease them.
And since your dog is aging, quietness becomes a priority. Inform every member of your family not to disturb the dog while in the crate. However, set aside time for visiting and petting since your dog’s social character still matters. Let your dog interact with people as much as they want before locking them up to avoid loneliness.
Also, include exercising to prevent pent-up energy. Lastly, let your dog go to go outdoors and relieve himself before putting him back in the crate. It is very uncomfortable for dogs to have to hold back when their bowels are full.
How To Know If Crate Training Was Successful
If the crate training is successful, your dog should be very comfortable staying inside for an extended period. Observe their reaction whenever you put them inside and act accordingly. If you come from work and get reports from your neighbors about your dog’s whining or barking, you need to change your strategy since it’s not working.
You can upgrade or twist things a little bit by creating more fun activities. Look for other things that you can do to make your pooch happier and healthier. Although it is good to maintain a specific routine for your dog, it can become boring after some time. If that happens, you should change things a bit to make it more exciting.
Situations Under Which Crate Training a Dog is Not Recommended
Not all dogs will respond positively to crate training. That being said, it is cruel and inhumane to force your dog into the crate after showing signs of fear. If you do not know how to tell when your dog is afraid, watch out for signs such as trembling, defecation, vomiting, keeping the tail down, and flattened ears.
Going inside the crate must be by choice and not forcefully. Sometimes, your dog might seem happy when you’re around, but when you leave and come back later, you may see signs that they had tried to escape. Urine, feces, wet fur, or drooling are signs that your dog is terrified in the crate.
Constant barking or crying reports from your neighbors are other signs that your dog is not happy or comfortable in the crate. This shows delayed fear and whenever your dog is afraid, do not put the dog back into the crate. Here are other red alerts that crate training does not work for your furry friend:
i- If your dog suffers from separation anxiety
Confining a dog that has suffered from separation anxiety only makes things worse. Common signs of separation anxiety in dogs include soiling the house, destructive chewing, continuous barking, excessive drooling, continuous whining, and scratching on doors or windows.
In extreme cases of the disorder, dogs rip their claws, break their teeth, and damage the door or walls trying to escape. If you notice these signs in your dog, seek professional help immediately, and never put them in a crate until the problem is addressed.
ii- If crating period is too long for them
You probably already know what time your dog goes to the toilet and how many times a day. If the period that you are going to leave them in the crate is too long for them to hold their waste, they will likely soil the crate.
Since this is not their nature, they will feel embarrassed and disappointed with themselves. In the end, this promotes anxiety, so you should avoid it at all costs. However, if you must use the crate then leave the door open for your dog to leave anytime to help themselves.
iii- If your dog begins soiling their crate
As mentioned before, it is not the nature of dogs to soil where they sleep. If they do so, it could be as a result of anxiety, sickness, diarrhea, or they have unlearnt how to keep their crate clean. Clearly, none of these is your dog’s fault, so it is quite unfair to keep crating them and making them relieve themselves in such a small space. It is not healthy or hygienic to have your dog sleep on its urine and waste.
iv- Crating as a punishment
Never put your dog in the crate as a punishment! And to be fair, you are probably imprisoning your dog for doing what dogs naturally do, or for not doing something you have not trained them to do. Instead of your dog considering the crate as a safe happy place, he will dislike it and develop fear or anxiety.
In summary, you need to take special extra care and allow more time when crate training an adult dog. This is simply because older dogs can be slow in learning and adamant about a new routine. It is up to you to make them feel comfortable and create a good impression about the crate.
If you need to go to work, you can still crate train your dog as long as you commit to the process. If you follow the process half-way, your dog may not be ready to be left in the crate the entire day. No matter the location of training, maintain the same process, and pay attention to how your dog is adjusting.
Dr. Belinda Hawks earned her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Colorado State University in 2006 and has been practicing veterinary medicine since then. Dr. Belinda currently works as a passionate rancher and mixed animal veterinarian in a rural town in South Carolina. When not practicing veterinary medicine or writing, she spends her free time with her lovely husband and three kids (2 boys and a lovely girl) in South Carolina.