Crate training a dog, especially an older one, is going to be more of a challenge than that for a younger one. It has probably plagued every dog owner due to the need to travel around with the dog (although there are other ways to transport your dog apart from using a crate). I can attest to that. My greatest ordeal is to have the old dog understand that his crate has changed and get into the new one.
The training usually involves these steps:
- Making the crate comfortable
- Using treat to lure them into the crate
- Close the door for a certain duration
- Repeat the above steps with a longer duration
These guide should be repeated every day until your dog is really comfortable in his new crate. Personally, I have a few secret tips, based on my personal experience, that will make this ordeal a whole lot less tedious. More on that later. For now, let’s first understand what is separation anxiety.
What Is Separation Anxiety?
More often than not, dogs have separation anxiety. It is when they feel out of sorts and extremely uneasy due to separation or a threat of separation from their primary caregiver. This caregiver is usually the person who owns the dog.
These creatures love companionship, so it is natural for them to feel apprehensive when left alone. However, you cannot be with them at all times or leave them roaming around your house, ruining your furniture. Hence, you need to crate train them so that you can leave them in their own space.
A dog is said to undergo separation anxiety if he starts to whine or tremble as you are about to leave him alone. Due to this anxiety, dogs bark and howl loudly and might even scratch on furniture and window panes. Some might even chew doors when they are anxious.
Separation anxiety can get worse because dogs are said to urinate accidentally when they are worried that their owners would leave them. They might even excrete feces at places where they are not supposed to litter. This condition is a cause of concern for many dog owners, which is where crate training comes in.
Why Is It More Difficult To Crate Train Older Dogs?
Whatever the age of your dog, crate training is a tricky process. While older dogs learn faster than puppies, it can still take a while to train them. This is because it is difficult to cultivate new habits in older dogs. It will take time for them to accept the crate, especially if they have gotten used to staying in close proximity to you.
Old senior dogs have already seen a life of freedom too, so they will be more reluctant to accept one in a confined crate.
How To Crate Train Your Dog
You need to get a few simple steps down which will help you get positive results.
Home Sweet Home
Make your dog’s crate as inviting as you can. This place is going to mark his home from now onwards, so you do not want to make it look scary to him. Hence, it is important that you make it as comfortable as you can.
Give this place a welcoming look by adding a soft, plushy spread. The cozier the crate, the easier it will be to train your dog. He will love a plush mattress to sit on and will be more likely to stay in this new spot.
On top of that, a crate that gives a comfortable aura will look attractive to your dog. Nothing beats a homely vibe, which your pooch will adore from the depths of his heart.
It is important that you get a spacious crate for your dog, especially for an older one. A small crate will not only make your dog anxious, but it will also not leave enough room for you to put treats or toys beside your dog. A large one allows you to put added accessories besides the essential ones.
You can place pillows and chew toys for your dog to play with. This also saves you the need to allot a separate section in your house for your dog’s accessories. A large crate will keep all stuff handy for you so that you do not have to spend extra time gathering up things for your little buddy.
How To Get A Dog In A Crate
You can get your dog in a crate by following these simple steps. While it is easier to get a dog inside it, it is a bit tricky to keep him in there. With patience and diligence, this ordeal can become a simple trick.
First off, tempt your dog with treats. Lure your dog into the crate area with treats that he likes the most. Bones and bacon strips are a winner when it comes to tempting dogs. You may even give him his meals inside the crate. Try tossing his favorite treats into it, but do not force him to go in. When you give food to your dog at this spot, he might start forming a good perception about the area and may even start to accept it as his home.
If you are finding it hard to make your dog enter the crate by using treats, try getting your dog so tired that he eventually gives up and goes inside it to get a good amount of rest. Try playing with him for a long time or make him exercise in the vicinity of the crate until you feel he is lacking in energy and wants to lie down.
When a good night’s sleep is all that your dog wants, he will definitely try to lie down in the comfy area you have made for him. This technique has worked for many, and it might work for you too.
Home Alone 1
Once you get your dog in the crate, start training him to stay in by locking the door that leads to it. Note that this is the initial stage of training, so you do not need to make your pet fret over the new conditions.
Encourage your dog to go into the crate by using a command word. Most dog owners use “kennel” as a command word. Once inside, give him a treat and close the door for 30 seconds.
See if this action sits well with your dog. Most dogs are usually curious about their new surroundings to notice this new change. However, they might notice you closing the door, so close it in a friendly way and even keep your expressions calm and composed.
After you lock the door, do not leave the room or your dog alone as doing so will look like an act of abandonment to your dog. He might even get anxious which you would not want. Thus, try and stand beside the locked door. You can even use a softer tone to calm down your dog.
When the time is up and your furry baby has been locked up inside for 30 seconds, let him out and repeat this process several times a day.
Home Alone 2
Now that you see that your dog is adjusting to the new situation, after a few days, move up to the next level of training. Up until now, you had stayed with your dog, trying to make him comfortable in the crate. Now, it is time for your dog to adapt to the crate without you standing next to it.
Lock the door and see if your dog reacts out of anxiety. You have to make sure your dog does not get separation anxiety and that staying alone in a crate does not make him anxious. For that, you need to move out of your dog’s sight and possibly out of the house for a while.
Move away for only 30 seconds and not more. Do not stay away for too long or else your dog will start feeling anxious and might even think you have left him.
After you get back near the crate after 30 seconds, open it and let your dog out. You might even treat him at this point or pat his back to reward him for staying calm.
Home Alone 3, 4, 5
Keep on repeating the training by closing the door to the crate for 30 seconds, leaving your dog alone for 30 seconds and then opening the crate. With time, increase the duration for which you close the door, stay away from your dog’s sight, and let him out. Thus, repeat the training but prolong the duration.
You should also try switching off the lights after your dog is locked inside the crate and see how it goes. Notice how your dog reacts to these changes. Be careful that your method does not make him panic too much. Make good use of soft facial expressions and a calming tone. Also, give treats to your pet when need be.
Stop The Experiment
You need to stop training right away if you see that your dog is getting too anxious and whines a lot when you lock him up in the crate. Crying and whining are signs of anxiety. Give the command to come out or say soothing words that tell him you are taking him out of the cage.
However, make sure it was anxiety that made him react in such a way. Some dogs only want to come out, and crying is their way of throwing a tantrum at you. If he becomes normal right after you take him out, the chances are that he has been successful in making you believe that he had anxiety when he didn’t.
Secret Dog Crate Training Tips From Me
Below are some of my special tips for training your dog. I can swear by these few tricks, so follow them closely if you want to have better results. After all, you might reach your goal much more quickly by keeping these subtle tips in mind.
Your dog loves your company. In fact, he gets separation anxiety in the first place because he can’t remain away from you. Thus, try to be around him often and play with him in his crate. He will feel less lonely and even associate its crate with fun times. Remember that you have to make your dog like his new surroundings.
Introduce games to him inside his crate. He will start seeing this spot as a fun place and may even go as far as loving it.
Use The Crate Often
I have seen many dog owners who want to make the crate acceptable to their dogs, but at the same time, keep on thinking of it as a cage themselves. As a result, they use the crate only during training and forget about it at other times. For your dog to become accustomed to this new place, it is essential that he remembers it. Try using the crate at other times too besides training.
For this purpose, you can serve meals to your dog in the crate or put him in it when he has to take a nap. The more you use it, the more he will have the crate’s imprint on his mind and the easier it will become to train him.
When you move to a new house, you do not normally discard your old stuff and buy new ones. Instead, you move your furniture and other items to the new place. You keep your stuff because you have gotten used to them and there are tons of memories attached to them. Just as you like holding onto things you are familiar with, so does your dog.
Therefore, take all your dog’s objects from its old crib or the place where it slept and put them into its new home so that it also becomes familiar to your dog.
Furthermore, almost all dogs are addicted to one object whose smell they like the best. Remember that dogs are animals that have a sharp sense of smell. You cannot possibly trick them in this aspect. If you know which stuffed toy or garment your dog is addicted to, move it to your dog’s new den in order to make him feel at home.
Make the crate your dog’s favorite place to be in if you want to make crate training easier. You will have to work painstakingly for that, but crate training is a great way to make your dog comfortable with the idea of living all by himself while you are away. Make your pet love his space and not just tolerate it. By following the tips I have shared above, you will be able to crate train your dog in no time.