If you’re a pet parent with a pup, you’ll know all about the importance of crate training to help settle younger dogs. But did you know that it’s also possible – and often necessary – to crate train older dogs?
In this post, I’ll lay out a simple, effective 3-step process for getting your more mature dog comfortable with their crate. Crate training an adult dog does present more challenges than crate training a puppy. But with some patience and consistency, you can soon reap the benefits of successfully having your older, wiser furry friend crate trained.
So, if you’ve ever wondered exactly how to crate train an older dog – without using a certified professional dog trainer – look no further. Let’s dive in!
Crate Training Basics: Why Do Dogs Need Dog Crates?
You might think training adult dogs to sit in a crate inside your house is mean. Doesn’t it restrict their freedom, and make them feel confined when they just want to run around? While that may be how humans feel about claustrophobia, for dogs, it’s extremely reassuring to have their own small space to retreat to.
It’s instinctive for dogs to want to find a safe place to hide away when they’re feeling frightened or overwhelmed. Think about how your dog might tuck themselves under a table or bed when they hear a loud noise outside, or squeeze into a tiny gap between the sofa and the wall when you have guests over.
Dogs love having their own crate to enter and exit as they please. It’s the doggy equivalent of a bedroom – somewhere they can go to feel relaxed and secure. And because dogs are denning animals, they see the space as a calm sanctuary that truly belongs to them, rather than one of confinement or restriction.
The idea is to get your best four-legged pal acclimated to their crate so they know just what it is, and how to make it their own.
What’s the Difference Between Crate Training Puppies and Older Dogs?
According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), crate training is important for dogs of all ages. Puppies need help with everything from bladder control, separation anxiety, and learning how to sleep through the night. Starting crate training early on can help manage these common issues and give your young pup a good foundation for the future.
An older dog won’t have the same energy or need for constant supervision as a puppy. But that doesn’t mean they won’t benefit from crate training. In fact, they may display characteristics of a younger dog, such as fear of being left alone or needing frequent bathroom trips, depending on their background and medical history.
The main difference between crate training a puppy and an older dog comes down to how long it’ll take for them to adjust. Puppies are still developing mentally and emotionally, which means they’re more likely to be open to trying new things and less resistant to change.
Older dogs, on the other hand, may have already developed some bad habits that you’ll need to break, and they may be set in their ways. So, it’s important to go into crate training with realistic expectations. It might take a little longer to crate train an adult dog than it would a puppy, but it is possible with some patience and consistency.
What Are the Benefits of Crate Training for Older Dogs?
So far, I’ve looked at how crate training works and what the key difference is between crate training puppies and older dogs. Now, let’s take a look at some of the key benefits of crate training for your more mature furry friend.
Reduced Stress and Anxiety
Older dogs can get stressed out easily, especially if they’ve come from a difficult background or have had little prior exposure to crates. Training can help reduce their anxiety and stress levels by providing them with a safe space to retreat to when they’re feeling overwhelmed.
Management of Age-Related Health Issues
Crate training your senior dog can also help manage age-related health issues, such as incontinence, arthritis, and cognitive decline. For example, if your dog suffers from stiff and painful joints caused by arthritis, crate training can provide them with a comfortable place to rest and recuperate.
Having a crate-trained dog can also be extremely helpful in the event of an emergency. If you ever need to evacuate your home quickly, having a trained and crate-savvy dog will make the process a lot easier. And if your dog is ever injured or sick and needs to be hospitalized, they’ll already be accustomed to spending time in a crate, which will make the experience less stressful for both of you.
Tools for Crate Training Older Dogs – What Will I Need?
Before you embark on your training journey, make sure you have everything you need. Crate training can be a challenge for an adult dog, but with these tools, tips, and techniques, you’ll be ready to start your training session in no time:
A Crate That Your Dog Can Call Home
When choosing a crate for your furry best pal, the most important thing is that you get the right size. If you get one that’s too big or too small, they might feel cramped – or worse, use the crate to do their business in!
The best way to find the ideal crate size is to measure your dog when they’re standing, and then add a few inches to the height and length measurements. The interior of the crate should be big enough for your dog to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably.
Next, consider the material. Although wire crates are popular because they’re affordable and have good ventilation, some older dogs may prefer an enclosed, den-like space. If your four-legged friend is prone to nerves or anxiety, explore whether a wooden or plastic crate might be more suitable. Alternatively, you can cover a wire crate with a towel or blanket to create a more calming environment.
A Very Comfy Bed
You want your adult dog to be comfy in their crate so they can relax and unwind. So, make sure to choose a bed for the crate that’s soft, cozy, and supportive. If your dog is older or has arthritis, you might want to look for a bed with memory foam or orthopedic support.
Plenty of great dog beds on the market are specifically designed for crates, so make sure to do your research to find one that’s perfect for your furry friend. Crate pads are also a good option and can be easily removed and thrown in the washing machine when they need a clean.
Their Favorite Treats – But No Food or Water
Treats are a vital part of the crate training process and help your dog with positive reinforcement. Choose small, soft treats that are easy to chew and digest, especially when crate training an older dog. Leave food and water out of the crate – they can create a mess, and overstimulate your dog rather than keeping them relaxed.
Don’t Forget the Toys
Another great way to help your pooch feel comfortable in their dog crate is to include a toy (or two) they can’t live without. This could be a stuffed animal they love or even a chew toy they snuggle up to when they’re stressed out.
Plenty of Patience and Positivity
When all’s said and done, the most important thing you’ll need is patience. Positive reinforcement is key when training an older dog, so it’s important to reward yours frequently during training.
Keep your voice calm and upbeat, and give them treats and praise as soon as they do something right, such as the first time they go inside when you’ve left the door open. With time and patience, your dog will be at home in their crate before you know it.
Crate Training an Older Dog – 3 Steps to Set You Up for Success
Now you know what a crate is, why your adult dog needs one, and what to put in it, let’s look at three simple steps to ensure success when crate training:
1) Let them explore their crate without any pressure
Leave the door open and let your dog approach and feel out the crate in their own time. If they’re anxious, leave a trail of treats that lead into the crate. This will help foster a positive association with the space.
2) Gradually increase the amount of time they spend inside
Once your dog is comfortable going into their crate, start closing the door for short periods while you’re at home. Start with just a few seconds, then slowly increase the duration at a pace they’re comfortable with.
3) Crate them while you’re away – but not for long
Once your dog is comfortable spending time in their crate with you around, you can condition them to go into their crate while you’re away. Stick to short absences, like going around the block or to the store, and leave something with your scent on in the crate to reduce their anxiety.
Make sure you never leave your dog crated for more than a few hours, and give them tons of praise and affection when you return! Remember, the key to successful crate training is to take things slowly and let your dog get used to their new space at their own pace.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my tips on how to crate train an older dog successfully. Remember to simply be patient, and give your furry best pal plenty of time and love during the process. With a little bit of effort, you’ll have them relaxing in their crate before you know it. Happy training!