How to Crate Train an Older Dog

How to Crate Train an Older Dog

We all have times when we need a little bit of extra help and emotional support. Dogs are no different. A favorite blanket, for example, can be a great comfort even to an older pooch, just as it can be to a small child.

Crate training dogs has generated a wide range of opinions from a broad cross-section of pet parents. Wherever you lie on the crate-training spectrum, there’s no question that it can bring certain benefits. Read on to find out more about them.

The Rewards of Crate Training

Sometimes life can throw a dog curveballs. At times like these, pet owners can step in to help. Crate training is one of the ways they can do this. Pet parents will be able to teach their dogs to spend time in a kennel or crate to calm and support their animals.

By nature, dogs enjoy a den. They instinctively look for a quiet area they can escape to in order to rest or recuperate from the stresses of the day. A crate does not normally have the same negative associations for dogs that it might have for a human. 

It is true, however, that the fear of a crate can occasionally induce similar symptoms to those caused by separation anxiety in some older dogs. In these cases, it might not always be possible to rehabilitate a particular pet. Talk to your vet if you’re unsure. 

It’s important to remember that no dog should spend the majority of the day in a crate, but here’s when crate training can help:

Sorting out Housetraining Issues and Reducing Stress

When a dog comes into a new environment, it can take them a while to adapt. This can be particularly true if you are taking on a rescue dog whatever their age. 

If a dog’s not used to how daily life is going to work, they can be prone to have the occasional accident. Because a crate or kennel helps create structure in a dog’s life, they can make it easier to control housetraining issues. 

Causes of stress, such as separation anxiety, can lead to house soiling. Having a crate provides a dog with a safe place to go to and sit inside. It helps to calm them down. The same applies when dogs get over-excited if a doorbell rings, for example. 

Your Guide to Crate Training

When it comes to crate training, the old saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” does not apply. Older dogs tend to be creatures of habit. You may find you have to help them to let old habits go before they can take on new ones. 

Patience is key. You’ll need to commit to a lot of repetition and practice. Remember that a calmer, older dog is more likely to enjoy a comfortable bolthole compared to a puppy. 

Begin by finding a quiet space for the crate. It needs to become a refuge for a nap when lots of human activity is going on in your home. Here are the steps you need to take to make time in a crate feel like a positive experience for your older dog:

1. Getting the Crate Ready

Choose a crate that’s sufficiently large for your dog to lie down in comfortably. Your dog will also need to be able to turn around and stand up in it. Put a favorite blanket inside. Leave the door open so that your pet can check out the crate and get used to it. 

2. Prepare Yourself

Get rid of any negative feelings or apprehension you might have about placing your dog in a crate. Dogs can pick up our emotions and so if you feel stressed about crating your dog, they are likely to feel anxious too. Make sure you feel calm and relaxed.

3. Preparing Your Dog

Ensure your dog gets plenty of exercise before each training session. This will help them to feel at ease and allows them the opportunity for a toilet break.

4. Make Positive Associations

Always place a few favorite treats and toys close to the opening of the crate. Give your dog plenty of praise when they go near the crate door in order to pick up their treat or toy.

5. Use Your Powers of Persuasion

Gradually try to entice your dog inside the crate. Once they get used to being near the crate, place treats and toys inside. You could also try placing your pet’s food and water bowls in the crate too. 

The key is to take things slowly. Begin by placing familiar items at the front of the crate. Then start to move them toward the back until your dog enters the crate all by themselves.

6. Closing the Door

Begin by closing the door for a second or two before opening it and letting your pet out. This is important as it develops trust between you and your dog. Your pooch must be sure that you are always going to let them out. 

Repeat this process but gradually increase the time the door remains closed. When your dog feels comfortable in the crate, try leaving the door shut for a few minutes at a time, gradually working up to an hour. Always be within earshot.

Some Dog Crating Tips

Should your dog panic or get agitated, stop the training straightaway. Give them a break and take them outdoors for a short time. 

Be prepared to start the whole training process over again, perhaps many times. Lots of  dog owners find they have to persevere. 

Be mindful that older dogs may need to use the bathroom more often. You should therefore limit the length of time in the crate to one that is appropriate for their comfort. 

It’s important that your dog doesn’t associate going to the crate with being naughty. Rather it should be their safe haven and somewhere they can go to in order to relax. 

Keeping Your Dog Happy and Stimulated

Positive reinforcement training should offer your dog a sense of enrichment. Crate training acts as an excellent tool for older dogs. It’s mentally stimulating but does not require physical exertion. It also enhances the bond between a dog and their owner.

We’ve plenty more useful articles in our blog section to help keep your dog healthy and happy. Remember we’ve always got a vet on hand that you can contact for instant advice. We’re also able to offer a range of pet insurance products. Get in touch now!

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