It’s never too late to crate train a dog but with an adult dog you may have to deal with some negative associations your dog may have made with crates previously. As long as you take it slowly with lots of positive interactions, you can crate train a dog at any age.
Reasons you might want to crate train an adult dog
If you’ve just adopted a dog who hasn’t been properly housebroken, has accidents or doesn’t seem sure f the appropriate place to pee and poop, crate training can help with this the same way it does with puppies.
Dogs don’t like to soil where they sleep so crate training an adult dog to enjoy being in his crate will enable you to schedule bathroom breaks where you can supervise and reward for the correct behavior (pottying outside). With consistency and time, this will teach your dog the appropriate place to ‘go’.
Dogs instinctively seek the den-like security of a crate, as the enclosed space provides a sense of safety, minimizing environmental stimuli and offering a cozy, confined environment. This alleviates anxiety by creating a predictable, controlled space where dogs feel protected. This safe haven becomes a comforting retreat from the noises and stresses of a normal household.
In order for this to work, the crate door must be open to give the dog choice, and everyone in the household needs to respect the dog’s choice to be in their crate and give them time and space when they’ve chosen to be in there.
Crating your dog in the car minimizes distractions to you, the driver, and also protects the dog and occupants in the event of an accident.
Crate training your dog before travel means they’ll be more relaxed and feel safer. (and if you want them to be really safe, check out these crash tested dog crates )
If your dog is due to fly, having them crate trained in advance means one less stress for them on the day. Train them in the crate that they’re due to travel in and they’ll have nothing but positive associations with it and see it as a place of safety on what is going to be a stressful day.
Many surgeries require a period of crate rest afterward, up to 6 weeks, with only being allowed out for short periods and to toilet.
Getting your dog crate trained before the operation, or having your dog crate trained just in case, makes the whole process much easier.
Although the crate shouldn’t be used for dog ‘storage’, it can be useful as a management tool as part of a behavior modification plan for dogs who can be destructive or reactive to visitors in the home.
Crate training your dog will give you an option to keep your dog safe, your house in one piece and give you peace of mind for short periods whilst you and your trainer/behaviorist work on the issue.
Having a dog who is happy to sleep in his crate for an hour or two whilst you entertain a visitor or have some work done on the house without the dog trying to get involved or ‘help’ is a useful skill to have. Be sure to train them well in advance of the visit to have maximum success.
Can you teach an old dog new tricks?
Dogs learn by association and this can happen at any age. However, sometimes a dog might have learned the wrong thing by association and we will need to work harder to ‘undo’ that learning and teach the dog the right way.
For example; If a dog crate has been used to punish a dog then the dog associates the crate with punishment and will therefore not want to go in it.
So before we can crate train the dog the normal way, we need to undo the negative association.
Think of it as two buckets. One holds negative experiences and the other holds positive ones.
We need to make sure the positive bucket is fuller than the negative one.
We do that by making sure that only good things happen near the crate. Some dogs might not want to even go near the crate so make sure you train at a comfortable distance for your dog taking into account the stage that they’re at right now.
So if they’re happy to be around the crate but won’t go in it, play with your dog near the crate, keep the toys inside it, feed your dog near the crate, give treats near the crate (never inside it).
Once you’ve started to build a positive history near the crate you can try and go ahead with the actual crate training itself. If your dog still isn’t ready, no problem, just go back a step, keep making good things happen near the crate. It just means your dog’s positive bucket wasn’t full enough yet.
What’s the ideal age to crate train a puppy?
You can start to crate train a puppy right from her first day with you, but if you’re using it to help you housebreak them then remember that no amount of crate time overrides the fact that puppies just don’t have the muscle control to hold their pee longer than a couple of hours, and yes, that means through the night too. So expect to take your puppy outside every 2 hours minimum until they start getting the hang of it.
Ready to start crate training your dog?
All articles on tetradog.com are written by qualified behaviorist and dog trainer, Cheryl Walker.
- · Foundation degree (Level 5) in canine behaviour management
- · WSDA instructor (World Scent Dogs Association) and level 1 competition judge
- · ADTB Puppy level instructor Diploma
- · Diploma in Puppy Training
- · Diploma in canine behavior training
- · Canine First Aider
- · Veterinary Support Assistant Diploma
- · Completed Dr. Ian Dunbar’s Sirius academy
- · Owner of an extraordinary working Cocker spaniel called Huckleberry