Crate Training An Older Dog


There may be a time when you may find yourself having to crate train an older dog.

It may be because you’re moving a great distance and have to confine him for the journey, or perhaps your old dog has begun exhibiting undesirable behaviors and can’t be left unattended when you’re not at home.

Beautiful Shih Tzu dog sitting on a bench

Or it simply may be because you want to crate him after surgery to prevent damage during the healing process.

Whatever the reason, crate training an older dog is do-able.  It may take a little longer, but it can be easier when you use these 3 simple things.

  • a comfortable crate
  • treats
  • patience

Pretty simple right?  Well, there's a little more to it than just this of course, but without these very important first steps, you will likely have a harder time getting your old dog to cooperate with you.

When Training an Older Dog Patience is Key

Have patience and take your time.  Ideally, you will go slowly with your older dog.

It is not true that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but if you try to force the training, or go too fast, you could cause your dog to panic.

If that happens, the best case scenario is that you’ll have to start all over again, even more slowly this time around.

The worst case is that your dog could injure himself, or be so frightened that you’ll never be able to train him.

Once you break your dog’s trust, it can be difficult to get it back. Sometimes, it is even impossible.

So before you begin training your dog, get your mind in a good place and take out any expectations that it will go as smoothly or as quickly as you think it should.

You dog needs to know it's not a punishment when he is in his crate, but rather a safe place for him to hang out when he needs a time out or when traveling.

Why Comfort is Important When Crate Training an Older Dog

Does it make sense that if something is uncomfortable that you are less likely to want to do it.

I know that is true for myself as well as for most humans, and I bet it's true for dogs too.

That's why making the crate as comfortable as possible for your dog so that he doesn't mind being in it, will make training him so much easier for you.

You don't need to go all Feng Shui (but I suppose it couldn't hurt), just a few simple adjustments will make it more enjoyable.

Assuming he’s not prone to chewing, some soft bedding will make the crate a more pleasant place to be.  I'd recommend splurging for a nice soft, cushiony bed for his old bones.

Using a blanket might be too hot for a long-haired dog, so you may be better off with a nice, soft pad.

Be sure to get the right size for his crate.  If the cushion is too big or too tall, it will create an even smaller space for your dog to squeeze into, which may be uncomfortable for him.

If there's a favorite toy he likes to cozy up to, leave it in his crate to comfort him.

When your dog is comfortable in the crate, he’ll be more willing to spend time inside it.

Mature Shih Tzu standing tall

Don’t Forget the Treats and Let The Training Begin

Once you’ve selected your bedding and made it nice and comfy, you can begin crate training your dog.

Put a few of his favorite treats in the crate, and leave the door open. If it’s something he really loves, he’ll likely go in and investigate eventually.

Just give him a bit of time.

Once he’s accustomed to taking treats in the crate, you can begin offering regular meals inside it.

You always want to make crate training an adult dog as pleasant as possible.

Your dog should get the idea that good things happen inside his crate.

Never force him inside, and never make him stay inside for too long.

dog gazing up, patiently waiting on his owner

How Long Is Too Long?

That depends on your dog.

As soon as he is comfortable with being in the crate with the door open, you can start closing it for short periods.

Then experiment with leaving the room briefly.

Gradually, you can leave for longer periods, but be very careful not to do too much too soon.

You don’t want to have to go back to square one and start rebuilding his trust all over again.

Keep in mind that no dog should be left in a crate for any longer than eight hours.

It could be less if your dog is the sort that needs to empty his bowels and bladder frequently.

Other Options

In most cases, crate training an older dog is achievable.

However, if for some reason your dog simply can’t tolerate being crated, there are other options.

For instance, if you’re on a trip, you could consider one of the many pet-restraining devices that are available.

At home, you could use a baby gate to restrict your dog’s access to certain areas of the house.

You should, of course, see your vet for a checkup if the need for crating is due to a sudden change in bathroom habits or destructive behavior.

Here's wishing you much success in crate training your furry friend.

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