How to Crate Train an Older Dog
by Jamie Tedder on Oct 20, 2022
Are you aware that just over 38% of Americans own a dog? If you're one of them, you've probably dealt with potty and crate training issues — or perhaps are experiencing them right now. And if you've adopted a senior dog, you might be wondering if training is a realistic endeavor.
Fortunately, you can teach an old dog new tricks. Read on to learn how to crate train an older dog!
Why Crate Train a Senior Dog?
Crate training a new senior dog can be a helpful tool to make your dog feel more comfortable in his new home. For instance, you might have a dog who feels anxious during storms or when left alone. A crate can become a secure spot for your dog to feel safe.
Maybe you adopted a dog who has never been housebroken. You can use the crate as a tool to help limit or eliminate accidents during the potty training process. Once your dog willingly goes into a crate, he won't be as likely to have an accident in such a small space.
Further, you'll inevitably need to take your dog to visit a vet for an annual checkup. Additionally, you might need to crate your dog during trips or long days at the office. Familiarizing your dog with the crate from the get-go can help make these experiences less stressful.
Remember that you'll need to be patient with an old dog. After all, they might not be used to following new commands. Be prepared to handle resistant behavior and commit to persistence.
Choose the Ideal Crate
Choosing the right crate is a critical first step. The last thing you want to do is choose a crate that feels too cramped — or one that is too large for your space.
Start by measuring the length and width of your dog, including his height when seated. Use these measurements to determine the minimum size of a crate you would purchase.
Collapsable wire crates offer the advantage of being more portable. Especially if you travel between multiple homes or hit the road on trips frequently, a collapsable crate might be the best choice.
Whether collapsable or not, wire crates are sturdy, meaning an active dog is unlikely to escape. These crates typically come with a metal pan that should stay secure, even if your dog tries to scratch or push it. Look for a wire grid that isn't too wide so your pup won't get stuck.
As another option, try a plastic crate. These crates tend to provide a more durable solution, as well as more privacy for your pooch. On the downside, your dog won't be able to see outside as easily — and plastic crates can feel stuffy.
You also can find crates that are built to look like tables or other furniture pieces. For a stylish solution that won't stick out in your living room, consider one of these.
Set Up the Crate
Aim to place your dog's crate in a low-traffic area that won't be noisy. A kitchen corner or family living room might not be the best choice since those tend to be gathering points. A laundry room or bedroom could offer more solitude.
Once you have your crate in the right spot, transform it from a sterile cage into a cozy and calming space for your pup. If you're using a crate with a metal tray, add a cushion to make the space comfier. Especially for a senior dog with joint pain, a cushy and absorbent pad will provide support.
Toss in a few toys to add a familiar scent and create a safer setting. You'll need to take cues from your dog to figure out how much stuff they want in their crate. Further, some dogs may like to have their crates covered at night, but don't assume that's the case.
Use Treats to Introduce the Crate
Teaching older dog pet commands needs to involve using treats. You'll want to have a pack of your dog's favorite treats ready to help incentivize using the crate. Grabbing a favorite toy or two can be helpful, as well.
Open the door of the crate and toss a treat inside. You don't want to push or force your pup to go into the crate.
Your dog may be hesitant at first, so use an encouraging tone of voice. Once your dog does take the first few steps into the crate, offer praise!
As another strategy, put your dog's food dish in the crate. If your pup is hungry enough, they'll enter the crate. And better yet, they'll start to associate the crate with a positive experience like eating.
And if the weather is warm, consider placing a bowl of fresh water in the back of the crate for your dog. Especially if they enter the crate after spending time outside, they'll see the water as a welcome form of refreshment.
Increase the Crate Time Intervals
It may take many attempts before your dog enters the crate. You'll want to wait until you hit a point where your dog seems happy to enter it before taking the next step. In other words, don't rush to close the door.
Closing the door too soon in the learning process could make your dog see the crate as punishment. Instead, keep the door open as your dog starts to get comfortable in the space. Even if he lies down, don't rush to lock him up.
Finally, when the moment is right, close the crate door. You don't want to rush this action, as doing so may make your dog distrustful. Wait until he seems eager to enter the crate — and keep the door closed just for a few minutes.
Gradually, you can start to increase the length of time you keep the door shut. Use treats along the way to reward him for staying inside. You may even add a new plush toy to encourage a positive connection with the crate.
For dogs who might be more anxious, try using a white noise machine. It can block out other distractions and help them settle in more with their crate.
Combine Potty Training with Crate Training
You may need to help your senior pup with potty training if he's a new member of the family. Fortunately, you can combine potty training with crate training. By using a crate as part of the potty training process, you can help your dog learn to hold his bladder for longer stretches.
When you take your dog on walks, praise him when he relieves himself. You can even use a cue, like "go potty," to help facilitate the process.
Try to establish consistency by taking your dog to the same potty spot, too, so he can associate it with potty time. Turn to Gotta Go Grass as a portable and sanitary solution for your pup when he needs to go. He'll feel comfortable knowing he always has a place to go indoors, and you'll love the convenience of it!
Ideally, you want your dog to understand that he'll be able to relieve himself after spending time in the crate. That way, he won't have accidents in the crate. It may take some time for this sense of understanding to develop, but you can start with baby steps.
For instance, after keeping your dog in a crate for 10 minutes, take him for a walk right afterward. Repeat this process several times. He'll start to trust that he can relieve himself in a reasonable amount of time.
Stick to a Schedule
Your dog will feel more comfortable using the crate if you make crate time part of a normal routine. Even though dogs can seem spontaneous in their actions, they are creatures of habit. Schedule specific points in the day when your pup will spend time in the crate — and be strategic about it.
For example, after you've taken your dog for a lunchtime walk or run at the dog park, your dog will be tired. A quiet afternoon might be the optimal time for some crate time. They'll need the rest time and start to associate it with their afternoons.
Likewise, you might be hoping to make nighttime crating part of the daily schedule. If you prefer to keep your pooch contained while you're in bed, commit to a regular crating time.
You can take your dog on a brief walk or let him loose to urinate in the yard when it's dark out. Then, at a consistent time like 10:00, you can lead your dog to his crate. After a while, your dog may even sense it's crate time when he sees you in your pajamas opening the crate door!
Learn How to Crate Train an Older Dog
Wondering how to crate train an older dog? Aside from a healthy dose of patience, you'll need a properly-sized crate and a potty-trained pup. You'll also want to stick with a schedule so your dog can start to see crate time as part of their daily routine.
When you're ready to make crate and potty training easier, contact us so we can help!