If you are like every other dog owner that has tried to crate train a puppy, you will know how hard it can be. It will therefore probably not surprise you to learn that it can be even more challenging when you are crate training an adult dog.
The problem with older dogs is that they can be very set in their ways. They have their own particular habits and familiar ways of doing things that can be hard to break.
However, there are also some advantages to crate training an adult dog. You and your dog will have been doing a lot of obedience training together. He should therefore be well used to taking instructions, and be very eager to please you.
When you start to crate train your adult dog, don’t force him to go into the crate if he doesn’t want too. Instead, let him walk around the outside, sniff at it, and get familiar with the crate in his own time. If you need to give your dog some encouragement before he will even look at the crate, place some treats on the floor nearby, and have your dog go and eat them.
Once he is familiar with the crate, you can get your dog to go into it. Place treats just inside the door such that your dog has to put his head into the crate to get them. Then slowly move the treats towards the back of the crate such that your dog has to go right inside.
Now build up his confidence more by including the crate in games you play with your dog. Throw something into the crate like a ball, and have him chase and retrieve it for you. You should also begin to feed him whilst he is in the crate.
The next step is to close the crate door whilst your dog is eating his food inside the crate. Once he has finished eating, open the crate door again and let him out. Gradually increase the time that your adult dog is in the crate, until he is comfortable being in it for up to half an hour.
You are now ready to leave him alone. Close the crate door with your dog inside, go out of the room, and then return immediately. This will show your dog that you will always return when you leave him in the crate, and never forget about him. Like before, slowly increase the time you are away until your adult dog is confident with being left alone for extended periods of time.
When leaving your dog for long periods, it is advisable to walk him before you put him in the crate. Also make sure you to take him outside and give him a chance to eliminate as soon as you release him from the crate.
Now you have a dog that will stay in the crate whilst you are away, the last thing you need to do in order to properly crate train your adult dog is to teach him to go to the crate on command.
Teaching your dog the “Kennel Up” command will mean that you can send your dog to his crate from anywhere in the house. This command is particularly useful when people call at your home. You can send your dog to his crate when there is a knock at your front door so he will be out of the way and come to no harm.
Sit your dog in front of the crate and then give him the “Kennel Up” command and send him into the crate. When he gets into the crate, reinforce his good behavior with a treat.
Over the next few days, practice the “Kennel Up” command from points that are in the same room, but progressively further away from the crate than before. Make sure you always reinforce his good behavior with treats and lots of praise.
When your dog has perfected going to the crate from different points in the same room, practice sending him from different rooms in your home.
When you want to crate train your adult dog, what you need most of all is lots of patience. Train your dog every day and he will soon learn to love his crate and start to treat it as a great place to be.
Tamsin De La HarpeAuthor
Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions.
Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.