BEHAVIOR & TRAINING

Crate Training Adult Dog: Steps To Implement for Good Behavior

Crate training for adult dog
John Walton
Written by John Walton

Crate training is teaching a dog to use a cage or crate as a place of its own. Eventually the dog will accept the holding area and it will become a familiar place where he will consider safe.

There are several reasons dog owners use this tool:

  • Greater supervision and management – Some dogs have been known to misbehave while their owners are away. They chew on shoes and toys, and getting into places that they should not. While these are more the doings of the rambunctious puppies and adolescents, adult dogs also get into passions of this nature. Getting them to stay in a crate helps you to manage them when you are not able to give close supervision.
    Crates are great to use for time outs. Sometimes a dog gets really physical especially when playing with kids or they can get real riled up when in a household with several dogs. Gently directing them into a crate for a few minutes will allow them to “cool off” and get them back in a normal state.
  • Training for adoptions – There may be an adult dog that you have adopted and the animal has not been house-trained. This is an effective way to introduce him or her into your home.
  • Ease of travel – If you are traveling to visit friends, or going on a vacation, a crate is a safe way to transport your dog. Occasionally, a dog is taken on flights and will need to be held in a holding area. The only way for flight travel is by crate and the earlier the dog gets familiar with this equipment, the easier it will be for all.
  • A secure place to call his own – When crate trained, a dog will come to recognize this place as a safe area where he can get away from the hustle and bustle of life in a home with people. Households with children can be especially demanding and distracting for a dog that wants to lie down and sleep in peace and quiet. Once they are properly crate trained, the dog will naturally go to this area for comfort and relaxation.
  • For house training – Dogs come with their natural instincts to keep their dens clean and free from body waste. A dog will hold urine and faeces as long as possible in order not to mess his area where he stays. Crating is a way to take advantage of this nature as you will be able to teach bladder and bowel control. Your dog will now develop in its mind when it is time to go to the toilet and will most certainly let you know.
    Furthermore, you are now able to observe them while they go and will praise them for doing it properly.

This training process for an adult dog is not necessarily different from that for a puppy but there are a few things that you will need to consider. For one, a puppy will be more yielding as he is at the stage where he is ready to learn anything that is taught him.

An older dog is generally already set in his ways and therefore it will be more difficult to break him into things new or different. Secondly, adult dogs will more easily forget what is taught and your work of crate training will be made more difficult. Young minds will be more alert and can retain more easily.

When to reconsider crating

When there are separation disorder issues

All dogs are different and they come with their individuality and issues which may suggest that you should reconsider crating your dog. There will be those who will not accept crate training perhaps because they have separation anxiety. These dogs do not like to be left alone let alone being locked up in a crate. A dog will get agitated when their owners are preparing to leave. Some will even try to prevent their owners from leaving. When they are left alone, a dog will engage in excessive behaviors such as barking, drooling, destruction of property and even soiling.

Fear for the crate

Dogs that are adopted may also be averse to crate training. This may be as a result of past experiences of abuse and where previous owners use a crate as a means of punishment. In such cases the crate may have been used for imprisonment (Jenner, 2015).

Crate for travel, scared dog

Some dogs will show a fear for the crate from the get go. They may look really depressed, lie with their ears flat, lowered tails and trembling.  In such cases, you cannot force a dog in the crate. You may get unwelcoming reactions including vomiting and defecation, destruction of the crate from trying to escape and reports of disturbances from barking. Dogs are known to also injure themselves as they rip their claws and lose teeth from trying to escape.

Being left alone for long periods

The crate should not be associated with being left alone. A dog should not be locked in the crate and left for long periods. As a matter of fact, this is not the objective or purpose of crating. Therefore a dog should only have an average stay of just four hours in his crate. Being held for longer could see your Labrador biting and clawing his way out of this hole that you put him in.

When there is a medical condition

Some medical conditions especially in older dogs will require that a he not be confined and be allowed to move around freely. Dogs with arthritis, for example cannot be confined since the illness needs him to move around. He can be introduced to the crate, and may even find it a place to retreat and ease his sore joints. He however, should not be locked in, but instead be able to go in and out if this is done.

Additionally, a dog with a medical condition may not be able to control his bowels and therefore accidents may take place in the crate. A dog that soils its “den” will not be happy, especially if it has to stay in the environment for any period of time.

If used as a means of punishment

It is not fair to a dog to be locked him up in a crate for something that you consider he has done wrong. This especially if you had not taught him how to, or not to exhibit appropriate behaviour. If crating is used as a means of punishment, then the dog is going to be fearful of the space and ultimately you will have to force it to go in and stay. You will only lose out on the benefits that can be derived from effective crating.

Dog in the cratew with open doors

When they’ve gotten beyond training

An adult dog may take some time to get used to a crate. But he will certainly do. Crating is not intended for life and therefore the dog will eventually get the message. After you have achieved the objective of crate training and your dog is properly house trained, then you can cease using the crate. To be fair, the dog has earned the right to be able to move around freely and you can now trust him.

Effective adult dog crate training

Now that you have seen the need to engage your adult dog in crate training, prepare yourself for the exercise.

Crate training infographic

Remember that there may be resistance and so you will need to ensure that there are no injuries, both mental and physical.

  • Prepare the dog – According to Weiss-Roessler (2015), it is good to exercise the dog to reduce the energies that he may have and therefore to have less resistance to training. Also have him relieve himself so there aren’t interruptions for bathroom breaks.
  • Exercise patience – The adult dog may be a challenge in accepting a crate in the initial stages of training. At this stage you will have to exercise patience and never start with the pre-conceived idea that he should get it the first time. There are pre-packaged methods that are available out there promoting the idea that training can take place in short prescribed time. You can ignore any quick-fix solution for your adult dog considering that he has a lifetime of experiences, attitudes and behaviors to get rid of before he can effectively learn how to use a crate.
  • Set up the crate – Place the crate in the busiest area where the family tends to meet to remove the feeling of loneliness. Remove the door from the crate or leave it wide open so that it does not swing shut when the dog gets in. This can really frighten the animal and it may set back the training by weeks rather than achieving it in days.
  • Use treats to help – The crate should be sold as a place for good things; set treats and even food inside to encourage the dog and he will eventually associate it with the crate. Be sure not to force a dog into the crate. While he eats, leave the door open and walk away normally so that it does not appear that he is tricked into being captured.
    When you place the treats, your dog may simply smell it and move on. Or, he may grab the treat and bolt out. Do not try to do anything but act naturally as if you are not aware of the situation. Keep the door open; later he may return to the crate for the treat and eventually lie down. While he is out and in the crate, treat him. Continue to offer treats each time and the dog will come to see the place as a place for comfort.
  • Make it comfortable – There is nothing like a nice comfortable place to rest for a dog. Place a nice warm blanket in the crate that he can lie on. One approach is to move the bedding next to the crate so the dog can be better familiarized with it. After a week or so, you can place the bedding inside. Keep treating the animal so that he is more comfortable and accepting. In the meantime leave the door open so she can go in and out as he likes.

Selecting a crate for your dog

When considering crates for dogs, there are several things that you must consider before acquiring one. First crates exist in all sizes. But there are different types of crates also, and a variety of materials that they are made from. You will also need to consider the place where you will place the crate.

Crate size

The crate must have enough room for the dog to manoeuvre in. It should be able to stand or sit up straight in the area without hitting its head on the roof. A dog also likes to lie on its side with its feet stretched in front of him. He should also be able to turn around freely and not feel as if in a cramped place.

There are occasions where persons buy crates that are way larger than the dog, or than what is necessary. This is done with the thinking that the dog needs extra room for greater comfort. However, the crate size should not be beyond the dog’s natural instinct, but should be close enough for the purpose of house training. Too large a space will possibly give the sense of a space that one end can be used for room and the other as a toilet. Furthermore, a large space will not give that feeling of safety and security. The dog may only see it as a place where it gets bounced around.

Dog crate in the house

Determining crate size

It is quite easy to determine the size of the crate for your dog. Have your dog stand gracefully and with its head up, measure from the tip of the nose to the part where the tail meets the body. Let’s call this “A” measurement and add 5 – 6 inches to it. Note that the measurement does not involve the tip of the dog’s tail as this would result in too large a crate.

The other step is to also have your dog seated upright with its head held high for grace. Measure from the floor to the highest point on the head and add 5 – 6 inches here also. This is the “B” measurement. You will need a crate that is A + 5 inches long, and B + 5 inches high. The width will automatically be in proportion to the crate.

Crate size

Types of crates

Crates are of different types and you can chose what you want according to several things, including, how destructive your dog is, how you would like to use it and whether you would like it to fit with the theme of your home. Four main types of crate are available, including wire crates, plastic crates, soft-sided crates and stylish wooden crates:

  • Wire dog crates. These are the most popular of them all and are more easily selected for the airflow they provide, ease of cleaning, their portability, and visibility for your dog. On the flip side dogs tend to whine and stress themselves when they are able to see the family.  Wire crates also tend to be noisy when moved around by a dog or when transported, and offer too much exposure to the elements. In the latter you will need to cover the crate for comfort.
  • Plastic crates. These are most purchased for their suitability in transporting dogs including in airline travel. They are light to carry around and offer greater insulation against the cold.  Of course, plastic crate dogs are less whiners as they are not provided enough visibility to see family activities. Plastic materials however, do increase heating especially in places of high temperatures. Furthermore, because plastic crates are characteristically enclosed, dogs can get unhappy and depressed. Plastic crates also are not easy to clean and tend to hold odors.
  • Soft-sided crates. This crate comes with a bag and can be folded away making it easy to store. Because of its look it appears less imposing than even the wire crates and therefore may not be so intimidating. But because of the soft material make up, they do not last very long as they become the chewing and clawing target of unruly dogs. Some dogs can even unzip their crates and get themselves out.
  • Stylish wooden crates. Those persons who are looking for something more decorative and stylish and that can fit into the theme of their homes will find comfort in this type of dog crate. This makes it useful to double as other furniture, and persons fond of these will have a wide variety to choose from. However, destructive dogs can easily destroy the nice wooden finish that makes them so expensive.

Best dog crates available on the market

We would like you to consider these products:

  • 42” Double door folding metal dog crate done by Midwest Life Stages. Several types of dog crates are available for to help in the training of your adult dog. In selecting a dog crate you would need to consider its durability taking into consideration the personality of your dog. But you would also consider safety and security for your pet, good air flow, comfort and ease of cleaning. One such dog crate that fits this description is the 42” Double Door Folding Metal Dog Crate done by Midwest Life Stages. This is a wire framed crate that is liked for its durability and double doors. What makes this dog crate even more desirable is its capacity to accommodate dogs at different life stages. All you do is remove or add dividers for the appropriate compartments. The crate also easily folds for better storage.
  • The other door steel crate with plush bolster bed by Pet Gear. This is popular among the plastic dog crate type and made of durable plastic with steel inserts. Rounded edges will protect your home and the package includes a crate on wheel and a handle for ease of carrying.
  • Port-a-crate for dogs by “Nature’s Miracles”. One of the soft-sided crate types, this is produced for pets on the go and therefore suitable for traveling, camping and fishing. The manufacturers have made every effort to produce something that may be considered quite durable – heavy duty mesh and nylon fabric. Cleaning is made easy as the crate technology eliminates lingering odors creating a more pleasant environment.
  • Large crate with covering by “Merry”. This comes out of the stylish wooden type and is a mixture of wooden panels and metal frames. This is a very stylish crate that doubles as a handsome piece of furniture. The dog will get the sort of airflow provided by the most popular wire dog crates.

You may be one who is lucky to come into possession of an older dog and are seeking to integrate it into your home.

Merry Products Cage with Crate Cover Set

House training the adult dog is important for a safe and peaceful environment. Dog crates are very innovative tools that have been made to help in making dogs more manageable. As you seek to crate train your dog consider patience in doing so. Additionally, the right crate will help to make the effort easier.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.

  • Lucy Wilde

    There are lots of people around me who don’t believe in crate training and wonder why some hotels won’t accept their pooches. Or even wonder why the training centers and sports events won’t accept their un-crate trained pooch. Well, it’s a requirement and crate training is a responsibility for the owner. Properly crate training your pooch is a must and it should be done with love and proper handling.

    • John Walton

      These points are great, Lucy. Crate training takes considerable time and effort, but it pays off in the end. The effectiveness of crate training is a mutual effort, involving the persistence of the pet parent and the dog.

  • Betsy Johnson

    My friend who lives overseas doesn’t believe in crate training her dogs. But one of the things she kept asking me was if crate training is really necessary or is it just cultural? I didn’t do crate training with my dogs and am also wondering if it’s better for the dog to roam in 1-2 rooms in the houses? Any disadvantages/advantages of crate training? What about free-roaming?

    • John Walton

      This is a matter of preference. I believe that a method will not work if you if you yourself doesn’t believe its principles. Crate training will always have its share of advantages and disadvantages, but it is definitely more systematic compared to free-roaming.

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