Crate Training An Older Dog
Crate training an older dog can be done! A dog's ability to learn doesn't lessen with age, so there's no reason why you can't teach an older dog to use a crate. This is particularly useful if you adopt an older dog either from a shelter or directly from his previous owner.
The crate training process is similar for all dogs, no matter what their age. Here are some tips that will help you with crate training an older dog.
- Make sure that you never get angry with your dog, or scream at him when you are trying to train him to go to his crate. You may feel frustrated at times but if you get angry with him, you're going to make him afraid of the crate. That's the opposite of what you want. If you have just welcomed your older dog into your family, he may have had some past experiences with crates that weren't pleasant, so do make allowances for that, and take your time with him.
- Create a comfortable environment for him within the crate, so make sure you have some nice soft bedding for him. Older dogs are more likely to have stiff joints, and the hard metal or plastic floor will be uncomfortable for him to lie on. You'll need to keep an eye out at first; if your dog turns out to be a chewer you may need to remove the bedding so he doesn't eat it and get sick. It's easier to choose an appropriate crate size for an older dog, because you don't have to take into consideration the fact that he will grow over time. His crate needs to be large enough for him to stand up, turn around and stretch out fully. Dog crate furniture might be a good option as these will also serve as an end table and keep him close by.
- The best way to get your dog into the crate for the first time is to coax him in with his favorite treat, making sure to reward him with it when he gets inside. You'll need to do this until he goes into the crate to get his snack without any reluctance or hesitation. Once he does, shut the door for a second or two before opening it and then give him his reward. Gradually increase the time before you open the door; always make sure to do so before your dog gets distressed. Again, your older dog may become anxious when the door shuts, so take this step slowly and keep it positive.
- When crate training an older dog, make sure to give your dog something to occupy his time when you first start to leave him in his crate. A toy stuffed a treat is good for this; he'll spend an hour or two trying to get to the treat and may well not even realize he's in his crate. Your older dog doesn't have any growing to do, so you need to watch how much he is eating. To stop your dog becoming overweight, cut back on the size of his meal to allow for the calories in his snack.
- Generally speaking, the maximum amount of time you should leave your dog crated is around 5 hours. If you are using a crate to toilet train him, don't leave him any longer than an hour or two, even though he is an adult.
- Put the crate somewhere your family gathers. Your dog will be used to being around the hub of activity and if he is suddenly crated elsewhere, he'll feel left out.
- If at any time your dog seems to be having a problem with the crate training, step back and take a breather. Start over again with the basic steps; your dog will have no problem re-learning and will be back up to speed in not time.
Even if your older dog is well mannered and can be trusted around your home, there are times when it would be very convenient to have him crate trained. Spend a week or two training him and you'll have that option if you ever need it.
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