Crate Training - Dealing with Common Problems (2023)

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If properly introduced and properly employed, your dog’s crate can become its favorite resting place and retreat. Many owners erroneously assume that a crate is just something you have around during a puppy‘s first few weeks at home to assist with housebreaking. But crates are far more versatile and valuable than this and should really be a lifelong feature.

Dogs are den dwellers by nature and if you give away their crate once they’re housetrained they will find other small spaces in which to sequester themselves when they feel like getting away from it all. Why deprive them of their original den and enforce them to hunker down under a coffee table instead? It just doesn’t make sense.

Good Things About Crates

  • They are den-like and can provide the dog a place of security and comfort.
  • They serve as the dog’s own personal space (like a teenager’s own room, away from the family).
  • When traveling, crates provide safety for you and your dog. Also, some hotels require that dogs be crated.
  • Anxious dogs with borderline separation anxiety or thunderstorm phobia may elect to go into their crate as a safe haven, especially when their owner is not around (Note: the door should be left open).

    Crate training should begin the moment you bring the young pup home. As you walk in the door, pup in arms, the crate should be there, properly equipped, as a retreat for the youngster from that day forward. If the pup’s acclimation to his new crate is performed thoughtfully and patiently, there is no reason that your pup’s crate should not become its friend for life. However, if mistakes are made at this critical time, a puppy and, then later the grown up dog, can come to loath and detest this small space that should have become his home.

Mistakes That Make a Crate Aversive

  • Forcing a pup to go inside a crate when he doesn’t want to.
  • Having a crate that is too small for a large pup so that he is physically restricted.
  • Having a bleak interior to the crate (no blankets, no toys, and no treats).
  • Leaving the pup in the crate for too long at a stretch or for too long over a 24-hour cycle.
  • Using the crate as a place of punishment (“time out” in the crate).

The Result of Crate Aversion

If a crate has been rendered aversive to a pup by any one of the means listed above, he will not want to go inside it, will complain when confined, and may injure himself in frantic attempts to escape. In addition, a pup that is confined in a crate too long may be forced to urinate or defecate inside it. Once the sanctity of the crate is defiled in this way, it may no longer be a useful tool for housetraining. Pups can’t tell you if you are doing something to them that they vehemently deplore, so instead they act out their grief. The behaviors we see in crate-aversive dogs are, to owners, crate-training problems. They are:

  • Pups acting aggressively, nipping or biting as you try and shove them into the crate.
  • Protest barking after you have shut the door, or may scratch frantically in futile attempts to escape.
  • Biting the door of the cage in angst.
  • More passive dogs, rather than acting out in the ways listed above, internalize and displace their thwarted emotions by either a) licking either the inside of the crate or themselves, b) turning in small circles within the crate (if space allows) or c) eating their own excreta.

    All these problems appear to be diverse but, in fact, are all caused by the fact that the pup was not properly acclimated to its crate or that the crate was abused by the pup’s owner, rendering it aversive to the pup.

The Solution

As usual, prevention is better than cure, but the way forward is similar in both instances:

  • Make the crate a comfortable and cozy place with padded bedding for the dog to lie on. Use bumpers around the side of the crate for the pup to lean on, and place a cover over the top if the crate is made of wire to add that den-like dimension.
  • Make sure the crate is large enough for the dog to be able to stand up and wide enough for him to be able to turn around.
  • Feed the pup progressively closer to the open door of the crate, eventually putting the food bowl just inside the crate so that he has to put his head and shoulders inside to eat.
  • Hide food treats under the padding of the crate and enrich the interior with favorite chew toys.
  • Once the pup has overcome its immediate fear of being near the crate, you can try confining him for short periods of time, say, 5 minutes, immediately after he has finished a burst of highly energetic play and is due to rest. Stay with him and talk to him so he knows he is not alone.
  • Slowly increase the time for which the pup can be enclosed in the crate from 5 to 15 minutes but stay with him and/or have the crate in the same room (15 minutes is a useful period of time to confine the pup for housetraining following an unsuccessful outside “bathroom run”).
  • At all other times the crate door should be open and the crate should be enriched in the way described so the pup is free to come and go as he pleases.

Other Problems

Pups that are properly acclimated to their crate may still have crate-related problems that are not due to crate aversion. The first of these is non stress-related urination or defecation within the crate.

An overly large crate may be a contributing factor here. If an owner confines a tiny Parson Russell-sized pup in a massive, large dog crate, the pup can adopt one end of the crate for sleeping and the other for elimination (i.e. it can get away from its mess). Elimination within the crate thus arises because of relative oversize of the crate. While it is important that crates are not too small, they should also not be too big either. Simply fulfilling the minimum requirements for height, width, and length is the way to go, so that the pup is obliged to hold its urine and feces for fear of soiling the area in which it stands. Keeping the nest clean is a natural behavior for pups. However, if thoughtless humans confine the pup for too long this natural tendency will be overcome. The latter situation is not a puppy problem or crate problem, it is an owner problem.

Another problem that can develop in time is over-protectiveness of the crate. If an owner has done too good a job at acclimating their pup to a crate but has not done a particularly good job at setting limits and conveying their leadership, some pups may become aggressive (barking, bearing teeth, and so on) when their owner approaches the crate or tries to take them out of the crate. A leadership program conducted by the owners will help to alleviate this situation and it may be necessary to move the position of the crate, or even to deny the dog access to it for a while, until the owner’s authority is increased.

(Video) The BIGGEST Mistake People Make With Crate Training A Puppy


It is well worthwhile spending a little time acclimating a puppy to its crate after its arrival in its new home. Problems related to crate training should be identified early, carefully thought out, and be worked out and/or circumvented. Forcing the issue is never an option as it will tend to make matters worse. Instead, patience and understanding of the pup’s concerns are of paramount importance. Perseverance wins the penny. Consider this: There are four things that a new puppy owner should ensure for their dog-to-be to stand it in good stead for the rest of its life. The first is proper veterinary care, the second is some element of training and limit setting, the third is neutering of dogs not intended for breeding, and the fourth is to provide constant access to a crate. “A crate for life” should be the dog owner’s maxim.

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Crate Training - Dealing with Common Problems (22)


Is it OK to put dog in crate when misbehaving? ›

Don't Use Crates for Puppy Time Outs

Dog crates should not be used for punishment if a dog misbehaves. It's different when you tell your child to go to his room because you can explain why and what you expected from him. With dogs, they're left confused when you force them into their crates.

How long is too long for a dog to cry in crate? ›

You shouldn't leave your dog crying in the crate for more than 10-15 minutes. If they're still crying regularly after this period of time, take a step back and work more on crate desensitization games to build up a positive association with the crate.

What should you not do in crate training? ›

The Don'ts of Crate Training
  1. Don't Use the Crate as a Punishment: The crate should be a place where your dog feels safe and happy. ...
  2. Don't Leave Your Dog in the Crate for Too Long: Many dogs are happy to stay in the crate while you're at the office. ...
  3. Don't Let Your Dog out Because They're Whining: Dogs are smart.
16 Jun 2022

Should you talk to your dog while crate training? ›

Bring your dog over to the crate and talk to him in a happy tone of voice. Make sure the crate door is securely fastened open, so it won't hit your dog and frighten him. To encourage your dog to enter the crate, drop some small food treats near it, then just inside the door, and finally, all the way inside the crate.

Does my dog think the crate is a punishment? ›

Do not use the crate for punishment, or else your dog will come to dislike it rather than view it as its den. Most dogs regard their crate as a place of refuge and will retreat to it when they are tired or stressed. Limit the amount of time your dog remains actually shut in the crate.

Should you let your dog cry it out in the crate? ›

If he does whine or cry in the crate, it's imperative that you not let him out until he stops. Otherwise, he'll learn that the way to get out of the crate is to whine, so he'll keep doing it.

When should you stop crate training? ›

You can usually stop closing your dog into your crate when they are around two years of age. Before then, they are usually more likely to get into trouble. It isn't until they mature fully that they are able to behave properly when not supervised. This is especially true for larger dogs, who tend to mature later.

Should I put a blanket over my dog's crate? ›

You should never completely cover your dog's crate as it can block airflow. Keep blankets away from heat sources, ensure the fabric is breathable, and avoid using knit blankets that may snag or unravel. Monitor the conditions inside the crate in humid summer weather to ensure it doesn't get too hot.

What to do if dog whimpers in crate? ›

Ignore the behavior

One of the most common mistakes new pet owners make it to give their puppy attention or let them out once they start whining. Giving them attention could reinforce this behavior. The puppy can be released after waking up from his nap or after a few minutes of quiet behavior.

How many times a day should I practice crate training? ›

Throughout the day and evening, repeat this exercise at least three times. On Sunday your dog will begin to learn how to stay in the crate for longer periods of time. Starting in the morning, give your dog the usual cue to get him to go into the crate, then leave him in the crate for at least 30 minutes.

Why is crate training so hard? ›

Essentially, puppies come pre-programmed with a love of crates. But puppies also come with a pre-programmed need to be around their mother and littermates. The hardest part about crate training puppies is helping them understand that the crate doesn't mean they will be separated from their family.

Should puppy be able to see you in crate? ›

Finally, you don't want your pup to associate the crate with isolation. If possible, spend some time in their line of vision while they are in the crate so that they know you're nearby. They need to learn that the crate is a fun, safe place before they learn to be by themselves.

How long can a crate trained dog be left alone? ›

Adult dogs shouldn't be left in crates for more than 6-8 hours. Puppies of 17 weeks and older can handle up to 4 or 5 hours in a crate at a time. Leaving a dog home alone in a crate longer than this can hurt their mental and physical health.

What is caged dog syndrome? ›

Caged dog syndrome (also called Crate State) is a condition that can affect dogs that are kept in crates or kennels for extended periods of time. Dogs with crate syndrome may become anxious, depressed, and/or aggressive. Behavioral issues and symptoms of caged dog syndrome can include: Excessive barking or whining.

How long does it take for a dog to get used to crate training? ›

It gives them their own space and can calm anxiety. Create positive associations with the crate through the use of treats and games. Be patient — crate training can take six months of consistent training.

Will crate training traumatize my puppy? ›

As long as your pup gets lots of out-of-the-crate time, love, attention and exercise, crating him won't cause him any harm or scar him emotionally!

What is the best form of punishment for a dog? ›

Disciplinary methods that are considered to be positive and beneficial are:
  • Time-outs.
  • Using your voice to put a stop to unwanted behavior, rather than hitting your dog.
  • Taking their toys away.
  • Avoiding giving your dog attention when they misbehave.
22 Jun 2017

What happens putting a separation anxiety dog in a crate? ›

Actions like pacing and whining are compulsive, and they can get your dog more worked up as he participates in them. While the crate won't help with stress vocalizing, it can limit your dog's range of motion and prevent them from pacing or constantly readjusting.

How do you calm an anxious dog in a crate? ›

Put your dog in a room or crate (if she loves her crate), shut the door, and leave the room for short bits of time. Slowly increase the time you are out of the room, starting with a few seconds and building up to 15-30 minutes. Give her a stuffed Kong toy, or other chewy that takes time to consume, before you leave.

Is it better to crate a dog with separation anxiety? ›

Some pet parents connect crates to punishment. But, in fact, a good crate, when introduced properly with training, can be a helpful tool in aiding your pet suffering from separation anxiety. Dogs prefer the comfort of a cave-like space where they can retreat and find reprieve from stressful situations.

How do you know when crate training is done? ›

You'll know that your dog is fully crate trained when he feels safe, relaxed, and comfortable in his crate even for long periods of time. By tapering off your training and using intermittent reinforcement, you'll teach your dog to maintain good behavior in the crate even without daily training sessions.

Does crate training make separation anxiety worse? ›

The quick answer is no. If your dog already has ingrained separation anxiety, crating alone cannot change this. You will need to take a number of other steps to effectively address this behavior. In combination with other approaches though crate training can help a dog work towards decreased separation anxiety.

What is the end goal of crate training? ›

The crate is a place for the dog to be when no one is around to supervise him. It is the dog's bed and sanctuary. Its purpose is to provide confinement for reasons of safety, security for the dog, house training, prevention of destructive behavior, and/or travel.

Where is the best place to put a dog crate in your house? ›

Place the crate in an area of your house where the family spends a lot of time, such as the family room. Put a soft blanket or bed in the crate. Take the door off or keep it propped open and let the dog explore the crate at their leisure. Some dogs will be naturally curious and start sleeping in the crate right away.

Should I put anything in my dog's crate at night? ›

Should You Put Anything in Your Puppy's Crate at Night? The short answer is, yes, of course you should. Your puppy—or even your mature dog—should view her crate as a safe haven, a place she associates with warmth, nurturing, and pleasure.

How do you leave a puppy in a crate while at work? ›

Get the Set Up Right

If necessary, buy a larger crate but use a partition to get the size right. Give a pup too much room and they won't learn to hold their bladder. Place the crate in a quiet corner, but in a room where they can see what's going on. Then make the crate super comfy with a soft bed and some toys.

How do I know if my dog has anxiety in his crate? ›

What Are the Signs of Separation Anxiety in Dogs?
  1. Anxious behaviors like pacing, whining, or trembling while you're gone or as you prepare to leave.
  2. Excessive barking or howling.
  3. Destructive acts, such as chewing or digging, particularly around doors or windows.
  4. Accidents in the house – urinating or defecating.

Does Cesar Millan recommend crate training? ›

Finally, Cesar Millan advises to make sure you've covered all the common household issues before starting with formal training. Start crate training and housebreaking your puppy in the first weeks that he comes to live with you.

Can you crate train too much? ›

It is not acceptable to crate your dog for long periods of time, such as during the day while you are at work – dogs should not be left shut in their crate for excessive periods of time as this limits their exercise, ability to soil, and social and behavioural needs, thus making them feel stressed and trapped [3].

Can you crate train just during the day? ›

Crating isn't just for nighttime, and it's not just for puppies. Crating your dog during the day is safe and appropriate, as long as they get plenty of freedom and attention when you are home.

Is crate training traumatic? ›

This can be a very traumatic experience for your puppy and will only make it more difficult for you the next time you try and get him to go inside the crate and behave. Instead, tempt the puppy to enter the crate by placing some kibble inside. Be generous with your praises, as he enters the crate to eat the kibble.

Should puppy crate be in same room as you? ›

Yes, it's OK to move a dog crate from room to room (or out to the car when it's time for a ride). Usually the best place for dog crates at night is in the owner's bedroom, so the dog has the feeling of being in safe company during sleeping time.

How long should a dog be in a crate for discipline? ›

Most adult dogs can stay in a crate for about half a day as long as the dog gets ample exercise and walks when he or she is out of the crate. Many adult dogs can manage eight or so hours in a crate while their owners are at work, but longer than this can often cause behavioral problems.

How do you discipline a dog with the crate? ›

Steps to the Time Out:
  1. You'll need two clear verbal commands. ...
  2. As soon as your dog begins barking, say your first command “Quiet!”. ...
  3. She will remain in the crate for a 30 second to 2 minute Time Out and you will only let her out of the crate once she has been quiet for about 30 seconds.

How long should I punish my dog in a cage? ›

Your dog will only become afraid of his crate if bad things happen while he is in there—so never scold him while he is inside. Time-outs don't need to be long; 30 seconds to 3 minutes is plenty.

Is it okay to lock your dog in a room for punishment? ›

Punishment should never be used to train a pet. Pets should be taught what we want them to learn through reinforcement and shaping rather than attempting to train them what we don't want them to do.

What happens when dogs spend too much time in crate? ›

Over-crated dogs, they say, can suffer complications from “cage-rage”, to anxiety, fearfulness and depression.

At what age is it too late to crate train a dog? ›

There is no reason an older dog cannot be crate trained, even if they've lived their entire lives without any crate exposure. The key is to move slowly. No dog—puppy, adolescent, adult or senior—will be comfortable in a crate if they are locked inside the space without preparation or training.

Does hitting dog on nose work? ›

Contemporary experts urge against all uses of physical discipline. Tapping or bopping a dog on the nose can be misconstrued as playful behavior, and being too rough with your dog can actually trigger biting, reactive, or defensive behavior.

How do you punish a dog that doesn't listen? ›

Disciplinary methods that are considered to be positive and beneficial are:
  1. Time-outs.
  2. Using your voice to put a stop to unwanted behavior, rather than hitting your dog.
  3. Taking their toys away.
  4. Avoiding giving your dog attention when they misbehave.
22 Jun 2017

Do dogs know when they did something wrong? ›

"Innately, pets focus on the basic requirements for survival." Pets may not feel a sense of wrong doing because they don't understand that what they did was wrong. Do you think your dog really understands that it's wrong to eat cake left within his reach on the coffee table? Likely not.

Is it neglect to keep a dog in a cage all day? ›

This depends on the situation. There are times that I wouldn't call that neglect. I'd call it abuse. But there are also times crating for extended periods is appropriate.

Do dogs know when they are in trouble? ›

A leading animal behaviour expert said dogs are aware when they have done something wrong and the guilty look afterwards is an 'apology bow'. They hang their heads and put their tails between their legs to make themselves look submissive to owners, and show they are less powerful, Professor Nathan Lents revealed.

What to do if you catch your puppy peeing in the house? ›

If the dog begins to poop/pee inside:
  1. Immediately interrupt him by clapping and saying “Ah ah!” Get the dog outside as soon as possible (carry him whenever possible and put the leash on the dog as you head to the door). ...
  2. Once you are outside, take the dog right to the area where you want him to “go.”
8 Jul 2022

How do you teach a dog positive punishment? ›

So positive punishment means adding something after the dog did a behaviour that makes the frequency of that behaviour go down. For example, if the dog jumps up and you knee them in the chest, and next time you see them the dog does not jump up, you have positively punished the dog jumping.

Do dogs understand being put in timeout? ›

In order for the dog to realise they have been placed in a time-out, they need to regain access to whatever was taken away quickly: very quickly, as in no more than 60 seconds. If you wait too long they can forget what happened and it simply becomes a change in scenery.


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