Crate training an adult dog [Useful Guide]

crate training an adult dog

Crate training an adult dog may seem strange for most dog owners, especially if your dog has good house manners. But crate training is not only for puppies and could be a great tool to organize your dog’s routine and for outdoor activities like travel or even if you have guests at your house.

Crate training could also be a fantastic way to help an adult dog settle down if you’ve just adopted one.

An adult dog may need much more time to feel safe and at home when adopted. The crate is a great way to provide a safe place for him to just relax when he needs to be alone or feels down for some reason.

The crate is a great transition phase to establish communication and enhance home training.

It sure can take much more time to crate train an adult dog, however, the value is certainly there.

Adult dogs are no different from puppies when it comes to needing a safe place or a den.

Just like every article I wrote on crate training, I can’t focus more on how harmful could the crate be if not used properly.

The crate is not someplace where you just shove your dog and lock him up if you don’t feel like having him around.

Adopting a dog is a huge responsibility and the intelligent use of the crate could be great for both you and your dog.

You should also know that using the crate is never too late even for a dog that you’ve had for a long time.

Your dog will probably be denning up anyway under some table or down some stairs so why not do it safely.

Is crate training an adult dog worth it?

The first objection you may have against crate training an adult dog would be; why would I do it anyway?

My dog is doing just fine without a crate and for years why should I break his routine and start crate training him?

Well if you think your dog is just fine without crate training and has great house manners and very calm around guests, children and other pets; Yeah you probably don’t need to start crate training him; but if you do, it will help you with other aspects of your dog’s life.

There are more good reasons to crate train your dog than just controlling his behavior.

I mean if your dog is chewing on random things around the house or making a scene when you leave or just making you uncomfortable around guests the crate is a great tool to deal with it.

But let me give you four good reasons that will change your mind about crate training your adult dog.

Disasters or emergency evacuations

Yes disasters are very unfortunate events and to some degree rare, but you never know what could happen especially with global warming and the changes in climate.

Some areas that were never affected by hurricanes storms or any other natural disaster became the scene of recurrent disasters in recent years.

If god forbid there is an emergency evacuation for any reason it would be extremely helpful to have the dog ready in his crate and not have to worry about looking for him.

In such situations, dogs tend to go to where they feel safe the most, if that’s some dark corner in your house it would make it difficult for you to look for him and take him out.

According to 40000 pets die in house fires every year, even worst 1000 are started by pets.

Is crate training an adult dog worth it?

Having your dog in his crate while you are not around will ensure there are no unfortunate incidents when you are not around.

Transportation and travel

dog travel by car in his crate

Do you know what’s better than a vacation? A vacation with your beloved dog.

Some of us may not have anyone to care for their dog while they are not around.

So the best idea is to take the dog with you on your travel.

To make sure your dog is safe and calm while traveling you must have him in a crate.

If the dog is crate trained and used to being in a crate, it will be much easier for you to take him around when traveling.

The dog is already calm in his crate so you won’t have to deal with the barking and whining while on the road.

And it’s not another distraction for you to check on your dog every five minutes because he feels trapped in the crate.

So whether you are traveling by car, bus, train or plane you will need a crate for your dog’s safety and the safety of others.

If your dog is already fine with being in one and considers it to be his safe place; no matter where you put it he will feel safe.

dog travel in crate

For some more useful information, here are some airline pet policies and the Amtrak pet policies aboard.

Amtrak pets policies

US Airline Pet Policies

Care in case of surgery and illness and easier vet visits

dog scared at the vet

Sure your dog may be cool around the house, have no problem around people at all but some situations may just be intimidating for the little guy.

One of those situations is the veterinary visits, those could turn up to be a nightmare for some pet owners.

Those visits could be way easier if the dog is used to being in the crate.

Some dogs just don’t feel ok around other pets or people they don’t know so being in their safe den is great for calming them.

One other great aspect of using the crate is for injuries and long treatments after surgeries. The dog should not move around after surgeries which could be difficult to achieve without the crate.

In case of illness, you want the dog to be as calm as possible especially if you can’t supervise them all the time.

There are plenty of situations where the crate is a must-have to make sure your dog does not hurt himself.

A safe place in stressful events

Just like us, dogs could undergo stressful events that could make them uncomfortable, and it won’t be a bad idea to have a safe place to reduce those feelings.

And also like we feel like going home whenever we don’t feel ok so are the dogs.

Your dog could be well trained and fine with being in the house, however, you want them to have their own den to go to in stressful events.

There are some situations that we may not notice that could make the dog feel stressed.

Some things that we may consider normal like loud sounds or yelling could be stressful to dogs, so it’s a good idea for the dog to have his safe place to be in such events.

Like when you are remodeling your house or there are loud machines or maybe you just have other pets.

Is crate training an adult dog cruel?

What do dogs think

This question is really a recent topic, to be honest growing up I’ve never heard this one.

It is with the rise of the animal rights communities that this was becoming a question of debate, although I think that most people saying that crate training is cruel are not really informed.

Yeah, I am one of those people who actually consider their pets to be part of their families but not to the point to mix what an animal which pets are with us humans and what we might want or need.

A crate could appear like a prison to a human from a human point of view, but it’s totally not for a dog.

If dogs would consider crates to be a prison or at least a place where they don’t feel good, they would simply reject it. Furthermore, dogs go into their crate all the time on their own, for me that’s a clear sign nobody walks into prison.

The perspective is the key

The fact that you have to train a dog into going to a crate is not really forcing them to do it.

You want to consider that the place itself is not the problem, it’s what kind of experiences, memories, and feelings are attached to that place. If every time the dog goes into the crate something cool happens to him he gets treats there is a nice toy he can relax without being bothered; well he sure is willing to go there.

Let’s extend into a branch on this, I know I’m taking this too personal but why don’t we like prison?! I know, weird question.

Well, we simply associate prison with bad things, bad people and all the worst things you can think of. What if the prison was a place where they lock you for some time with your most favorite things to do and the best people you could think of and great activities; would you still feel the same. I know I won’t.

Things really need to be placed into perspective here to make sense.

I suggest you check out an article I wrote on this particular topic with more details if you still have concerns, which I hope you don’t by now.

The benefits of crate training an adult dog

The benefits of crate training a puppy are so huge to be outlooked, especially with boosting the training which is similar to adopting an adult dog; but are there really any benefits to crate training a dog that you’ve already trained and have had for a long time?

Well, sure there is; even if its peace of mind when you are not there to supervise them.

I know you may think that you’ve had your dog for years without incidents, but that is not an adult human being with a developed sense of danger and responsibility. Dogs are intelligent animals and when well-trained they are simply fantastic but still they are animals.

You can just leave something dangerous on a table somewhere and go for work or some business and it’s an accident waiting to happen.

Having too much confidence in a dog being responsible enough is in fact not a responsible thing to do.

It is way more convenient around guests and kids or even other pets.

You don’t have to worry about a kid doing something to provoke the dog or freak him out. Furthermore, you can, in fact, enjoy your time with visitors while at the same time having your dog nearby chilling in his crate, without having to keep an eye on him all the time.

Some dogs may be needy when other people are in the room and keep asking for attention.

All these are real benefits of crate training your adult dog but it all comes to one good reason: The dog having his own personal space in the house where he can feel safe and relax. It really makes a difference, take it from someone who’s been around dogs since day one.

Before you start the crate training

Have a plan

Before you start crate training your adult dog I would recommend if you don’t have enough experience doing it reading a bit about it.

I mean this is what you are basically doing if you are here but really bookmark a guide or a video; whether it’s mine, in this case, you can check this article with explicit details or someone’s else so you can keep coming back to it and really try to identify at what step you are.

This will help a lot evaluate your progress.

Choosing a crate

The next thing you want to do is to check the crate you’ve got if you’ve already got one and see if it is the perfect one for your dog.

It’s not that expensive and you don’t want to go cheap on the well-being of your dog.

The perfect one means checking if it’s the right size; not too small for your dog to be uncomfortable nor too large so the dog may make a den within a den or just use a corner to eliminate.

Choose something robust adult dogs are playful they may damage it.

Speaking of damaged crates, if yours is hanging in with duct tape or has cables pointing out just get rid of it.

Make sure there are no sharp edges, it’s clean and stable; just think of anything that could bother your dog when in there.

This is the crate I use and recommend because it has two doors which makes it easy for me at the beginning of the crate training steps, it has more open space so the dog is less likely to feel trapped and it has its own cover that fits it for the night. I had the large one with the cover and separation panel for less than 100$.

Choose the right spot

Choose a great spot for it; you don’t want your dog’s crate in a dark basement or directly under the sun.

Somewhere sunny with enough light and air coming in but not too much to hurt the dog.

Sure the best thing about the crate is that you can move it around to keep the dog close, and around the family at all times.

Too much exposure to the heat or cold could harm the dog, so choose carefully.

Prepare some treats and toys

Rewards and treats are the way to “make the crate great again” trump may be suing me for copyrights here.

Dogs associate feelings and experience to places and that’s how they decide if they want to be somewhere.

If great things happen whenever they get in the crate they’ll probably be like” hey that’s where all the fun is, I want to be there” it really is that simple.

The better job you do making the crate a nice place the sooner the dog wants to be in there.

That’s why toys and treats are good tools, dogs love treats and toys; in the crate, they get plenty so the crate is where they would want to be.

Just make sure to choose some good quality treats something low in calories, you don’t want to get your dog on too much unhealthy food. If you are interested these are the ones I recommend.

Also check if the toys are safe enough, if they break they could be dangerous, you want to be always checking the toys you let your dog chew on.

How to crate train an adult dog

Crate training an adult dog is not that different from a puppy; it is certainly more challenging since the adult dog has his own routine. Nevertheless, it is an easy process if done with patience and avoiding some mistakes that could make it harder.

Whatever project you are planning to do in your life no matter how small it is, you always want to know the base of it that core idea that you are trying to reach so you don’t get lost in the details.

In this case, crate training is all about making the crate great, funny how it sounds but this is basically it. You want the crate to be a happy sanctuary for your dog to go to when he seeks safety and privacy.

Make the crate great

What would really help to achieve this, is associating happy thoughts and experiences with this place.

Start gently with your dog and introduce him to his crate, take it slow at the beginning for it to be faster later.

Just a few tours around the crate, dogs are very curious and will show interest almost immediately.

Once the dog is cool around it not freaking out or something you can let him explore the inside by tossing in some treats make sure the door is secured not to close suddenly and scare the dog away.

You want his first impression to reflect safety.

If the dog is responding well getting in to get the treats, start giving rewards when inside and praising him verbally.

Repeat this process a few times and take a break, we don’t want the dog to feel suspicious about the crate, go for a walk or do some games and come back.

After a while your dog will pick up on the vibe and start offering to get in to get the treats; that’s a great sign that you’re going in the right direction. When he does go on his own you want to reward heavily with treats and praise.

You want to repeat this process a few times during the day for a day or two according to what kind of response you’re getting from your dog.

Every dog is unique don’t be frustrated if this takes longer there is no perfect timeline for this. Just like we learn at different rates so are dogs.

Making the crate a home

Home is essentially where you sleep and eat so once your dog feeling at ease going into the crate to take treats; you can start feeding him inside.

Simply put the food in the inside corner of the crate and let him enjoy his meal without touching the door yet.

You don’t want the door closed until the dog is used to having his meals in the crate even water.

Feeding is a happy time for a dog so it’s a great way to make him feel good about his new home.

Keep serving food in the crate for a few days along with the treats inside and playing in and around the crate and rewarding inside.

Along with the food, you want to have a favorite toy inside the crate and every time the dog tries to go out of the crate with the toy take it and put it back inside and reward when he’s in.

If you repeat this process for a few days again depending on the dog you’ll start to see the dog going in there on his own; and whenever he does that you want to reward and praise him.

Now you can move to the next step which is closing the door while he is feeding.

If the dog is now used to feeding in there he won’t pay much attention to the door while he is enjoying his food.

Once the meal is over you want to open the door and give him the toy inside and try to keep him in there after the meal as long as possible; of course without forcing him to stay.

Go slow and use the Kong toy it’s great to keep the dog busy for a few minutes.

Closing the door

Before we start closing the door of the crate after the meals we want to make a habit of exercising the dog before going in.

Dogs are very energetic animals if they do not let that energy out by playing and exercising they will not feel good about chilling in the crate.

So you want to exercise enough and have a nice playing session, serve the meal in the crate with the door of the crate closed, then after establishing a habit of playing with a toy after the meal inside, you want to through in a toy and close the door.

Now we are still testing the waters if the dog is showing signs of complaints don’t panic just make sure to calm him and when he is calm reward with treats and let him out.

If things go as planned and there is no objection to staying in after the meal just keep the toy in there and stay by the crate rewarding by treats and praise.

Slowly the dog will establish a routine of playing with his toy after the meal inside the crate with the door closed.

You want to slowly increase the time he spends in there with the door closed.

Exercising enough makes the dog down on energy and willing to just lay down and relax anyway.

If things are going as planned you can move around the room and reward while passing by with treats.

Don’t leave the room just do whatever you have to do while the dog has you on his sight.

After a while, the dog should be ok in the crate while you are not around.

First time alone

When you feel that your dog is comfortable enough to stay in the crate while you are moving around; you can start testing to go out of the room for a short but increasing time.

Go slow and leave for a few minutes then go by the crate and reward.

Every time you exercise enough, go to the crate with a toy and keep leaving the dog for longer periods until he shows no objection.

You want to keep doing this while letting the dog know you are there with your voice or moving across the room but for longer periods.

Crate training an adult dog is easier on this point as they are kind of used to being left alone for some time.

If the dog is objecting or whining you can just take a step back and repeat the process slower.

Some dogs will take longer to feel safe in there; sometimes we may feel excited by the progress and speed things too much.

The goal is to reach a period of 30 minutes with the dog in the crate and you out of sight.

Once you’ve achieved this you can move on to the next step.

Going out and leaving the dog in the crate.

Before you go out just use the treats and verbal praise play with him for a minute with the toy and just leave the house for no more than half an hour.

Don’t make a scene when going out you’re not on the Titanic just get dressed and leave casual like everything is normal.

Also when you come back don’t just go directly to the dog, as something incredible had happened.

You want to make leaving the house while he is in the crate a normal situation.

So when you come back, Just keep moving around for another five minutes before letting him out.

Increase the period you spend outside gradually but always make sure to exercise properly so the dog doesn’t get bored.

And always be aware of how the dog reacts and how is he taking it before increasing the crate time.

Even with you in the house keep him there for the same amount of time so the dog doesn’t associate the crate with being left alone.

You want to do a “day out and a day in” system for a few days and again it depends on the dog.

If you keep doing it gradually you will soon be able to reach the number of hours you want your dog to be in the crate.

And don’t forget to reward every time the dog is in the crate and play with the toys in the crate.

With time you will start noticing that the dog goes in the crate on his own after exercising just to chill, and staying in there even with the door open.

How long does it take to crate train an adult dog

Like I keep pointing out, every dog is different and responds differently to the training.

Some dogs may take just a few days to be fine with being in the crate others can take weeks or even a few months to be willing to stay in the crate while you’re at work.

Crate training an adult dog tends to take longer simply because of the old habits your dog develops over time that may require some time to break.

Just like we have some certain degree of resistance to change in our daily routine, so are dogs.

If the dog is used to being fed in a special place or playing with his toy wherever he wants and chilling elsewhere, it will definitely take a while to change that.

It is not an impossible task moving to something better is always welcome.

I by experience find that on average it takes around two months for an adult dog to be completely fine with being in the crate.

This two months period is just an observation I made based on the dogs I’ve trained.

I certainly had some special cases where it took much longer and some, way less but don’t take this as a deadline.

Also, if you have no experience with crate training which is not required at all to do it with your dog, you may make a few mistakes that could make things go slower; that’s perfectly normal and easy to deal with.

I would like to share some of those mistakes I made in the past so you can avoid doing them to get the best results.

For some more details about the average time, it takes to crate train an adult dog check out this article.

Crate training mistakes to avoid

Like anything else you could be learning by experience, I made several mistakes crate training my dogs.

And made some observations about other mistakes I saw other people do that I want to share with you so you can start on the right paw.

Time out in the crate

This one I really hate and is a major setback to training, the one that I can’t resist but to let the owner know it’s wrong.

I’ve seen friends punishing their dogs by confining them in the crate and latter wondering why they refuse to go there.

I mean “daaah”; the crate is not for time out or punishment the whole goal of the crate is to be a safe place a happy area.

If you associate a bad thing with the crate you are making a huge mistake that will take too long to recover from.

I mean we all made some foolish things in school and had to go to detention, well us guys anyway girls are often more concern with gossip than fights.

Well, imagine having to live in the detention room! I think this example is clear enough for you not to it.

Letting the dog out while whining

This one I’m guilty of; I had a nice little pug and boy when she makes the sad face with those large eyes I just could not resist.

Makes me sad thinking of her, but she took months before I could finish her crate training.

When I let her out while whining in the crate she just knew that whining for long periods means she can get what she wants and that’s a huge mistake.

I remember going to work like a crazy person with no sleep just because she keeps whining for long hours.

We finally got that out but I learned the hard way that you should ignore the dog when he is whining at night.

At least make sure they stop whining before you can let them out.

Too long in the crate

The crate is for you to be able to go to work or do your errands while the dog is safe, back home.

However, dogs can’t be left in the crate for longer hours than they should.

Adult dogs with proper training could make it through eight hours a day with a lot of exercising before and after the crate.

Also, they need to eliminate just before going in and after being in the crate for long hours.

You can keep your adult dog in a crate while you are at work, but once home you can’t keep them in there again until their bedtime.

Excessive use of the crate is, in fact, a cruel thing to do and will make the dog hate it.

Going too fast with the crate training

This one I did also, sometimes you just see great progress and your dog is responding great to the crate training, and you start thinking yeah my dog is of that lucky 1% that just naturally love the crate and finish training in a day or two; until your dog freaks out about it.

When this happens it means you just have to start from the beginning not only to start getting used to the crate but to gaining trust again.

One thing I found useful in this case is to change the crate, I mean I have plenty but sure not everyone is going to buy a new crate just for that but it’s a quick way to do it and it’s not that much of an investment especially if you have to go to work and want this done soon enough.

Maintaining the crate

This is also an important detail that people overlook. Maintaining the crate is essential.

Just like you would your bed clean and don’t like having filthy sheets or some sharp pieces of would coming out of it; so does your dog.

Cleaning on a regular basis is important, check the crate for sharp edges and change it if it’s the case.

Absolutely no patching the crate or keeping it together whit duct tape or some other cheap material.

These are mostly the common mistakes that people do and could make the crate training take much longer.

But there could be other reasons, just think of the goal of the crate training which is to make the crate a happy, safe and intimate place and everything that opposes this goal you should probably avoid it.

Issues while crate training an adult dog

We are going to do some troubleshooting for potential issues you may encounter while crate training an adult dog.

These are not the only problems you may have, again every dog is different and every situation is unique but these are fairly the most common ones.

Instead of just pinpointing them I am going to be giving my opinion on how to deal with them although you can find more resources on this online as each situation is a complete area of expertise on its own and I am sharing what worked for me.

Dog won’t stop whining in the crate at night

This is one is probably of the most frequently asked questions on crate training.

I mean there is no forum tread out there about crate training where there isn’t someone asking this.

I think it’s what’s really driving people crazy with the non-stop whining while they have to sleep for work the next day.

This is actually a first phase problem, meaning that you are more likely to get this kind of behavior when just starting the crate training.

Although if you don’t deal with this correctly by just ignoring it, you send your dog a message that clearly says if you want out of the crate keep whining for long periods.

Even if you want to stop it, try to break the whining cycle by tapping on the crate or just calling for the dog to get him to stop and then when he stops reward and praise.

This is the only valid way I came across for dealing with whining dogs in the crate.

But this is not very common among adult dogs. I did write an article about whining puppies and how to deal with it if you want to check it out.

Dog freaking out whenever he’s in the crate

Some dogs will just freak out on the sight of the crate, this is really frustrating, but you want to investigate it a little because there could be some hidden reason for this.

However, I found that this usually means you did something wrong in the process or you’ve been punishing the dog in the crate.

Some dogs may have confinement issues, all you have to do is take things slow and be patient.

If you are using the plastic crate try and take the roof off for some time until the dog is used to being in the crate.

This is actually why I recommend the metal crate with two doors it has more open space for the dog and there is more light coming in.

Dogs with separation anxiety

dogs with separation anxiety

Separation anxiety is a real problem that needs to be dealt with and consulting a professional is advised. The crate training is no remedy for separation anxiety.

Dogs with separation anxiety tend to be aggressive when left alone and will probably chew on anything they can get into their mouth.

The destructive behavior is a symptom but not the only one, some dogs with bad house manners could do that too.

Dogs with separation anxiety will keep barking by the window, freak out when you leave and salivate a lot; if you notice any of these symptoms try consulting your vet.

Eliminating in the crate

This actually occurs when the crate is too large for the dog so he makes a den within the den; he will use a corner to just chill and relax and the other corner as a potty corner.

Also if you don’t take your dog for potting breaks before going in the crate they are more likely to do it in there.

Make sure to let the dog out before going in his crate and stop watering him two hours before bedtime.

Final thoughts

Crate training an adult dog may be challenging especially if you’ve had the dog for a while. However, the benefits are undeniable for you and your dog.

It may take some of your time but it will be a great time saver in the future.

Just follow the steps we’ve seen or any program you like and stick with it, do your best to make the crate a happy place for your dog.

You soon will notice how your dog is more relax and organized when he has his den to be in.

The intelligent use of the crate is a huge boost to your dog training just like using it for the wrong reasons could be cruel.