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Crate Training An Older Dog

You bring home your new canine friend and now it's when the work begins. While it would be wonderful to cuddle with him or her forever, and just play and enjoy him, this is the time to housebreak him and the best way to do this is with the use of a crate or doggie den. And it doesn't matter if you bring home a young or an adult dog.

You dog won't hate you for putting him in a crate if you do it right.

Crate training is based on the idea that dogs carry many of the same instincts as their ancestors, including wolves and wild dogs. Two of those instincts are not to go to the bathroom in your living area and to have a small living area that will offer you protection (aka a den). In the wild, animals do not use the bathroom near their living quarters probably because they realize at an instinctual level that doing so is unhealthy and because the odor is going to attract predators. In the wild, you also want a safe and cozy place to call home.

The crate allows you to use these two instincts to potty train your new pal. The crate acts as the protective den for the dog. He or she may not enjoy it at first, but will eventually come to see it as a place of safety and peace. Because the dog is also going to be considering it a den, she's not going to use it as a toilet either.

How Does it Work?

Confining your dog for a while allows you to sort of predict when he wants to go, so you will be there to take him directly to the appropriate spot and reward him handsomely for doing the right thing in the right place. Once he's used to going to that spot, the crate won't be necessary, but it will remain there for him to hide or have quiet times, or you can use it to travel and take him places, knowing he'll be comfortable inside his little den.

What Kind of Crate to Use?

There are different types of crates for dogs available. Some are made from metal and are more open so the dog can see around him. Others are made from hard plastic and have a metal door on the front. The latter is the type used to fly your dog on an airplane.

Regardless of which type you choose, you want to get a crate that is only large enough for your dog to stand, lie down and turn around in. You don’t want to have too much extra room or else the dog can use part of the crate as a bathroom and defeat the entire purpose.

Associate the Crate with Positive Things

Don’t assume your dog is going to recognize immediately that the crate is his or her new den. You’ll have to make the dog associate being in the crate with something positive, such as tasty treats, favorite toys, and lots of praise. Do this very slowly and avoid leaving the dog alone in the crate for too long before he has become accustomed to it. Negative experiences will make the whole process take longer.



You should also give no affection or attention to the dog if she's whining in the crate. Your natural impulse will be to comfort her but this will only make things worse. Also, do not let her out of the crate until she's quiet. Otherwise, you’ll be rewarding an undesired behavior.

You should put the crate in an area where your family or yourself spend a lot of time, never put it in an isolated place. Put a cushion or a soft blanket inside. Now bring your dog over with lots of praise and a playful tone. Open the door of the crate and secure it so it won't close accidentally.

Now, she has to go into the crate on her own, so encourage her with treats. You can drop some just outside, and leave a trail up to the back of the crate. The goal is to make her go in on her own. This can take a while, so be patient and never force her!

Once she goes in once, you can try to start feeding her right next to the crate, and slowly move her dish all the way to the back of the crate. Once she's comfortable eating all the way inside, start closing the door while she eats and opening it as soon as she's done.

Every time you do this without her getting anxious, increase the time you leave the door closed. If she starts whining, maybe you left it closed too long. Try shortening the time the next time.

But remember: do not open the door when she's whining or you'll ruin everything!

Once she's used to that, start calling her and giving her a treat to go inside. Close the door and stay with her 5 to 10 minutes, then to another room for a few minutes, return and sit quietly a little while longer. Do this a few times a day if possible.

When your pal is used to the crate, start feeding her inside and then wait an hour or so to take her out after her meal, and take her to her potty spot. Wait until she goes. And when she does, give her a treat and then take her for a walk! The walk will be her reward! If you walk her first and then you take her inside after doing her thing, she might get the idea that her walk is over when she goes and you can seer the problem there, right?

This is perfect especially for dogs that live in apartments. They can learn to go on their potty tray, and then the walks are just the icing to the cake! Whatever your circumstances, give crating a try.