Dog Training: How to Crate-Train an Older Dog

Updated: 3/15/20242-4 minutes
Fluffy dog gets comfortable inside their crate.

It may surprise you to learn that older dogs can learn how to use a crate (and even enjoy it). It’s true that adult canines often have more established routines than puppies, but they can also focus for longer periods, which makes them able learners.

Whether you want to provide a safe space for your older canine or prepare them for travel, crates can be a great resource for pet owners.

So, if you’re wondering how to crate-train an older dog, read on for helpful tips and step-by-step instructions.

What Does Crate-Trained Mean?

Sometimes referred to as “kennel training,” crate-training a dog refers to acclimating your pet to an enclosed crate that’s just for them.

Crates provide a space for your canine companion that’s comfortable and quiet. As with puppies, once adult dogs are trained to use a crate, it can be a protected place for them to spend time.

Benefits of Crate-Training for Older Dogs

Some people have negative associations with crates, but dogs generally have positive feelings about them. There are several benefits to crating a dog. Crates: 

  • Provide a safe, comfortable and private space 
  • Can be a place of shelter during fireworks, thunderstorms or other environmental stress 
  • Assist with potty training 
  • Make travel easier and safer 
  • May help a dog cope with anxiety related to visitors, new additions to your family, and other pets

How Long Can a Dog Stay in a Crate?

Adult dogs who are house-trained can stay in their crate up to six hours. If your pet prefers to sleep in their crate overnight, it may be okay to keep them crated for longer.

But pay attention to your dog’s behavior. For example, if they’ve been in their crate for a while, whining and pacing are likely signs they want to be let out.

Also remember that, as much as they might like their crate, dogs need to be regularly let out to go to the bathroom, eat, drink and get exercise.

How Long Does Crate-Training Take?

There is no definitive timeline for crate-training an adult dog. Some pets take to it more quickly than others.

Expect older dogs to need weeks or months to adjust to a crate, rather than days. Also keep in mind that dogs with crate-related trauma in their past will likely require additional time.

Consider all of these factors if you’re making a crate-training schedule.

Crate-Training at Night

Because crates can provide a sense of comfort and protection, your dog may enjoy sleeping in them. Make sure your pet is acclimated to their crate before leaving them overnight, though. If they’re not yet used to it, being confined for long periods of time may cause stress and trauma.

How to Crate-Train an Older Dog

Remember, the timeline for crate-training an older dog varies. The recommended steps likely won’t happen all at once, and you may have to repeat them.

Follow these instructions to help your older dog learn how to use their crate: 

  1. Prepare and select the crate. Your dog’s crate should be big enough for them to stand up and turn around in. The crate’s location should be in a low-traffic area of your home, but not completely isolated from people.  
  2. Find a good time to introduce the crate. Wait until your dog is rested and calm. There’s a better chance they’ll be receptive to a new experience. 
  3. Use treats to entice your dog. Forming positive associations with the crate is key. Put dog treats in the back of the crate to motivate them to enter. Giving them new or favorite toys may also help. But don’t force it. It’s important they enter when they’re ready.  
  4. Make the crate a mealtime destination. Once your older dog is comfortable being in the crate, continue to reinforce positive experiences by feeding them meals inside of it. (The door should still remain open at this point.) 
  5. Close the door. Try closing the door to the crate—just for a few seconds at first. Let your dog know they can trust you to let them out. Gradually increase the time you keep the door closed.

Crate-Training Tips for Adult Dogs

  • Be patient. Older dogs, in particular, often need extra time and support when it comes to learning a new routine. 
  • Mind your pet’s health. Senior dogs with joint pain, for example, may not be able to lay down for long periods of time.  
  • Choose the right crate style for your dog. Enclosed crates block out light and create more privacy, while wire crates allow your pet to see the environment around them. 
  • Consider your dog’s comfort. Adding a comfortable dog bed or blanket may entice them to enter the crate, while some dogs might prefer the surface of the crate itself. 
  • Don’t use the crate for punishment. If you crate your pet because they’ve done something they shouldn’t, they may start to form negative associations and become stressed inside of it.

Crate-Training Your Older Dog – Troubleshooting

Here are some potential obstacles to crate-training an older dog, and how to deal with them.  

  • Crying or other nervous behavior in the crate. Crying, barking, whining and excessive pacing in the crate are signs of stress. If the behavior continues for more than a minute or so, your dog probably isn’t ready to be left alone in the crate yet. Continue with your training, and when they’re ready, try closing the door for very short periods of time until they become comfortable. 
  • Refusal to enter the crate. This isn’t necessarily uncommon if you’re beginning training. If you’ve consistently tried to entice them with treats, toys and encouragement and they still don’t want to enter, they may have trauma related to crates or enclosed spaces. A professional trainer may be able to help.  
  • Inconsistent behavior. Occasionally, dogs may seem comfortable in their crate but then, after some time, become anxious. This may be a sign they were never completely acclimated to the crate. (Out of caution, have them evaluated by your veterinarian to rule out underlying illness.) In this case, it’s best to resume training again.

Remember, dogs of all ages can be taught new routines. So, try not to get discouraged if your adult canine is slow to use their crate, especially if they were inconsistently crate-trained or had a negative experience with crates in the past.

If you’ve tried to train your dog to use a crate and they continue to be apathetic or fearful of it, consider contacting a professional trainer for guidance.

For more helpful training insights, check out the MyPurina app. You can also view our video on how to crate-train your puppy.

Find additional tips from our experts on our dog training page. 

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