How to Crate Train an older Dog
The best reason to crate train an older dog, (I am not talking about a senior dog), is to house train that dog. Crate training gives you some control of your dogs movements in the house and gives your dog security, provided he or she has accepted the crate as a safe zone.
Crate training an older dog is similiar to crate training a puppy but there are differences. #1 An adult dog already has the capacity or control to hold his bladder or bowels for longer periods. #2 An older dog will most likely object longer and stronger to being confined, you will really have to hold firm. Again, I am not talking about a Senior dog that’s already house trained and well behaved in the home. There is no reason to crate train a senior dog. My real life examples, below, involve a 8-9 month old pup and a 3 year old farm raised dog.
Many years ago, we adopted a 6 month old or puppy, we were not entirely sure of his age, he might even have been closer to 8 months or so. His name, we called him Bobo, was a abandoned stray, thrown out of a car in our neighbourhood. We took him home and never looked back with regret. Since Bobo was a stray and we knew nothing about him, he lived outside at first, in an outdoor kennel. My intent was to train him to be a well mannered house dog, a year before, we lost our beloved Husky, Gus, to cancer and we had been without a house dog since.
One of the first things I needed to do to house train him was to crate train him. I had a large crate that I used occasionally for any dog that needed it at my Pet Hotel and decided to use that. The crate was not pretty, scuffed up wire, large, foldable with a metal tray. I began by placing Bobo in the crate for short periods, and the crate was set up in our living room for training purposes. The first few times, I placed Bobo in there, I had to push him in there as he was not very cooperative about it. Once in there, Bobo, just sat as still as a statue, which by the way is not the reaction I was expecting. Most dogs will object by whining and pawing at the gate.
After observing him, I noticed that the metal tray would make noises every time Bobo shifted his weight and he would look very uncomfortable and even terrified. It was an easy fix, I simply placed a blanket UNDER the tray as well as on top, no more noises. Each time I put Bobo in there for longer periods, often while we were watching TV for a few hours. Eventually, I started putting him in the crate for nights too. Bobo was an easy dog to crate train, he was still young (8 months or so) and was a dog that was eager to please. Every time I placed him in the kennel, I would give him a treat and chew, as Bobo was in full chewing mode!
We soon learned not to put stuffed toys in his reach
because he would soon have them disemboweled! Bobo had to go into his crate when we had to leave the house for a few hours, and at night, sometimes also when I could not watch him for a bit. The rest of the time, we left the gate to the wire crate open, with some soft bedding and toys inside. It did not take long and Bobo was going into the crate voluntarily, and it became clear that he loved it. By this time we had bought him a new crate, a little smaller and better for his size. We placed it into a corner of our living room close to one of our couches. I sewed a cover for his crate and it became a cozy den for him.
We blocked areas to our home that we did not want him going into, like the basement and the hallway to our bedrooms. I could not keep on eye on him if he went into those areas, from my main work areas in the kitchen, dining area and our living room. Bobo was very easy to teach the house rules, and rarely had an accident in the house in his younger years. As he aged, this changed and we had to clean up many a mess. It’s funny, we often remarked, with all the vinyl flooring we had in the house, Bobo would generally choose the hallways with carpeting to lay down his mess if he had an upset stomach! Nope, never the easy to clean areas, he had to make his biggest messes on the rugs…
I don’t trust a dog to not to be crated
except for nights, until they are at least 2 years old. At that point, if the dog has been consistently house trained and hasn’t chewed up your belongings in a while, you can try leaving him un-crated when you leave the house for a few hours. Give him a treat and or toy, do not make a fuss over him, and leave.
He will associate your leaving with good treats or new toys. When you come back home, again, do not make a fuss over him. Wait a few minutes, and then go over and love on him if you wish with petting and endearing words!
Our next dog, almost 3 years later, was already about 3-4 years old when he came to join Bobo in our household. Little Joey, had been raised a farm dog and had been mostly neglected. Joey was a Pomeranian crossed with American Eskimo, both heavy coated breeds and had never been groomed in his life. What a mess that little fellow was! When his previous owner handed him to me, I had to look hard to see which end was his head! The first thing I did was to hand scissor his coat to managable levels, it wasn’t pretty but now I could see the real Joey emerging!
Joey was placed in one of my Pet Hotel kennels for the first 3 weeks while we decided what to do with him. Eventually I gave him a much shorter functional clip which made him comfortable. I was still a professional groomer at that time so I had everything I needed to keep my dogs groomed too. By this time, our family owned 4 ranch dogs, living in their own accomodations outside, and Bobo who lived inside. We were not overally keen on owning 6 dogs, my husband especially, but I worked hard to turn Joey from a rough mannered farm dog to a pretty house dog.
My intent was to find him a fantastic loving home after house training him
After 2 weeks or so, I began bringing Joey inside the house for training. By 3 weeks he was living in our home full time. Crate training was essential, so once I moved him into the house, crate training had to begin immediately. Joey, being older and having grown up with no rules, objected STRONGLY to be confined. I began, as I did with Bobo, using a smaller crate, set it up in our living room and confined him to it with a toy or two, a chew and treat. Ignoring him while he screeched was difficult and finally I learned what worked to shut him up was to bang on his crate with my hand.
Every time he would not settle down, I told him ‘QUIET!’ banged on the top of the crate with my hand. I don’t remember how long it took to settle him down but eventually he accepted his crate as well as Bobo. Initially, for nights I had to place his kennel next to my bed, so I could administer the QUIET! and banging on the crate during the night when he erupted. We all missed a few nights sleep but Joey soon learned to conform.
He was a quick one!
During the day, even with supervision, Joey managed to lift his leg on almost every piece of furniture before we could stop him.By the 3rd week of having Joey live with us, I realized that the fact that he was not neutered yet was hampering the house training. However, I had already made the appt and it was just a matter of days before the snip snip day came. I was beginning to wonder if I would ever get him house trained.
As I hoped though, neutering Joey had the desired effect of greatly cutting back on his desire to mark everything in sight with his urine. After that, the only time Joey marked in the house was when I would go outside and leave him inside with Bobo. Joey had become very attached to me by this point and basically exhibited seperation anxiety only if I went outside to do chores with other dogs and other animals. Joey wanted to be with me everywhere I went on the ranch.
Joey was fine if I grabbed my car keys and drove away, but got upset if I went outside without him. Joey soon marked a wall or corner of the couch, within minutes of leaving to go outside. He still had not quite gotten the memo about refraining from urine marking in the house. It was all fixed though, one day when I stepped outside to get some chores done at the Pet Hotel, and left my husband sitting on the couch supervising Joey and Bobo.
By the time I got back inside, my husband had a short story to tell me
As usual, Joey became agitated, whining, pacing, looking out the windows after I left the house. After a few minutes, Joey walked up to a corner section of the hallway, and lifted his leg to mark. My husband was sitting only a few feet away and yelled out JOEY!!! followed by…NO!! BAD DOG!!. My husband has a very loud voice when he chooses to yell I should add. Joey apparently forgot that my husband was sitting there watching him quietly from the couch.
Joey was so startled, he jumped into the air about a foot or so, his urine stopped mid stream and he shrieked in fright! We laughed about it as the story unfolded and I thought Good! That was just what Joey needed, to be caught in the act so that he would understand. Joey never again lifted his leg in the house.
I had become so frustrated with Joey’s marking before this, and had been taking him to the spot where I could see had been sprayed, dipped his chin close to it, scolded him and spanked him too. Folks, this does not work! I can speak from experience. The dog must be caught in the act, even seconds after can be too long a time for the dog to associate the mess with your displeasure.
I do not advise dipping the chin into the dog’s own mess!
I do not advise punishing the dog after the fact. It is not necessary, does not work and it’s kind of a mean thing to do. I hated doing it, but didn’t see any options back then (15 years ago) Yelling and giving a swat while a dog is doing it, or within a 1/2 second can reinforce house rules with a very persistant dog, but should not be done with a very young puppy and when just starting house training. I reserve the immediate swat and scolding for dogs that do not want to follow your rules.
Joey, just did not understand, that lifting a leg in the house was different than lifting it outside. Catching him in the act was the trick.
By this time, Joey and Bobo, both loved their crates, often using their ‘bedrooms’ to hoard toys that they wanted to hide or keep from each other.
That is your goal ultimately
to use the crate as a means of controlling what your dogs do when you can not supervise them and to give them a safe and cozy den to sleep in. No, at first, your dog will NOT love the crate, but hang in there, if you do it right, your dog will love it eventually.
I advise putting your dog’s crate wherever you spend the most time at first, even moving it into your bedroom at first like I did. However, as your dog learns to settle in quickly for a good nights rest, you could place the crate in a corner somewhere like we did, in our living room covered with custom covers. You can buy beautiful crates that look like end tables, or buy attractive crate covers so the crates become part of your furniture set up. The following link has some examples of crates that don’t look like crates, they blend right in with your other furniture.
Richell End Table Wood Dog Crate
We used wire crates that had custom covers
that matched the colours in that part of the house, as a result they were almost invisible. Our dogs would go into their open crates while we watched a movie and quietly go to sleep. For nights, we would close their gates to keep them from wandering around the house at night.
Crate training the older dog is easier in some ways than crate training a puppy, and harder in others as I have explained. However, when the goal is achieved, your dog should be content as well as secure. It is well worth it!
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