Whoever says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks has clearly never shared a life with a canine!
Our four-legged best friends are biologically wired to learn new things, so don’t feel discouraged if your older dog isn’t yet crate trained. It is absolutely possible.
Crate training an older dog is actually not very different from crate training a puppy. Older dogs do however learn more slowly, so by preparing yourself mentally for a longer training journey, making the crate cozy, putting in familiar items, placing the crate in the right spot, making only positive associations, and taking it one step at a time you can crate train an older dog.
In this article, I will share some tips and tricks to help you through your crate training journey and to come out on the other side with a well-adjusted kennel dog!
Ready? Let’s dive in.
As you can imagine, there is a difference between puppy brains and older dog brains - which can alter how you approach crate training. Puppies are more like sponges, ready to absorb new information and develop habits.
Adult dogs can be sponges too - but they don’t absorb the same amount of water the same way. Adult dogs are pretty set in their ways and won’t change their habits as easily as a youngin’ pup. As such, crate training has to add in the extra step of having your adult dog unlearn old habits.
It can feel discouraging to crate train an adult dog - but it shouldn’t be. Although the process may not go as swiftly as a puppy, it is absolutely possible to get there in a reasonable amount of time.
Generally speaking, crate training a puppy and crate training an adult dog doesn’t have too many differences - you go through the process very similarly for both.
Start with slow introductions, do feedings inside the crate, throw toys in there, and make the crate the coolest place in the world. Positive associations are the goal; all of the best things in the world now happen inside of the kennel!
The real differences lie in how you approach the situation and how you give consideration to who your dog is as an adult (rather than a spongy baby).
Being in the right mindset can be the difference between a smooth training endeavor and a pretty rocky one!
You have to understand that your adult dog has had years to develop the habits they currently keep, and it can take some time to undo all that has been ingrained over time.
As such, mentally preparing yourself for this process to take a bit longer than you would expect is the best first step. Nothing is ever learned overnight, but it is worth it in the end!
Adult dogs tend to be pretty good about potty training, not eating their bedding, and otherwise being pretty decent mature dogs. As such, you can pretty easily make a kennel super cozy without too much worry.
The softer, squishier, and more comfortable that crate is, the more enticed your adult dog will be to check it out and enjoy it! One of the goals is to make the crate the best place in the world to be so that your dog chooses to spend time there.
One of the biggest mistakes people make in crate training an older dog is to put the crate in an isolating spot. By putting the crate away from everyone and locking the dog in, your dog may develop anxiety and negative associations because they feel lonely or left out.
When starting the crate training process, look to place the crate in the center of the action - like the living room! You want your dog to still feel included as they go through the training process.
Over time, you can start moving the crate into the correct place little by little.
With older dogs being creatures of habit, you can actually use some of this to your advantage. Familiarity is a powerful tool and can make a dog feel more comfortable and at ease.
Throw in your older dog’s favorite toy, a blanket with your scent, and other familiar items into the kennel.
This helps the transition process tremendously as the dog is more apt to want to spend time somewhere where they feel at home.
Patience is a virtue - and will reap the most rewards at the end of this journey. Although your older dog does have an adult mind and can (potentially) process things with less fear or irrational thought, that does not mean you should throw your dog in the deep end and hope that they learn to swim.
Just like with a puppy, introduce the crate gradually and introduce spending time in the crate in increments. You don’t want to start off on the wrong foot by locking your dog in there and not giving them any chance to get familiar with the situation! This could set your training back tenfold.
Take the time, introduce the crate in increments, let it go on, and build from there.