They Can Learn New Tricks: How To Crate Train An Older Dog

They Can Learn New Tricks: How To Crate Train An Older Dog

You’ve probably heard the old adage – you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. So, is it true? According to today’s top veterinarians, it couldn’t be any further from it. No matter the age of a dog, when that dog is awake, they’re learning. They’re absorbing their surroundings, recognizing things around them, and adapting to life and all its changes right along with us. This means that an older dog can learn to sit for the first time, shake, bow, lay down, speak, kiss, and even how to spend quality time in their crate.

If you’re wondering how to crate train an older dog, it just takes a little time, patience, and understanding as to why their crate is actually a huge benefit to you both.

Why Crate Training Is Important

Maybe you rescued an older dog who hadn’t spent much happy time in their crate. Maybe you simply didn’t see the value in crate training until later on. No matter the why, it’s never too late for any dog to learn to love their crate.

They Can Learn New Tricks: How To Crate Train An Older Dog

Crate training is important for a number of reasons, some of which include:

  • Crates keep naughty dogs out of trouble – A dog is never too old to learn, and they’re never too old to get a little naughty from time to time either! If you come home to a tipped over kitchen trash can, or that throw pillow has turned into a puff of fluff on the floor, a crate is probably a great idea. A safe, tough, easy to clean aluminum dog crate gives your pooch a cozy place to hang out where they can’t get themselves into trouble. Pet parents can have an afternoon out running errands, and they don’t have to worry about what they might come home to if their fuzzy best friend gets a bit bored.
  • Crates give your dog a calming space – With care and attention, crate training gives your dog the valuable benefit of a safe space they can use to wind down and soothe themselves. For dogs that tend to get a little anxious during thunderstorms, or those who might need a break from a new puppy or boisterous kids, their crate is their safe haven. With crate training, you’re providing them with a “time-out” area they can use to give themselves some valuable rest and relaxation.
  • Crates make things easier when you’re having guests – Not all guests might be completely comfortable with dogs, and not all dogs will be completely comfortable with guests. Even dogs who generally love meeting new people can benefit from having a little crate time when things get hectic in the home. For dogs who tend to be reserved or shy around “strangers”, learning how to crate train an older dog can give them a calm space they can retreat to when feeling uncomfortable. For dogs who tend to get a bit ahead of themselves, having them spend a little time in the crate when guests walk through the door can help them to calm down from all the excitement. They can relax, compose themselves, and avoid the jumping, barking, or overzealous behaviors they might exhibit when they get a little too hyped up!
  • Crates keep your dog safe and sound in an emergency – Learning how to crate train an older dog really comes in handy during an emergency. If your home needs to be evacuated due to flood, fire, or any other urgent situation, having a crate makes all the difference. Many disaster shelters require pets to be crated, and having a crate handy helps you to keep and transport your dog safely no matter what. It’s not just people who get stressed during an emergency; and a dog’s first instinct may be to run. With a crate, you know just where they are and that they’re safe with you.
  • They’re comfort spaces for older dogs – Older dogs can face some of the same health ailments as aging humans. They could deal with hearing loss, vision impairment, arthritis, lowered energy, and even confusion. Unfortunately, these concepts aren’t as easily explained to a dog as they are to a human, so in some instances these can cause anxiety in older dogs. With crate training, an older dog has a quiet place where they can rest or self-soothe when they feel the need.
  • Safe and easy travel – No matter the age of a dog, they sure do love a good adventure! With a crash-tested and safe crate, you have a way that gets them from point A to point B with complete peace of mind. Your dog is kept safe in case of an accident, and you’re kept distraction-free knowing your dog is comfortably secured in their very own comforting space.

It’s Time To Learn How To Crate Train An Older Dog

Crate training an older dog isn’t too much different than crate training a fresh new puppy. Puppies tend to be a little more adaptable, and will often crate train more quickly, but with some patience and plenty of positivity, your older dog won’t be too far behind.

According to Hills Pet (and many pet parents,) dogs sure do love their routine.  A new puppy has no routine, and they spend each day learning what their new family routine is going to be. Crate training them isn’t causing them to “change” a routine that doesn’t yet exist. This is where you might get the most pushback from an older dog.

Older dogs who have never been crate trained before might be a little more set in their ways. They might prefer lounging on the sofa while you’re at work, not in their crate, so they could put up more resistance as they try to tell you they’d prefer their old routine over this new one. This doesn’t mean the crate is a negative thing, or that they dislike their crate, only that they’re alerting you to a change in their routine.

As you get these moments of resistance, it’s crucial to respond with patience and positivity. Dogs can feed off their human’s emotions, and if you remain calm and positive, they’re more likely to feed off of your good energy during the crate training process.

They Can Learn New Tricks: How To Crate Train An Older Dog

Choose The Right Crate

Choosing the right crate is the most important thing you can do before crate training an older dog. You want to make sure their crate is large enough, and you’ll do this by measuring them first. According to Pet News Daily and Dr. Jennifer Coates, you want the length of their crate to be a handful of inches longer than the dog’s body length not including the tail. Your dog should be able to stand up in their crate, turn around, and lay down comfortably.

A crate that is too large might be too spacious to allow for those cozy secure feelings, and a crate that is too small will feel cramped and uncomfortable.

Along with size, the construction of your crate is also important. You’ll want to make sure the crate is escape-proof for your dog’s safety, easy to clean, comfortable, and crash-tested if you plan to take your dog on lots of safe adventures.

Prepare Your Dog

Even older dogs can have quite a bit of “gas in the tank”. Before starting your first crate training session, make sure you help your dog to burn off all that excess energy. A dog that is bursting with the need to run, play, sniff, and get excited is a dog that isn’t going to be satisfied spending quiet time in a crate they’re not used to.

They Can Learn New Tricks: How To Crate Train An Older Dog

Take your dog on a long walk, play some ball in the backyard, let them do a nose work puzzle, or partake in any sort of fun activity you know tends to wear them out. Once they’re nice and tired, it’s time to get started!

Prepare The Crate

First and foremost, the crate should always be a happy place. Before showing your dog their crate, make sure it’s the kind of place they’ll want to spend time in. Invest in a sturdy and comfortable crate pad they can lay down on, toss in a couple of favorite treats, and prep the crate with a favorite calming toy. 

When the dog goes into the crate to sniff, retrieve the toy, or snack on a treat, reward them with plenty of positive reinforcement. Let them know they’re doing a great job! You might want to toss a couple more treats in the crate, or a small handful of their kibble, to encourage them to go in again.

Once your dog is comfortable stepping into their create and sniffing around, try closing the door. This might be uncomfortable or “foreign” to the dog at first, and that’s completely normal. Close the door for just a few seconds, and then open it to let them back out again. This teaches your dog that, even when the door is closed, they can trust you to let them back out again.

You’ll want to practice closing the door and letting them back out again for just a few seconds at first, and then gradually increase that time as they allow. Work your way up to several minutes, and then an hour, and see how they handle getting used to their crate time. If the dog begins getting particularly agitated, keep patient, give them a break, and start back at where they’re comfortable.

Older dogs may resist a little bit, but it’s important to remember that you’re both learning together. By remaining calm, patient, and positive, you’ll be on your way to learning how to crate train an older dog and your dog will be on their way to having a cozy space they can always rely on!

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