Why does my dog hate his crate?
Does your dog have a meltdown every time you try to crate him or her? Well, there may be several reasons they dislike it, and the first step to correcting the issue is knowing the cause. So, you must narrow down the cause, and one of the following reasons may explain their behavior:
Does your dog have a negative crate association?
They may associate their crate with unpleasant experiences. Have you or someone else used putting them inside as punishment? Even just doing this one time can create bad associations for your pup, which they will remember. Or, maybe your pup was just fine with the crate until they got locked inside for an extended period. If they were left alone in the crate for over two to three hours, especially early on, they may dislike their crate now. You can fix this, but it will take some major work and slow baby steps along the way.
You may not have properly introduced them to the crate in the beginning. While crate training goes smoothest when you do it properly from day one, you can still overcome mistakes. It just takes some extra steps to reintroduce them to crate the proper way. They have to associate the crate with positive experiences, or it could be a disaster in the making.
Where is your dog’s crate located?
Where in the home is their crate located? Is it in a place away from everyone in the home? Well, place your dog’s crate in a well-trafficked area of the house for the best crate training results. For example, you should place their crate near the kitchen, living room, or den. It needs to be somewhere where your dog doesn’t feel banished from the pack when they must spend some time inside it. They are pack animals and will feel abandoned if their crate is in the garage or basement. Although you may feel like they need a quiet space to relax, and these are the quietest places in your home. This is just not the case, and they need to be around you and the family to relax.
How big is your dog’s crate?
Is their crate too big or too small for them? If it is too big, then they will not feel that cozy den-like feeling that they crave. Too small, and they can not properly stretch out or turn around. The crate needs to be just the right size for your pup. This means you will need to go through different sized crates as your dog grows from a puppy to adulthood.
Dogs are descendants of wolves, foxes, and coyotes, all of which are den dwellers. This means the vast majority of dogs crave a cozy space to separate themselves from the world. If done properly, and you introduce each new crate correctly, then the transition from one to the next will go smoothly. You can use local resources to buy and then sell used crates through things like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. These and other resources will prove invaluable if you wish for your dog to have the correct hardware as they grow.
Any of these, or a combination of these reasons, could be why your dog dislikes being in their crate. The only way to correct the situation is to identify what is creating a problem for your pup, or you will be doomed to repeat dealing with the issue. Do not get discouraged if at first, you do not fix the issue; we are all human and make mistakes. Just aim to do a little better the next time and understand that this could be a 12 round fight to get to a successful place with crate training. Stick with it, and eventually, you will achieve success.
Step one of dog crate training:
The first step is to set the crate up in the proper area of the home and just leave it alone for a little while after setting it up. This will give your dog the chance to explore the fresh addition to the home on their own. Or, if you got the crate before the dog, then have it set up when they first come into your home. Again, give them the chance to check it out first, before forcing them inside and slamming the door shut. Either way, doing so will let them slowly sniff around the crate and become comfortable with it as a part of the home.
Step two of dog crate training:
Once they have explored on their own, set a treat inside, and see if they are comfortable enough to walk inside all on their own to get it. If they are, then you’re well ahead of the game, and crate training should be easier. If they are not, then start with placing the treat just outside of the crate’s entrance and let them go to it and eat it on their own. Once they eat the treat outside the door, place one just inside the door. Just far enough inside that they will have to stick their head inside to get it but will not have to step a paw inside. Keep slowly giving them treats by placing them inside the crate, just move them deeper inside each time.
When they enter the crate, start introducing the “go to your crate” command that you want to use from then on out. Do not yell it at them; just say it softly and when they are inside, praise them and give them a treat. Repeat the go to your crate command by saying things like “good boy/girl that is a good go-to your crate, good job.” The positive tone in your voice will let them know you are pleased with their behavior.
Step three of crate training:
Also, give them another treat as you say this, while they are inside their crate. This will be a more positive reinforcement to the behavior and will help them understand the command quicker. Dogs thrive on positive reinforcement. This is because they want nothing more than to please their pack leader, which you should have established right away is you.
- Keep repeating these steps with placing a treat in the back and giving them the command to go inside. Do this until they freely enter the crate on their own when told to do so. As long as they are free to come and go during this phase, they will be more comfortable with the idea.
- Next, you can start closing the door. Make sure there is plenty of comforting items inside before trying this step. Items like a bed, blanket, stuffed toy, and even a covering will all help your dog associate the crate with a cozy den of their own. This will make the confinement not feel like a punishment. Instead, it will feel like just a chance to take a break from everything and have a little time to themselves.
- Once you close the door, give them a treat and lots of praise. Plus, only have the door closed long enough for them to inspect the door and realize they are locked in. At this point, you should reopen the door at once, so they do not get overly anxious. You want them to associate only pleasurable things and pleasant feelings with being inside their crate.
- Then, you will gradually increase the time you leave them inside with the door shut. Make sure that they can see you and know you are still there during these first few lock-ins. If they know you are still there and not abandoning them inside, then they will be more comfortable with this step. At this step, you can start by sitting in front of the crate for five minutes, then let them out. Then slowly increase the time until they can comfortably remain locked inside for a full 20-30 minutes.
How long will crate training take?
Finally, when you get to the longer periods, you can leave the area, but just for a few minutes at first. You want them to have time to become comfortable being inside on their own without your presence. If you placed their crate in the proper place in the house, then there will still be enough activity around to let them relax. Slowly work your way up to having them inside on their own for 30 minutes, then 45 minutes, and finally, a full hour. Once they can stay for a full hour, we can consider them crate trained because they will most likely be napping by the time you return.
The key to the entire process is baby steps. Whether introducing them to the crate for the first time or changing their associations with being crated, it will take small steps at a time to achieve success. Do not let them get overly worked up. If they whine a little when you first left the room, then let them whine a little before returning to free them. Let them work through the emotions of being alone on their own, but never let them get too worked up. It is a fine line, and you just have to go with your gut instinct on timing it all correctly.
After working your way through this process, your dog will be crate trained. You can move on to other training once they will willingly go inside their crate on command and remain locked inside for an hour on their own. This will be the signal for a successfully crate trained dog. It is also necessary to make sure they have gotten plenty of exercises before they go inside and immediately when they come out. A good 30 minutes before is an absolute must for making them burn off the energy that will cause anxiousness. If they are good and tired when they go inside for any lengthy period, then they will be more likely just to lay down and take a nice long nap.
However, never leave your dog inside their crate for over 3 hours, with a maximum of 4 hours at a time without a break. This is the full extent of their bladder control, and if they soil the inside of their crate and are forced to stay in it, it will be a traumatic experience. This will quickly become an issue because it is one of the fastest ways to get them to hate being inside it.
If you follow these all these directions and tips, then you will surely achieve success. Your life will be easier, and your pup’s life will be more fulfilled with a space of their own to call home.