How to Crate Train an Older Dog


Crate training a dog in your home can be a great way to discourage potentially unwanted behaviors while also giving your dog a safe, cozy place to be while you are gone or sleeping. Dogs naturally seek out den-like spaces and a crate can be their refuge from stressful situations as well as a safe, comfortable place to relax and sleep. An older dog can be crate trained, it will just take a little extra patience and time from you.

Choose the Right Crate

The first step for crate training your dog is to choose an appropriate crate. You will need to determine what size your dog needs and also what material will fit your home and situation. Crates may be selected in many sizes and can be constructed of plastic, fabric, wire, or mesh.

The crate you select must be large enough for the dog to stand up, lie down, and turn around inside. Luckily, for an older dog, you do not have to worry about them growing and needing a larger crate. However, if your dog suffers from arthritis or other conditions that affect their back and/or joints, you may want to invest in a slightly larger crate with adequate padding to ensure their comfort.

The material you choose will depend on where the crate will be stored and the ways in which you plan to use it. If you are going to use the crate for travel with your dog, a soft-sided kennel is likely the best choice. Plastic carriers can provide a more secure barrier that makes the dog feel cozy and protected. On the other hand, a wire kennel may be ideal for the dog that enjoys a less obstructed view.

Introduce Your Dog to the Crate

The most important thing to always remember when crate training an older dog is that the crate must always be associated with good experiences for the dog. Crate training should be taken slowly. Use positive reinforcement and never push a dog past their comfort level. The process of acclimating your dog to a crate may take weeks or even months. Adult dogs who have never been crated tend to take the longest.

A good place to start with any dog is to simply place the crate in your house where the dog can see it, smell it, and explore the inside if they desire. Make sure to place a soft blanket or other padding inside the crate. It may help to use a blanket that the dog has already slept on so that it smells like them. Plush bedding is especially important for older dogs and those with orthopedic issues.

You should start with the crate in the main area of the home where your family spends time. If and when your dog chooses to go inside, do not close the door at first. They should be allowed to come and go as they please in the beginning. You can even place treats, toys, or food just inside the kennel door to entice your dog to check it out. Never forcefully place your dog into the kennel.

As your dog accepts the crate as a new part of your home, you can start placing treats farther back into the crate, or even feed them their meals inside. The dog should continue to be fed inside the crate, farther and farther back each time, until they eagerly enter and eat their meal inside.


The crate must always be a pleasant and happy place for your dog. Never punish a dog by locking them in their crate. There are also some dogs that feel panicked and trapped inside crates, despite slow and steady training. If this is the case with your dog, you should consult your veterinarian or a behaviorist.

Close the Crate Door

Once your dog is comfortably and consistently eating their meals inside the crate, you can introduce closing the door. First, close the door briefly as they are eating and then open it after a few minutes. If the dog looks anxious or tries to exit, open the door and let them out. Lengthen the time that you leave the door closed until they are happily eating their entire meal inside the crate with the door closed.

Once this goal has been accomplished, you should start leaving the dog inside the kennel for short periods of time after they have finished eating. It is helpful to leave the crate in an area of the home where people are so that the dog feels comfortable. Dogs are social animals and take comfort from being near their families.

Build Up Duration

Gradually lengthen the time the dog spends in the kennel over the next few weeks. Be sure to use lots of rewards to encourage your dog to be calm in the crate. This can be in the form of praise, tossing in extra treats when your dog is calm inside the crate, or offering a favorite toy.

Once your dog enters the crate, praise them and give them a treat. If they appear comfortable, close the door. Remove yourself to a nearby room where you can hear the dog, but they cannot see you. Start with 1-2 minutes, and then let the dog out.

Repeat this process several times a day and increase the time that you stay out of the room by a few minutes each time. If your dog easily tolerates at least one hour of alone time in the crate you may start leaving the house with them crated for short periods of time.

If your dog appears anxious, whines, barks, or struggles to get out, you may need to slow down and shorten the length of time for each session. Also, be aware of timing with crate training—it is not helpful to crate a dog that needs to use the restroom, or when there is an activity in the home that the dog wants to be a part of.

Add a Verbal Cue

Now that your dog is comfortable in their crate, you may start working on a vocal cue that will signal them to get into their crate. The most important part of this exercise is to reward the dog with praise and a treat for doing what is asked of them. Your cue may be anything, but should always be the same once it is introduced. Physical body language, for example, pointing to the crate, can help to communicate your desire for the dog to get into the crate.

Overnight Crating

After your dog has become comfortable in the crate while you leave the house for various periods of time, you can attempt to leave them crated overnight. During the training process, you should allow the dog access to the crate at all times, so they may have already spent some or all of a night in the crate prior to this time.

Never leave your dog in the crate longer than 8 hours overnight. If your dog whines a little bit during the night, try to ignore them. If you respond, or let them out when they whine, you are reinforcing the whining by giving them the response they desire. This should have reasonable limits, of course.

A dog that whines for a bit, but then goes back to sleep may be adjusting and hopefully will whine less and less as they settle into their new routine. A severely distressed dog or one that is panicked, should not be ignored as something may be wrong, or they may be so anxious that they are developing a negative association with the crate.

Some dogs, especially older dogs, who have a history of separation anxiety may not respond well to crate training and you may need to consult with your veterinarian, a certified behaviorist, or a certified dog trainer to find a solution that works.

Problems and Proofing Behavior

Dogs read our emotions, so it is important to project a calm, confident attitude during training. When leaving, do not act overly emotional or make a big deal out of saying goodbye as this can escalate your dog’s anxiety. Calmly ask your pet to get into their crate and shut the door. Leave quietly and calmly without making a big deal out of it.

A treat, toy, or puzzle activity can be left with most dogs to help them pass the time and as a reward for being in the crate, just be sure it is indestructible and safe for them to be alone with those materials.

When you return home, do not greet your dog with a dramatic, loud, celebratory greeting. Quietly enter the house and put away your things. Do not immediately let the dog out of their crate. Being overly excited upon arrival or immediately releasing the dog can cause anxiety surrounding your return.

It is a good idea to periodically crate your dog when you are home for short periods of time. This will lessen their anxiety and the association of the crate with your absence.

The Spruce Pets uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

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  2. Foundation TAH. The dos and don’ts of crate training. The Animal Health Foundation.
  3. Crate Training Your Adult Dog. San Fransisco SPCA
  4. Crate training for adult dogs. Vetwest Animal Hospitals.
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