Rent safe and private dog parks hosted by locals

  1. Home
  2. Blog
  3. Dog Training
  4. How to Crate Train an Older Dog: Comprehensive Guide

How to Crate Train an Older Dog: Comprehensive Guide

David Adams photo

David Adams

March 06, 2024

Dog Training

How to Crate Train an Older Dog: Comprehensive Guide thumbnail

* All Sniffspot articles are reviewed by certified trainers for quality, please see bottom of article for details *

If you’ve recently adopted an older pup or simply never got around to crate training your dog at a young age, there’s good news. You can teach an old dog new tricks. Crate training is a vital skill for dogs to have because, when trained through positive reinforcement, the crate can become a safe space for your dog and aid in training other behaviors. 

Is it possible to crate train an older dog?

Though it can be done, crate training an older dog may prove to be more challenging than training a puppy on the skill. Puppies are enthusiastic learners whose minds are sponges–they are naturally curious and eager to work with you. An older dog may be more settled in its ways and find comfort in the habits and routines they already have. 

Don’t be discouraged, however. The crate training process for an older dog will only require a bit more patience and more repetitions. Despite the challenge, it is worth it to help your dog learn this skill. 

Reasons for Crate Training an Older Dog

Crate training is a valuable skill all dogs should learn. There are myriad reasons why crate training is so important:

Crate training is great for housebreaking

Not all older dogs come housebroken. If you’ve recently welcomed an older dog into your life and notice they can’t be in the house without accidents, you may need to potty train from scratch– and a crate is the perfect tool for house training. Very few dogs will have accidents in their crate as the space is too confined. So, if you make the crate a part of your potty-training routine, you can help teach a dog to hold their bladder longer.

Crate training can be important for safety

We love our dogs and want them to be safe and live long, healthy lives. In your house, crating your dog can keep them engaging in bad behaviors by preventing them from eating things they shouldn’t. A chewed cord or swallowed piece of your shoe could lead to choking or a bowel obstruction. With your dog safely in a crate, you can rest easy when you leave your best friend unattended.
Peace of mind is important, and in the event of an emergency, such as a house fire or other natural disaster, crating your dog can ensure that they are easily located as you evacuate or are rescued by emergency personnel.
When traveling with your dog, the safest place for them is within a crate. Unrestrained pets can become projectiles in a car crash, and according to the American Automobile Association, only 16% of dog owners properly crate their dogs while traveling, creating a huge risk in the case of an accident. If you need to fly with your dog, generally speaking they must be crated either in the cabin or in the cargo. It is best to prepare your dog for these situations so they are calm and happy during their ride.

Crate training can help ease anxiety

Crate training is not only beneficial for your mental health, but also your dog’s. Introducing them to the crate in a positive manner can give them a safe retreat when they are experiencing anxiety from  thunderstorms, fireworks, and other loud noises. Your pup can also experience anxiety from being left alone. Because departures can be emotional for dogs and humans alike, separation anxiety is a common complaint from pet owners, and crate training can be a remedy for separation anxiety and aid in behavior modification. Beyond separation, a bustling household can also be stressful on older dogs. Especially if you have children, it is important to give your dog their own space to retreat during a stressful situation.

Crate training can help with vet visits and grooming appointments

When your dog has to go to the vet or the groomer, they will likely need to be crated– especially if your dog needs to stay overnight if they are sick or injured. Vet visits and grooming can be stressful on their own, by making sure the crate is a familiar and safe place, you can help your best friend feel comfortable and ease their mind.

Sniffspot Dog running on field

Get safe exercise for your dog by renting a private dog park near you

Crate training can make attending training classes easier

Having fun with your pup can include training classes. From obedience to agility to rally, the world of dog sports is full of opportunity. However, many of these classes require that you crate your dog while other dogs have their turn. 

dog in crate

Steps for Crate Training an Older Dog

Now you’re ready to start crate exposure with your dog, but where do you start? It’s important to ease into the training and be patient–this way you can make sure your best friend learns to love their crate! Below are the training steps:

Step 1: Crate selection

To find the correct crate size for your dog, measure their length from the tip of their nose to their hindquarters and their height by measuring from the floor to the top of their head or ears while seated and add two to four inches on each measurement. This is the length and height of the crate you will need to provide a comfortable resting place for your pup. You can find extra-small to extra-large crates depending on what size you need. 

There are many types of standard crates that come in a variety of materials from plastic to wire. Wire crates are easy to come by and collapsable, making them easy to store away. Lightweight plastic crates are ideal for travel and plastic crates tend to be more budget-friendly, while a soft-sided nylon crate is a great option for smaller pups. If you are looking for a stylish option for your home, you can purchase an indoor crate or that blends seamlessly with the furniture in your home. Soft-sided carry crates are great for travel, but not recommended for long-term crating. Choose an option to be your dog’s permanent crate, so they always know where to go when stressed.

Step 2: Prep the crate for your older dog

It’s time to make the crate comfortable for your older dog. If your pup is not one to chew up beds and soft blankets, line the crate with their favorites. Bolster beds and crate mats are a great way to entice your dog to cozy up inside. You can even add your dog’s water bowl to make sure they have access to water when inside the crate. Select a quiet, low-traffic, quiet location to put the crate, such as a bedroom, that is away from the busyness of the household. Keep this crate in the original location for as long as the training process takes.

Once you’ve made your crate space complete, gather your training tools. Choose your dog’s favorite high-value treats or toys to make the training process fun.

Step 3: Exercise and potty your older dog first

Before any training session, provide for your dog's biological needs by making sure they are properly fed, hydrated, and exercised. Also make sure to only crate after potty training your dog. Your furry friend will thank you for helping them get rid of excess energy and reduce excited behavior as it is difficult for a dog with lots of energy to go into training with a calm mindset if their needs have not been met

Step 4: Begin building a positive association with the crate

It’s time to introduce your pup to the crate. The best way to do this is to introduce the crate with food or a toy. Grab what your dog finds reinforcing, be it that favorite treat or toy and start playing some crate games. Toss special treats (different from their daily treats) or a toy into the crate and leave the door open, letting your dog go into the crate to eat the delicious treats or retrieve their toy. Keep this up until your pup is eagerly going in and out of the crate. 

You can also feed your dog in the crate during meal time, by either placing the bowl inside and leaving the door open while they eat, or tossing kibble into the crate for them in the same way you did with the treats or toys. By using the crate as a part of your  routine for mealtimes, your dog will associate it more and more with a good thing instead of with frustration.

Don’t rush this step, it’s important to build positive experiences around the crate and show them that crate time is fun! If you’d like, you can even layer verbal commands or command phrase such as “kennel up” or “go to bed” when your dog is reliably going into the crate. The more you use this regular command, the more your dog will understand when to go into their crate.

Step 5: Closing the door and building duration

Once your dog is happily going in the crate regularly, start closing the door for a short period of time. Start with only a second or two and increase duration slowly up to a couple of minutes. As you work up to longer time periods and your dog is settling, try giving your dog a special treat, such as a stuffed kong. Choose a safe option that requires minimal supervision, unlike a harder chew that could be a choking hazard.

You can also help your pup out by playing a white noise machine when they are in the crate alone. This can create a more soothing experience for your dog and they will settle for longer periods of time. 

Step 6: Create a crate schedule for your older dog

Now that your dog is comfortable in the crate, work crate time into your life, and crate him or her periodically throughout the day. Keep your pup’s activity schedule in mind and crate them more often during their downtime.

Eventually, you may want to crate at night, and if that is your goal, try to take your dog in and out at the same time to create a recognizable schedule. Dogs find comfort and clarity in a firm routine, they are creatures of habit after all.

dog in crate

Get your dog the safe enrichment they need by renting a Sniffspot

Sniffspot Dog swimming in pool

Potential problems

With all dog training, there are things that can cause you to take several steps back in the process or even completely ruin the crate for the dog. Here’s what not to do:

  • Don’t force your dog into the crate, this can frighten your pup and make them even more cautious about crate time.
  • Don’t leave your dog in the crate if they are showing extreme signs of anxiety. Look out for signs such as pacing, excessive panting unrelated to exercise, or attempting to escape which can all be a sign of fear. Go back to the beginning and start your training over with positive reinforcement or try crating for a shorter time period.
  • Don’t leave anything in the crate with the dog that could cause a choking hazard or obstruction, such as hard chews or toys you know your dog will destroy.
  • Don’t use the crate as punishment (even social isolation punishment). If you are only using the crate when you are mad at your pup, it will result in negative associations and they will not want to be in it. You may have to go back to an earlier step in your training if this happens. 
  • Don’t crate for too long. Crating periods should be kept to a reasonable amount of time. Older dogs can handle being crated for no more than six to eight hours.

Crate training is a useful skill for any dog to have through their entire life. Even if your dog is not a puppy, taking the time to crate train your dog will be beneficial throughout their life by creating a safe space where they can feel comfortable and relax.

Trainer that reviewed this article

There is so much misinformation out there, we want to make sure we only provide the highest quality information to our community. We have all of our articles reviewed by qualified, positive-only trainers. The trainers that review our content are reviewed by other trainers to ensure that we have the best quality filters on our content. 

This is the trainer that reviewed this article:

Hallie Wells
Owner-Lumos Dog Training, Atlanta, GA 
Certified Professional Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA)
Fear Free Certified Professional (FFCP)
Applied Animal Behavior Analysts (UW-AABA)

Sniffspot Dog running on field

Get safe exercise for your dog by renting a private dog park near you

David Adams photo

David Adams

March 06, 2024

Dog Training

About Sniffspot

Sniffspot is a community marketplace that enables anyone to rent land by-the-hour as a safe and private dog park.

Follow us

Find Sniffspot on your favorite social media

TiktokInstagramFacebookYoutube
Related articles
Moving with Dogs: Essential Tips and Trends in 2024 thumbnail

Moving with Dogs: Essential Tips and Trends in 2024

Navigating Dog-Friendly Travel in 2024: Data, Insight, and Expert Tips thumbnail

Navigating Dog-Friendly Travel in 2024: Data, Insight, and Expert Tips

Complete Guide to Dog Training Hand Signals (Facts + Infographic) thumbnail

Complete Guide to Dog Training Hand Signals (Facts + Infographic)

All categories

Most recent articles

Moving with Dogs: Essential Tips and Trends in 2024 thumbnail

Moving with Dogs: Essential Tips and Trends in 2024

Navigating Dog-Friendly Travel in 2024: Data, Insight, and Expert Tips thumbnail

Navigating Dog-Friendly Travel in 2024: Data, Insight, and Expert Tips

Complete Guide to Dog Training Hand Signals (Facts + Infographic) thumbnail

Complete Guide to Dog Training Hand Signals (Facts + Infographic)

Rottweiler Aggression: Signs, Causes, and How to Handle It thumbnail

Rottweiler Aggression: Signs, Causes, and How to Handle It

The Best Dog Trainers in Florida of 2023 thumbnail

The Best Dog Trainers in Florida of 2023

The Best Dog Trainers in Tampa, FL of 2023 thumbnail

The Best Dog Trainers in Tampa, FL of 2023

Related articles
Moving with Dogs: Essential Tips and Trends in 2024 thumbnail

Moving with Dogs: Essential Tips and Trends in 2024

Navigating Dog-Friendly Travel in 2024: Data, Insight, and Expert Tips thumbnail

Navigating Dog-Friendly Travel in 2024: Data, Insight, and Expert Tips

Complete Guide to Dog Training Hand Signals (Facts + Infographic) thumbnail

Complete Guide to Dog Training Hand Signals (Facts + Infographic)

Top dog guides per area

Dog training guides

Dog enrichment guides

The Best Dog Water Parks in the United States thumbnail

The Best Dog Water Parks in the United States

Do you have a water-loving dog looking to burn some energy? There are countless dog parks to visit throughout our country — but some of them become far too hot in the midday sun to be safe for your pets to play. That’s why we’ve put together a list of some of the best dog water parks throughout the United States! At these locations, your pup can frolic, splash, and swim to their heart’s content.

Best Toys for Herding Dogs thumbnail

Best Toys for Herding Dogs

* All Sniffspot articles are reviewed by certified trainers for quality, please see bottom of article for details *

The Best Dog Toys for Aggressive Chewers (Facts + Infographic) thumbnail

The Best Dog Toys for Aggressive Chewers (Facts + Infographic)

Does your dog destroy every toy you give them? Is your house littered with remnants of fabric and stuffing of all different sizes? Are you tired of investing in “indestructible” toys only for your pup to still dismantle (or worse, get bored of) them in just a few days?

Dog Exercise Calculator: How Much Exercise Does Your Dog Need? thumbnail

Dog Exercise Calculator: How Much Exercise Does Your Dog Need?

You’ve been told that your dog needs regular exercise. There’s a reason “walking the dog” is a classic daily activity: Frequent excursions give your pup a chance to stretch their legs, experience the world, maintain a healthy weight, and spend time with you! Consistent physical activity will also improve their strength, muscle tone, coordination, and mental ability over time.

Complete Guide To Herding With Dogs thumbnail

Complete Guide To Herding With Dogs

* All Sniffspot articles are reviewed by certified trainers for quality, please see bottom of article for details *

Dog reactivity guides

Sniffspot community guides

The State of Public Dog Parks Across the United States thumbnail

The State of Public Dog Parks Across the United States

From 2009 to 2020, there was a 40 percent increase in the development of public dog parks. Designated spots for canine exercise have become commonplace in every major city in North America — many pet owners won’t even consider renting an apartment that doesn’t have its own fenced-in pet area for their canine companions.

How This Family is Affording Their Dream Property Through Renting it Hourly to Dogs thumbnail

How This Family is Affording Their Dream Property Through Renting it Hourly to Dogs

Thousand Oaks, California has been a safe haven for Sniffspot host, Jen, since childhood. Having grown up in busy Santa Barbara, Jen, an introvert from an early age, would seek out solitude and serenity away from tourists attractions and droves of people visiting from elsewhere. “My grandparents own 60 acres about a 30 minute drive from here, and I grew up spending every summer and every holiday visiting them on the ranch,” Jen explained. “In Santa Barbara, we wouldn't go to the beach on the weekend because that's where everybody was, so you'd find places off the beaten path where the tourists weren't. For me, the ranch was just my happy place.” 

Host Tips: Ellen K. What Makes Sniffspot Successful for Me thumbnail

Host Tips: Ellen K. What Makes Sniffspot Successful for Me

Ellen is the host of Country Pasture Getaway, one of Sniffspot's most popular sniff spots. She has taken the time to write up the lessons she has learned about how to be a great sniff spot host.

How this Oregon Farmer is Making a Business From Renting Her Land to Dogs thumbnail

How this Oregon Farmer is Making a Business From Renting Her Land to Dogs

Just 20 minutes outside of the busy city of Portland, Oregon, and settled right on the banks of the Columbia River, you’ll find what countless visitors have flocked to the area in search of – mountain views, crisp, clean air, and running water for miles. What you might not expect to find, however, is a hidden oasis designed just for dogs and their people, owned and operated by a farming couple and enjoyed by visitors on two legs, and four.  

Host Tips: Fran T. Providing Great Guest Service at our Spot thumbnail

Host Tips: Fran T. Providing Great Guest Service at our Spot

Fran is the host of Ranch Setting, one of Sniffspot's most popular spots. She has taken the time to write up the lessons she has learned about how to be a great Sniffspot host.

Top dog trainers in the US

The Best Dog Trainers in the United States of 2023 thumbnail

The Best Dog Trainers in the United States of 2023

Welcome to the United States Sniffspot top dog trainer list for 2023. This is a list of the top dog trainers in the United States based on votes from the Sniffspot community and the general public. Over 55,000 votes were used in compiling this list. We have only included the top trainers with sufficient votes and the trainers are ordered in terms of the number of votes received. Trainers that tied are ranked in reverse alphabetical order based on first name. All dog trainers on this list are positive reinforcement only, as defined by no force, fear, intimidation, or aversive methods used.

The Best Dog Trainers in New Jersey of 2023 thumbnail

The Best Dog Trainers in New Jersey of 2023

The Best Dog Trainers in Michigan of 2023 thumbnail

The Best Dog Trainers in Michigan of 2023

The Best Dog Trainers in Washington of 2023 thumbnail

The Best Dog Trainers in Washington of 2023

The Best Dog Trainers in Florida of 2023 thumbnail

The Best Dog Trainers in Florida of 2023

City dog parks guides

The Best Indoor Dog Parks in the United States thumbnail

The Best Indoor Dog Parks in the United States

Looking for a space to play with your dog no matter what the weather’s like outside? Look no further than our list of the best indoor dog parks in the United States! These climate-controlled spaces are growing in popularity as pet ownership increases throughout the country. As a bonus, many of them also offer dog training, boarding, grooming, or daycare services on the premises.

The Best Off-Leash Dog Parks in the United States thumbnail

The Best Off-Leash Dog Parks in the United States

Looking for the perfect place to play with your dog? We’ve got you covered! It’s hard to narrow down, but we’ve put together some of the best off-leash dog parks throughout the country so you can plan your next adventure — along with a checklist of what to bring, what to know beforehand, and some frequently asked questions.

The Best Las Vegas, Nevada Dog Parks thumbnail

The Best Las Vegas, Nevada Dog Parks

Looking for the perfect place to play with your dog in Las Vegas? We’ve got you covered! Take a look at the best local dog parks and plan for your next adventure in Sin City.

The Best United States Dog Parks thumbnail

The Best United States Dog Parks

Looking for the perfect place to play with your dog? We’ve got you covered! It’s hard to narrow down, but we’ve put together some of the best dog parks throughout the country so you can plan your next adventure. Here’s what the United States has to offer to its more than 90 million canine companions.

The Best Portland, Oregon Dog Parks thumbnail

The Best Portland, Oregon Dog Parks

Looking for the perfect place to play with your dog in Portland? We’ve got you covered! Take a look at the best local dog parks and plan for your next adventure in the City of Roses.