Crate Training Throughout Your Dog’s Life
By Brianne Statz, CPDT-KA
For many puppies, crates are an excellent tool to help set your puppy up for success with housetraining, prevent inappropriate chewing, and avoid other undesirable behaviors when you cannot be supervising. Often when our dogs get a bit older, are reliable in potty habits, and not destroying all our shoes when left alone, we stop crating. If your dog is more comfortable sleeping on the couch while you’re at work, there is nothing wrong with that – but don’t throw out the crate entirely.
There may come a time in your adult dog’s life when crating is a necessity, and if they have not been crated for years, suddenly finding themselves in there again may be stressful. Recently Payton, my nearly 11 years old Australian Shepherd, had knee surgery. He is still on restricted activity, not allowed to do stairs or jump up on furniture (although try telling that to him!). So, while he has not been crated in years, he needs to be now while his leg heals. Your adult dog could also need to be crated or kenneled at the veterinarian, if you need to fly with your dog, or if your living arrangements change.
Luckily, Payton had only minor qualms about finding himself crated again. He will hop right inside in the morning because he knows that’s where his food bowl will be, and he also gets occasional bones and other goodies in there. Making the crate the place where fantastic food happens creates a strong positive association with crate time, and working on a frozen Kong can keep your dog occupied (and quiet) in the crate.
You can also play training games with the crate that make going into and staying in the crate very rewarding for your dog. CHECK OUTTHIS VIDEO for some examples. So, even if your dog doesn’t need to be crated routinely, it might benefit you down the road to incorporate some occasional crate games into your training, or just every now and then feed a meal or a bone in there, just in case you need it.