Crate training isn’t good for all dogs. It works best for young dogs or those who have already been trained. Use positive training methods only. Crates should never be used as punishment, to confine dogs day and night, or for dogs with separation anxiety. Stop training if your dog is distressed.
In this article, I’ll talk about whether all dogs can be crate trained, which dogs crate training doesn’t work for, how to tell when to stop training, and more!
Crate Training Doesn’t Work for Every Dog
It’s my experience that cCrate training won’t work for every single dog, although professionals do have differing opinions, and I go into all the different views lower down this article.
The Humane Society shares this belief, stating on their website, “A crate is not a magical solution to common canine behavior. If used incorrectly, a dog can feel trapped and frustrated. And for some dogs, crates will not be an option.”
Crate training should never be used as punishment, a replacement for proper socialization and training, or a place to keep your dog confined day and night.
Even when properly implemented, some dogs just don’t take to crates. I’ve heard from dog owners who explain that their dog will go to the crate when told, but seems pouty or sad while inside.
These dogs don’t tend to go to their crate on their own while it’s open, and seem to dislike the crate despite receiving proper crate training.
Dogs with Separation Anxiety Shouldn’t be Crated
In addition, crates can be a danger to dogs with separation anxiety.
A symptom of separation anxiety is trying to escape confinement. It might mean chewing a door handle, as my dog Charlie did once as a pup, or trying to escape home through windows.
For a crated dog, it can mean biting or clawing at the metal bars of the crate. This can damage their teeth and nails, especially if they get caught on the bars.
Dogs kept in soft-sided crates or carriers might chew right through, which is both ineffective and can lead to them eating the material.
Eating foreign objects like this can lead to digestion issues that range from upset stomach tobowel obstruction.
It Also Depends on the People Involved
Just like some dogs take to crates while others don’t, some people prefer to crate their dogs more than others. While you should always take your dog’s feelings into consideration, the initial choice to try crate training comes from you.
Some factors that go into whether you’d be successful in crate training your dog include:
- Your previous training experience. Those who’ve crate trained dogs before will likely have more success than those who haven’t.
- Your training methods. Positive training methods always work best. Those who use the crate as punishment or use harsh training methods such as dominance theory of dog training will have less success crate training their dogs.
- Your feelings about the crate. If you dislike crating your dog, you’ll have less motivation to crate train them properly. This makes you more likely to give up. (Remember, it’s okay not to crate train—it’s not for everyone!)
- The ability to read your dog. If you think your dog is miserable in the crate because you’re projecting your negative feelings onto them, you’re unlikely to continue with their training.
On the other hand, someone who ignores their dog’s feelings and communication might press on despite their dog disliking the crate or the training moving too fast.
Forcing your dog to be crated despite their wishes isn’t proper crate training—in my experience, having a dog who stays in the crate because they don’t have a choice isn’t success.
- Your communication with other family members. Everyone training your dog needs to be on the same page, or training is more likely to fail.
Your dog will get confused if mixed messages are sent, such as you sending them to their crate for bedtime while your spouse allows them to cuddle in your bed instead.
Neither is wrong in the above example—but the two of you would need to get on the same page for the best training results.
Signs Your Dog Doesn’t Like the Crate
Below are some signs your dog doesn’t like their crate.
These are also sometimes signs of poor training, and don’t necessarily mean that your dog will never take to the crate if trained right.
If you know your dog has been properly crate trained, keep an eye out for the following:
1. They Don’t go into it Willingly
Crates are meant to provide a safe haven for your dog. They function like the dens your dog would inhabit in the wild, just like wolves still do today.
When crate trained right, your dog might willingly go to their crate to nap, chew on their toy, or to get respite from a noisy household.
If your dog doesn’t go to their crate willingly, but only when told, then they don’t like it that much—they’re only listening to please you.
2. Your Dog Goes to their Crate, but is Unhappy
Like I discussed above, some people notice that their dog will act unhappy while in the crate. They might pout, hang their head, or watch you with puppy eyes until they’re let out again.
If your dog never seems happy or relaxed while inside of their crate, it may be time to find a different solution.
3. They Cry or Bark While Inside
Many dogs bark or whine while inside of the crate. This is seen as normal by many people, especially in the beginning.
If your dog continues to bark or whine while inside of their crate long after being crate trained, they definitely don’t like it!
While some people say you should allow your dog to “cry it out” inside of their crate, I disagree with this method. There isn’t a problem that crate training is the sole solution to—so if your dog really hates the crate, I think you should get rid of it and try something else.
A dog whose cries are ignored will eventually stop whining, but they won’t stop feeling those same emotions—they’ll just learn to stay quiet, because you’ve shown that you don’t care when they’re upset.
4. Your Dog Tries to Escape the Crate
Trying to escape the crate can be very dangerous, and happens most often in dogs with separation anxiety.
If your dog tries to escape the crate, please accept that crate training isn’t for them. They could injure their teeth or nails, and are also under great stress while crated!
How to Crate Train a Dog
These are the methods that give the best chance of crate training being accepted by the highest percentage of dogs possible.
Introduce them to the Crate Slowly
Proper crate training takes over 6 months to complete. It’s not just sticking your dog in the crate and leaving them there.
Instead, introduce the crate slowly. Begin by tossing treats or toys nearby the crate and praising your dog for interacting with it.
This might mean sniffing the outside of the crate or placing one paw inside to grab a treat.
Begin to toss the treats or toys further inside to see how far your dog will go. This will show you how comfortable they are with the crate initially.
Some dogs will walk right to the back, while others might not even put their nose inside.
Keep Training Sessions Short and Consistent
Once you have a starting point, work with your dog in short sessions a few times a day to progress. Reward them for the smallest steps forward!
For a hesitant dog, even sticking one paw briefly inside the crate, grabbing a treat, and backing away is huge progress.
Once your dog is comfortable stepping inside of the crate, you can begin feeding them meals inside or setting chew toys within the crate to try to keep them inside for longer periods.
Don’t shut the door until your dog is very comfortable inside the crate. Only then should you begin locking them in for a few moments at a time, increasing this as they get used to it.
Remember, all training should end on a good note whenever possible. If you or your dog becomes frustrated, try shorter training sessions or walk away to get some space.
You want this to be a good experience for you both, and especially for your dog. The only way to properly crate train is to have them associate the crate with good things!
Never scold your dog for lack of progress or force them into the crate.
Use Positive Reinforcement
Outdated training methods may recommend being the “alpha dog,” taking charge, or even punishing your dog for wrongdoing. This has been proven not to work.
Instead, have patience and use positive reinforcement to train your dog. The treats we used in the steps above are a huge part of that. So is verbal praise, petting your dog, or playing with their favorite toy after a training session.
Using rewards will show your dog what you want from them—and our dogs want to please us! It’s what they were bred for.
Some breeds are more independent, and might take longer to train as a result. But this isn’t a reason to use harsh training methods—it just means you need to have more patience, and that positive training is even more crucial so that you don’t set back your progress.
Never Force Your Dog into the Crate
Forcing your dog into the crate will set back any progress you’ve made in making the crate a safe, positive space.
Your dog might feel punished, upset, or even overwhelmed if you’ve pushed them too far past their comfort zone.
Training a dog takes time, dedication, and patience. You often have to work at your dog’s pace, not your own.
Don’t Use the Crate as Punishment
As I discussed above, punishments aren’t effective. Yelling at a dog to “go to your crate!” when they’ve misbehaved tells them that the crate is a bad place, and it also decreases their trust in you.
Instead, ignore or redirect bad behaviors.
Solutions So More Dogs Can Be Crate Trained
Problem 1: Your dog barks every time a guest comes to the door.
Use Positive training methods:
Teach your dog the commands “come” and “quiet” at a calmer time.
When someone comes to the door, call your dog to the crate and give them a treat. Tell them to be “quiet” and treat them again.
Once your guest is inside and the door is closed, let your dog out to meet them. Repeat this every time someone comes to your house until your dog knows to wait in their crate automatically.
This is a redirection method.
Poor training will make the problem worse. Do not punish your dog by yelling at them to go to their crate and keeping them inside until they stop barking.
Yelling at your dog might make them think you’re barking along, rather than upset with them. These punishments will also teach your dog the crate is for punishment, and they will begin to resent it!
Problem 2: Your puppy is playing too roughly, jumping and nipping at you.
Use another positive training method:
Gently carry your puppy to their crate and set them inside. Don’t scold them, but instead close the door and walk away for a few minutes. Then, let them out and try again.
This is the correct way to use the crate as a “time out.” It’s not a punishment, but instead just gives them (and you!) time to cool off before interacting again.
This is a method of ignoring misbehavior. It teaches your pup that playtime and interaction stops when they are too rough.
Poor training methods that make the problem worse include:
Punishing your puppy by yelling, hitting, or holding their mouth shut. Forcing them into the crate for a “time out.”
All of these things actually promote aggression by making your puppy angry and fearful! They might even think you’re trying to play with them if you yell, kind of like how they bark when playing.
Think Twice about Making them “Cry it Out”
Personally, I hate the idea of allowing a pet to “cry it out” and ignoring what they’re telling you. Dogs don’t whimper or bark without reason, but to communicate.
A healthy relationship with your dog means that you listen to their communication. You learn dog body language, and try your best to keep them happy and healthy because they depend on you.
A dog crying inside of their crate is unhappy in the crate. Maybe you haven’t trained them properly, or perhaps they just aren’t ever going to enjoy being crated.
Regardless, ignoring their cries won’t make them like the crate. It’ll only make them realize that they have to get used to it, because they don’t have a choice.
Personally, I don’t want my dog Charlie to do something that makes him miserable to please me. Some things he dislikes are necessary, like vet visits and nail trims.
Crate training is not necessary, and is typically used to make things easier on people. It can have benefits for dogs, but the dogs who hate their crate simply aren’t seeing those benefits.
They don’t feel safe, secure, or happy in the crate—even once they’ve stopped crying. Instead, these dogs feel trapped, scared, and alone.
You can keep crating these dogs, but in my experience it’s emotionally neglectful to do so.
Professionals Disagree on Crate Training for All Dogs
Personally, when the Humane Society and the AKC conflict, I tend to side with the Humane Society. The reason for this is that the AKC isn’t always focused on ethical pet care.
Short muzzled, or brachycephalic, breeds must be bred in this way to conform to show standards, yet it impacts their ability to breathe, exercise, and can lead to health problems for the dogs.
When given the choice, the AKC does notput into practice standards that would be best for dogs. Therefore, while I do find a lot of their training advice valuable, it’s best to look at other sources as well.
The Humane Society, on the other hand, focuses solely on adopting out rescue pets and educating owners on the best possible pet care.
Another sign in favor of the Humane Society is that other groups, such as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), also agree with their views on crate training.
Writer: Katelynn Sobus