How to Crate Train an OLDER Dog (With Separation Anxiety!)

If you have to leave your dog at home frequently, your dog may act out in ways that show he is suffering from separation anxiety. The problem is that it can be hard to train an older dog that is suffering from anxiety.

So you may be wondering how to crate train an older dog with separation anxiety. It’s going to be more difficult to crate train an older dog than it would a younger one.

Anxiety can be a serious problem for every dog, resulting in destructive behaviors, refusal to eat, and excessive barking.

Steps to Crate Train an Older Dog with Separation Anxiety

Dogs often suffer from separation anxiety
Separation anxiety occurs when dogs are separated from their guardians.

The steps for how to crate train an older dog with separation anxiety are simple, but they require utmost patience and consistency.

  • Try to make the crate a home that’s pleasant to sleep in
  • Lure them into the crate using a treat
  • Keep the door close for a specific length of time
  • Repeat the procedure for increasingly longer periods to achieve better results

Follow these steps on a daily basis until your dog is entirely at ease and able to rest quietly inside the crate for as long as needed.

It’s vital to be extremely patient and understanding with the dog. He is already suffering from anxiety, and adding the crate to the mix will make him feel worse for a time.

Add soft, calming words, treats, and a lot of cuddles to the mix while training. Reward the dog frequently for staying calm, and increase the time inside the crate by just a few minutes at a time.

It can take up to 6 weeks to fully crate train a puppy, so expect crate training for an older dog to take longer than this.

Dogs are smart and have high expectations for treatment, so an older dog will not be friendly toward a new crate.

Read our related article on How to Train a Dog That is Not Food Motivated. If your dog isn’t responding to food, these tricks may help!

What Is Dog Separation Anxiety?

If a dog begins to whimper or tremble as you prepare to leave him alone, he is said to be suffering from separation anxiety.

Dogs start barking incessantly as a result of their worry and will jump at windows, scratching the panes and trim.

When anxious, some dogs will chew and scratch on doors and walls. Most dogs adore company and thrive in a pack, so it’s only natural for them to be nervous when left alone.

Dogs who soil in the home or chew up your belongings, and furniture, and get into the trash may also be exhibiting signs of separation anxiety.

If you leave your dog alone with a wide variety of treat puzzles and brain-stimulating toys it may help him behave.

However, you can’t be with them all of the time, so you’ll need to teach your dog how to settle down and rest in a crate so you can leave him and know he’s safe.

Because old dogs have lived a life of freedom before, they will be hesitant to accept one in a tiny crate. If you know how to crate train an older dog with separation anxiety, you can help the dog adjust more quickly.

However, they have an instinctual desire to bed down in a small place, so crate training aims to reawaken that desire and satisfaction.

Home Sweet Home: Crate Train to Lessen Anxiety

Dogs crate train more readily when they're tired from exercise.
Be sure your dog receives adequate exercise before you leave.

Make your dog’s crate as pleasant as possible. From now on, this is where his home will be, so you don’t want to make it appear frightening to him.

Consider adding a comfortable, fluffy blanket to this room’s décor. Keeping the crate cozy will ease the entire process. Toys, treats, and other favorite things will help make it fun and comforting.

To begin, offer your dog some snacks. With enticing sweets that he likes the most, beckon him into the crate area.

When it comes to enticing dogs, bacon strips and bones are aces. You may even serve him his meals in the crate.

Take your dog out for very tiring exercise before attempting to crate train. A dog that’s bounding with energy will not want to hold still inside the crate.

A dog that is exhausted from playing is more likely to go in and fall asleep.

An important key to knowing how to crate train an older dog with separation anxiety is to focus on helping the dog exercise before training.

Increase your dog’s Time in the Crate

Start teaching your dog to stay in the crate after he has been put inside. Use a command word like “kennel” when urging him into the crate.

After he’s gone through the door, give him a treat and leave him alone for 30 seconds.

Once the time is up, let the dog out and give more cuddles and treats. Aim to make the time in the kennel peaceful and enjoyable.

Once the dog is going into the kennel reliably, begin to close the door for short periods of time, rewarding the dog for staying calm.

Increase training time by just a minute until the dog can be calm in the kennel for 5 minutes. Then begin to increase the time by larger increments until the dog is fully trained.

Final Thoughts

If you want to make crate training simpler, make the crate your dog’s favorite place to be. That will take some effort, but it’s a wonderful way to get your dog used to the concept of living alone while you are gone.

Use a favorite pillow and favorite toys and treats inside the crate to help your dog enjoy his time inside and get used to his new crate.

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Jesse Hopping, CCDT

Jesse is a natural-born dog-lover certified dog trainer (CCDT), dog foster, and former volunteer at Richmond SPCA and surrounding dog shelters for over 10 years. Her pack includes a Bernedoodle and 3 Boston Terriers. She’s sipping caramel coffee and watching her pack play in the sun when she’s not writing blogs. Jesse has her Certified Dog Trainer designation from CATCH Canine Trainers Academy since 2018 and and majored in English from the University of Virginia.

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