My Puppy Hates the Crate But is Well-Behaved Otherwise- Should I Push the Issue?

puppy hates the crate

Crate training is a common first step for new puppy owners in the United States. But what if your puppy truly hates the crate and doesn’t seem to get into trouble outside the crate? Is it worth the hassle of crate training?

In today’s Ask a Behavior Consultant, we tackle the case of the well-behaved but crate-hating puppy:

My puppy does not like being in her crate and often finds ways to escape; however, when outside crate doesn’t destroy anything and often just plays with toys or sleep. I have tried treats, slowly increasing times in crates. Should I force the issue?

– Sincerely, Crate Hate

If you’re looking for extra help crate training your dog, check out our Crate Training A to Z e-book.

The Great Crate Debate

Outside of the US, crate training is a lot less common. In fact, there are laws regulating crate training in some Scandinavian countries that make crate training outside of sport and working dog contexts almost obsolete.

I think that’s probably a move in the right direction – while crates are incredibly useful, some Americans really overuse them. It’s pretty common for dogs to spend 8+ hour workdays in the crate, then go back in at night – that’s 16 hours in a cage that’s just barely big enough to turn around and stand up in! Yikes.

Again, that’s fine as a temporary management or training tool. I think that in the United States, we’re far too used to leaving our dogs inside of crates for more than half the day.

This article from The Guardian outlines the “Great Crate Debate” – a fascinating read!

If My Puppy Hates the Crate, Should I Make it a Priority?

Here’s my “hot take” on this problem:

If your puppy truly is well-behaved outside of the crate and you’re not planning on a crate being part of her regular adult life (like being crated at agility trials), why force the issue?

I personally prefer to use baby gates or exercise pens to contain dogs whenever possible, rather than putting them inside a crate.

Most people use crate training as “a means to an end.” The point of the crate is to be a management tool. Crates help keep puppies from chewing on cords, chasing the cat, or peeing on the floor.

But if your puppy (or adult dog) already doesn’t chew, chase, or have accidents, you might not really need the crate!

That said, there are some benefits to teaching your dog to be comfortable in the crate.

For example, teaching your dog to be comfy in the crate means that travel or vet visits that require a crate will be a bit less stressful – because your pup is already used to the crate.

How To Teach Your Puppy to Love His Crate

Good crate training can take a long time. So if you really want your puppy to love the crate, be prepared to be patient.

I don’t recommend using the “cry-it-out” training method. That just strengthens your pup’s lungs, so to speak. It also teaches your puppy that you won’t come rescue him when he needs you!

Instead, I recommend taking your puppy outside for a quiet, boring bathroom break if he fusses. Puppy whining = 2 minutes on leash outdoors, no playtime, no treats, no baby talk. Then back in the crate.

Ideally, though, you’re only going to leave your puppy in the crate for as long as he can handle. Here’s an example of how that would look:

  1. Hide treats and toys inside the crate with the door open throughout the day.
  2. Intermittently call your puppy to the crate. Gently lure him inside.
  3. Feed him a few pieces of his breakfast or dinner while he’s in the crate with the door open.
  4. Once he’s great at that, start feeding him through a closed door. Practice latching and unlatching the door.
  5. Once he’s succeeding with that, start using puzzle toys and long-lasting chews (the link shows off some of our favorites). Leave him in the crate for longer and longer, adding mere seconds to each practice round.

Once your puppy is able to calmly tolerate being in the crate for a few minutes while you’re next to the crate, you can start some of the exercises below.

These are not in a specific order – one may be easy for one dog, and hard for the next!

  • Start standing up and walking away while your pup is in the crate.
  • Practice crate training while your puppy is sleepy and while you’d like him out from underfoot anyway, like while you’re cleaning the house. Drop treats into the crate every few minutes while you work.
  • Leave your pup in the crate while you watch TV. Drop treats into the crate every so often to preempt fussing and crying.
    • The goal is NOT to reward the crying – but to avoid it by keeping your pup comfy. If your pup starts to fuss, do the 2-minute bathroom break!
  • Leave your puppy in the crate while you shower or go get the mail.

If you know you have to leave your puppy for longer than he can handle, use the exercise pen, baby gate, or other setup. Leaving your puppy alone to panic in the crate just teaches him that the crate is a scary place!

Teach your puppy to love his crate |

Comments 6

  1. My 7 month old puppy never liked the crate so the only time we crate her is when we leave the house usually for a few hours. She’s potty trained so never messes in the cage.
    Today we left and put her in there and she bent the sides and tore the metal and made a hole in it. Thank goodness she didn’t get hurt.
    Now what do we do with her when we leave?

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      That sounds like she was pretty distressed. Can you video her next time you leave to see if it looks like she has separation anxiety? If so, try our super-cheap ebook on the topic, it helps a TON!

  2. Hi,
    Our puppy is a rescue and had a pretty long and traumatic journey to the UK with her siblings all separated in crates.
    When we first got her home she enjoyed the new crate as it was a safe space. She would feed in there and only whimper a tiny bit if she was in the crate and we were in the same room. Night 1 of crate training and she cried in the crate (in the bedroom next to me). I moved to the floor next to the crate which stopped the crying but she heavy panted for a lot of the night. The day after she wont nap or play in the crate at all. Any advice on getting her back in the crate for sleeping tonight?

    NB. Shes now comfortable napping in the day at our feet instead and playing outside of the cage and sticks to me like a shadow.

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  3. Hello I just Recently got my 8 week old Australian shepherd and I’m having a little trouble getting him to like his crate. He’ll sleep in the crate if I put him in but he won’t go in on his own. What should I do.

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