If your dog suddenly refuses to use their crate, even though they normally go right in, you know something's up. Figuring out why isn't always easy. Maybe your dog just won't sleep in their crate, or they refuse to go in at all. There are a few different reasons that could be causing your pup's reluctance. Understanding these reasons can help you determine the best way to help your pup feel comfortable again.
1. Fear or Negative Association
One of the common reasons dogs start disliking their crates is because the crate is associated with something negative. If you use the crate as a form of punishment, for example, they may begin to feel as if they're being punished every time they're put in their crate. Or, if your dog was frightened while in the crate, perhaps due to a loud noise or being locked in for too long, they may associate that fear with the crate itself.
The solution: Create healthy associations with the crate so your dog sees it as their personal space for comfort. Make each interaction with the crate a positive experience, perhaps by feeding meals inside the crate or placing a favorite toy inside. Over time, your dog will start to associate the crate with comfort, safety, and positive experiences again. This process can take time, however, as you're starting over to retrain your dog to their crate.
Toys with snacks inside, like Kongs, can help your dog make a positive association with the crate again.
2. Pain or Discomfort
If your dog has only had positive interactions with their crate, physical discomfort could be a possible reason they don't want to go back into it. Aging dogs may experience aches and pains that make staying in a confined space for long periods uncomfortable. Or, a dog that has recently been injured could also have a difficult time in a confined space.
It's also possible that something happened while they were inside their crate that scarred them. Check the crate itself to make sure there aren't any bugs, spiders, ants, or anything else crawling around inside. If your dog was bitten by something and they couldn't escape, they can absolutely develop an aversion to their crate as a result.
The solution: Adding a comfortable, cushy blanket or crate pillow could help significantly, especially for older dogs experiencing issues with arthritis.
3. Changes in Environment
Some dogs are more sensitive to changes in their surroundings than others. Changes in the home, such as if you moved their crate, or the arrival of new pets, a new baby, or even new household items, can cause anxiety and may affect their feelings towards the crate.
The solution: If this is the case, your dog may just need some time to adjust. Continue making positive interactions with the crate, and your dog will begin using the crate again once they're comfortable. You can also try reversing the change to see if this is the problem.
4. Boredom or Lack of Exercise
If your dog isn't getting enough physical or mental stimulation, they may start to view their crate as a prison rather than a safe haven. Not only do they feel confined in their home, but they will feel further restricted in their ability to exercise their mind and body when placed in their crate.
The solution: Regular walks and playtimes can help alleviate this problem. As a general guideline, dogs should have at least 30 minutes of exercise each day outside the house. While inside the home, dog puzzles and chew toys can provide mental stimulation. They also need regular time outside their crate.
At maximum, dogs should not be confined to their crate for more than 4 hours, though you should strive to limit crate time to 2 hours. Puppies and older dogs need even more frequent breaks from their crate.
5. The Crate Itself
If the crate is too small or uncomfortable, your dog may resist going in. This is often the case for puppies that are outgrowing their original crate. The crate should be large enough for your dog to stand, turn, and stretch out in.
The solution: If your dog's crate isn't big enough for them to be comfortable, it's time for an upgrade.
If you purchase a crate that's too big, not only will your dog not consider it their protected den, but they may begin using the crate as a bathroom.
Don't Punish Your Dog With the Crate
Your dog's crate is supposed to be a safe place for them. Confinement isn't an effective punishment for your dog. Always keep the association positive. Your dog sees their crate as their den, their refuge from all the craziness of the world. If they start to spend too much time in it, they won't feel this way for long.
Observe Your Dog
A dog suddenly hating their crate can be a cause for worry. However, if you catch it early and figure out what's causing the issue, you can correct it without too much trouble in most cases. Ensure your dog feels safe, comfortable, and loved in their crate by always associating it with positive experiences. Make sure they get enough exercise and time outside their crate, and provide a comfortable crate that suits their size and needs. Remember, every dog is different, so patience and understanding are key to helping them readjust.