Crate Training

Crate Training Regression: What Can You Do About It?

February 7, 2022

If you suspect that your dog might be going through crate training regression, we understand that you might be feeling a bit downtrodden. Chances are, you spent a fair amount of time trying to get them comfortable with their new crate in the first place. Now that they are apparently going backward for no reason, it is completely understandable that you could feel discouraged.

That being said, a bit of crate training regression is normal for puppies and not at all a cause for alarm. Crate training regression can also be normal in adult dogs, or any age that is being taught to use this space for the first time. However, if your dog has been using their crate for months or even years with absolutely no problem until right now, talking to your veterinarian is likely the right move.

Dogs might experience partial crate training regression or complete crate training regression. If this is just partial, you are not starting again completely from zero. Perhaps your dog is no longer responding to commands telling them to enter their crate or is exhibiting some other small signs of hesitancy.

Otherwise, your dog might be going through complete crate training regression, where they are suddenly against using their crate entirely. In either case, it is important to identify the source of the issue so that it can be dealt with correctly.

How Do You Know That a Dog Is Experiencing Crate Training Regression?

If you are unclear as to whether or not your dog is actually experiencing crate training regression, it is a worthwhile exercise to see if your dog seems uncomfortable in their crate or not. As we have established previously in this article, crate training regression is all about an apparent loss of comfort or confidence in their crate. You can look out for these potential signs to help determine if your dog is experiencing this phenomenon or not.

They No Longer Enter Their Crate on Command

If you had previously spent time training your dog to enter their crate with a certain cue word or phrase, it can feel very disheartening when your dog suddenly stops responding to it. However, there is likely a reason for this hesitance that appears suddenly, and there is often a rational explanation for it.

First, make sure that you are being consistent with your dog’s training. Do you always use the exact same word or phrase to indicate that you want your dog to enter their crate? Also, is this the same word or phrase that you used when you were first training them with an abundance of treats?

Even small variations in what you say can mean a world of difference to a dog. For example, “go to crate” and “go to your crate” could be enough of a variation for your dog to no longer be able to understand what you want.

You have to be completely consistent throughout your dog’s training and beyond. Otherwise, confusion is bound to arise on their part, which will inevitably lead to frustration for you. If you know that you are using the exact same word or phrase, hand movements, and tone of voice to indicate what you want, then it is possible there is something else going on.

Your Dog Seems Unable To Relax and Get Comfortable in Their Crate

Even if you can get your dog to enter their crate, another sign of crate training regression is that they never seem quite at home in the space. Do they refuse to sit or lie down, even when you cue them to do so with a word or hand motion? They are probably not ignoring you to be difficult. Instead, there might be something about this space that was previously comfortable and familiar that is no longer enjoyable to them.

Otherwise, if your dog is continually fidgeting and can never quite seem to settle in their crate, these are also signs that they are not fully comfortable. Lastly, you might notice them making some noises that we associate with dogs being unhappy. This brings us to our last sign of possible crate training regression.

They Are Whining for Seemingly No Reason

Especially if you have a puppy, you have undoubtedly heard enough whining to last a lifetime. If your dog had previously been comfortable and perfectly at home in their crate, but they are now whining whenever the door is shut or you are away, it is very likely that they are uncomfortable. This sign is very clear, but what is slightly less clear is determining exactly where the cause of this discomfort lies.

What Would Cause a Dog To Regress in Their Crate Training?

There is a wide range of reasons that your dog could be experiencing disruptions in their crate training. Here are just a few of those possibilities.

They Are Trying To Test Your Boundaries

This next possibility is one that is especially common in puppies but can still occur for dogs at any age or stage of life. Dogs are very intelligent creatures, even if your furry friend might do some inexplicably silly things sometimes. Chances are your dog understands how to get a rise out of you. If this is not the case, you either have a wonderfully patient dog, you have done an excellent job in training them, or they are currently in the process of figuring out how they can get a reaction.

If you are busy and not responding to your dog’s usual methods of requesting attention, they will inevitably resort to other means until they get what they want or learn another behavior. Perhaps approaching you with a toy or sitting quietly did not work. In your dog’s mind, it is now time to break out the big guns — whining and not doing what you ask. Sometimes, your dog might even both whine and not do what you ask at the same time, but only if they are great multitaskers.

It is perfectly natural as a pet parent to grow frustrated with this reaction from your dog, and your instinct will likely be to rectify the situation in some way that involves giving your pet attention. However, it is important to fight this instinct. If this is truly the cause of your dog’s hesitancy to enter their crate, a reaction out of you will show them that this is an effective means of achieving their goal. In these moments, your dog is not concerned with whether the attention on them is positive or negative, simply that it is on them.

Your Dog Is Feeling Separation Anxiety

Some dogs, especially those that were either separated from their mother too young or that come from non-ideal rescue situations, might be prone to separation anxiety. If this is the case for your dog, they will feel nervous when they are not around you. Move their crate closer to where you are and reassure them that you are right here with them.

Something About the Space Is Physically Uncomfortable to Them

If your dog has suddenly stopped spending time in their crate and will not settle comfortably while they are in there, you are probably fairly confused. As we have established, this behavior is not uncommon in puppies, but it can still feel overwhelming. One of the first things that you should look out for is just to make sure their crate is still a hospitable space.

Inspect the crate as well as any beds, blankets, or toys inside of it. Is there anything that could be causing discomfort to your dog? A sharp or rough edge somewhere in their usual spot would understandably be enough to deter a dog from being in their crate. In this situation, of course, remove whatever it is that is causing the discomfort. If this is a result of a broken part of their bed or crate, it is time to invest in a new one for your dog to enjoy.

The Crate Smells Unpleasant or Just Does Not Smell Like Them

Do you have other pets or have you used a new cleaning product recently? If you just washed your dog’s bed, blankets, toys, or anything else in their crate, noticing this difference could be enough for your dog to feel less safe in the space. If your other pets have made their way into this crate, then your dog might not perceive the space as theirs anymore. Instead, they might now see it as another pet’s territory.

If you suspect that this could be the cause of your dog’s reluctance to enter their crate, try putting in items that you know already have their scent on them. This will reinforce in your dog’s mind that this space is fully theirs, and they are more likely to feel safe in it as a result.

Look at the inside of the crate to see if there has possibly been a bathroom accident. Thoroughly sanitizing the space with a pet-safe cleaner should help your dog get back to their normal routine.

How To Fix Crate Training Regression

Now that you know many of the basics about how to identify crate training regression as well as what could potentially cause it, we can move on to bigger and brighter things. Let’s establish some of the steps you can take to make your dog more comfortable with their crate again. If none of these tips work, and you are still at a loss as to what was causing the crate training regression in the first place, it might be time to talk to your dog’s vet to get their advice.

Feed Your Dog Their Meals and Treats in the Crate

Dogs are incredibly food motivated and that is part of what we love so much about them. This is simple and easy to understand, which makes it a perfect tool for effectively training your dog or making them more comfortable with something. In order to fend off any negative associations and instead replace them with positive ones, always reach for the food. That is often true in humans as well, but it is definitely true in dogs.

Instead of feeding your dog in their normal spot, begin to feed them their meals inside of their crate. This will lead to them entering the crate, as well as spending a fair amount of time in there (depending on how long it takes your dog to scarf down their dinner). In any case, this will send a clear message to your dog that not only is their crate a space to not be afraid of, but it is also a space where nice things happen. In addition to feeding them their regular meals in the crate, also give them their most prized treats while they use the space.

Begin the Process of Crate Training Again

It is possible that this tip will sound discouraging to those pet parents who have already gone through the motions of crate training, but there is good news. The truth is that you are not starting from zero. You are already operating with a comprehensive knowledge of how your dog reacts to crate training, as well as what methods of training are the most effective for them. This information is invaluable, and will certainly help you tremendously in making sure that this second go-round works even better than the first one.

Make Your Dog’s Crate as Cozy and Enticing of a Space as Possible

Your dog could also be seeking out other spaces rather than their crate because they appear more comfortable. You can fix this potential problem by adding wonderfully comfortable crate fixtures like a memory foam pad, some toys, and blankets.

Be Patient During This Retraining and Work at Your Dog’s Speed

The cause of this bout of crate training regression could be a result of the initial process moving too quickly for your dog. This time, take everything a bit slower. Know your dog and their preferred means of positive reinforcement, and use this knowledge to keep them comfortable throughout. If your dog starts to feel overwhelmed or creates new negative associations with their crate, it will become much more difficult to train them.

Being a pet parent is all about building a trusting relationship between you and your dog. Going at their speed and respecting your dog’s boundaries shows them that you truly are committed to doing what is best for both of you, and your dog is sure to appreciate it.

Helping You and Your Dog

Crate training regression can be difficult for both you and your dog, but by working together, you can overcome it. With some patience, understanding, and lots of love, your pet can feel comfortable in this space again before you know it.

Sources:

5 Tips for Crate Training Regression | Dogpackr

Separation Anxiety in Dogs | VCA Animal Hospitals

How To Train Food-Motivated Dogs | Dogster

The Diggs Team

Dog-Loving Pet Parents

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