Crate Training Regression – Reasons & Solutions

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It was all going so well! But why has your adult dog’s crate training gone backward, not forward?

There are many reasons for puppy crate training regression, and it’s a common problem encountered by many pet parents. So, you’re not alone!

Read this dog crate training regression guide to find out why your dog or puppy has suddenly rejected his crate and learn some helpful solutions to this problem.

What Are The Signs Of Crate Training Regression?

Pug breed dog lying inside kennel crate

Crate training is generally beneficial for all dogs and their owners. However, setbacks during the crate training process are commonplace.

Crate training regression generally results when your dog loses confidence or feels uncomfortable in his crate. If you spot the signs of crate training regression developing, you can take action before using his crate becomes a problem for your pet.

Refusal To Enter The Crate On Command

Most pet parents train their dogs to enter the crate with a particular cue word or phrase. So, it’s pretty disheartening when your previously obedient pup suddenly begins ignoring that command. However, there’s usually a good reason for that apparent disobedience.

Start by ensuring that you are using the same cue word consistently. In addition, are you using the same word you used when you began crate training your dog and using treats as rewards?

Remember that your dog is still learning; even a small variation in the cue word you use can be confusing. For example, if you started saying, “crate now,” and you changed that to “in your crate now,” that could be enough to confuse your pup so that he doesn’t understand what you want him to do.

Consistency is the key, no matter what you’re training your dog to do. If you start changing your commands, your dog will become confused, and you’ll get frustrated. However, if you keep your cue words, tone of voice, and physical indicators identical every time you use them, it’s possible there’s another reason for your dog’s crate training regression.

Your Dog Can’t Get Comfy In His Crate

Dog barking inside crate

Another sure sign of crate training regression is when your dog can’t settle and get comfortable in his crate. As responsible pet parents, you bought your dog a cozy bed, some interactive toys, and a water bottle for his crate, but he doesn’t seem able to get comfy.

Your dog might constantly fidget or refuse to lie down, even when cued, or you might notice your dog making little sounds that tell you he’s unhappy in his environment. All these are signs that your dog is unhappy in his crate and that crate training regression is likely.

Your Dog Cries and Whines For No Reason

Pet parents are accustomed to whining puppies, but if your dog has been happy and content in his crate but suddenly starts whinging whenever you close the crate door or move away from your pup, there’s clearly a problem.

However, although the whining is a clear indicator of a problem, that doesn’t tell you what the cause of your dog’s discomfort is.

What Causes Crate Training Regression?

There is a variety of reasons why your dog could start objecting to his crate training. In this part of our guide, we take a look at some of the most common causes of crate training regression in dogs and puppies.

A Traumatic Event Happened

Female Golden Retriever Lies in Her Dog Crate

If your dog suffers from crate training regression, a traumatic event or another underlying issue in or around his crate could be responsible for a major setback in the learning process.

Like people, dogs can associate frightening or painful events with places or people, and that can cause problems during the crate training process. Throughout the crate training process, use sympathy and positive reinforcement training methods. Never try to force your dog into his crate or punish him for not obeying you. That’s a surefire way of triggering crate training regression since your dog will immediately associate his crate with pain or fear.

Remember that even a fully crate-trained dog will start to show signs of crate rejection if they associate its crate with negative experiences.

Your Dog Is Testing Boundaries

Of course, your furry friend may be testing the water to see just how far he can push you. In many cases, crate training regression is the dog’s way of trying to get your attention. That’s especially true of puppies who think their needs are far more important than the work you’re doing or the meal you’re busy preparing for your family!

Just like little kids, dogs will start by bringing a toy, whining, or simply sitting and staring at you to try to get your attention. If that doesn’t work, your canine companion might up the ante by crying, whining, and becoming disobedient when you ask him to do something.

Most pet parents react to their dogs by giving the pup the attention he wants. However, that’s counterproductive because by giving a reaction to the dog’s behavior, you’re effectively training your pup that being disobedient is a great way of getting what he wants!

Instead, ignore the attention-seeking behavior and give your dog some attention or a treat only when he’s been quiet and well-behaved for a couple of minutes.

Your Dog Is Suffering From Separation Anxiety

aggressive dog barks with foam around mouth behind bars

Separation anxiety is a serious behavioral condition usually caused when the dog is very young and is weaned too early. Dogs from shelters or rescue centers are also often prone to separation anxiety, and certain breeds can be prone to the condition.

Basically, a dog with separation anxiety will become distressed and upset whenever his owner leaves him alone. In severe cases, the dog might start barking, pacing, or crying when the owner leaves the room for only a few minutes.

Sometimes, it can help in cases of crate training regression to move the dog’s crate closer to you so that you can reassure him and he can see you.

The Crate Is Physically Uncomfortable For Your Dog

Your dog’s crate should be a comfortable, cozy den-like space where he can rest and relax whenever he needs to.

If your dog abruptly decides not to spend time in his crate and won’t settle down to rest once he’s inside, that could be because the crate is no longer comfortable and welcoming for him.

It could be that a puppy has outgrown his bed, or perhaps the crate dividers need to be moved to provide more room for your furry friend. Take a close look at the crate to see that there are no sharp edges or rough spots that might be causing your dog discomfort. Perhaps the dog’s bed is broken or the flocking needs refreshing to be comfortable.

If necessary, you might need to buy your dog a new crate or bed so that his crate once again becomes a welcoming, fun place for him to spend his downtime.

The Crate Doesn’t Smell Right!

English Setter puppy in a dog crate

Dogs are very much scent-oriented animals that use their smell to mark their territory. If you’ve washed your dog’s bed or cleaned his crate with a different cleaning product lately, that could mean that your dog doesn’t regard the crate as his special territory any longer. Similarly, if you have other pets that have invaded your dog’s crate, that could be the reason your canine companion feels less safe and secure in his den.

If you think that could be the reason for your dog’s reluctance to go into his crate, you might want to try adding items to the crate that already have your pup’s scent on them. That will help to convince your dog that the crate does completely belong to him, and he’ll be more likely to feel safe and secure inside it.

Finally, check the crate to see if your dog has had a potty accident inside. If you detect any mess, clean it up and disinfect the space with a pet-friendly cleaner. That should encourage your dog to settle back into his crate again.

Your Dog Has Health Problems

If your dog has started having toilet accidents in his crate on a regular basis, it could be that he has an underlying health or behavioral problem that is causing the regression in your furry friend’s crate training.

Senior dogs often develop urinary incontinence problems, kidney or urinary tract infections can cause pee accidents. Neurological conditions can cause a lack of sensation around the dog’s rear end and loss of control of the bowel and bladder. It’s worth having your vet check your dog over for these conditions, as that could explain your pet’s sudden crate training regression problems.

Remember that dogs and puppies, in particular can only hold their bladder for so long. Make sure that you’re not leaving your pet too long between bathroom breaks.

How NOT To Handle Crate Training Regression

Dog Hates His Crate

So, now you know what commonly causes crate training regression problems in dogs, you need to know how to fix those issues.

First of all, let’s look at what NOT to do when it comes to handling a dog’s crate training regression.

Punishment Is Not An Option

No matter what the reason behind your puppy or dog’s crate training regression, you must never punish your furry friend or force him to go into his crate.

Punishing your dog will only make him even more fearful of his crate and of you and could lead to him refusing to go into the crate altogether.

How To Fix Crate Training Regression

So, how do you go about fixing your dog’s crate training regression problems?

The following suggestions are generally successful in fixing crate training regression problems. However, if you find that none of these tips are effective, you should consult your vet for more advice.

Try Feeding Your Dog In His Crate

dog eating from a bowl inside his crate

Most dogs are highly motivated by food and treats, and you can use that to effectively crate train your pet.

When it comes to dispelling negative associations, food is always a great go-to solution. So, you might want to try feeding your dog in his crate.

  • Put the bowl of food just inside the crate door, and leave the door open while your dog eats.
  • Scatter some treats inside the crate for your dog to find when he goes inside.
  • Gradually move the food further back inside the crate so that your dog has to go all the way inside.
  • Once your dog is confident to go into his crate on command, you can start feeding him in his regular meal spot again.

Continue to offer your dog his favorite treats inside the crate to reinforce the good feeling he gets when he goes inside.

Start The Entire Crate Training Process Over Again

Although this tip might be somewhat discouraging to pet parents who have already gone through the initial training process once, you must remember that you’re not starting from absolute ground zero!

You already know how your dog or puppy reacts to a bit of crate training, and you’re also conversant with what crate training program works best for your pet. That’s incredibly important information that will significantly help ensure that your second attempt at crate training your pet is even more effective than your first one.

Make Your Dog’s Crate Super-Cozy And Tempting!

A small dog cage with toys for living in the house

Your dog might also be looking for other places to sleep rather than using his crate. For example, under tables, beneath beds, and in corners are favorite denning spots! That can lead to regression during crate training, but it is an issue that can be solved relatively easily.

That’s an easy fix! Add enticing, cozy, comfortable, and tempting items to your dog’s crate, such as toys, fluffy blankets, and a soft, supportive memory foam mattress.

Location, Location, Location!

Did you move your dog’s crate recently? If so, you might have upset the equilibrium and made your pet feel uncomfortable in his new spot.

Try relocating the crate to its original position. It could simply be that your dog regards that place as his particular spot and will happily begin using his crate again immediately.

Patience Is A Virtue

Some dogs spend time in a crate more quickly than others, and sometimes, rushing the crate training process can cause regression in crate training. So, the second time around, take things slowly.

You’ll know your dog’s preferred reward and positive reinforcement system, and you can use that knowledge to help keep your dog comfortable and confident throughout the process. Remember that any negative associations your dog develops will be more challenging to overcome and make the crate training process much slower.

Go at your dog’s speed, building his trust and confidence as you go, and respect your pet’s boundaries. Your dog will undoubtedly appreciate that approach, and your crate training endeavors are far more likely to be successful and long-lasting than if you try to hurry things along.

Don’t Give Up!

Golden Retriever in crate waiting for Adoption

Unfortunately, fixing crate training issues can be a long process. If your dog starts showing signs of crate training setbacks, don’t panic. It’s quite normal for dogs and puppies to show some resistance to their crate at some point in the process.

Don’t give up, be patient, and use positive reinforcement techniques if any regression occurs.

Final Thoughts

Did you enjoy our guide to crate training regression in dogs and puppies? If you did, please take a moment to share the article.

Crate training regression happens for several reasons. It could be that your dog has a health or behavioral problem that’s causing him to feel uncomfortable in his crate. Perhaps the crate is too small, the crate mat or bed is no longer comfy, or the crate might have been moved to a spot where your dog doesn’t feel comfortable.

Take the time to identify the reason for your dog’s crate training regression, and then use our top tips to work on fixing the problem. If you’re still struggling, ask your vet, a professional dog trainer, or a specialist animal behaviorist for advice.

Did your furry friend develop crate training regression? If he did, how did you fix the problem? Tell us in the comments box below.

Meet our writer

Alison Page was brought up with dogs and various other pets! For a few years, Alison worked as a Practice Manager in a small animal veterinary clinic. Alison is now a full-time writer, specializing in creating articles on the care and training of dogs, cats, and fish.

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