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There might be a few reasons you want your older dog to learn to sleep in a kennel after all these years of not sleeping in a kennel. Kennels are small areas you can think of like your dog’s personal bedroom. If you are rescuing an older dog, a kennel will provide a safe place for him to rest and sleep, especially while you are away. A rescue dog cannot tell you his history. Though some owners feel it’s punishment to put their older dog in a kennel, if he has been rescued this confined space gives him the sense of safety and security especially while he's adjusting to his new home. If you are training your older dog to sleep in a kennel it might be because he has just gotten older and needs a place to feel safe and secure while also protecting your house, anxiety he might be facing in old age, or house training accidents he might be having as he gets older. Either way, he will need to get used to this change.
Your older dogs has a lifetime of habits built, so be patient while trying to train him to sleep in a kennel. If he is older and not always remembering where he is, you may need to take him to his kennel repeatedly before this becomes a routine for him. This repetitive training is important for breaking habits as well. While training your older dog to sleep in a kennel, it will be important to teach him that he is safe and secure and to always return with lots of love, attention, and of course the tasty treat for rewarding him for not only changing his old habits but also handling the change well. Be prepared for whining as your older dog may a protest change. If you can, try to be around as often as possible before leaving your older dog for long periods of time in this new space. This might mean you start training at night before leaving him all day long alone while you are away.
Start your training off prepared with a kennel set in a place where your older dog will be safe and comfortable. This area might be your bedroom, especially if he's going to be in there when you are gone or sleeping. This area could be a living space where you want your dog to be while your family is active and in community space. Provide lots of comfortable bedding and if he still has a lovey or toy, include that or maybe a couple of new toys. Also, be sure to have lots of tasty treats on hand to reward him. Schedule time to train your older dog to sleep in the kennel when you are not exhausted or stressed.
The Sleepy Time Intro Method
Pick a kennel the perfect size for your dog. He should be able to stand up and turn around inside without walking around.
Have your dog with you as you set up the kennel. This may spark interest. Place bedding inside so he knows it will be his special place for sleep and that it will be comfortable. While your older dog is watching, place a treat inside as well.
Encourage your older dog to get the treat. If you need to give him a treat while he’s outside the kennel, you can offer him one. But then show him the treat inside as well. If he’s not interested, pat the inside and hold the treat toward the back of the kennel, coaxing him inside.
When your older dog is sleepy, such as near the end of the day, after meals, or after exercise, encourage him to go to his kennel to sleep by walking him to the kennel and offering him a treat to get inside.
Once your dog is inside, close the door. If he stays awake anxious with the door closed, you can open it for a bit at first. Once he is asleep, though, be sure to close the door.
If your dog rests but does not sleep, only leave the door closed for a short amount of time. Over time you can increase the time he stays in the kennel with the door closed. If he sleeps, keep the door closed while he’s sleeping.
Once your older dog wakes from sleep, open the door and let him out. Give him a treat and take him outside to go potty. The first few sessions inside his kennel your dog may not sleep soundly and certainly not for an entire overnight.
Training your older dog to sleep in a kennel overnight will take several weeks unless he takes to it right away. Be patient and start slow with short sessions in the kennel. Over time, your older dog may seek comfort and security in the kennel with the door left open. You may still want to close the door overnight to keep him safe and sound, however, if you take this training slow he will see this space as his own and go in without being asked to.
The Start Tired Method
Get the appropriate size kennel for your older dog. It should have bedding, a favorite toy or a new toy, if he likes toys, and a treat waiting for him.
Take your older dog for a walk or play with him a bit before introducing him to his new kennel. That way he should be tired enough to want to sleep soundly once inside.
Be sure your old dog has used the potty before placing him in his kennel to sleep. He won’t be able to settle down and rest if he’s anxious about needing to go potty.
Walk your older dog to his kennel. This should be placed in a spot you would both be happy with the dog sleeping. He should be comfortable and safe and you should feel confident he won’t be nervous and scared all night. This might mean the kennel is in your bedroom.
Take your sleepy older dog to the kennel and entice him inside with a treat already lying in his bedding. You may need to show him the treat to coax him all the way in.
For the first few times your older dog goes into his new kennel, close the door for short amounts of time only. Set a timer for the first several times you put your older dog in the kennel and leave the door closed for only five minutes at a time.
Over time, increase the amount of time the door stays closed. The goal is for your dog to fall asleep and not notice the closed door but upon waking let you know he’s awake and ready to come out.
Watch your dog closely. If he’s anxious, you can talk to him from a distance for a few minutes and then open the door.
While training, open the door after short intervals with the door closed. Your dog may stay inside or you may have to continue training. Once he is staying inside the kennel with the door closed while sleeping, be sure to get him out as soon as he wakes up. He’ll probably need to go potty and stretch his legs at this point.
When your older dog comes out of the kennel after sleeping, give him a treat and verbal praise.
The Go Slow Method
Choose a kennel for your dog and place it in an area you’d like your dog to sleep. At first, this can be a common room such as a living room. You’ll want him to go into the kennel when he wants to sleep, but at first during times you are awake. Transition to night sleeping over time.
Add bedding to the kennel and make it comfortable for your dog. Take your older dog to the kennel and pat the inside while saying your dog’s name. You can use a treat to entice him inside.
Once he gets inside his new kennel, give him a treat and sit next to him. Pet him and talk to him. If he doesn’t lie down right away, encourage him to lie down using a treat to entice him. Be sure your voice is calm and sleepy.
After talking to your older dog while he’s in the kennel, walk away slowly. Your dog may come out of the crate and follow you. If he does, that’s okay. If he happens to stay, go visit him every few minutes and give him a treat so he can begin to associate treats with staying in the kennel. If he goes to sleep in the kennel, all the better.
If your dog leaves the kennel and follows you, which is likely the first few times you introduce the kennel to him, let him lie where he’d like.
Anytime he is sleepy or going to lie down somewhere, get him to get into the kennel. Remember to entice him with a treat and stay with him to talk and pet for a few moments before leaving.
Leave door open
As your older dog begins to get used to the crate as his personal space, he should start heading into the kennel alone when he’s sleepy. Be sure to leave the door open so he can go inside when he wants to sleep.
After your older dog has gotten used to the kennel and has claimed it as his special sleeping spot, move it to the place where he typically sleeps at night. Encourage him to go inside at night and close the door. If he whines, stay and pet him and offer a treat. But leave him alone soon after staying close by so he knows you are near.
When your older dog wakes in the morning after a night sleeping in his kennel, open the door, give him a treat and some love, and take him outside to go potty.
By Stephanie Plummer
Published: 01/09/2018, edited: 01/08/2021
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