Ways to Crate Train a Fearful Dog


"Many dog owners decide to crate-train their furry friends. Crate training offers many benefits for both parties, but how can you teach a fearful dog to use a crate confidently?

Read this guide to learn how to crate-train your fearful dog.."

1. Choose a Crate

There are many different dog crates to choose from, including wooden furniture crates, plastic travel crates, and specialized kennels for gun dogs.

However, most people choose a basic wire crate to train their dogs. Wire crates are practical, affordable, portable, and easy to clean, and most are collapsible for convenient storage. Make sure the crate is the correct size for your dog so that he can stand up, sit down, turn around, and lie down comfortably.

In the case of fearful dogs, a wire crate is a good choice since the crate’s mesh construction allows the dog to see his family around him when he’s in his crate.

2. Set Up Your Crate

Before you begin crate-training your dog, choose a good place to locate the crate.

Ideally, the crate must be:

●      Away from direct heat sources, including sunlight

●      Out of reach of power outlets and cables

●      Away from air conditioning units, open fireplaces, and drafts

●      Somewhere quiet away from high-traffic lanes and doorways

●      Close to you and your family so that your fearful dog doesn’t feel abandoned

Put the crate away from items your dog could chew or bite.

Install a comfortable crate mat or pad, a water bottle, and a non-slip crate liner in the crate. Put a few of your dog’s favorite treats inside the crate. Now, wedge the crate door open.

3. Show Your Dog His Crate

Don’t pressurize your dog into going into the crate. That will only make him more fearful of it. Instead, let your dog sniff the crate and check it out. Use positive reinforcement training methods, talk calmly to your dog to reassure him, and encourage your pet to go into his new special place.

Many dogs are so overcome by curiosity and tempted by the treats inside that they walk straight into the crate.

4. Offer Your Dog His Meals in The Crate

If your dog doesn’t want to go into the crate, you could try offering him his meals there.

Make sure your dog sees you preparing his food, and then put the bowl just inside the crate. Sit quietly close by for reassurance and encourage your fearful pup to go and get his meal. Most dogs are driven by the natural urge to find food and often take the meal.

You can put the food back in the crate when your dog is less afraid.

5. Shut the Crate Door

Once your dog is confident enough to eat his food inside the crate, try shutting the crate door.

As soon as your pup has finished eating, open the door again before your dog realizes he’s shut in. Each time, keep the door closed for a bit longer until you can confine your dog to his crate for five minutes after he’s finished eating.

6. Step Back from The Crate

If your dog is happy and his crate training is going well, your pet should regard his crate as a fun place where he gets fed and enjoys treats and toys.

Provided that your fearful dog shows no signs of anxiety or stress, you can step back from the crate. Stand where your pup can clearly see you. Now, gradually increase how long he stays shut in his crate.

If your dog starts crying or barking, ignore him for a few minutes until he settles down again. After ten seconds of peace, release your dog from the crate.

Now you can increase the duration of your dog’s confinement in the crate, remembering to give him a bathroom break every two hours or so.

7. Move Out of Sight

Once your dog is less worried about staying in his crate with the door shut, you can move out of his line of sight.

Be sure to take your dog for a long walk or treat him to a trip to the dog park before you shut him in his crate. If your dog is tired, he’s less likely to become anxious when he can’t see you outside the crate.

8. Tantrums

It’s natural for your dog to throw a tantrum in the early stages of his crate training. Your dog might start whining or barking, demanding to be let out of the crate.

Don’t panic! Some degree of objection is only to be expected at first, especially if your dog is fearful. However, don’t give up and let your dog out when he starts complaining. If you do, you’re simply teaching your dog that you’ll give in to him if he complains.

Only let your pup out of the crate when he’s quiet and calm. If your dog throws a tantrum, turn your back on him and ignore him until he settles down again.

9. Be Consistent

Being consistent is essential when crate training any dog but especially when dealing with one that’s nervous or resentful of his crate.

Choose some clear commands that you can use during your crate training. Don’t give in to your fluffy friend when he objects and demands to be let out. And always treat your pet with patience, kindness, and sympathy when you're training him to use his crate.

Final Thoughts

You can’t take shortcuts when crate training a fearful dog. Some dogs are more accepting of crating than others, while some will never take to confinement.

Be consistent, patient, and sympathetic when training your dog to use his crate. If your dog becomes more upset and fearful, we recommend that you speak to a professional dog trainer or animal behavioralist for advice.