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When you are first crate training your puppy or dog, it can feel like quite the task!
While crate training is very beneficial for dogs, it can take quite a bit of time until your dog feels truly comfortable in their crate and they stop crying, barking, or trying to escape the crate. While most dogs will learn to love their crate, with some dogs you can notice a regression in their crate training throughout the initial training process, or even later on in their life.
So why do some dogs regress when it comes to crate training?
Dogs and puppies who experience crate training regression may do so because of trauma, a health or behavioral issue, poor training practices, inconsistent potty-training schedules, or they may even display these crate training issues as a normal part of the training process.
While dealing with crate training regression can be daunting, there are some tips & tricks for the issues you may be facing!
Below we’ll discuss the possible reasons your dog or puppy may be regressing in their crate training, as well as possible solutions for how to address each of the reasons.
Why Dogs Might Regress in Their Crate Training
Let’s dive in starting with the most likely explanation!
Reason 1: It’s a Normal Part of the Crate Training Process
At several points throughout the crate training process, it may seem like your dog has fully relaxed and has learned that his crate is a safe place, but then all of a sudden, he goes back to his old ways, and you will notice some regression in his crate training. You may even notice him behaving even worse than he was at the beginning of the training process.
This is actually a normal part of the crate training process. While things may seem OK for a while, it is totally normal for the dog to suddenly revert back to his previous behaviors in an attempt to see if they will suddenly work and you will let him out of the crate.
If he succeeds, then he will continue or even escalate the unwanted behaviors. If he fails to encourage you to let him out of the crate, then with consistency and patience his behaviors will diminish again and you should hopefully be done with the regression in his crate training.
How to Fix It:
There is not much you can do to “fix” the regression in this instance as it is a normal part of the crate training process. You can ensure you won’t have any future issues, though, just by staying consistent and patient with the process.
This is why it is incredibly important to use positive reinforcement training methods and ensure that your dog’s crate is a fun and safe place to be, and that every experience he has with the crate is a positive one.
When your dog reaches this part of the training process and starts showing those regressive behaviors, it is important for you to “push through” and stick with the training.
Oftentimes this regression of behaviors doesn’t last for very long and as long as you are sticking with the process and only reinforcing the moments when your dog or puppy is being quiet in the crate, then this regression will quickly pass, and you will be back on track to a peaceful pup!
Reason 2: A Traumatic Event Occurred
If you notice a regression in your dog’s crate training, it could also be related to a traumatic event that occurred within or around the crate. Dogs, just like people, can have extreme emotional responses to something that scared or hurt them and they can lead to all kinds of unexpected behaviors in or out of the crate.
If your dog experienced something like this during the crate training process, then he may begin showing a regression in his crate training and begin crying, barking, or attempting to escape the crate.
Dogs are creatures of association, so if they were hurt or experienced extreme fear while in (or because of) the crate, then they will associate the crate as a place of fear or pain. Because of how quickly and easily a dog can associate something with a negative experience, it is extremely important to never use fear or pain to force a dog into a crate or punish them while they are in the crate.
Even a fully crate trained dog may begin showing regression to previous behaviors if they associate the crate with something negative at any point in their life.
How to Fix It:
The easiest way to fix this issue is to prevent any traumatic events from occurring in the first place. Taking the steps necessary to make sure your dog or puppy is always safe in his crate can eliminate or reduce the chances of your dog experiencing trauma within the crate.
While you may not be able to predict or prevent all traumatic experiences from happening, using positive reinforcement and always making sure your dog’s crate is a place of happiness and peace will help cut back on any crate training regression he may experience.
If your dog does experience a negative event while in or near his crate, you may have to backtrack in the crate training process and increase the number of rewards and good things your dog is getting while in his crate. Working to make the crate a fun place again will help change the negative association your dog has with his crate.
Along these same lines, you must also never punish or hurt your dog when he is in his crate, as that also falls under the category of traumatic events. Forcing a dog into a crate physically, shaking or hitting the crate to make your dog be quiet, spraying him with water, shocking him with an electronic collar, or even yelling at him are all negative and traumatic experiences and will associate the crate as a fearful and painful place, rather than a positive one.
Reason 3: Lack of Consistency & Patience with the Crate Training Process
Because crate training can take so long for some dogs, a lot of pet parents may become very frustrated with the process and try to speed it along. If your dog is displaying a regression in their crate training, that may be due to a lack of consistency and patience with the entire crate training process.
With crate training, it is important to associate the crate with good things and to ensure that the dog is being rewarded for being quiet in the crate. If your dog is barking and crying to be let out, and you let him out because you are frustrated with his crying, then he will continue to bark and cry every time you place him in the crate and may only escalate his behaviors.
Despite initially behaving very well in the crate, if the dog is let out at any point while displaying unwanted behaviors like barking or whining, then you may notice a regression back to those behaviors any time he is placed in his crate going forward.
He has learned that if he barks and whines long enough, you will eventually lose your patience and let him out!
How to Fix It:
The important thing is just to maintain your patience and consistency with the crate training process!
While it can be frustrating to hear your dog bark and cry in their crate, if you provide them with attention or let them out, they will learn that if they bark or cry long enough you will most likely give in and let them out eventually.
To help with this, you must start small and remember to reinforce your dog or puppy only when they are quiet in the crate. Putting your dog in the crate for very short periods of time (30 seconds to 1 minute at a time in the initial training stages) and only letting them out when they are quiet will reinforce the idea that if they are quiet, they will be let out but if they are loud, they will have to stay in the crate longer.
Utilizing a food-stuffed toy or puzzle toys within the crate to keep your dog occupied will also help with the training process and ensure that they are associating the crate as a good place. Even if your dog doesn’t like toys, there are still ways to keep them entertained.
Reason 4: Health or Behavioral Issue
If you’ve noticed crate training regression in a dog that otherwise had a very pleasant training experience with the crate, then you may have to consider that it is an underlying health or behavioral issue that is causing the regression in your dog’s crate training.
If your dog has started to pee or poop their crate, it may be due to urinary or fecal incontinence due to old age, a urinary tract or kidney infection, or a neurological condition that causes a loss of feeling or control of their rear end. That’s assuming you’re not leaving your dog in their crate too long and remember that dogs can only hold their urine for so long.
Some dogs can also suffer from behavioral conditions like separation anxiety which can cause a regression in crate training along with a long list of other behavior changes.
How to Fix It:
If you suspect that your dog’s crate training regression is due to a health or behavioral condition, then you should discuss the issue with your veterinarian or a professional dog trainer or behaviorist who can better assess the situation and rule out other causes for your dog’s behaviors.
Depending on the underlying issue, your vet or trainer may suggest medications (either long-term or short-term), more frequent potty breaks, changing the dog’s diet or feeding schedule, changing the dog’s environment, or they may even suggest diapers or male wraps to help prevent accidents within the crate.
Reason 5: Your Dog’s Schedule Changed
Dogs are creatures of habit, so if there are any changes to their schedules in terms of feeding time, exercise time, or bathroom breaks you may notice a regression in their crate training.
This is especially true for puppies who must be kept on a strict potty break schedule to help with house training.
If you must adjust this schedule suddenly, your puppy may begin having accidents in their crate or they may become upset if they are left in their crate for longer than they are used to.
How to Fix It:
Sticking to your dog or puppy’s regular schedule and only making changes gradually is the best way to prevent this issue.
If you must make a drastic change to your dog’s schedule and you begin to notice a regression in their crate training, then you may just have to ride it out until they have adjusted to the new schedule, or you may have to go back a few steps in the crate training process and work back up to where your dog was at previously.
Again, using positive reinforcement and making sure the crate is a good place to be will help fix these issues faster.
What NOT to Do With Crate Training Regression
Now that you know the most common explanations, let’s make sure you also know what not to do when it comes to crate training regression.
Don’t Use Punishment
No matter the reasoning for your dog or puppy’s crate training regression, punishment and force should never be used to try and fix the issue.
More often than not, using fear to try to train a dog to like their crate will only backfire on you, and the issue will be made worse rather than better.
Don’t Give Up!
Crate training can be a lengthy process, and if your dog begins showing regression in that process, that is totally OK!
Dogs (just like people) are individuals and may learn at their own pace or respond to things differently than another dog. Just remember to be patient when and if any regression occurs, and be positive with your dog or puppy.
Sometimes simple solutions, such as moving the crate or getting a different style of crate, will help fix the crate training regression and your pup will be back on track with his training!
Is Crate Training Regression Different For Puppies?
For puppies, the general crate training process is the same as it would be for an adult dog, and crate training regression would occur in the same ways as they could for an adult dog.
The biggest difference is that puppies require more frequent potty breaks which could impact your crate training if you are not on top of their schedule. Puppies also tend to be more impressionable, especially during their first few months, so anything that occurs during that time may impact them in the long-term and be difficult to fix later on.
While crate training regression can be a tough issue for a pet parent to deal with, it can definitely be fixed! Depending on the reason behind why your dog or puppy may be experiencing crate training regression, there are several solutions you can try to help your dog overcome the issue and help him come to love his crate again.