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Crate training is one of the best things you can do for your pup, but it can be hard for us as humans to understand the appeal of being within a crate.
For most of us, the crate seems to be very prison-like and a negative place to be unless you absolutely have to. But for dogs, the crate can be one of the places where they feel most comfortable.
Throughout the crate training process, you may see and hear your pup fuss in their crate. Once that training process is complete, it may be confusing to suddenly see your pup willingly enter into the crate and stay there with the door left open!
So why do some dogs actually like to sleep in their crate with the door open?
Dogs do sometimes sleep in their crate even if the doors are left open. To a dog, a crate is a place of comfort and safety, and an area where your pup can decompress, de-stress, and take a break from the world around them so it’s totally normal that they’d want to sleep there.
In this article, we’ll look at the most likely reasons your pup may be going into their crate and sleeping in there even when the doors are open. We’ll discuss whether this behavior is normal or not, if it’s safer for your dog’s crate doors to be closed at night, and how to train your dog to stay in their crate at night even when the doors are open.
Reason 1: They Enjoy Being In Their Crate
A popular misconception is that dogs view their crate as a “cage”, and they feel trapped when inside it.
Provided your dog is properly crate trained using positive reinforcement, they will view the crate as just another area where they can nap and relax (and where you can ensure they are safe and kept away from anything that could potentially harm them when unsupervised).
When the crate doors are left open, your dog may naturally seek out the crate when they want to take a snooze and if they are used to being crated at night, many will get into the habit of just going into their crate automatically at bedtime and will stay there throughout the night even if the crate doors are left open, similar to how we stay in our beds.
Your dog views his crate as his bedtime spot and the majority of dogs genuinely enjoy sleeping in their crate throughout the night.
Reason 2: They Feel Stressed Out Or Are Afraid Of Something
If your dog is feeling stressed out, he may seek out the comfort of his crate to de-stress.
Just like people, dogs get stressed from various things occurring in their life and household.
If you have company over, if you are making home repairs, or if you yourself are feeling stressed, your dog may pick up on all of that and become stressed out themselves.
One of the ways a dog copes with their stress is by seeking out an area that they have deemed safe and comfortable.
Oftentimes this safe space can be the dog’s crate, and if the doors are left open your dog will probably wander inside of their own accord if there is a stressful situation happening within your household at the moment (or at least it’s stressful to your dog!).
If you or someone in your household has scared or punished your dog (whether accidentally or intentionally), your dog may also seek out the crate.
This small area allows the dog to feel safer than being in an open area where they might be more vulnerable to whatever is causing them stress, so they will seek it out and stay in the crate willingly until the stressful situation has passed.
In some rare instances, owners have taught their pup (again, either accidentally or intentionally) that the crate is an area of punishment rather than safety and security, thus if your pup gets yelled at or punished in some other way, they may automatically go to the crate as they have associated it as a place where they go after someone hurts them.
Reason 3: They Are Feeling Unwell
Similar to when they feel stressed, your dog may also seek out the safety and comfort of their crate when they are feeling unwell or have suffered an injury.
When a dog is sick, injured, or feeling vulnerable in any way they will naturally seek out a private, secure spot as an act of self-preservation.
Depending on the severity of their illness or injury, they may refuse to leave the crate at all. Other times they may just rest in their crate and will still leave to eat, drink, and use the bathroom before returning to their crate once again to rest.
Just like how we prefer to stay in bed or nap on the couch will ill or injured, a dog does the same.
If you suspect your dog is staying in his crate for an unusually long time, or he is displaying other signs of illness or injury, then you should immediately take him to the veterinarian to get him checked out and rule out any severe issues.
Reason 4: They Need A Break
If you live in a very active household with multiple family members, children, or other animals, then your dog may seek out his crate to just take a break from all the hubbub!
Dogs can get overwhelmed, just like their human owners. While you may just step outside for a moment for a breather, your dog may seek out her crate instead.
She may bring in a chew toy (check out some of these great toys for use inside of a crate) or just lay down and relax for a moment. This may be her way of saying “I need some space right now” and the crate allows her to have a safe, comfortable area to take her own breather.
If you have children, it’s important to teach them that when your dog goes to his crate of his own accord, it’s because he needs a moment and wants to be left alone.
The crate should be considered his “safe haven” where he’s allowed to relax uninterrupted, and he will come out when he is ready to play again.
Is It Safe For My Dog To Sleep In Their Crate With The Door Open?
It is generally safe for your dog to sleep in their crate with the door open, unless you are wanting to prevent your dog from doing something or getting into trouble when he’s not supervised.
Puppies who are not able to be under adult human supervision should have their crate doors closed, as should adult dogs who have a tendency to chew things up or get into things they shouldn’t.
Otherwise, if your dog is crate trained and there are no safety hazards around the house, it’s totally fine to keep the crate door open.
Is It Better To Keep My Dog’s Crate Door Open?
Whether to keep your dog’s crate door open is dependent on your household, potential safety hazards, and the individual dog.
If you are working on crate training your puppy or dog, you may want to close the crate doors periodically while your pup is in their crate to help keep them on a good crate training schedule.
If your dog is fully crate trained or you are working on getting your pup comfortable with the presence of the crate, then leaving the crate doors open all the time to allow them the freedom to explore the crate of their own accord is a good option.
Should I Close My Dog’s Crate Door At Night?
Closing your dog’s crate door at night is another personal decision based on your household and the individual dog.
If your dog or puppy is still going through the crate training process, house-training process, or you are preventing your dog from getting into something at night (including keeping him from interrupting your sleep!), then closing the crate doors at night is the better option.
If your four-legged friend is fully house trained, crate trained, or if you do not mind them sleeping on the bed with you, then you can leave the crate doors open at night.
How Do I Train My Dog To Sleep In Their Crate With The Crate Door Open?
In order to teach your dog to stay in their crate even with the crate door open, you would follow the typical crate training schedule.
Once your dog or puppy is fully crate trained and understands that the crate is their “bedroom”, then you can start working towards leaving the crate door open while they are inside and encourage them to remain in the crate.
Teaching your pup a “Stay” cue will also help encourage them to not leave the crate.
Just as with the regular crate training and housebreaking process, teaching your dog to sleep in their crate should be very gradual and utilize lots of positive reinforcement.
Start by having them stay in the crate for a few minutes at a time with the crate door open, then release them and reward them heavily.
You can gradually increase the amount of time they must stay in the crate with the door open before being released by you, and eventually work up to having them stay in the crate overnight with the door open.
Keep in mind, though, that if at any point during the night your pup gets thirsty, hot, cold, or uncomfortable in any way they may choose to leave the crate to satisfy their thirst or to find a more comfortable sleeping spot.
Should I Stop My Dog From Staying In His Crate All Of The Time?
Unless your dog is ill or injured, you don’t need to worry about him being in his crate at odd times of the day.
This is especially true if you have an anxious or fearful dog who finds the crate to be his safe space.
You don’t want to force him to be social, and you should allow him to leave the safety of his crate at his own pace.
If your pup seems to be staying in their crate due to a potential illness or injury, then you should reach out to your veterinarian to seek treatment.
Why Is My Dog Misbehaving When The Crate Doors Are Closed?
If your dog is fine being in the crate with the door open, but he immediately begins to misbehave when the crate doors are closed, then it’s likely your dog is not fully crate trained.
While there may be other reasons as to why your dog is suddenly whining in his crate, it is most likely you will need to go back to the crate training process and work towards helping your dog feel comfortable in his crate again.
While we humans may dread the thought of being in such a small, confined space, to a dog their crate can be a sanctuary from the chaos of the world around them.
Provided your pup has a positive association with the crate and you have successfully stuck to a good crate training schedule, then it’s likely your dog will happily enter and stay in their crate while the crate doors are open. It’s not uncommon for dogs to love their crate whether it’s open or shut.
Just because we might find it uncomfortable doesn’t mean our dogs do!