Many dog owners are likely familiar with crate training and how beneficial it can be for their four-legged friends. It’s often one of the first training programs implemented for a new puppy or dog, and it can help with everything from house training to separation anxiety.
While the crate training process can be a little tough at times, if dogs and puppies are properly exposed to the crate then it can become one of their favorite spaces where they feel safe.
Some dogs, though, may like the crate a little TOO much and opt to stay in it. So why do some dogs not want to come out of their crate?
Dogs may not want to leave their crate due to anxiety, fear, or an underlying training issue. Some dogs may just feel more comfortable being in the crate. While dogs should never be forced out of their crate, training using rewards and positive reinforcement can help encourage a dog to leave their crate.
In the article below, we’ll discuss some of the more likely reasons your dog is not wanting to come out of his crate. We’ll also discuss whether or not it’s a bad thing if your dog is staying in their crate so much, and how to help encourage them to come out of the crate.
6 Possible Reasons Your Dog Won’t Leave Her Crate
It’s important to remember that every dog is an individual and each of them might opt to stay in their crate for a variety of reasons (including multiple reasons) at any given time. The following reasons are just a few of the more common reasons a dog might be refusing to leave their crate.
Reason 1: They Are Afraid
In most cases, it’s likely your dog is not coming out of their crate because they are afraid to leave the crate. This could be due to something new in the environment, such as a new member of the household or if you have guests over and your pup is not great with new people.
They could also be hiding in their crate due to being afraid of loud sounds, such as thunder, nearby construction, or other “scary” noises. They may be displaying other signs of fear such as sudden whining, pacing, panting, or body tremors.
If your pup recently experienced a traumatic event as they were leaving the crate (such as something falling on them as they were exiting the crate), they may also be hiding in their crate because they are afraid of the event happening again if they were to leave.
It’s important to remember that while we humans may not view whatever might be scaring our dog as something they should be afraid of, to a dog it could be the exact opposite. That new art sculpture you just bought could be beautiful to you, but it may be terrifying to your dog until they learn to understand that it’s not something that will hurt them, and will stay in their crate in their attempt to avoid being around it.
While the reasons for your dog being afraid can vary, fear is a big reason a dog may refuse to exit (or enter) a crate. Finding out the root cause of the fear will help you determine how to help soothe your scared pup and get them to feel comfortable leaving the crate again.
It can take some time and patience, and for some dogs, they may never “get over” the fear but by creating a more positive association you can help them at least feel more comfortable in leaving their crate.
Reason 2: They Are Anxious
Similar to being afraid, dogs who are anxious about something may choose to stay in their crate. This behavior is often seen in dogs who have a limited socialization history or who have experienced trauma in the past. It can also be seen in rescue dogs when they are first brought home, and usually eases once they feel more comfortable in their new environment.
Dogs who tend to be more anti-social (either due to their breed or due to poor socialization) may also choose to stay in their crate if there are a lot of high-energy things going on in the house (like a party or kids playing too loudly). While some dogs may enjoy and even participate in activities like this, for others it is simply too much and they will seek out the comfort of their crate.
When properly crate trained, most dogs will view their crate as a safe space and will opt to stay in there if they are feeling anxious and overwhelmed by something in their environment. Once that feeling has passed, they will usually exit the crate. If your pup suffers from generalized anxiety, though, it might be beneficial to reach out to a behaviorist to assist in helping your dog spend time outside of the crate.
Reason 3: They Are Comfortable In Their Crate
Sometimes a dog may choose not to leave their crate if they are more comfortable in the crate than outside of it. And that’s totally OK! Just as we humans have our preferred place of rest, so do dogs. In fact, a dog may suddenly decide to stay in their crate much more than they did previously once they’ve made a positive connection with it.
If your pup’s crate is in a spot that gets a nice bit of sunshine in the wintertime or is in front of the A/C during the hotter summer months, then she may opt to not come out of the crate because it’s more comfortable for her being in there. This crate comfort preference is also why it’s so important to choose an appropriate location for your dog’s crate so that he does not get too hot or too cold.
Dogs may also not want to leave the crate if they are feeling tired or are recovering from an illness or injury as their crate is often viewed as their “bedroom” and a safe place for them to fully relax. Many veterinarians will also prescribe crate rest for dogs who are recovering.
For dogs who refuse to come out of their crate due to how comfortable it is in there, it’s best to just let them be until they choose to come out. Many dogs will actually willingly enter their crate and stay there even if the crate door is left open.
The exception to this is if you suspect they are ill or injured and that is why they are choosing to stay in the crate. In an emergency situation, using treats and gentle coaxing to get your pup out can help.
Reason 4: They Are Avoiding Something
Dogs may refuse to come out of their crate if they are trying to avoid something in the environment, or to avoid doing something that they find unpleasant. It’s unlikely that your dog has become tired of you and wants to stay in their crate to avoid you, but they could be avoiding you (or someone else) for different reasons.
If there is someone (or something) in the household that they have a negative association with, and that person (or thing) is around, they may choose to stay in their crate to avoid interacting with said person (or object). Dogs can even form a negative association with things that seem rather mundane to us, such as pieces of furniture, plants, toys, sounds, or even smells.
I see this avoidance behavior often with my dogs when it’s time to vacuum! They’ll sometimes choose to stay in their crate rather than be around the vacuum cleaner. As this isn’t really a concerning problem behavior (plus it allows me to clean the house easier), I allow them to retreat to their crates and come out when they are ready.
There are times where this avoidance behavior can cause issues, though. Some dogs may also choose to refuse to exit their crate if they want to avoid doing something, such as training or nail trims. This is why it’s incredibly important to make those “chores” a fun thing for dogs and always work to associate them with really positive things.
Dogs who have associated leaving the house with a “scary” thing, such as going to the vet or the groomer’s, may also retreat to their crate when they see their owner grab their leash and refuse to come out. Like other avoidance situations, they are hoping that staying in their crate and refusing to come out will get them off the hook.
Determining what your dog is avoiding will help you decide on how to best coax them out of their crate. Working on changing any negative associations into positive ones will help in the longer term.
If you are struggling with your dog avoiding things, try reaching out to a reputable local dog trainer who can help you create a plan to help your pup out.
Reason 5: They Have Associated The Crate With Something Else
While some dogs may refuse to exit the crate due to a negative association with something else in their environment, occasionally a dog may refuse to exit the crate because they’ve made an incorrect association between being in the crate and getting rewarded in some way.
This can happen during the initial crate training process, or it can happen well into a dog’s life. It’s usually due to miscommunication from the owner, and in most cases, it can be easily fixed with some training. Sticking to a good crate training schedule can help reduce the chances of a misunderstanding between you and your pup.
During the crate training process, you do want to reward the dog (or puppy) every time they investigate or go into the crate, but it’s also important to be careful that you are merely creating a positive association with the crate rather than teaching the dog that every time they go into the crate they get to go for a walk or they get to go outside and play ball.
Over time, if your pup continues to go into the crate and they stay in there for a while without receiving what they had previously associated with the crate (such as going for a walk), the crate may lose its value and your dog’s crate training may regress because it no longer holds meaning to them. Just make sure you are being careful to still make everything related to the crate positive, or you risk some crate training setbacks.
By rewarding with treats and praise rather than activities, you aren’t gearing your dog up for disappointment (and potential training setbacks) when they refuse to leave their crate on a stormy day because they’ve always gotten a walk previously whenever they went into the crate (side note: walking your pup in the rain is totally fine, though probably not as a reward for going into the crate!).
Reason 6: The Crate Is All They Know
In some rare cases, your dog may refuse to leave his crate because it’s all he knows. This behavior is often seen in dogs rescued from puppy mills or who have been purchased from pet stores (who often get their puppies from puppy mills).
Because these dogs have spent their entire lives in a cage, they may not understand that they can actually leave the crate when the time comes. Crate training is incredibly beneficial for dogs, including those from puppy mill situations. But for these dogs you may have to work on changing the association the dog has with the outside world rather than the crate itself.
This can take quite a long time (and many other behavioral and training issues are also usually present), and it’s best to enlist the help of a dog trainer who has experience working with puppy mill rescues.
With time, training, and lots of patience, your dog can learn that they are allowed to leave the crate and only return when and if they feel comfortable doing it.
How Do I Get My Dog Out Of His Crate?
In order to help your dog leave their crate, you must first determine why they are refusing to come out in the first place. If their refusal to leave the crate is due to them just opting to be in there due to comfort or a feeling of safety, it’s best to leave them alone unless there is a risk to their health and well-being.
For fear and anxiety issues, a local trainer can work with you to help your dog build up their confidence and create more positive associations rather than negative ones.
If your dog is refusing to leave their crate due to wanting to avoid something they should or need to do, such as training or going to an appointment, you can work on creating a more positive association with the thing they are trying to avoid. Pairing the “unwanted” thing with lots of treats, playtime, or praise will help your dog become more interested in those things. A trainer can also help with this if you are struggling.
No matter the reason as to why your pup is wanting to stay in their crate, you should never force a dog out of a crate unless it is an emergency. This can not only create a negative association with the crate, but with you as well.
If your dog feels trapped or cornered in the crate, they may also respond with a bite. Using treats and rewards to coax out your dog is best in the short term, but training should really be undertaken to help fix the issue in the long term.
Is It Bad If My Dog Won’t Leave Their Crate?
This depends on the reason your dog is trying to stay in the crate. If it’s a training issue, then it’s probably best to start working on figuring out a way to help get your dog to come out of the crate. If it’s a medical issue, a trip to the vet is likely necessary.
But if your pup does not want to leave their crate because they are afraid, or anxious, or even if they just feel more comfortable staying in the crate at that particular moment, then it’s totally fine to let them be.
For behavioral issues, discussing your pup with a trainer is probably a good idea as it’s likely fear and anxiety may affect other parts of their life.
But it is also important to never try and force your dog out of the crate, especially if they are afraid or anxious. Using praise, rewards, and a gentle voice will help ensure that your dog feels comfortable and safe.
Dogs may choose to stay in their crate for a variety of reasons. In most cases, such as if your dog is opting to stay in their crate due to fear, anxiety, or because it is more comfortable, it’s not too concerning, and they can be left alone (though I do advise reaching out to a trainer if it’s a fear or anxiety issue).
In other instances, such as if your dog is refusing to leave the crate due to not wanting to do something, intervention is likely necessary. Training can usually fix the issue, and in most cases, it can be resolved fairly quickly.
No matter what the reason is as to why your pup is not wanting to leave their crate, it’s important to never try and force them to leave. This can cause unwanted behavior issues or make the issue worse.
If you must get them out, use rewards like treats or their favorite toy to lure them out, and then reward them heavily once they exit the crate. By ensuring that both the crate and the outside world are positive, fun places, you’ll help teach your dog that they don’t have to stay in their crate all the time!