I Feel Bad Leaving My Dog In A Crate [7 Better Tricks & Guilt-Free Alternatives]


Dogs are like family and it is natural to feel bad about doing something that we associate with negative feelings. It is this uncanny feeling of being trapped in a room, not being able to get out, time in there passing by painfully slow.

We associate this state of prison with penalty, anxiety, and emotional stress. However, for your pooch it can be completely different. We will explain why your dog actually likes its crate, why he changes his mind, and why a closed-door policy can be beneficial.

I Feel Bad Leaving My Dog In A Crate

Answered: I Feel Bad Leaving My Dog In A Crate.

You do not need to feel bad when your dog is in your crate. You can only assume what your dog is feeling. A crate is a protective den that is a nice bedroom to sleep and relax in. A crate can provide your dog with the security it might need. Crate exercise will help your pooch getting used to crating, while making it fun and rewarding. Use positive reinforcement and make the crate as comfortable as possible.

No Need To Feel Guilty

You might feel guilt and remorse for putting your puppy in a crate. After all, it is a small box that separates him from you, his most favorite human. One thing to remember though is that a dog will enjoy a place of his own. Dogs want and need this, and it is also for their safety.

In comparison, you would feel way worse if you did not put your dog in a safe crate while you sleep or shower and he hurts himself. Especially when having a pup, this is pretty much what happens most of the time. So you do not need to project your emotions to your dog’s behavior.

If you are feeling guilty and wonder what your dog is doing in his crate while you are gone, set up a camera. That way, you can observe your bud while it feels unsupervised.

Sometimes your friends or family will ask about your dog. If their response about crating is negative, there is no need to panic. Most people will associate crates with punishment, bad behavior, or training. They would show what you felt in the first place – remorse.

People are often not familiar with the idea that a crate can be a positive place to rest. What they often also do not consider at first is that dog people still have lives besides their pooch and are allowed to do things without thinking about their dogs all the time.

Look at it from another angle: while your dog is having his sweet rest in his crate, your furniture is protected – and so is your dog. While you are gone, all kinds of things could happen, including those that might injure your pooch.

Why Crating Is Great

  • A Crate Is A Great Place To Rest. Your dog can go in his crate anytime he wants to sleep. Make sure your pooch gets enough steps in, and is being played with a lot, so that staying in a crate is manly to sleep, recover, and relax. You can even enforce sleep in a way to train your dog to get relax as soon as he steps into the crate. During that time you could take care of your errands, or to the movies, all without having to feel guilty.
  • It Helps With Potty Training. Once established as resting place, your dog will learn to hold on a little longer.
  • It Is A Safe Place To Retreat. If your dog is afraid of certain sounds in your household such as the vacuum and he has been trained to like his crate, he will know that in there he can relax.
I Feel Bad Leaving My Dog In A Crate

Your Dog’s Perspective

Rescue dogs at animal shelters give a glimpse into the behavior of kenneled dogs. While there are some dog’s that are happy while being in a closed space, others will want to come out the moment they step in.

A dog reacts to your energy, your actions, and attitude. Your dog will sense if you feel guilty. Have you ever been in a situation in which you were surprised how it is possible that people around you seem to somehow sense that you are feeling low? This is what your dog can do too. Dogs are experts at reading your body language, especially facial expressions.

A different mood elicits a different behavior in your dog. Your pooch will respond in another way when you feel great compared to when you are low. That does not necessarily include his level of happiness, but is a response or mirror to your energy levels.

You might accidentally project your feelings onto your dog. If you are feeling excited about something, you might make a fuss about that to your dog who then seems to be excited as well. However, this is the trap. Your excitement is mirrored by your dog. Of course, this might change his mood as well and he might seem to be what we interpret as happy, but in reality we do not know for sure.

Dogs Need To Learn To Be Alone

Although your dog will not know when you come back once you close the door on him, he might feel sad but he will certainly not get depressed. Some dogs show signs of separation anxiety, in which they can feel sad or bark and destroy your furniture. Most dogs sleep a lot while we are away. A dog that is accustomed to staying at home alone will take it easier that you are gone for a while.

There is not much we can do about it as they can’t be trained to believe we will come back, but they will be a little more comfortable in a familiar place, like home. What we can do is creating a safe space for our dogs. In order to get there, you can start practicing with your dog today by applying crate exercise. There is just one prerequisite: Making your dog feel comfortable eating treats in his crate.

Common Indicators Of Crate Aversion

Disliking a crate is usually shown by the following behaviors:

  • Your puppy won’t go in the crate on his own.
  • Your puppy won’t eats treats in his crate.
  • Your puppy won’t go into his crate at night.
  • Your puppy suddenly hates his crate.
  • Your puppy hates when the crate door is closed.

Your puppy might even hate his crate during the day. Note that especially young dogs show such behavior, no matter if they are 11 weeks old, or 5 to 6 months old puppies. The reason for this usually comes down to two things: separation anxiety and learned behavior. Dogs are used to stay with their family members at all times. Separation must be taught by transforming absence into the valuable task of staying away from an owner for a while. If your pup realizes he gets something out of waiting, then your dog is willing to do anything that makes you happy. Since dogs are with us nearly all the time, they observe our actions. The behavior you emit saves as input to your dog’s learned behavior. Your dog might not have properly memorized that his crate is a safe place.

To help you in getting yourself and your pup feeling relaxed with crates, it is necessary to know about a few principles of dog communication, have a schedule, and some exercises. We narrowed all these things down to help you effectively making your dog like his crate.

How To Communicate With A Dog That Will Like His Crate

Here are four things to great dog communication that are very helpful when practicing with your dog.

Be Non-Aggressive But Confident

Your dog must not experience physical dominance. Harming a dog physically elicits more anger and fear in him which eventually leads to more aggression on his side. Conflict needs to be resolved with a peaceful mindset and assertive actions.

If your dog refuses to go in a crate and signals this to you by barking, whining, or biting, it is important to not reply with aggression. Rather, de-escalate by ignoring your pooch for a minute, and act as if nothing ever happened when you come back.

Remain Calm

Most of the time, your pooch does not say a word (Husky owners, we hear you!). Dogs interpret a lot from your body language. They are always watching you, figuring out your patterns. There is not much need to raise your voice in a dog fight, although it can be pretty hard not to. What matters is the tone in your voice.

Assertiveness Is Key

Becoming consistent and willing to establish new rules can be a tedious process. However, although your dog is the cutest pup on Earth, they still look up to a leader figure. And that is where you come in. Be bold – you know it is not bad for your dog to stay in a crate. As long as you are confidently conveying that resting in a crate is a great thing, your dog will mirror this behavior after a while.

Be Patient

Continuous change is not happening from one day to another. It might take a while to see the fruits of your labor. Treat your fluffy bud well, give him treats, praise him.

I Feel Bad Leaving My Dog In A Crate

How to Get Your Puppy To Eat In A Crate

In some cases, your dog might be just sniffing his food and find it unappealing. If your pup won’t eat in his crate, he might feel anxious. In order to make your dog eat food or treats in his crate, you need to take care of just four things: Physical activity, potty training, a treat, and a cover. It might seem counterintuitive how these things go together, but oftentimes this is the exact combination of getting your dog to eat no matter where he is. Let’s break it down.

Take your pup on a walk that is longer than usual so he is tired out by the time you come back home. While you are out, make him go potty. Arriving back home, get some wet dog food (or alternatively, a bunch of his favorite treats) and mix it in his food. Cover the food with something light so that your dog has to work his way to his meal. This recipe works great for two reasons. Exercising your dog will trigger his appetite. It makes him understand that eating is fun. The unusual smell coming from his food bowl will surely increase his interest. Combining this with a task to get to the treat is a foolproof recipe to get your dog to eat his food.

It is worth mentioning though that in case your pup still will not eat might indicate reasons other than behavioral ones. Your dog might have dental problems or another condition. If you notice that your pup does not eat, it is worth checking with your vet.

Crate Exercise (From Beginning To End)

If your dog does not want to go in the crate or does not eat, crate exercise (or crate games) will help you fix that. You can train your dog to love his crate. You want to make sure your dog enjoys staying in his crate. You might even ask yourself at this point if you should let your puppy in his crate at night. With the right exercise, our answer is yes! Working with treats is an effective way to get him there. In order to master crate training, you need to start slowly. Give your pooch the time he needs. Here are six exercises that will train your dog to get comfortable with crating.

General Guidelines For Crate Exercise

  • Keep The Exercises Short And Small. You do not want to overburden your dog. Five to ten minutes per exercise are sufficient. In exercises where you actively train your dog, do a couple of repetitions a day. Straining your pooch is not a goal.
  • Exercise Before Training. Make sure your dog has moved sufficiently before starting crate training.
  • Consistency Is Key. To make your dog remember the actual training, make sure to regularly play those training exercises with your dog. Do some repetitions every day.
  • Remain Positive. It is not an easy task to have your dog like its crate, especially because we as humans tend to associate crates with imprisonment. Hence, make sure you feel good when you are executing a crate exercise. Recall that a crate is a safe resting place for your dog.
  • Bring The Good Treats. If you already know what your dog’s go-to treat is, have a bunch of those ready. You want to make sure to get the most out of crate training.

The overall goal is to create a safe and relaxing atmosphere for your dog. Follow the crate exercises sequentially. Each exercise should be trained for a couple of days.

I Feel Bad Leaving My Dog In A Crate

Crate Exercise #1: Building A Candy Crate

Of course, your dog will not find actual candy in the crate. Put some treats inside the crave when your dog is not around and let him discover the snacks on his own. Do not close the door yet. Do not praise just yet. Your dog will enter the crate on its own because he is curious to discover if the treats have been restocked. Repeat this exercise over the course of a few days.

Crate Exercise #2: A Crate Is Fun

Get some treats. Starting from this point, you will actively train your dog to love his crate! This time, have your dog close to the crate. With him watching you, pick up a treat, and throw it into the crate, one or two per round. When your dog enters the crate, praise him. After he had his reward inside the crate, call him out again and repeat the exercise. It is important to stay positive and make a fuss about your dog entering the crate. The goal is to associate entering the crate with a positive feeling.

Crate Exercise #3: Eating Out

Your dog is getting fond of the idea of finding out more about the crate. In this exercise, place his food in the crate. Having an understanding of how great it is to eat food in a crate so far, your dog will love to get his meal in there. When he is done eating, give him one special treat. Make him wait some seconds, then give him his treat and praise him. Use a signal to release him from the crate.

Crate Exercise #4: Come To Stay

This time, the goal is to make your dog stay a little longer in the crate, because we are not ready yet to close the door. You will want to have your dog look at you while you are holding a treat. The difference at this stage is that you will point to the crate using the hand you are holding the treat with. Toss the treat into the crate in a motion of raising your finger to get your dog’s attention, and throwing it in the crate. Try to aim for one of the corners.

Now, as your dog is inside his crate, make him stay there by feeding him a bunch of treats one by one. Try to make him wait for a couple of seconds while he is in the crate. Repeat this two to three times. Then, give him a release signal, and repeat the exercise.

Crate Exercise #5: Signaling

In this exercise, you want to achieve that your dog knows when to go into his crate. Having your dog close to the crate, try to use a signal word, such as ‘crate‘ before you throw the treat in a motion of pointing to the crate. Increase the amount of treats while your dog is in there, rewarding him with more treats than last time. Your pooch should understand that staying in the crate is just great. Repeat this exercise two to three times.

Crate Exercise #6: Closing

Building upon the previous exercises, in this one, we will close the door and make sure that there are no negative feelings attributed to it. Just like in the previous exercises, toss a snack in the crate. Now when your dog enters and eats the treat, close the door behind him for a couple of seconds. Keep the duration short. We do not want to reward bad behavior such as barking that simply results from being trapped in a crate for too long and opening the door as signal that bad behavior opens the door. With each round onwards, add a couple more seconds, until you notice your dog gets used to staying ‘indoors’.

Feeling Calm In A Crate

If you have made to this point, you have successfully taught your dog some important ideas: pointing is important, crates are a good thing, staying in a crate protects him. If you can close the door for some minutes and your dog feels good, you almost reached your goal. The last step is to reinforce calm behavior by rewarding relaxation.

In this exercise, you also need to be calm and positive. Observe your dog in the crate. Does he show any signals of relaxation, such as yawning, laying on the side, or breathing out noticeably? If so, you can go ahead and reward this behavior. Repeat this exercise for a few more days until your dog closes his eyes and enjoys staying in his calm, safe place.

I Feel Bad Leaving My Dog In A Crate

Balance Is Important

While some nap time is reasonable, there also needs to be stimulation afterwards. If you crate your dog for multiple hours a day, your dog needs to run once they are out, and get mental stimulation afterwards. A good rule is to keep your dog 4 hours in a crate at maximum. Always remove his collar when crated.

One exception to that rule is to crate your pup overnight. Have the crate faced so your dog can see you. However, if you are a fresh furdad/furmom and you got a pup, you need to take your pup out every few hours, because puppies simply cannot hold it in for a long time. in consequence, you need to wake up in the night.

Once your pup becomes an adult dog, they should not be in a crate for multiple hours.

What Are Alternatives To Dog Crates?

Although you have read this advice here or already tried out different things, there is always a chance something did not work out for your dog. In that case, there are suitable alternatives for when you need to leave your dog but crating is not an option.

  • Daycare. When you got a mature dog, it is not always a good solution to keep him in a crate, especially if the crate is not big enough for your large dog. Instead, you can bring him to daycare. It will be a lot of fun for your dog to socialize with other furry buds, and by the end of the day, your dog comes home tired and will relax for the rest of the day.
  • Dog-Friendly Office. Actually, there are by far more many dog-friendly offices out there than you think. Dogs have a great positive impact on your colleagues and often brighten everyone’s day. Have him on a harness in the office, if needed.
  • Run Errands With Your Dog. It can help a great deal to get your dog relaxed when he simply joins you on tasks outside. He can always join in or when not possible, wait outside leashed on the harness. Do not let your dog in the car while you are out.
  • Have Someone Look After Your Dog. If you cannot be home and checking is not an option, have someone check on your pooch at least twice a day.

Final Thoughts

We tend to ascribe human feelings to dogs way too much and do not see them for who they really are: our canine source of joy. Be aware of the fact that you project your feelings of guilt onto your dog. Looking at guilt from another angle, you can learn that crates are actually a great tool for dogs to feel comfortable and safe. The takeaway here is that your dog will love his crate if you sufficiently exercise positive reinforcement using crate exercise.


Related Questions, Answered

Do Dogs In Crates Feel The Same As Toddlers?

No. Dogs are pretty good at being independent compared to a baby. They want to have a place for themselves. We often assume to know what our dogs are feeling because we tend to project our feelings into them, forgetting that they might actually perceive things differently than we do. Try not to humanize your dog. This can be quite challenging because you love him but after all he is an animal, not a human baby. Raising a dog as if they are a human will end up causing you a big amount of trouble, and your dog might end up frightened or uncontrollable when he is fully grown.

How Big Should A Crate Be?

The crate should only be big enough for your pooch to stand and turn around in. If your dog is still a pup, it helps a lot to know beforehand how big he will become in order to choose the right crate size. In the beginning, if you have not tried crate exercise, your dog may whine because he is trapped in a small space. In order not to promote bad behavior, you cannot let him out. Rather, we recommend starting crate exercise first and get your dog used to his crate. It is his place to relax, hence there should be enough room to get comfortable in there.

My Dog Chews On His Crate. What Can I Do?

Chewing on things is not learned behavior, but stems from teething. Get your dog some appropriate chew toys and chews for your pup. For the items you do not want to be chewed on, bitter apple spray has proven to be very useful. An alternative to spray is redirection of your dog’s attention as well as positive reinforcement when he is not chewing.


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