While crate training a dog is the goal of many pet owners, you might start to think of it as a red flag or a sign that something is wrong if your pup is staying inside its enclosure for what seems like way too long.
If you’ve recently found yourself asking, “My dog won’t come out of his crate- what’s the problem?”, the truth is that whenever a dog refuses to come out of his crate it could be due to a multitude of reasons.
As an example, a dog will typically stay in his crate when he is feeling stressed or frightened.
This can be the result of having strangers in your home, loud yelling or arguing, or making a drastic change your dog isn’t yet accustomed to (bringing home a new baby and moving into a new house come to mind).
With that said, this type of behavior could also mean that your dog is more lethargic than usual and doesn’t have the energy to move around- which could in turn be a sign of something more serious.
Before you panic, we recommend that you read the rest of this article to learn all the possible reasons as to why your dog is staying in his crate, and to establish if it’s something you need to call your vet about!
There can be many possible reasons as to why a dog will choose to stay in his crate, and some of them can be a sign of a serious behavioral or health issue.
Let’s break them down below:
You may not know this, but dogs love spaces that are just for them.
Perhaps linking back to their ancestral lupine roots, canines naturally gravitate towards burrows, warrens, and little caves to make their home.
These are typically referred to as ‘dens’, and they depict areas where your dog feels safe, comfortable, and secure.
Crates, when used appropriately, can be that safe space for your dog. For example, if you notice your dog stays in his crate mostly when strangers come to visit then this is likely the case.
Dogs will do this because they are unfamiliar with (and maybe even frightened of) your guests.
As a way to feel safe, it will subsequently retreat to its crate and stay there either until it feels more comfortable- or until the guests leave.
This may also occur if you bring home a new baby. While you may be in love with your new kiddo, your dog will likely see your baby as a tiny, poopy human it isn’t familiar with.
Lastly, loud, sharp noises like those of a smoke detector or family members that are consistently yelling or arguing can also be the source of the fear your dog is feeling.
While it’s normal to argue every once in a while, shouting or doing other things out of anger (slamming doors, punching walls, etc.) on a frequent basis can have a negative impact on your furry friend.
Consider working on creating a calmer atmosphere– not just for your dog, but for you and your family as well.
Much like how your dog can be frightened of people they aren’t familiar with, they can become scared of environments they aren’t accustomed to as well.
I’ve seen this firsthand in my own dog Maximus when we moved to a new home in April this past year.
When he first stepped foot into the house, it was as if he had arrived in a new country altogether; tail tucked, looking up and sniffing at the ceiling, and scurrying around on quick steps towards the nearest exit.
If you’ve moved recently- no matter if you upgraded to a bigger place or downsized- your dog will be prone to becoming unsettled by the drastic change of scenery as a creature of routine and habit.
As a result, he is likely to stay in his crate (where he feels at home) until he gets used to your new digs.
Keep in mind that some dogs- especially older dogs– are prone to becoming extremely frightened or stressed due to a change of scenery.
This can have ill effects on the dog’s health and turn into something they don’t recover from, no matter how comfortable you try to make your new environment.
Do you use the crate as a form of punishment or discipline? If so, it’s possible your dog is staying in his crate because he thinks that he’s in trouble.
It’s a common sight to see a dog slinking away silently into its cage a few seconds after it has committed some kind of minor misdemeanor.
Maybe he was naughty and helped himself to some cherry pie from the kitchen bench, or nosed around in your medicine cabinet when you were away.
(If it swallowed a few tablets of something like Klonopin, you may have bigger things to worry about just by the way!).
Long story short, your pooch may have done something which, while actually relatively insignificant to you, is a huge deal breaker in his little doggy mind.
If he thinks you’re going to send him to his crate anyway or yell at him (which I recommended that you don’t do), he may be voluntarily accepting the punishment by sticking to his crate until he feels safe enough to come out.
Due to this reason, using crates for punishment purposes should also be reconsidered if you don’t want your dog to transform into a hermit crab every time he’s had a tiny slip-up!
Did you know your own stress can rub off on your dog?
With the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it’s easy to become stressed out every once in a while.
However, if you’re stressed frequently, you may find that this could be making your best canine pal distressed as well!
Stressed dogs often show the following symptoms:
- Increase in drooling, licking, and yawning behaviors. A dog that is under some kind of mental pressure will often yawn and lick excessively
- Increased shedding and hair loss over a prolonged period
- Panting and shaking for no clearly obvious reason
- Discrepancy in behavior, such has random urination even when it is perfectly housetrained
- Long periods of barking or whining, often in an attempt to garner attention or to self-soothe
- Avoidance behavior, or a desire to hide.
Particularly in relation to the last point, stress could very possibly be the reason behind a dog choosing to stay in its crate all day long.
Recognize, however, that having a place such as a crate that a dog can retreat to when it is feeling overwhelmed is not necessarily a bad thing.
Not only does this allow the pup to process a stressful situation on its own terms and at its own pace, the behavior also acts as a protective mechanism for both the dog and its family.
Anxiety is better than aggression, after all!
Only when the stress-induced hiding becomes regular does it warrant special concern. In these cases (and when other medical possibilities have been ruled out) the best course of action would be to consult a vet or canine behaviorist.
With this in mind, you should also find effective ways to manage your own stress so that it doesn’t negatively affect your dog. You can do this through methods such as:
- Deep breathing
- Physical exercise
- Stress relieving tools (such as a stress ball)
It’s also a very good idea to take your dog for a walk, as walking is a great form of exercise and stress relief for both humans and canines!
Just like humans, dogs can suffer from depression as well.
Many of the things that can frighten our dogs- a change of scenery, new baby, an owner that’s not around for most of the day- can also cause them to become depressed.
In turn, this could be causing your furry friend to become withdrawn and to lack the energy and motivation required to get out of his crate.
The most common factors that can cause a dog to become depressed include:
- Lack of attention given
- Being ignored or replaced by something (like a new child or puppy)
- Decrease in physical exercise or play time
- Death of a family member or fellow pack mate 🙁
If some kind of big event has happened in your home recently and you’ve noticed your dog becoming more inactive and not enjoying the things that it used to (most commonly eating or playing), there’s a good likelihood that it’s due to depression.
In other cases, someone in your household suffering from depression could also be a causal factor as this could potentially be rubbing off on your dog.
Regardless, depression in dogs is usually not a long-term condition, and can typically be treated by a vet with medication such as Prozac and Zoloft in more serious scenarios.
If your dog isn’t feeling too well physically, they are likely to have a lack of energy or feel lethargic as a result.
Subsequently, this can keep them confined to their crates until they start feeling better.
However, it’s important to keep a close eye on your pup when this happens to ensure they are eating enough food and staying hydrated. Failing to do so can have serious (even fatal) consequences.
If your dog is sick and you’re unsure when it comes to what they’re suffering from, you should take them to the vet as soon as possible.
Excessive lethargy can a sign of many conditions including:
- Parasitic infections (usually accompanied by other symptoms like diarrhea)
- Injury or sickness
An inability to get up or move could also be the sign of something more serious such as heart disease or cancer.
It’s worth mentioning again that your dog should be monitored closely whenever it is showing strange variations to its usual behavior, and should be taken to the vet if it continues to be lethargic.
Unlike lethargy- which can be a symptom of a more serious underlying condition- your dog can simply be experiencing normal tiredness if it is showing an unwillingness to leave its crate.
This can be especially true in older dogs, and in dogs that have just finished a vigorous round of exercise.
Throughout the day, a dog can burn a lot of calories even when doing something as simple as walking up the stairs or jumping on the couch.
With that being said, an active dog is a healthy dog- so if your dog is wiped out after a long day of exercise and playing you shouldn’t be too concerned.
Even the fittest of pooches love to curl up and sleep in silence at the end of a long, grueling day!
You should always ensure that this is a temporary occurrence, however, and that your dog isn’t staying in his crate for an excessive period of time (spanning several hours or days- see the above section).
“My dog won’t come out of his crate. How do I get him out?”
The answer to this question really depends on the reason why your furry friend is choosing to stay put in the first place.
As we have discussed in the preceding sections, there can be various reasons as to why a dog will stay in his crate.
It is important therefore to accurately establish the cause for its crate-burrowing behavior first- though this is often easier said than done.
If you think that it is something that isn’t that serious- such as tiredness or being fearful of strangers in your home- then you can try to persuade your dog to come out with a treat and some words of praise or affirmation.
It may also be helpful to try to remove whatever it is that could be bothering your dog (if possible).
For instance, if you have guests over, you could try directing them to another room to see if that helps to coax your pup naturally out of its ‘shell’.
What this is doing is essentially removing the stressor that is putting undue pressure on your pup.
Once your nervous pooch has decided to come out on its own accord, a particularly neat trick that can help it to forget its worries is to get it to perform routine commands in exchange for treats.
Making a dog respond to routine commands such as ‘sit’, ‘stay’, or ‘shake hands’ provides a distraction and returns the situation to a state of normalcy.
It can be an amazing sight to see how comfortable a previously worried dog becomes when it is instructed to heel or roll over!
If you’re noticing that your dog is staying in his crate for a little too long, or you suspect that he may be dealing with an illness or injury- it’s probably time to call your vet and schedule an appointment.
We’ve talked about lethargy earlier in the article as a potential symptom of a range of different conditions.
If your dog is lethargic during the day(and it isn’t due to it exercising a lot or going crazy at night) then you will want to uncover any potential illnesses or injury that could be causing this as doing so will allow you to treat the condition as soon as possible.
Your vet will be able to test your dog for any possible illnesses and do a physical exam to check for any injuries.
If your dog is simply staying in his crate because he’s scared, a vet or canine behaviorist can advise you on what to do to make your dog feel more calm and comfortable in addition to what’s already been recommended in this post.
They may even be able to prescribe anxiety medication, though this is typically only an option in extreme circumstances.
If a dog uses his crate as a safe space, then he will likely choose to stay there when he’s feeling frightened.
Again, encouraging a scared dog to come out of his crate is usually pretty simple. Offering a treat and some words of encouragement or grabbing his favorite toy will do the trick in most instances.
If these methods don’t work, another possible course of action is simply to remove whatever it is that’s scaring your dog.
Typically, a dog will be afraid of strangers in your home, even close family members that your dog has never met.
Dogs can be frightened by a huge variety of things and situations, such as:
- Loud noises (yelling, slamming doors, thunder, smoke detectors)
- Unfamiliar strangers or visitors
- New babies
- Other dogs
- New toys and objects that they aren’t familiar with
Obviously there are times when you won’t be able to remove all of these factors from the picture, but do your best to minimize them as much as possible!
While we can and do recommend trying to convince your dog to come out of his crate in order to help it feel better about the situation and surroundings, we DON’T recommend forcing them out.
Forcing them to come out physically is an especially big no-no as it will force the canine to make a decision that oftentimes results in aggression– a result that is bad both for the dog and for the owner.
In other words, if your dog is staying in his crate due to being frightened, the last thing you want to do is to corner him in a confined space and try to use physical force to pull him out.
This can lead to a variety of disastrous outcomes, such as:
- Injury to your dog due to the use of excessive force
- Injury to you, if the dog chooses to react by biting
- You could frighten and mentally scar him even more, making him want to stay in his crate longer in the future
As you can see, none of these scenarios are positive.
Therefore, avoid forcing your dog out of his crate! This is especially the case if it’s showing its teeth or licking its lips rapidly (a clear sign of fear) when you approach him.
“My dog won’t come out of his crate… what do I do?”
If you’re still pondering this question, the best thing to do is to go back and consider all of the possible reasons behind your dog’s behavior that have been listed in this article.
Keep in mind that typically dogs won’t stay in crates for longer than an hour or so if there’s no good reason.
If your pup’s staying in there longer than this duration it could be a sign of something serious that needs to be addressed as soon as possible.
The most likely reason for this hiding behavior is that your dog is simply scared of something in its surroundings.
Therefore, figuring out what it is your furry friend is frightened of, removing it (if possible) and then convincing them to come out of the crate with a treat often prove to be an effective method to resolve the situation.
It goes without saying that if you believe your dog may be sick or dealing with an injury instead, then calling your vet for help will be your best bet.
For more insight into dog behavior and tips on becoming a better dog owner be sure to check out some of our other recent articles!
Elena Gherman is a highly skilled and knowledgeable animal care expert. At the start of her career, she gained practical expertise with multiple animals. In addition to that, she works as a DVM veterinary editor for Joy Pet Products, which focuses on offering reliable information on pet health and wellbeing. She meticulously reviews each piece of writing before it is published to make sure pet owners get the most precise and updated information possible.