Training a senior dog to sleep in a crate or outside?

Middle of the night accidents aren't out of the ordinary for my 15 year old dog. Due to arthritis and general old age, he periodically "leaks" or drops "nuggets" when he's asleep, so cleaning up messes in the morning happens with increasing frequency. I adopted him at 9 years old, and although he was house broken, he didn't seem to have ever seen a crate. Though I initially tried to crate train him, he didn't like it and I didn't push it. He likes spending time in the yard, but not if he knows we're inside, so he barks and paces until he's let in. I have tried diapers and male wraps, but he always manages to get out of them. It's been frustrating, but because he's old I always come up with an excuse for him.

We recently had an incident involving diarrhea that was the last straw for me. I'm tired of regularly spending my mornings cleaning up dog mess. At this point I don't know how to train him to sleep in either a crate or outside as a 15 year old dog that's never had to do it before. I don't want to stress him out by forcing it too quickly, but for my own sanity something has to change.

Does anyone have any advice on how to crate train a senior dog, or how to transition him to spending more time outside? Or any other ideas?

*Edited to remove unnecessary info that made the post too long :)

5 Answers

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I wanted to post an update on the situation a little over a month later! I started off trying to get him to sleep in the crate in the living room, but since he'd always slept in the bedroom this caused some anxiety for him (and me!) I then moved the crate to where his bed usually is in the bedroom, and he seemed to like it better. We played the 'mystery treats' game anytime I wasn't sitting another dog, so he was constantly finding tasty snacks in this magical crate. He even began hanging out in there on his own! Eventually he started sleeping through the night in the crate, though occasionally he would wake up and seem to panic because he couldn't figure out where he was or why there were "walls" around him. My biggest win was discovered a week or so ago; he'll happily spend the entire night in the crate if I leave the doors open! I have a two door wire crate, so I leave both doors wide open after he goes in for bed. This way he feels less trapped but is content enough to not move out of the crate, so messes are contained to a limited area.


It seems to work better for the crate to be introduced gradually, and to present it as a "sanctuary." Try feeding him meals in it, with the door open (or even temporarily off). If he's not willing to go in the crate even for food, take the top off and feed him meals in the bottom half. Take things by baby steps - first swing door closed, then open. Next session close door and latch, but immediately open. Work your way up to leaving him in crate (with a treat or toy) for 5-10 seconds, then 15, then 30, etc. Praise him for being calm and quiet. Gradually work up to a few minutes, then longer. Also, gradually work up to you leaving the room when he's in the crate. Do your best to make it a pleasant experience for him to be in the crate (food, praise, treats, toys, etc).


Thanks for the advice! I tried him in the crate last night and he seemed okay until 5am, when he apparently had to go potty. He barked and woke me up, but after I let him out he did not want to go back into the crate, so he slept in the bedroom the rest of the morning. I'll consider that a success!

Last night I put numerous treats in the crate and let him discover them on his own, then shut the door behind him as he ate them. He sat in there for a bit, looking for more treats, then resting, and after 5 minutes I let him out. We did this a few times before bed and will continue to do so!

Yay! I'm glad things are improving.

Sounds like good progress. I don't know how big your dog is but we put our crate on the nightstand right by our bed. The dog can see us and is quite happy to rest there for the night. I do this with our rescue dogs as well and it is less stressful on them making the transition.

That is great! What I'll do for my puppy is she is kenneled in kitchen till morning bathroom time around 6am. Then when she comes back in, "reward" is coming in bedroom. She totally is fine with kennel, but I want her to connect that good things happen when she holds it.


Have you considered getting a baby's play yard and putting him in that at night? You could put a plastic lined tarp on the floor to keep any liquid from soaking through. He would then not be in a crate, but would still be confined to a very small area. Here's a link to what I'm talking about:


I am curious about the down-vote for that answer. Could someone please educate me about why a baby play yard is a bad idea?

Thanks for the advice! I do have a gate system I use to block off the kitchen when I'm dog sitting, so maybe I'll try him in that so he can still move around without too much access. I want him to be happy and not feel like he's being punished, so more space may be a good option!

I didn't down vote you but outside at night is not safe. If older dog there is also weather to consider. Too hot/cold

Sorry for the misunderstanding. I meant to be used inside the house (that's what we did).

My girl is 16.5 yrs, have tried every strategy to no avail. Last night she fell asleep in downstairs bed. I give her calming pill so she stayed asleep til almost 10am. By that time I can take her out or she has access to pads. Don't mind mopping when I'm awake, and IV got it down to an art.


Another treat in kennel could be kong with frozen peanut butter. Anything that takes him a while to get treat out. Also kennel him next to you while you're chilling in house ie watching tv. I started off with my puppy being in kennel in bedroom and then gradually increased distance till she was in kennel in kitchen.

Good job in taking care of your older dog! Most people give up on dogs when they get health issues or potty issues when older. It's not the dog's fault, they just getting older! Also when dogs get older they tend to have more separation issues so that's probably why he doesn't like the yard as much as he used to. It's like they sense they're not as strong as before as so need your protection etc. Keep encouraging your dog to be independent. And remember its just part of the aging process. It's a GOOD thing what you're doing, so keep it up!!!


I would recommend you take him outside for often and have something out in the yard that he really likes such as a toy or food and maybe the family can stay outside with him so that he gets to like the backyard.