My Greyhound Hates the Crate: how to make his crate great

To crate, or not to crate – That is the question of the great crate debate!

If your greyhound hates his crate, it is well worth your time and patience to train him out of this. There will be times in which his health and safety will depend on it. 

Judicious use of the crate can greatly improve life with your greyhound. Dr. Karen Shaw Becker, DVM says, “done right, your pet’s crate serves as a secure, happy, restful place she visits throughout the day.” 

Sometimes, it’s actually the owner who hates the crate, thinking that it’s cruel or not politically correct.  The pet, sensing his master’s disapproval, decides he should hate the crate, too! Whether the problem is the dog or the owner…or both?…this extensive article answers all of the most common questions about crating greyhounds, including when to use one, and how.  It even explores some alternatives.

Why does my dog not want to go into his crate?

He has some unpleasant association(s) with the crate….but Dr. Becker has good news:

“Most dogs who’ve had a bad past experience with being crated can be patiently and successfully ‘reprogrammed’ to view their new doggy den in a positive way.”

Dr. Karen Shaw Becker, DVM

So, the first thing that needs to be done is to sort out everyone’s feelings about the crate – Yours, the dog’s, and anyone else who is involved in the daily care of your greyhound.

Feelings, Roo-Roo-Roo, Feelings

Is it cruel to crate a greyhound?

It’s really the “doggie behind bars” optics of crating that makes people decide that it’s cruel.  This point of view is typically reinforced by the “how would you like it?” argument.  

Dogs view life differently than we do.  They live in the moment, and take things at face value.  To your greyhound, that crate is a little, secure cave he can call his own.  He does not have the social context that we have, of equating bars with imprisonment.  Yet, greyhounds are intelligent enough to make that association, if you ever – even once! – use that crate as punishment. 

Melissa Bain, DVM agrees, and doubles down on that sentiment, saying that “training should begin when pets are first acquired.”  Dr. Bain should know, as she has done extensive research on how to keep hospitalized animals more comfortable.  There will come a time in your greyhound’s life where the crate is a huge advantage to his safety and your peace of mind. Here’s a good example:

Lily woke up in the middle of the night with a UTI.  Earlier, I had suspected there was a problem, and had planned to call the vet in the morning.  Had Lily been uncrated, I would’ve been awake all night, worrying that she was going to pee all over the house, or get hurt rushing down the stairs.  Because Lily is happy in her crate (in fact, that’s where she had fallen asleep for the night, before the UTI woke her up), I was able to close her in and get some sleep.

There was another benefit of the crate the next day: after we got back from the vet, I was able to settle Lily down on a blanket, while I quickly cleaned up the crate (I use my fast-change system for this, which I will detail in an upcoming article ). Lily was back in her cozy condo in just a few minutes, and I was rested enough to tend to her and make sure she was comfortable.  

Without the crate, I would’ve been exhausted from a sleepless night, and would’ve returned from the vet to hours of back-breaking bed-laundering and rug-cleaning. 

With the crate, I was able to spend that time comforting my sick dog.  

Which way do you think the dog would have chosen?

Will my dog hate me if I crate him?

If your greyhound is upset at being crated, there is a reason, but that reason is probably not you. Reading the rest of this article will help you discern what is really bothering him, and what to do about it. 

What to do when your dog hates his crate?

It is a good investment of your time and effort to get your greyhound to like his crate.  The best way, by far, I have discovered to turn crate-hate into crate-luv is to set the crate up where his bed usually goes, and place his bed in there.  If he’s still reluctant to go in, throw a high-value treat in there, and only give him that treat when he’s in the crate.  For my first greyhound, Peaches, it was pepperoni!

How do I get my dog to like his crate again?

If your dog used to like his crate, and is now resistant about going into it, try to figure out the reason for it.  Are any of the following true of your situation?

  • It’s been a long time since he’s used his crate (not used to it anymore).
  • The crate is dirty.  This could be from not being used for a long time.  Perhaps it smells musty?
  • The crate was used by another pet.
  • The crate is too small.
  • He dislikes that particular type of kennel. For example, some greyhounds get claustrophobic in plastic Vari-Kennels. 
  • The bedding is not comfortable.
  • He’s only put in the crate during unhappy times (punishment, illness, being left alone)
  • The environment is uncomfortable (too warm or cold, too drafty, stuffy, or humid).
  • He doesn’t get enough exercise before being crated.
  • He gets bored in the crate.
  • He’s not getting enough potty breaks when crated.
  • He feels left out when crated.

Is it OK to crate one greyhound and not the other?

Never let feelings of guilt like this keep you from doing the right thing for each of your pets.  Dogs are philosophical creatures – As long as you’re crating with good intentions (keeping the dog safe, or where you can keep a close eye on him), you needn’t trouble yourself.

This is a good time, though, to raise the point that one must NEVER USE THE CRATE AS A PUNISHMENT.  If you do, your greyhound will become fearful of it, and you won’t have it as an option when it’s needed.

Location, Location, Location

Where should you put a dog crate in the house? 

By far, the most successful placing of the crate would be in the footprint of his bed. Just move the bed, put the crate in its spot, and put the dog bed right into the crate. 

(I am assuming that the bed is already in a greyhound-perfect spot: one where he can enjoy your company, without being subjected to a lot of foot traffic and noise)

Can you move a dog crate from room to room?

Consider these factors when placing the crate, and be open to moving it, as needed:

  • Quiet – A greyhound-perfect room is a quiet one, with you in it, and no sudden, loud noises. 
  • Air Flow – In warm weather, it is absolutely crucial that your greyhound have adequate air circulation at all times.  Greyhounds adore fans.  Give plenty of consideration to the right combination of open windows, fans, and air conditioning to keep your pet safe and comfortable.  In cold weather, get yourself right down there, on the level where your greyhound will be resting, and make sure his crate is not getting a draft.
  • Temperature – Even with his lightweight coat, your greyhound will appreciate a room temperature that is a bit cooler that you like.  If he is panting, it may be too warm.  If he always seems to be curled up in a tight ball, it may be too cold.  Also,   consider the movement of the sun, and make sure it won’t start beating down on the dog, overheating him in his crate, where is not free to escape it. 
  • Social – Typically, crating is for keeping the dog safe when you can’t be there; but sometimes, you want to keep him out of mischief while you sleep, or keep him contained while he is unwell.  At these times, move the crate to where you can keep an eye on him, and he can be comforted by your presence. 
  • Activity Level – By the same token, your greyhound will not appreciate being in a high-traffic area.  They like to keep tabs on things, without being disturbed.  If there is construction or traffic noise near your home, consider placing the crate as far from the noise as possible.  If there may be a thunderstorm, be sure to move the crate away from the windows, and leave on some noise (TV or radio) to block out the sound.

A Time for Every Purpose

When do you stop crating a your greyhound at night?

If your greyhound is in the same room with you, is in good health, and he is staying in his bed all night, he shouldn’t need to be crated any longer.  You can help him transition to going crateless at night by leaving its door open.  Keep the door to the room closed, or baby-gate it off, so he doesn’t get up and wander the dark house alone, where he might get hurt on the stairs, or by walking into or tripping over something.

Any time your pet stays overnight somewhere, be sure to include his crate.  His hosts may feel there’s no need to crate such a well-mannered fellow overnight – Assure them that the crate will provide a familiar environment, which will help him not to feel too homesick.

Even if your grey has “graduated” from overnight crating, don’t hesitate to return to it, if the situation calls for it.  Any time he is unwell, have him spend the night in his crate – Greyhounds have a tendency to try to “outrun” their problems.  He may wake up, forgetting his condition, and start meandering around the house.

Finally, provide your elderly greyhound (12 years and up) with some protection overnight.  Once they get to be this age, some senility can set in, which may cause them to wake up and wander around.  They also become more fragile, so you don’t want to take the chance that the old fellow gets hurt on the stairs.  The crate may not be necessary, but close the door, or gate it off.

At what age do you stop using your greyhound’s crate?

There’s no particular age to stop using the crate.  What you are more likely to find is that the crate stays, but the resons for using it will change.

If your greyhound is a puppy, you’ll want to keep that crate handy for quite some time!  Greyhound puppies are a whirlwind of activity, and need constant supervision when they aren’t crated.  They can get into a lot of trouble very quickly, otherwise.

If your pet is a newly-retired racer, he will welcome the security of a cozily appointed crate, as a respite from the strangeness and bigness of a home.  

Once greyhounds become elderly, as mentioned above, you might want to use the crate more.  It can keep him from falling down the stairs, or surprising you with random messes around the house.  When my dog, Shannon, started having that type of “accident,” the crate literally saved his life – I devised an easy-to-clean system of bedding for his crate.  Instead of leaving me surprises all over the house, any mess would be in the crate, where Shanny – ever the gentleman – would ease himself away from the offending spot.  A few minutes changing the crate sure beats slaving over a soiled rug!

What can I do instead of using a crate?

Even though they are large dogs, they aren’t “all over the place,” like many other breeds tend to be.  A greyhound’s favorite place is his bed, and roaming around the house just takes – **yawn** – so. much. energy.  

You can designate a room, or even a part of one, as a greyhound-safe area.  You will find no shortage of articles on this subject,  but stay with me here – There’s one problem with those articles!  They are not written for greyhounds.  Greyhounds loathe hard floors, and that’s usually exactly what is recommended for the typical “dog room.”  You can get around this by adding a soft, washable floor covering.  

(I’ll have more detailed ideas for a greyhound-friendly space in an upcoming article.)

Greyhounds aged 3 and older are usually pretty respectful of barriers, such as baby gates. Greyhounds prefer them to closed doors, which can make them anxious.

Can I let my greyhound roam free in the house?

A lot of adoption groups will ask you to use the crate any time you can’t watch the dog, at least until he is acclimated to life in a home.  After that, it depends on your situation.

My dog has the run of the house, as long as somebody is home. Here are the my exceptions to this rule:

  • If she’s sick or injured, to keep her safe until she can get better. 
  • If the only person home is a teenager, who is engrossed with something on a different floor than the dog.
  • If she has just eaten and no one is available to keep tabs on her, to make sure she doesn’t start running up and down the stairs (risk of gastric torsion)

The Ins and Outs of Crating Your Greyhound

Should I force my dog into his crate?

Never try to physically force an unwilling greyhound into a crate.  Doing so will only increase his dislike of the crate, perhaps even turning it into a phobia.  Once he becomes this fearful of the crate, attempting to force him in could cause him to lash out at you.

My greyhound won’t go into the crate.

The worst time to crate-trian a greyhound is when you need to put him in his crate – Now. 

 Start crate-training right from Day 1.  Here’s how to get started:

Have a special treat, which he only gets when he’s inside of the crate.  Lily loves this so much, she starts dancing around for The Treat anytime I pick up my purse.  Anyway, show your dog the treat, and let him see you throw it into the crate.  He should run in to get it.  Then, tell him “good dog,” and that’s it.  Don’t close the door or anything.  If you have a comfy bed in there, he won’t be able to resist resting on it.

If he doesn’t go in after a minute or two, take away the treat and try again later.  It’s important that he not only learn to go into the crate; but to do it right away, so you can get out the door, and not be stuck home, playing games.  He’ll learn pretty quickly.

My greyhound growls at me if I reach into his crate.

If your greyhound growls at you when you reach into his crate, don’t worry – You have not adopted Cujo!  Cujo would bite you, no questions asked; your greyhound is being polite and controlled enough to warn you…but don’t push it. 

Your pet may misinterpret as threatening your hulking figure, filling the door of his crate. It is, after all, the only path to escape from that small enclosure.  Combine that with the fact that a greyhound’s natural instinct is to run from trouble, and you can see why he may suddenly become defensive. 

Never stick any part of your body into your greyhound’s crate, unannounced.  Speak to him as you approach his crate, telling him why you are coming there.  Use the same specific language every time, whether it’s for a walk, a meal, or you need for him to come out. 

For some things, you may need to invent and teach the language. For example , a common reason for me to reach into Lily’s crate was that I forgot to remove her collar at the end of the night.  Here’s the script I devised for this:

(While approaching crate):

Lily – I forgot your collar. 

(Kneel down in front of crate, but keep face back):

Lily – Collar!

(Two gentle claps, followed by holding hands open):

Collar cookies!

(By now, her head pops up, and I feed her a small training treat and remove the collar)

Good girl, Lily. 

These days, Lily’s head snaps up right from the first line of the script!  If, early on, I had downplayed her aggression and tried to pull the collar off her sleepy head, we would’ve had an entirely different outcome.  Developing well-mannered, gentle pets takes smart, understanding effort!

Another thing that may be going on is that he is not fully awake.  It is very common for a greyhound to look fully awake, when he’s still under. 

The correct term for reacting negatively in one’s sleep is “sleep aggression,” not the misnomer, “sleep startle.”  Sleep aggression is when your dog lashes out, at a person or other pet, in his sleep, in any of the following ways:

  • growling
  • baring his teeth 
  • snapping
  • biting

In other words, sleep aggression is what may happen if you startle your sleeping greyhound.   The new-ish “startle” term is pop-psychology happy-talk, created to make something seem OK, when it isn’t….not that you should punish your greyhound for this, but you certainly need to work it out. 

If your greyhound has growled at you, please refer to my article that deals solely with info and solutions for that problem:

My greyhound won’t come out of the crate

This presents the greatest problem when your greyhound is having a really good nap in his crate, and you need to get him out to do his business. 

The first thing to do is to *not* get upset!  If you do, it will be much harder to get him out, and he will remember the next time.  This goes for anytime your greyhound becomes defiant- Never get into a power struggle with him. Greyhounds have a competitive spirit, and don’t respond well to force. Then, if it goes to the next level, and you become angry, they just freeze. Very unproductive. 

Also, don’t repeatedly call him, or it may lose its effectiveness. 

Another factor to consider is whether this is an ongoing issue with him, or not. If this is the first time your hound has declined to come out of the crate, he may not be feeling well.  Watch for other symptoms. 

Assuming that it’s not a health issue, high-value treats are useful.  My husband usually walks over to the crate with a large jar of peanut butter and a spoon.  If the dog doesn’t emerge when he starts turning the lid, he uses the lid as a fan to waft peanut butter fumes toward the crate. Don’t laugh, it works!

I prefer to approach with the bag of treats, crinkling it loudly as I open it. If your greyhound isn’t the nippy type, you can quickly touch his nose with the treat, and then walk away. This rarely fails. 

Another thing that works well is to go and make some sounds that usually bring your dog running. It’s a good time to get a jump on preparing his next meal, or laying out his treats for later. My dog, Lily, appears like magic whenever anyone makes a sandwich. 

If nothing works, say in a pleasant tone, “OK, I’ll be back.” and return in 30 – 60 minutes. Keep an ear on your pet, in case he’s ready to come out sooner. 

This may seem like a wimpy approach, but the fact is that with greyhounds, it’s not about obedience, it’s about cooperation. 

Greyhounds as Pets of New Zealand describes another approach:

“It is important not to punish your dog for not coming out of the crate. If he won’t come out, try opening the door and calling him from across the room, luring him out with treats, or clipping a lead on and gently pulling him out. It is important to use the lead, not just grabbing him by the collar, as it can be frightening for a greyhound who is uncertain to be grabbed at. Once he is out of the crate, praise him and offer him a treat.”

Greyhounds as Pets, NZ

I differ with this advice on one point: your greyhound may just as easily balk when pulled by his leash, as by his collar. For that reason, lead, don’t “pull.”  The difference is in approach, intention, and body language:

Walk briskly and happily toward the crate, showing him the leash and announcing the happy news that it’s time for some fun (walk, play, treat, whatever word has happy associations for him).  Leash him up quickly, continuing the patter. Then, turn and walk away, leash in hand, with the expectation that he will follow.  Never wait for him. If he still doesn’t come, don’t escalate to pulling. Just remove the leash, and try something else, or walk away for a while. 

How can I reduce my dog’s anxiety in his crate?

The #1 way to do this is to give him reasons to embrace the crate, even when your home.  The idea is to get him to wander in there on his own. 

Put a really cozy bed in it, and leave the door open. Greyhounds simply cannot resist soft places.  If he’s still disinterested, let him see you toss in a high-value treat. He may scurry in and out, but work on it every day. 

Next, never display a negative attitude about the crate.  Remember – Dogs do not share, or even understand, human guilt feelings about crating.  They do, however, do sense the negativity, and interpret it in their own way.  This can breed in him a negative atitude toward the crate.

Perhaps it’s not the crate, but your absence that makes your pet anxious.  The trick for this is to create an atmosphere that provides pleasant sensory stimulation, but is still peaceful enough for napping.  Consider these factors:

  • Light – make sure there will be some lamplight, if it’s going to get dark before you get back.
  • Sound – greyhounds enjoy having music or a television to listen to.  This can also help to filter outdoor sounds that might disturb him.
  • Loneliness – if your greyhound is going to be left alone regularly, it’s good to have another greyhound to keep him company.  If you work full-time, having someone come mid-day to give him some attention and take him out makes a huge difference in his stress level.
  • Boredom – food toys are very popular with owners who face this situation.  The old favorite is a Kong Toy or two, with some peanut butter inside.  Cathy from Greyhound Friends in Hopkinton, MA has taken some courses on reducing stress in shelter animals, and she recommends Lickimats and Snuffle Mats.  A Lickimat looks like a large, silicone potholder, with raised designs or nubs covering its surface.  Smear the mat with a soft food (like peanut butter), and your dog will have a ball licking it.  A Snuffle Mat is sort of a raggedy-looking pad, in which you can conceal a number of tiny treats; and then your pet whiles away some time, trying to find them.

Why is my dog suddenly whining in crate?

He’s either anxious, hungry, unwell, or lonely.  Better check on him!  Before you get too anxious yourself, know that some greyhounds are very chatty, and whining is how they talk to you.

For the full scoop on greyhound whine interpretation and solutions, check out my media on that subject (video and companion post):

Does putting a blanket over a greyhound’s crate help?

These are only a few situations in which I do this…. but first, a few precautions:

Greyhounds are highly dependent on circulating air. Even in cooler temperatures, your pet can become dangerously overheated, if he’s trapped inside the crate with no air circulation. 

Also, since they are sighthounds, greyhounds would probably be more anxious with something blocking their view of their surroundings. 

You may, however, find it useful to partially cover the crate, to block out specific annoyances.  I sometimes will place one on Lily’s crate, if she’s napping in there and I have on the overhead lights. 

A blanket, draped over one side of the crate, is good for warding off a draft. 

Should you crate a greyhound with separation anxiety?

He might actually be less anxious in his crate. Greyhounds can become overwhelmed when all alone in the large expanse of an empty house.  In this situation, he may panic and damage a door or window, and hurt himself, trying to escape.

What to do if he cries in crate at night?

Definitely do not get angry or punish the dog for this.  It’s not a disciplinary issue.  A greyhound who won’t settle down to sleep is very lonely and unhappy.  You’ll need to find another arrangement, so everyone gets a good night’s sleep. 

To do this, start by considering the reasons you want the dog crated at night.  For example, when we got our first greyhound, Peaches, we were concerned about having the dog in the room with us, because my husband had allergies.  We found out the pretty quickly that greyhounds do not like being exiled to another room all night!  We put her bed just outside our bedroom door, leaving the door open; and blocked the stairs with a baby gate, so she wouldn’t try to use them in the dark.  This worked great!

Do I put food and water in my greyhound’s crate? 

Your greyhound should never be crated for so long that it is necessary to leave food and water.  Some may be shocked at the idea of leaving an animal with no water.  Greyhounds enjoy doing a little light housekeeping in their crates, which involves spinning round and round, pushing and scooping their bedding with all four paws, the nose, and the forehead.  I have not yet met a food or water container that can withstand this level of activity.  If your pet is routinely dumping his dish, you won’t know how much water he’s getting, and he could become dehydrated and sick.  

One solution is to have someone come in mid-day to walk and feed your dog, and have him add a measure of water to his food.  I recently found that Lily wasn’t getting enough water.  Greyhounds can be poor drinkers, and she is the worst example of this we’ve ever had.  The “water plan” I put her on would work out great for a crated dog.  

(You can read about that in an upcoming article)

If you can’t get someone to come in, you’ll need to consider another arrangement for your greyhound, besides crating him all day.  A separate room is not necessary.  You can arrange baby gates, or even use the crate itself, to partition off part of a room. This would provide enough space for your greyhound’s bed, and still have room to keep his bowl at a safe distance from his bedmaking activities.  This works better than closing him into a room, which can make him more anxious.

If you choose this option, set it up and help him get comfortable with it at a time when you have a few days at home.

How long in the crate is too long?

If it’s going to be more than four hours, have someone come in to take your greyhound out of the crate, for some attention, a drink and a cookie, and a little walk.

Occasionally, you can push it to five hours, but this should not become a habit.  Even though he can “hold it” for longer, doing so regularly could cause him to develop a UTI, crystals in his urine, or a chronic urinary problem.

Should I remove my dog’s collar when in crate?

There’s a genuine risk that the S-hook could get caught on his bedding, or on the the one of bars of the crate, creating a strangulation hazard.  Several times, I had to rescue my dog, after he managed to tether himself to a blanket this way. 

There may be no need for it. I stopped indoor collar use, when it rubbed all the hair off Lily’s throat. I keep her collar near the crate door, ready to slip onto her head, just before she pops out of the crate. 

Many greyhounds wear a “house collar,” with no hooks or tags. I would add to one of these an ID plate with all the usual tag info. These plates secure to the collar with rivets (included), or they simply slide on. 

My greyhound has peed in his crate

This can happen, and prevention is the best cure. 

The greyhound is a clean animal, and strongly dislikes soiling his beloved bed.  It is typically not behavioral. 

Older greyhounds may have incontinence problems. There are urinary tract health supplements you can give for this. They don’t stop it, but they can keep it down to manageable levels. 

If this is an unusual event for your greyhound, he may be ill with a UTI or other issue, as described earlier in this article. 

In either case, it’s helpful to use bedding that can be quickly changed and easily cleaned.  

(Coming soon, I will have a full post on this system). 

Resources for Further Info

More advice from Greyhounds as Pets in New Zealand

Dr. Karen Shaw Becker, DVM

Melissa Bain, DVM, DACVB, MS, DACAW “serves as professor of clinical animal behavior at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, where she regularly encounters behavioral issues that arise during mandatory rest.”

Greyhound Friends in Hopkinton, MA

Gail McGaffigan

The owner of the Greyhound Homecare website and YouTube channel, Gail has had retired racing greyhounds as pets since 1997. Please visit our channel, too!

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