What Can You Do When Your Dog Learns to Unlock His Cage Door?

by Rob Hainer
    If he can reach the latch, he might learn to open it.

    If he can reach the latch, he might learn to open it.

    Apple Tree House/Lifesize/Getty Images

    Dogs are smarter than they often get credit for. They learn by watching, then by doing. Some crate latches allow your pup to flip and slide them with his paw, letting him escape the cage's confines. You can secure the latch better, but he's likely to need some behavior intervention as well.

    The crates that usually wind up opened by your furry escape artist are the ones with a latch handle that flips up and slides out -- dogs' lack of thumbs makes the latches you pinch next to impossible. If your dog opens his latch for the fun of it, just so he can experience the thrill of escape, keep him secure by attaching the latch handle to one of the crate bars with a spring clip or snap hook, similar to what you'd find on the end of his leash. You can even use his leash hook if you like. But if your pup is so anxious in the crate that he learns how to escape out of panic, it's not always safe to force him to stay inside.

    Your pooch might be escaping out of boredom or excitement, but you can temper that by giving him plenty of exercise. Take him on long walks or play fetch incessantly until he's pooped, then put him in his crate for a nice long nap. Put some toys or chews in the crate to keep him occupied until you are ready for him to come out and play again.

    When dogs reach their sexual maturity, which often occurs between 6 and 8 months old, they can feel hormonally driven to seek out a date -- driven to the point of escaping their crates at all costs for just a whiff of the neighbor's dog. Male and female dogs are culprits, although the females might only try their paws at escaping when they're in heat. Having your pup spayed or neutered can make your dog more content and less likely to break out of the cage.

    Seeing damage and destruction caused to the cage -- and potential injuries to your sweet pup -- is not something you want to come home to. If your dog becomes agitated when crated, he could panic and harm himself in an effort to get out. This can be a form of separation anxiety or a fear of loud noises, such as thunderstorms. Instead, the ASPCA suggests working with an animal behaviorist to help ease your dog's anxiety before trying the crate thing again. Also, make sure your dog has done his business right before crating him, or he might end up desperate enough to unlock his own door.

    Photo Credits

    • Apple Tree House/Lifesize/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Rob Hainer began writing and editing for newspapers in 1992. He began his career as a photojournalist in the Army, and studied journalism at the University of Missouri. He worked as a copy editor and reporter at "The Marietta Daily Journal," the "Spartanburg Herald-Journal" and the "New Haven Register."

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