Dog Won’t Eat In Crate? What Could Be Wrong?

Canines are pretty food-driven pets. However, there are instances when a dog won’t eat in crate for several reasons.

Overall, refusal to eat is a common problem among dogs. It’s usually observed on canines that are brought to a new home.

Dog Won't Eat In Crate

Rescued and newly rehomed dogs are best fed in crates since they are prone to resource guarding in the open. But if the doggo isn’t eating inside, that could be a problem.

In this post, I will share some tips to help you overcome this dilemma. I also added more information to ensure that your doggo is eating well.

Reasons why your dog won’t eat in the crate

Always remember that every behavioral issue in dogs has a root cause. By pointing out the root of the problem, you can formulate an effective solution.

So if your dog is refusing to eat inside its crate, the following might be the reasons why:

1.    The crate is dirty.

First, you should check whether the crate is clean or not. A dirty crate can put off your dog and affect its appetite.

While some dogs have no problem eating in a dirty place, some are picky. It’s important to keep your dog’s crate clean to avoid this problem.

Also, you should never share your dog’s crate with another pet. If you do so, the smell of the other animal will cling to the crate, which will impact the original user’s behavior.

This is because dogs are pretty territorial. If they can smell another animal in their crate, their guards will be up and they may refuse to eat.

2.    The crate is too small.

Another thing you should consider is the size of the crate. If it’s too small, your dog may not be able to stand up well to eat properly.

This is why you should be mindful of the crate size you’re going to get. It should always match the adult size of your dog.

For a dog, a jam-packed crate is not a comfortable place to feed. And while most dogs will not starve themselves when food is available, the tight space will still create unnecessary stress.

3.    Your dog is stressed or anxious.

Anxiety and stress can wreak havoc on your dog. Even though the crate is meant to combat all these problems, it may not be enough for some canines.

In this case, the crate isn’t the issue, but the psychological problems of your dog. It might be suffering from intense fear, separation anxiety, and so on.

When a dog is overcome by fear, it will refuse to eat and drink like normal. Take note that fear can also trigger other behavioral problems if not addressed properly.

On the other hand, the unfamiliar surroundings of your home can also make your dog nervous. So if your pooch only arrived home recently, you should give it time to decompress.

4.    Your dog is sick.

Dogs with health problems will stop eating, whether it’s inside or outside the crate. These health problems can be serious, so it’s best to take your dog to the vet for proper examination.

Poor appetite is a general symptom of a myriad of health issues. Your dog might be dealing with anything as simple as an upset stomach or a life-threatening condition like cancer or kidney failure.

Only the vet can tell you the exact condition of your pet. Also, it’s only after proper diagnosis that your pet can be treated.

Take note that if your dog is left untreated for its sickness, it can actually starve itself to death.

5.    Your dog doesn’t like the food.

On a less serious note, it could be that your dog just doesn’t like the food you’re serving. So whether you put it inside or outside the crate, your doggo will not eat it just the same.

Some canines are pickier than others, so it’s a matter of finding out what your dog prefers. You may need to purchase several food products to finally nail your dog’s taste.

How to get your dog to eat inside its crate

While it may be challenging sometimes to feed a dog inside the crate, there are workarounds you can try. Here are a few tips that might work:

1.    Clean the crate regularly

It’s crucial to keep your dog’s crate clean. This way, the pooch won’t have appetite problems, not to mention that it will also prevent infections.

In general, you need to clean your canine’s crate every four weeks. But if it’s getting soiled faster, maintenance can be done every two weeks.

Aside from cleaning, you can prevent messes on your pet’s crate by using a pee pad. You should also wash fabric items once a week even if you’re not cleaning the crate.

When washing the crate itself, avoid using strong detergents. Preferably, you should only use enzymatic cleaners to remove odors and deep-seated dirt.

2.    Get a crate in the right size

Dogs grow fast, which means they can easily outgrow a crate made for puppies. In this case, you should upgrade your canine’s crate to a unit that’s 1.5 times bigger than its adult body size.

This crate size gives your dog enough space to move around, sit, lie down, and stand. With that, it will have ample space to eat its meals comfortably.

The good thing is that crate manufacturers often indicate the right size that matches specific breeds.

If you don’t want to spend money replacing crates, I suggest getting modular types. These crates can be expanded or reduced in size by removing some parts.

3.    Change the crate’s location

If your dog’s crate is clean and well-sized, you can try placing it in a different location. Choose a spot with the least foot traffic and away from too much noise.

For dogs that are recently brought home, it’s best to keep their crates inside a quiet room. This will allow the canine to acclimate to its new home and to eat in peace.

Overall, you should avoid placing the crate in the living room, especially if your dog is still aloof from other people.

Also, try covering the crate with a blanket during your dog’s mealtimes. This may add a sense of security, which will help your pet eat properly.

4.    Train your dog to like the crate

Some dogs don’t like eating inside the crate because they don’t like the enclosure. The fix here is to train your canine to have positive associations with the crate.

You can start this by putting your dog’s favorite toy inside the crate. Aside from that, you can try giving treats at the entrance of the crate to help lure your pet to eat inside.

Always be patient and remember that each dog responds to training at a different pace. If all your effort isn’t yielding results, you shouldn’t hesitate to consult a professional dog trainer instead.

5.    Change the food

You can also try changing your dog’s food and see if it will have renewed interest in its meals. Consider getting a new flavor to see if it will appeal to your pet’s taste buds.

For picky dogs, go for flavorful and aromatic diets. Most of them like fish-based dog food products since it has a stronger odor and taste.

Overall, finding the right food for your picky dog is a matter of trial and error. You may need to purchase 2 to 5 food variants in the process.

6.    Try feeding the dog outside the crate

Lastly, try feeding your dog outside the crate. In some cases, your dog is ready to leave the crate and start eating outside as normal canines do.

If your pet seems scared, start by placing the food bowl right at the entrance of the crate. Over the days, you can slowly move this farther until the doggo is eating outside.

Should dogs always eat inside their crate?

The need to feed inside the crate depends on your dog’s behavior. If it’s resource guarding, it’s wise to feed the pooch inside the crate.

Also, if it’s still scared of its new home, you should let it inside until it’s ready to come out. Be patient and never drag the canine out.

Moreover, if the dog has a contagious illness, feeding it inside the crate away from other pets is necessary. This way, your dog won’t spread the disease.

So when is the perfect time to feed my dog outside the crate? It’s all about following your dog’s lead once it’s ready.

Should I take my dog’s food away if it doesn’t want to eat it?

You should take away your dog’s food bowl if it refuses to eat for an hour.

This is to prevent a mess inside the crate. Also, dog food may spoil, which is something you wouldn’t want your pet to consume later on.

Also, dogs don’t like cold and stale food. If you want to offer the food again, try adding warm water and see if it will entice your dog’s appetite.

If you wish to leave food in your dog’s crate, opt for dry kibble instead. This lasts longer than wet food since it doesn’t spoil too easily and it’s easier to clean in case your dog flips the bowl.  

Do you need to put water inside your dog’s crate?

Dogs don’t need water inside their crate if they are only staying in it overnight. Just make sure that the canine has eaten and drunk enough before being locked inside the crate.

Also, it’s not wise to place water inside the crate because your dog will likely make a mess out of it. Aside from that, your dog will have to urinate more often in the middle of the night, which defeats the purpose of crate training.

You don’t have to worry about dehydration as long as your adult dog has drank water before crating. However, if your pet is still a puppy, you’ll have to take it out of the crate after 2 to 4 hours for feeding and drinking.

Should I close the crate door while feeding my dog?

You can close the door of the crate while your dog is eating as long as the pooch is comfortable with it. Some dogs will start to panic once they see the lock is closed, so always observe your pet’s reaction first.

If you want to close the door as your dog eats, you must train the canine to be comfortable with such a setup. You can do this by closing the door briefly and then opening it right away.

After some time, you can increase the duration until your pet is fully desensitized to it.

How many hours in a day can a dog stay in the crate?

Adult dogs should only stay inside the crate for a maximum of 8 hours. Some can stretch it to 9 hours, but that’s not advisable.

If you’re crating your dog at night, you must take it outdoors first thing in the morning. This is to allow your dog to have its first potty trip of the day.

For those who are crating their dogs during the day, you should make sure that the canine is released after 8 hours. If you can’t make it home in time, you should ask someone else to take your pet for a potty trip.

When it comes to puppies, crate hours should be limited. It can only stay inside the crate for a full 8 hours once it’s around 9 months old.

At what age can you stop using a dog crate?

In most cases, dog crating can be stopped once the pooch is two years old. At this age, it’s assumed that you’ve trained your dog, so it’s no longer susceptible to separation anxiety and accidents around the house.

Overall, your dog isn’t supposed to use a crate for life. You need to train the doggo, so it will remain disciplined and calm even without this enclosure.


If your dog won’t eat in crate, there are several solutions you can try. Also, you shouldn’t hesitate to involve the vet if you suspect that your pet is suffering from a health problem.

Be patient and always use positive methods. Remember that violence will not get a scared dog to eat.

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