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Dog Crate Smells Like Pee? Here Are Some Smart Solutions

Key Takeaways

  • The dog crate is a crucial part of day-to-day life with a dog, but can end up playing host to some foul odors, including the distinct smell of urine.
  • Pee smell in the dog crate can be attributed to a number of causes, but fortunately most of them are fixable by enforcing better doggy hygiene and cleaning your dog’s crate regularly.

For me and many other dog owners, the dog crate is a fundamental part of owning a dog. It provides the dog with a safe and comfortable space, which they eventually come to love. Crates can be great for training dogs, having become a staple of potty-training. I myself find them particularly useful for behavior training, especially with stubborn dogs. But they often have an unfortunate side effect—they can smell pretty bad! There are a number of reasons for this, ranging from simple hygiene issues to more troubling ones like incontinence. Here are a few tips for dog owners on how to get rid of those pesky dog smells.

What Causes Dog Crate Odors?

Even the best dog crate will smell if not properly maintained. The musty smell of a dog’s kennel is often an unpleasant one. The causes of this dog odor are numerous, but most can be remedied by taking some simple steps. 

Inadequate Bathing Frequency

If your dog’s plastic crate smells, it’s probably because he hasn’t had a bath in a while. Since dogs aren’t exactly the cleanest animals, they can smell vaguely of urine because some of it may get stuck on their fur. This can rub off on the crate and their bedding, and bit by bit, it can compound into a ferocious stench. Regular, thorough washing is needed to prevent this—not just a rinse in the tub every now and again. If your dog is afraid of baths, I’ve always found that a good way to slowly acclimate him to the idea is by showering him with praise and food before and during his bath.

Alternatively, you can wash them by using an outdoor hose or filling up a kiddie pool for his bath rather than filling up the tub. You can also use dry shampoo or wipes to keep your dog’s coat clean between baths.

Dirty Beddings

This is the most common reason for any dog bed to smell bad. Dog smell is notorious for sticking to fabric. Ideally, you should wash your dog’s bedding whenever they soil it while sleeping or after getting back from the park or other excursions.

Rolling in Unpleasantness

Another reason your dog’s crate can smell is that they’ve rolled in something awful. It can happen on walks or even in your backyard. This is especially a problem for plastic crates, in my experience, as they tend to retain pungent odors.

If this is the case, it’s best to bathe your pet with a gentle dog shampoo to have them smelling nice before putting them back into their crate for the night.

Stale Urine

This can be an issue if your pet “marks” their bed or frequently wets it during the night, usually because of health problems. Dog urine has a strong odor that becomes staler over time, especially as bacteria grow inside the bedding. Cleaning your dog’s bedding regularly will help prevent this from becoming a problem.

Potty accident

Suppose the dog is not trained and has an accident it diarrhea or vomits in the crate. Leaving the mess unattended can cause unpleasant odors to develop. Sometimes dogs with gastrointestinal problems like pancreatitis or inflammatory bowel disease will have accidents in their crate, so it’s important to watch them as they get older.

Stress and Anxiety

If your dog suffers from anxiety, he may start to urinate or defecate in his crate when you leave the house. If the problem persists, consult your vet about the issue. It could be an issue with other animals in the house or an underlying condition.

How to Clean and Maintain a Dog Crate

Wash Your Dog!

Dog crate smells like pee

The first thing to do when confronted with a bad odor coming from the crate is to get your dog washed. Unless you have a puppy or an older dog, it is best to take them outside and hose them off with warm water. It’s also advisable to use pet shampoo specifically designed to combat tough-to-remove odors.

Clean the Crate

Begin by removing everything from inside the crate—dog toys, blankets, water bowls, and anything else you have in there. Then take out the tray if it is removable. The tray should be cleaned first so that it has time to dry before putting everything back together again. Wash the crate and accessories with hot water and a pet-safe or mild detergent.

You can also use a homemade cleaning solution with baking soda, vinegar, and lemon juice. If your dog tends to dirty their crate a lot, having a wire crate is ideal in my opinion. Wire crates can be hosed down and scrubbed much more easily than most plastic crates.

Launder the Blankets and Bedding Material

Washing machine.

Wash the dog’s bedding and blankets with hot water and pet-safe detergents in the washing machine. Use a pet shampoo or the best carpet cleaner you can find for pets & stains, and use this to spot-clean any heavily soiled areas on the bedding or towels. If you don’t want to wash your dog’s bed so often, try to use multiple layers of sheets so you can just replace them whenever they start to smell.

Disinfect the Crate Regularly

An ounce of prevention is worth much more than a pound of pet-safe detergent. You’ll be saving yourself a lot of trouble cleaning if you perform simple disinfection on your dog’s crate whenever you have the time. Remove any pads, blankets, or toys inside the crate.

Once these items are removed, spray the inside down of the crate with disinfectant. Afterward, wipe it out with paper towels until completely dry and everything looks clean. If you have a wire crate, you can do this with just a damp cloth carrying some cleaning solution and disinfectant.


You can also vacuum to clean off any blankets or bedding in your dog’s crate. These items will most likely be washable as well, but vacuuming them will eliminate loose hair and dirt while they wait to be washed. Air dry it out and leave the doors open so that the moisture evaporates. 

Getting Your Dog to Stop Urinating in the Crate

Make the dog potty before going into the crate

The most important thing you can do to stop a puppy from peeing in the crate is to make sure your pet goes to potty before entering it. Then, put him in his crate when he is nice and relaxed. If he’s still relaxed, chances are high you will not have to deal with a strong odor.

Express their anal glands

Sometimes your pet’s anal glands become infected causing pungent odors and discomfort []. The only way to grant relief is to express them, though many dogs also have recurring problems so this needs to be done regularly.

Have a regular schedule

A consistent schedule will help you keep track of the signals that indicate they need to go out—like whining or pacing—and take them out before an accident happens.

Don’t give the dog water 1 hour before bedtime

Take away their water bowl about an hour before bedtime so that they don’t need to potty during the night. If the dog has an accident, refrain from yelling; this will only make them fearful of you and more prone to peeing in his crate again. Instead, persist through the smells and clean it up quietly.

Remember to reinforce good bathroom etiquette by laying on the praise every time your dog potties outside of his own accord. I often take this a step further by initiating some play time when they successfully do so. I find that this can accelerate the process of potty training, especially if you’re using potty pads, or training hyperactive dogs who really love to play.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why keep the dog crate clean and remove dog smell?

Dogs like to retreat into a clean, comfortable space. A dirty plastic crate can cause your dog physical and emotional distress. Pets can get sick from exposure to bacteria and parasites found in urine and feces. Dirty crates provide the perfect environment for these organisms to flourish.

When should I crate train my dog?

If you have a new puppy, it is best to start crate training early. Most pets will not have any issues being crate trained and will quickly learn to see the crate as their safe place. Older dogs can also be crate trained, but it may take longer. Start by crate training for short periods.

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