So you’ve adopted or are fostering a new dog. And now you want to know how to crate train a rescue dog. There are some differences between crate training a puppy and a rescue. We get into it all in this article. We begin by discussing if crate training a rescue dog is a good idea and how long it takes to get the pup used to it.
Let’s dive in.
Is It Good to Crate Train a Rescue Dog?
For starters, crate training a rescue dog can be really good for them. Crate training is all about giving the dog a safe spot that is their own, not locking them up in another kennel. Kennels at shelters and crates at home are completely different things and can actually help ease the transition to the home in many cases.
Most dogs like to go in crates because it simulates a den. It can give the canine a sense of security that it’s likely longing for, especially if it comes from a rough situation. Our rescue dogs like how small they are allowed to “shut off” once in their crates. It’s their safe haven, especially when they are feeling overwhelmed. They don’t have to monitor everything going on, and it gives them permission to relax completely off-duty.
However, it is absolutely worth noting that some rescue dogs may find a crate scary at first. So, be sure never to force a pet into one. If the dog is experiencing extreme separation anxiety or you fear it may harm itself in the crate, be cautious about leaving it inside until you’re sure it can handle it.
We’ll share how to train your rescue dog to be crated with easy, positive steps.
Benefits of Crate Training Your Rescue
Crate training can help you train other desirable behaviors, too. For instance, most dogs naturally don’t go to the bathroom in their bed if they can help it. Because of this, many people find crate training helpful in potty training. Effectively using a crate can also prevent destructive behaviors such as chewing or digging. By providing a structured routine and a safe place to rest, crate training can also help to reduce anxiety and improve overall behavior in rescue dogs.
There is also the benefit of safely putting your dog away for new or busy situations. For instance, you may want your dog safe, calm, and comfy for when new people come over, if a serviceman comes to work on something in your house, or if you just need to be undisturbed. It can also be a necessary respite for an older dog who needs a break from a new puppy.
However, it’s important that crate training should always be done positively, with plenty of treats and patience. You should never use the crate as a punishment.
Pro Tip: Crate training can help you train puppies. Between potty training and basic behaviors, there is a lot to learn.
How Long Does It Take to Crate Train a Rescue Dog?
It can take days to weeks to crate-train a rescue dog. Several factors will come into play, and every dog is unique. For example, it will depend on your rescue’s previous situation, age, and temperament.
Again, never use the crate as a punishment. Any negative experience associated with a crate will make crate training take longer. It should always be related to something positive, like bedtime, and allowing them to feel secure by going in it independently. It’s not a good idea to put your dog in a crate without them having walked in it on their own several times while you’re around. The crate should be their idea and place of safety. That’s why crate training for rescue dogs should be done in small steps and never rushed.
How To Crate Train a Rescue Dog
Knowing how to crate train a rescue dog will help you and the pup get into a routine. Once trained, it will feel safe when you’re away, and you’ll feel comfortable leaving for periods of time. So, let’s dive into training methods that are easy and effective.
Choose the Right Crate
First, it’s essential to choose the right crate for your dog. Crate size is a priority, and one size doesn’t fit all. Find out the height and length of your rescue. The crate should be big enough for the dog to comfortably turn around and lie down while providing extra head space when sitting or standing.
You’ll also want to determine which type of crate to get. There are soft-sided, wire, wooden, and plastic crates. It’s largely a personal preference, but if you have a large and active dog, you might want to consider something more study, like a wire or wooden option. Soft-sided crates are a little easier for a big dog or rambunctious pup to push over or scratch out of the mesh sides or door.
Make the Crate Comfortable
Make the crate comfortable for your rescue dog by putting a bed or blanket on the bottom. If it’s cool in the house or winter, you might also want to cover the crate with a blanket for additional warmth. In the summer, consider a cooling crate pad and ensure enough ventilation in the crate. We also recommend putting a toy in the crate with your dog when the door is shut so it has something to keep busy in case of boredom.
Introduce Your Dog Slowly
Slowly introduce your rescue dog to crate training. Start by simply having the crate in the house with the door open. Let the dog decide when and if it will go into the crate. Give it time to smell it and realize it’s not dangerous. Patience is key.
Feed Your Dog in the Crate
Try putting food or treats in the crate. Show your dog it’s there, but let it decide whether to go in on its own. Food is a positive association with the crate. Don’t be afraid to be generous with the treats! Especially if your pet is treat-motivated, they will quickly associate kennel = treats, treats = good, so kennel = good.
Use (Lots of) Positive Reinforcement
Once your dog starts going inside the crate for food, treats, or to take a nap, give it a lot of positive reinforcement. Lots of “good boy” or “good girl” will help the pup associate praise with the crate and assure them it’s safe.
Close the Door for Short Periods While You’re Home
Now that you have your rescue dog going in the crate, start shutting the door for short periods of time while you’re home. To begin with, shut the door for a few minutes, and slowly increase the time each time you close it. Walk into another room so your pet can’t see you, but you’re still within reach if it becomes upset. The goal is to get it used to the door shut so that, eventually, you’ll be able to leave your dog in the crate for a few hours while you’re away.
Pro Tip: If you give a long-lasting treat, like a peanut butter-filled Kong, they probably won’t even notice the time passing or that you’re gone!
Crate Your Dog at Night
Crating your dog at night with the door closed after it’s used to it can be a good routine to get into. The dog will increasingly realize that it’s a safe and secure spot. While you may find that some dogs prefer to sleep in your bedroom or even in bed with you, some truly love the peace and solitude of the crate. We have a rescue dog who has a hard time “switching off” unless he is in his crate. Since being crate trained, he will actively ask us to put him to bed in his crate.
Increase Crating Time While You’re Away
Increase the amount of time your dog is crated each time you’re away. We recommend starting by leaving the house for an hour or two. It’s vital for the dog to learn that you’re coming back and haven’t abandoned them.
Don’t Use the Crate as a Punishment
It’s worth repeating: the most important aspect of crate training a rescue dog is to avoid using it as a punishment. Don’t send your dog to its crate when it misbehaves. Instead, have another part of the house that you send it to sit or lay in a bed. The crate should only be associated with positive reinforcement and safety. Alternatively, you can still put them in the crate but you must remain neutral and stick to your routine, whether that’s giving a treat each time or a toy.
Pro Tip: Have you considered doggy daycare for your pup while you’re away?
How Do I Deal With My Dog Chewing on the Crate Bars?
If your dog chews on the crate bars, simply give a verbal command to help it stop. For example, say “no.” Again, make sure that the crate isn’t perceived as a punishment.
Another suggestion to get your dog to stop chewing the crate is to spray the bars with bitter apple flavor. Do this while your dog isn’t around so they don’t get scared. It hopefully won’t like the taste and will prevent it from chewing the bars.
Some dogs require more robust crates to help protect themselves. Heavy-duty crates can be useful, however if the dog is trying to escape due to fear or anxiety, we recommend starting back at the beginning of your training to reestablish positive vibes for your dog when they are in the crate.
How Do I Stop My Rescue Dog From Crying in the Crate?
If your dog is crying in the crate, it could be due to a number of reasons. It may be separation anxiety or it could have to go to the bathroom. And it might just be trying to get you to let it out. So, if the crying stops after a short period of time, it may be a test and you’re likely best to ignore it.
For dogs who are crying consistently, you likely need to start the crate training over from the beginning. And if it seems your rescue dog is crying due to a behavioral issue or extreme separation anxiety, you might want to reach out to a professional for help.
Pro Tip: Guide to bringing a new dog home.
Crate Training Your Rescue Dog May Provide Security It Needs When You’re Unavailable
When you crate train a rescue dog, it often provides security and comfort while you’re away. It feels protected inside the crate instead of wandering around the house exposed on its own. We realize crating your dog can sometimes feel like you’re caging it and keeping it from being free. But it’s natural for dogs to den, and that’s what a crate can simulate for them.
As long as you aren’t leaving your dog in the crate for the majority of the day and using it as a positive tool for their overall training, it can be an amazing addition to your and your dog’s lives.
Have you crate-trained a rescue dog? Share your experience in the comments below.
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