4 Tips for crate training a rescue dog

Learn how to crate train your dog responsibly.

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If you have a new puppy or dog, then crate training them helps encourage proper behavior. Crate training, in fact, can help a dog feel safe and supported in a new environment. By crate training your dog, you can also prevent unwanted accidents, as well as damage to your furniture or home fixtures. 

This guide covers everything you need to know about crate training a dog, from selecting the ideal crate to steps on crate training an older dog.  

Step 1: Choose a suitable crate for your dog.

Crates come in different sizes and designs. Make sure to choose the right crate for your dog’s size. As a general rule, the crate should provide enough room for your dog to sit, stand, and lie down comfortably. But you also don’t want the crate to be too big. Otherwise, your dog may use one end to go to the potty and the other to rest. 

Extra tips: 

  • Consider renting a crate or buying second-hand if you have a growing puppy. This way, you can keep upgrading your crate while saving costs as your dog grows. 
  • You can get a crate specially designed for transport if you travel a lot. 

Step 2: Make the crate comfortable.

cozy dog crate with blankets

A crate is not just a cage to put your dog in; It also serves as your dog’s sanctuary, and you want to make sure they don’t feel endangered or stressed when they’re inside. You can put your dog’s bed in the crate, as well as blankets, a cushion, or their favorite toy. Also, you can put in an old t-shirt or any object that smells like you to give your dog a sense of comfort and security. 

Step 3: Introduce the crate. 

Place the crate in a place your dog finds safe and secure. If your dog enjoys napping in the kitchen, for example, then you can put the crate there. Or, if you don’t mind, you can place the crate in your room so your dog feels close to you as you start crate training. 

  • Call your dog to the crate and use a friendly, excited voice. You can drop treats or let your dog eat their meals inside the crate. Doing this can reinforce a positive experience for your dog. 
  • Be patient. Allow some time for your dog to get used to the crate. Crate training can take a few weeks, depending on the dog’s temperament and age. 

Tips for crate training a rescue dog

  • Call your dog to the crate and reward them with a treat once they enter. 
  • Praise your dog and close the crate.
  • Sit next to the crate quietly for a minute or two.
  • Go into another room and leave your dog in the crate for about five to 10 minutes.
  • After a while, come back, unlock the crate, and let your dog out.
  • Praise your dog and give them a treat so they feel rewarded from the experience.

Crate training dos and don’ts 

Never yell at or scold your dog if they whine while in the crate. Instead, calmly ignore your dog until the whining stops. 

Whenever your dog whines, you’ll have to make a judgment call: Is your dog whining to make you let them out or to go to the potty? 

  • If it’s the former, letting them out too soon won’t give your dog enough time to get acclimated to the crate. 
  • If your dog needs to go to the potty, let them out. Regular potty breaks, stretching time, and socializing are essential.

Step 4: Extend crate time gradually. 

Once your dog is okay with staying in its crate for up to 10 minutes, you can try increasing the crate time to 30 minutes or longer. One way to do this is to encourage your dog to sleep in the crate overnight. This is more achievable if you place the crate in your bedroom or the hallway next to your bedroom door. Bear in mind that dogs are social, and isolating them entirely in another room might make them feel afraid. 

Crate training your dog for travel

German Shepherd inside a fabric dog crate in trunk of car

If you want to crate train your dog for long car rides or emergency visits to the vet, you can take a few trial runs. Put your dog in the travel crate, then drive around for a few minutes or take your dog to the park or beach. Positive experiences can help normalize the travel crate. 

Also read: Your Ultimate Guide to Dog Care – Everything you need to know about caring for a dog, from grooming to training 

Crate mindfully and stay open to alternatives

Every dog is different, and crate training may not work for every dog and pet owner. Some dogs come to love their crate and rest in it, even with the door open. But some dogs are anxious in nature and feel miserable in a crate. 

In the case of the latter, consider other options like a pet sitter or doggy day care. Make sure to find professionals who know how to work with your dog’s temperament. 

You might also like: 25 Dog fence ideas for indoors and outdoors 

Not quite sure if crate training is right for your dog, or do you need some expert advice on how to go about training? Get in touch with local dog trainers by posting a task on Airtasker.

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FAQs on crate training a dog

It’s best to crate train an anxious dog while you’re at home. If you’re going out, crate your dog minutes before you leave instead of right before you go out the door. This way, your dog won’t associate the crate with you leaving. As much as possible, also keep the crate near you to stay in your dog’s field of vision and reassure them. With these steps, you can ease your dog’s separation anxiety and get comfortable staying in the crate from time to time.

You can crate train an older dog by doing the same steps above. If your dog is not treat-motivated, try rewarding them with lots of praise and encouragement. Also, let your dog out immediately if they panic soon after you crate them. You may have to avoid keeping your pet in the crate for too long, as senior dogs can have weak bladders and need to go more often. 

Crate training an older dog can be particularly challenging, especially since senior dogs tend to already have habits that are hard to break. Be patient and remember that crate training an older dog can take a few weeks up to a few months. 

Crate training is one way to keep your dog from doing unsafe or undesirable behavior when they’re alone. In a way, a crate can function as sort of a babysitter if you can’t always afford a pet sitter or dog day care. What’s more, a crate can keep your dog away from rowdy children or aggressive dogs. A crate can also be a safe haven for rescue dogs recovering from injury or surgery. 

Adult dogs should not be in a crate for more than 8 hours at a time, according to Adopt-a-Pet.com. But crate time should be much shorter for older dogs and puppies because they need more frequent potty breaks. Regardless, your pet should not spend most of its time in a crate, as dogs naturally need to be around their humans. Long-term confinement is harmful to dogs’ health and well-being. 

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