Crate Training a Rescue Dog – Benefits, Tips, and Steps

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Crate training a rescue dog can be challenging for pet owners. And the challenge is partly because most rescue dogs have suffered a trauma previously, so handling them can be tricky.

But here’s the thing: I have crate trained over ten rescues, and I’m here to assure it’s something any pet parent can do.  

Have you considered crate training your canine buddy yet? I’ll highlight its benefits in this guide to see what you’re probably missing. You’ll also learn tips to make the procedure a success and possible (surmountable) challenges to expect.

Ready? Let’s dive in.

Benefits of Crate Training

Beagle inside the crate

Dogs are social and friendly, rescue or not. Keeping her indoors with the rest of the family can do her much good. She wants to feel she belongs, and including her in family activities will reduce her loneliness and anxiety,

You’ll have peace even when away from the house by training your rescue, and she’ll be safe, calm, and disciplined. 

But wait, there’s more! Both you and your dog will find crate training useful in several ways, including:

  • Your rescue dog will enjoy the security and privacy she needs. She has a place to retreat whenever she feels tired, unwell, or stressed.
  • You’ll also have peace of mind when you’re away from home. The dog will not run around destroying things in the house.
  • It allows you to house train your dog much quicker using its confinement to establish a routine for outdoor potty time, prevent accidents, and encourage control.
  • Since the dog is no longer isolated, frustrated, and lonely like before, she will be happy and content with her new family. She’ll be preoccupied, playing with her plush toys.
  • You can confine the dog whenever you have guests or during meal times.
  • It’ll be convenient to let your best friend tag along on your trips or family gatherings/outings. The crate will keep her safe all the way.
  • Dogs with thunderstorm phobia or borderline separation anxiety prefer staying in the crate, especially when you’re not around.
  • It gives her a sense of safety and security, especially when you are away. Rescue dogs tend to be overly active, so crating can help prevent injuries. A crate is often perfected to suit her needs. When she’s comfortable in the crate, she feels secure.
  • It lets you know when your best friend is stressed and withdrawn. Your rescue dog may have had a lonely past, so while she’s adapting to the new environment, she’ll consider the crate a haven when she wants her space.
  • Crating allows your rescue dog to be herself when in her own space. She can nap or play freely as she wants.
  • It helps to make the house less messy. An unconfined rescue dog around the house can be quite messy. She’ll laze around if she isn’t drooling all over the couch or carpet. Having her confined in the crate will make cleaning a breeze.

Tips and Steps for Crate Training a Rescue Dog

Puppy in a crate with toys

The training takes time, and you have to do it right. Based on her traumatic background and experience, new people and an enclosed environment can make her resist even when provided with all sorts of comfort.  

However, following the right steps for crate training can help your fur friend adjust faster in the new home. 

These nine training steps will get your companion jumping about in no time. Follow them religiously to the end.

9 Steps for Crate Training a Rescue Dog

1. Choose the Right Crate

Dog crates come in different varieties and sizes. There are plastic, metal, fabric, and other types of crates. The plastics are lightweight crates good for dogs that love dark enclosures while metal types are indestructible dog crates.. 

But since you need one that is comfortable, durable, and flexible, you may want to go for enclosed plastic or collapsible metal crates. I like wire crates because I can fold them flat and stash them safely in the store.

Choose your crate well, keeping in mind the size and background of your best friend. You’ll find different sizes in the market. Getting a larger-sized crate will get your rescue dog misbehaving since she’s not trained yet. On the other hand, choosing a smaller size will make her uncomfortable.

The best thing to do is go for the right size – one that isn’t too big or too small. The appropriate crate size lets your dog stand up, lie down, and move around without effort. Measure it to a larger crate the size of an adult dog so you can use crate bars to shrink the interior during training. 

You can buy additional enclosures and crate covers when you need to travel with your dog or just keep her in the crate at night. 

2. Start by Setting a Proper Mindset for the Dog

Dog with a ball in a crate

Allow your rescue dog to associate her crate with a calm, relaxed mindset. Eventually, she will get used to fundamental crate training. Try this by bringing her inside a few times when she feels calm or exhausted.  

Start acquainting her with the kennel by letting her stay inside for about ten minutes and increase this duration over time. She will soon start viewing the crate as the ideal place for resting.

3. Choose an Ideal Location for the Crate

Place the dog kennel in a room that is easily accessible and where you spend most of your time, like the living room. I recommend putting it close to the outdoor exit and ensuring a good crate distance out of the way. This positioning allows the dog to go out when she wants to relieve herself. 

You can put the crate beside your bed during the night as a reminder that the crate is specifically meant for sleeping or resting. 

4. Try Luring Her into the Crate

It will not be easy to get your rescue dog to enter her cage, especially if she has experienced trauma or mistreatment. You can only achieve this by placing a few treats close to the crate’s entrance.

Allow her to enter her cage voluntarily, even if she remains adamant. When the dog is finally at the entrance, toss a few more treats inside the crate to lure her in. After this, make sure the crate door remains open for her to enter and exit until she gets used to resting in her crate with bed..

5. Feed Your Dog in the Crate

dog eating from a bowl inside his crate

Get your best friend to adjust to her lifestyle by letting her take her meals inside the cage. Place her food tray at the back of the enclosure. Once she starts getting used to this routine, move the dish further inside slowly every mealtime. But if she still shows discomfort while inside, you can place the dish at the entrance barrier.

6. Close the Door at Meals Time

By now, your rescue dog must be at ease and comfortable taking her meals inside the cage. Start by keeping the door closed during mealtime. Once she finishes her meal, open it. Make it a habit of closing the door for a while after she is done eating. Let her get used to the routine, then start closing the door whenever the dog has meals.

Your rescue dog will whine for a while to convince you to get her out, but you’ll have to stand your ground. Only open the door when she stops the whining.

7. Teach Her a Command

The time for luring your dog into the cage is up. Start teaching the dog a command to enter the crate without luring tactics. For instance, you can say, “kennel up” or “into the crate” while pointing towards the crate door, treat in hand. 

Your dog will eventually start entering the crate without expecting a reward. After the dog enters, praise and reward her with a treat, and once she gets used to the command, stop giving the treat.

8. Let the Dog Spend More Time in the Crate

black and white dog in metal cage or crate

You’ve been crate training your rescue dog for a while now. It’s time to let her stay enclosed in her strong crate for much longer in your company until you can go out and leave her alone in the cage for a while. Once she is comfortable being in the crate alone for half an hour or so, you can let her stay there when you have a few errands to run. 

9. Crate the Dog at Night

Your dog may not be fully house-trained yet, so she’ll likely whine when she needs to relieve herself sometime during the night. You’ll have to put the crate close to your bedroom for when she wants to potty. When you hear her whining, speak the housebreaking command and wait for her reaction.

You’ll have to take her outside and back to the crate if she reacts. If she doesn’t, ignore it and let her stay in there for the night.

At this point, your rescue dog must know the rules and commands of the cage and comfortably associates her crate time with other activities. If you were afraid to make the crate comfortable before, it’s high time you added a dog bed, crate pads, soft blankets/towels, and chew toys to the enclosure. These items will create an inviting environment for your rescue dog. 

Now that your dog has experience with crates, let her enjoy more comfort for passing the training. But remember, this will depend on the dog you adopted. If chewing and tearing items is a habit, adding towels, soft blankets, and beds may not be good.

That being said, let’s look at the tips for effective crate training.

Tips for Crate Training a Rescue Dog Effectively

A rescue dog values and appreciates having her own space. That’s why you have to train her the right way by ensuring she enjoys positive crate experiences. Coaching her on various practices turns her into a happy, confident companion.

Use these crate training tips to help your dog acclimate to her new master (you) and home.

Exercise Patience

The training process can be short or long, depending on the rescue dog. Either way, you should know that it may take your energy, time, and dedication for your rescue to comfortably adapt to the environment, crate rules, and the enclosure. Be patient as your best friend grows to be confident about everything.

Make A Routine

Your rescue will adapt better to you and your house if she settles into a routine. Please make a careful crate training schedule for her. Eventually, she’ll know when to eat, go for a walk or give space for a crate clean, and retire into the cage.

Don’t Show Your Frustration

Showing your dismay and frustration can worsen the whole situation. Avoid yelling, rattling the crate, or making threatening gestures. The dog will get scared, and all your progress will be in vain.

Adjust The Training To The Dog’s Pace And Response

Not all rescue dogs are the same. Some respond better to praise, others to a crate time fun break, while others get motivated by a treat or a food bowl. Some learn through demonstrations. Certain rescues like your company, while others need additional alone time.

Make it a point to learn your rescue’s behavior and adjust to it to help her grasp things faster.

  • Never punish your dog with crating: When your rescue dog misbehaves or does something wrong, don’t confine her in the kennel. Let her see the crate as a safe and comfortable space where she can rest, play, nap, and sleep.
  • Beware of the hazards: If your rescue dog hasn’t completely settled in the crate, you must not leave her alone. The first instinct that comes to mind will be to escape. In the process, she might injure herself while struggling to escape. When crated, take her collar off to avoid catching on a wire or other obstacle.
  • Balance the crate time: Don’t let the dog spend too much time in her new dwelling place, as this can cause depression. Allow her time for exercise, play, and exploration, and give her the attention she deserves.

Common Problems Encountered When Crate Training

Crate training can be a daunting process if you deal with rescue dogs that resent confinements such as kennels. The trauma of loneliness and confinement can outweigh your attempts to lure her into the cage with treats or any efforts you make to help her adjust.

Let’s look at the common issues you’ll encounter while cage training your rescues.

  • When the dog experiences crate aversion, she may show resistance by injuring herself and trying to escape. But that’s not all; the dog may also pee and poop inside the kennel when confined for too long. The crate will no longer be useful for house training when this happens.
  • Since the dog can’t say she deplores whatever you’re doing to her, she may try to protest by barking at you or scratching the ground when you close the kennel door. Your canine companion may also try to escape as many times as possible.
  • She won’t stop biting the cage’s door in anguish, pawing, or whining frantically. This habit can be due to boredom, anxiety, or resistance. You’ll only find a solution when you determine the cause of this behavior. Try providing interactive dog toys for crate time to keep her engaged when bored.
  • Act aggressively by practicing crate abuse, including biting and nipping whenever you try to command her to go inside.
  • A passive rescue tends to act the opposite. She’ll try to lick herself or lick the inside of the enclosure, eat her puppies, or turn around in small circles in a frenzy.
  • Separation anxiety: While training your dog, she may get too attached to you, making it difficult to leave her behind when you have to step out of the house. She’ll keep barking until you come back.

How Long Should Crate Training a Rescue Dog Take?

Golden Retriever inside the crate

Coaching time for your rescue depends on her age, background, and experience. Puppy rescues often pick up on their training much faster than their older counterparts, who prefer following their behaviors and routines.

Those with a history of abuse and neglect are likely to give you a hard time and will need a lot of dedication and patience from you. 

Crate training duration may take about two weeks to two months to perfect. Your determination and dedication can make the process smooth for you and your dog.

Wrap Up

I hope you enjoyed the above steps on crate training a rescue dog. Remember to take it one step at a time as you observe the best practices of cage training we’ve highlighted here. 

Not only with crate training give your dog a haven for crate training safety and privacy, but it also gives you peace of mind when away, knowing your little companion is secure.

What tricks do you use to crate train your dog, and have you experienced any challenges? Please share with us in the comments below!

Meet our writer

Jen Clifford is an animal behaviorist and veterinary technician with more than a decade of hands-on experience working in small animal and specialty veterinary clinics.

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