How to Crate Train Your Rescue Dog in 7 Steps

A rescue dog relaxing in his crate during some crate training exercises.

Crate training your rescue dog can be seem like a daunting task for anyone or any dog, but it doesn’t have to be as long as you make it fun and part of the routine. And we are here to help you every step of the way (all 7 steps to be exact)! Here are the 7 steps we have found useful for crate training our rescue pups.

Step 1: Choose the Best Crate for your Rescue Dog

Now, no matter what age or size of your pup, buying the right crate is very important. Most place will tell you (and rightfully so) to buy a crate that large enough to allow your pup to stand up, turn around and lay down.

With that said, you don’t want to buy a crate too large either. I had a dog who inherited his older sister’s crate and liked peeing in the back corner which is not where he slept. We used a crate with a divider, so we shrunk it down and it helped cut back the accidents. As he grew, we moved the divider.

As dog owners, you may also have to choose between a kennel crate and a wire crate. Kennel crates provide a more dark and enclosed space whereas a wire crate provides visibility for the pup. It depends on what your dog prefers. Mine like laying in the sun, so the wire crate works great for him to sun bathe.

Step 2: Make Your Pup Comfortable In the Crate

Some dogs like laying on hard surfaces, others like blankets, and others prefer the comfort of a dog bed. Watch your rescue dog over the first few days and see what they like laying on throughout your home and use that knowledge to make them comfortable in the crate.

I learned this the hard way. My dog, likes laying on dog beds and couches but I thought I’d try a blanket. Nope! It didn’t take long for him to shred that thing to pieces!

Step 3: Make the Dog Crate a Positive Experience

To get your dog comfortable with being in the crate, use positive reinforcement. Your dog may be shy or suspicious of the crate, so make them feel comfortable. Have them enter the crate for dog treats, food, and their favorite toy. Praise your pup for going in the crate (even if you’re coaxing them)!

But never coerce them and create a negative experience with the crate. The crate is not meant for punishment. It’s meant to be a place for your pup to feel comfortable and relax.

Step 4: Associate the Crate with a Dog Command

This step is pretty self explanatory. Use a command specifically for the crate. Every time you attempt to have your pup go into the crate, use a command like “bed” or “place”. When they go into the crate, reward them and continue to reinforce a positive experience and command!

To this day, with our dog 5 years later, we say “Chief place” with a finger point and goes right to his crate. We give him a treat and a toy and he’s a good boy for as long as he’s in his crate.

Step 5: Naked is Free!

Remove dog collars, tags, harnesses, clothes, UGG boots from your dog. You dog should be completely naked in the crate? Why? They could get caught on the crate somehow.

Best case scenario: the turtle neck your dog was wearing is torn up. Worst case scenario: your dog is at risk strangling herself. Take the extra time and make sure your pup isn’t wearing anything.

Step 6: Build Up Time in the Crate over Time

Whether you’re crate training a puppy, adult dogs, or a rescue, it will take time and patience to train your pup. But no worries. Stay calm and consistent in your approach to crate training your companion.

If you have a rescue, you may have to overcome PTSD from a previous experience or separation anxiety. Learn more about handling pups with behavior issues here.

If you have a puppy, you will have to overcome screeching and small bladder. For puppies, you should gradually teach your puppy to remain inside the crate for longer periods, increasing the time that the door remains closed each time you have them go into the crate.

Step 7: All Good Things Take Time

Regardless of puppy or adult dog, it could take months to comfortably crate you dog for a long period of time. Keep in mind crate training isn’t the only thing your new pup.

You are new to them. Your home is new to them. There’s a lot to adjust to! Stay patient, keep it positive, and have fun with it! It’s a great opportunity to build the bond with your dog!

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