Crate training is hotly debated within the dog community. Whilst some people don’t like the idea of crating a dog, it can be very beneficial for the dog as it provides a safe space for them to unwind.
This is particularly true for rescue dogs who need some time to adjust to a new environment. So, let’s take a look at crate training, why you should crate a rescue dog and how to do it.
What Is Crate Training?
Crate training is the process of introducing a crate to a puppy or dog, which is like an indoor kennel or den for them to go to. It is a safe, comfortable and familiar place for them to go to unwind and relax.
Crating a dog should never be done as a punishment or treated like a cage. It is intended as a safe space for them to feel at home and at peace.
With crate training, you should implement positive reinforcement until it becomes part of the routine, and where your dog chooses to go to feel protected and secure.
Why You Should Crate Train A Rescue
Crate training provides a safe place for your dog to go. However, this is not the only reason we suggest crate training a dog. It can also provide confinement for the purpose of safety, security, training and to prevent destructive or negative behaviors.
Crate training is also a good idea because it gets a dog used to crates and kennels. If your dog ever needs to travel or have surgery, they will already feel safe and calm in a kennel or crate environment.
If they are not used to a crate, when they have surgery at the vets, and are placed in a crate for recovery, they may become stressed or anxious.
Crate training is also essential for the housebreaking and house training process. It ensures that your dog has a place to calm down and sleep, but also becomes part of the routine, and helps with potty training and teething.
It also keeps pets safe if you need to leave the home or leave them by themselves, as you can rest assured they are not being destructive in your home or possibly putting themselves at risk.
For many rescue dogs, they may suffer from behavioral problems, or they may not have been trained by their previous owners (Find out How Long Does It Take For A Rescue Dog To Adjust?). Crates provide a safe, secure environment to help you train them.
This is particularly important if a dog has fear based aggression, territorial behavior or separation anxiety issues.
In those cases, crating can help them build confidence by themselves, or have a place to feel safe from harm whilst they slowly warm to you.
How To Crate Train A Rescue Dog
The issue with crate training a rescue dog is that it can be very difficult. Crate training is not an easy process for anyone, however if you had a young puppy from a breeder, they are like a blank canvas.
They don’t know any different, and if you implement a crate from a young age, they can take to it far more quickly than an older dog or one with set in behaviors from previous owners.
What this means is that crate training a rescue dog can take a long time and a lot of patience.
To crate train a rescue dog, you will first need a secure crate and some crate bedding. Liaise with a vet or the rescue to see what size would suit the breed so that they do not have too much room or too little room to stretch out.
Purchase some blankets and a mat or bed for the crate to make it nice and cozy for them.
It is also worth purchasing a crate cover so that your pet does not feel exposed, and this can also make it feel like a den, which is a dog’s natural environment.
The first step is to introduce the crate. Let your dog sniff around and investigate it with the door open. Place the crate in a space where you spend a lot of your time.
You can also implement positive reinforcement with some kibbles or treats, by hiding them in there for your dog to find so that it is a good place to be. Reward your dog whenever they go in there or lie down in there.
Some dogs will choose to sleep in there straight away, however, some need encouragement.
You can also give treats and toys when the dog is inside of the crate. Do not force them in there, but encourage them to go in with a command such as ‘Crate’ or ‘Kennel’.
Next, you need to start confining them for short periods of time. You may need to start with 5-10 minutes by encouraging them to go in calmly, closing the crate without hitting them with the door, and leaving the room for a few minutes.
Your dog may whine or bark, so wait for silence when you return, and reward for calm behavior. Then, release the dog from the crate calmly. Repeat this until you build up more and more time in the crate.
If your dog struggles to like the crate, then it is a good idea to stimulate when outside of the crate. Give food, training, walks and playtime when outside of the crate, and use the crate as a calm space to relax and unwind or sleep.
After your dog is mentally stimulated and tired out, implement the crate for an hour or two to sleep. You should also start leaving the home when your dog is calm and napping in those crate periods.
You will also need to crate the dog at nighttime for sleeping. Some owners keep the crate close to them or in the bedroom at first, in case the dog is anxious or fearful of being alone.
As time passes, and the crate becomes a part of the normal routine, you can move it back downstairs.
At first, dogs may resist crate training. It is vital that you do not use it as a punishment, or let them bite the bars or destroy things as they could injure themselves (You might also want to check out How To Get A Pit Bull To Release).
This is why you slowly build up to longer periods in the crate, and use positive reinforcement only to mark good behavior.
Finally, never put the dog in the crate and leave them in there with a collar on as this can quickly become a choking hazard if the collar gets caught on the metal bars.
How Long Does It Take To Crate Train A Rescue Dog?
This depends on the dog itself. Some take to crating very quickly and enjoy the crate environment, whereas others may feel abandoned or scared in the crate at first.
You should not go into crate training thinking this is a quick process or temporary solution. Crate training a dog completely can take anywhere from two or three months to six months or more.
To summarize, crate training a rescue is a good idea. It provides a sanctuary and den for them to relax in. However, it is not an easy process, and can take up to six months to get the dog acclimated to the crate completely.