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Crate Training a Rescue Dog: Tips for Success

By Aviram K.
Published in Training & Behavior
May 17, 2022
4 min read
Crate Training a Rescue Dog: Tips for Success
✏️ This article has been reviewed in accordance with our editorial policy.
🏥 The information in this article is not a substitute for professional help.

Rescuing is a very admirable endeavor; with thousands of dogs around the country desperately needing homes, opening yourself up to giving a pup a second chance is something commendable!

However, crate training a rescue dog does come with a new set of challenges that puppy owners don’t tend to face when purchasing a dog from a breeder.

Rescue dogs often have a mysterious history, potentially making crate training more difficult. For some dogs, crate training might not be the right choice. When it is, then crate training basics still apply. Understand the limitations, focus on building confidence, start when your dog is tired, find a great chew toy, and use positive reinforcement.

This article is for you for those bringing a shelter pup into their home and hearts. So in this article, I’ll help you navigate crate training a shelter dog with tips and tricks to help make the process as easy as possible for both of you.

Ready? Let’s dive in!

Table of Contents
Crate Training a Rescue Dog Could Be a Bit More Challenging
Tips for Crate Training a Rescue Dog

Crate Training a Rescue Dog Could Be a Bit More Challenging


Whether you bring home a puppy from the shelter or an adult dog from a rescue, there may be challenges to overcome when crate training a rescue dog.

For starters, as it is more common to adopt an adult dog than a puppy, you will face issues teaching a dog set in their ways some brand new tricks.

Adult dogs have already formed their habits and developed opinions on various aspects of their life, and crate training will ultimately challenge these and may be met with some resistance.

Second, as is the case with most rescue animals, you will have no idea of what their prior history is.

There may have been some trauma or abuse in the past that could make crate training more difficult. Shelter dogs tend to lack confidence entirely, so rebuilding that confidence would be key before starting crate training, which takes a lot more time.

Thirdly, depending on the dog you brought into your family, crate training might not even be the right training tool to use.

Although crate training has a lot of amazing benefits, not all dogs from all backgrounds can thrive with it. You can determine if your dog is a good candidate for crate training or not by going over the pros and cons of this great training tool.

Tips for Crate Training a Rescue Dog

Here are five tips to help transition your new rescue dog into a crate as gracefully as possible.

The Basics Principles Still Apply

Regardless of your dog’s background, the core fundamentals of crate training will always apply.

These include starting slow, keeping the crate positive, and building up over time. Feed your dog in the crate, offer toys and treats in the kennel, and make sure that all of the best things in the world revolve around that crate! Positive reinforcement is a big deal; never use the crate for punishment or negative repercussions.

Make sure that the crate you select is the right size for your pup and placed properly in the home as well. Create a good crate training schedule to follow and provide consistency. Laying down a correct foundation makes a big difference!

Be Understanding of Your Pup’s Limitations

Rescue dogs come from all sorts of backgrounds; some are owner-surrenders due to unfortunate life circumstances, and others are strays found on the street.

Wherever your pup’s past may have taken them, you have to be conscious of the limitations imposed by such a history. Some dogs have fears, bad experiences, and a lack of trust due to their life before you.

As such, you have a duty as a responsible pet owner to be conscious of your dog’s limitations. If there is a fear preventing crate training, work on that fear before trying again.

If there is a lack of trust, build that relationship first and only then focus on crate training. With rescue pups, you do need to take it step-by-step at their own pace!

Focus on Confidence Building Outside of the Crate


Most rescue animals suffer from a lack of confidence when they first come into your home.

Just think about it: The shelter experience can be quite traumatic; they’re thrown in a cage in an unfamiliar environment with many strangers and other scared dogs. Much of the energy is negative, scary, and uncomfortable, which rubs off on the dog.

When you bring a dog home, the best thing you can do for both of your sake is to build the dog’s confidence back. Part of that is just letting time and tender loving care take its course, but the other side of it is to teach your dog tricks, give them puzzle toys, and enroll them in dog activity classes!

A popular dog sport called Nose Work (or Scent Work) is incredible for building confidence. This game requires the dog to find a specific scent hidden in a room, outdoor environment, or cardboard boxes and let you know where the smell is coming from. Because of the independence required, confidence begins to build very quickly. Something to consider!

Start When Your Dog is Most Tired

It’s a great idea to bank on when your rescue dog is tired and already predisposed to taking a nap.

Since you want the crate to be a place that represents calm, relaxation, and happiness, encouraging your dog to enter the crate when they are sleepy helps push this idea to them.

Plus, the more your dog is conditioned to be in the crate when sleep wants to make an appearance, the more their body will also be conditioned to repeat this response in the future!

Find a Great Toy to Occupy the Time

At the same time, if your dog becomes very fixated because they are in a crate, you can occupy their mind (and time) with a toy!

Look at puzzle toys, long-lasting chews, and other such goodies to help take your rescue dog’s mind off the fact that they are in a crate. Plus, this can keep a lot of anxious behaviors at bay, such as crying, barking, and chewing the crate.

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