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Crate Training

Sue Sternberg

Do you recommend crate training adolescent dogs to some of your adopters? If you are going to recommend crate training for your dogs when they are adopted, crate train them while they are at the shelter. This approach is easier on the dog: the dog is not completely bonded to one person at the shelter and so experiences less separation distress when crated. Crate training at the shelter also helps the adopter who may be reluctant to use a crate or be unfamiliar with crate training. When the shelter has already crate trained the dog, the adopters will be more likely to use the crate, and the chances for a permanent, successful adoption are greatly increased.

Crate Training


Which dogs should you target for crate training while at the shelter?

  • Adolescent dogs, less than two years old.
  • Dogs who are active, playful and rambunctious (play with furniture, pillows, books, magazines, eyeglasses, etc).
  • Prey-driven, mouthy dogs (who could gut a couch in two minutes).
  • Un-housebroken, unclean dogs.

When counseling owners to crate train their already bonded dog, the process can be slow and tedious because the dog is usually very upset about being separated from his owner. At the shelter, the dog has no strong attachments; therefore, this is the prime time to crate train. REMEMBER – you cannot counsel or do this type of quick, easy crate training with dogs already in a home. This is NOT the advice to give to owners over the phone. Instead, this is advisable only for dogs in shelters.

What do you need?

  • Crate
  • Soft blankets
  • Toys Chewies
  • Water

GOAL: Train the dog to spend time comfortably and calmly in a crate.

Note: NEVER crate train a dog with a choke-type collar on or with a leash attached to his collar.

  1. Place soft blankets and toys or chewies in the crate.
  2. Clip a small bucket of water in the crate.
  3. Find natural, short opportunities to crate train: a one hour nap, a ten minute “chew on the bone stretch,” a rest after a tiring exercise session, or an overnight all make good crate training opportunities.
  4. Crate train only for the amount of time the dog can comfortably hold his bladder and bowels. The rule of thumb for puppies is to crate in hours for the age of the puppy in months plus one. For example, a four-month-old puppy can stay in a crate comfortably for at most five hours. No dog should ever be crated for more than nine hours at a stretch.
  5. Always supervise dogs when they are first crate trained to ensure they are not panicking.
  6. Never force a dog into a crate or lock a panicking dog in a crate.
  7. Some dogs will not take readily to a crate and may panic or harm themselves trying to escape. For these dogs, detach the crate door, place comfortable bedding and a few treats in the back of the crate, and leave the doorless crate in the run with the dog.
  8. Feed him in the crate for a few days to help him acclimate.

Imagine a potential dog owner walking into a shelter and visiting with dogs who can sit, eat without rushing at a food bowl, and calm themselves even when excited to see a new visitor. Imagine a potential dog owner who sees dogs already partially trained and dogs who won’t dash into the street, remain out of control, or leap at guests.

When you spend time training your shelter dogs you are improving them in every way. The mental stimulation from the training prevents the dogs from succumbing to the boredom and stress of shelter life. The discipline of the training teaches them to respond to limits and remain in control. And the routine of the training helps dogs who arrived with some training retain their skills. This method teaches dogs how to LEARN. They get relief from the frustration of life in the shelter through their success at learning new skills.

You are also improving the owners. Owners who adopt a partially trained dog can see the rewards of training and are more likely to continue training, especially if they see your shelter as a source of help and guidance.

You have now crate trained your shelter dog.

You are offering a new owner a dog who will stay calmly and happily for periods in a crate rather than one that, when unattended, may run loose chewing furniture, dirtying the, house, or jumping up on beds.

Courtesy of
Rondout Valley Kennels, Inc.

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