There are dogs that simply can’t be crate trained. Hopefully, you knew this about your rescue dog before you took them home and tried to lead them into their crate. However, whether you knew you had an uncrateable dog or not, these alternatives to crate training a rescue dog give you options.
What are the best alternatives for crate training a rescue dog?
Instead of crate training, your dog may do very well confined in a dog pen or dog-proof room. This gives them more freedom than they’d get in a crate. Hiring a pet sitter, dog walker, or sending your dog to daycare are great crate-training alternatives, too. Finally, tethering is a great option if you have the patience.
Crate training is always the best option when it comes to your rescue dog. There are so many situations that will arise in your dog’s life where good behavior in the crate can make a world of difference in their quality of life. If you’re…on the fence about crate training, my article on Crate Training Your Rescue Dog may be helpful to you.
And if you’re thinking “I can’t crate train my rescue dog, she has separation anxiety!” don’t worry, I took a deep-dive into crate training rescue dog’s with separation anxiety, too.
The shelter or rescue that you got your rescue dog from should be willing to take them back when they find out you can’t crate train them.
This is a legitimate option, especially if your dog is destructive. Working through crate training issues is often time-consuming and costly.
However, if you would rather not return your rescue dog, there are alternatives.
Comparison Of Alternatives To Crate Training A Rescue Dog
I go into more detail about each of these options below. However, here’s a quick run-down of my top alternatives to crate training a rescue dog.
|Crate Training Alternatives||Description||Suitability||Cost|
|Pen||Provides confinement with more freedom than a crate. May work well for older, smaller, or well-behaved dogs.||Suitable for dogs who don’t mind being confined.||Affordable; one-time cost for the pen.|
|Dog-Proof Room||Dedicate a secure room, removing potential hazards. Can be effective for dogs who need more space and have minimal destructive tendencies.||Suitable for dogs who are generally well-behaved and can handle a larger space.||Cost varies based on securing the room and removing hazards.|
|Pet Sitter||Offers supervision, training, and assistance during the transition period. Ideal for dogs with separation anxiety or specific training needs.||Suitable for dogs requiring personalized attention and training.||Relatively expensive; hourly or daily rates apply.|
|Dog Walker||Provides mid-day breaks and socialization for dogs who are not ready to be alone for extended periods.||Suitable for dogs needing regular exercise and social interaction.||Moderate cost; hourly rates apply.|
|Dog Daycare||Offers playtime, enrichment, and socialization with other dogs. Works well for sociable and active dogs and can be a solution for dogs with separation anxiety.||Suitable for sociable dogs who enjoy the company of other dogs.||Moderate to high cost; daily or monthly rates apply.|
|Tethering||Physically connects the dog to the owner using a leash, allowing supervision during daily activities. Requires ongoing attention from the owner.||Suitable for owners who can actively supervise their dog and prefer close proximity.||Minimal cost; requires a suitable leash or tethering equipment.|
This is probably the best place to start when it comes to alternatives to crates for rescue dogs. It’s especially good for puppies or rescue dogs with special needs.
Some dogs who have anxiety and fear in a standard wire or plastic crate don’t seem to mind being penned in. A pen is certainly not nearly as secure as a crate. However, for older, smaller, or generally well-behaved dogs, it may be a perfectly good solution.
Make sure to proof the dog pen and surrounding areas. Be sure there isn’t anything your dog can reach or get into. You’ll want to put a blanket down underneath to protect your floors. Make sure you get a pen tall and sturdy enough to keep your dog in.
The FXW Rollick Dog Playpen comes in multiple height options and you can buy as many panels as you want to customize the shape exactly to your dog’s needs.
Keep in mind that there are lots of great used options available locally, too.
Several of my friends who foster devote an entire room to the animals, and it has generally gone pretty well. There has been some damage to windowsills and flooring and certainly lots of incidents that required a good deal of floor cleaning. However, nothing irreversible in terms of damage to the room or the dog.
Make sure all windows and doors are securely locked. Anything that has doors in the room, such as cabinets or cupboards, should be securely closed and locked. You’d be amazed by how a dog can paw them open. You’ll want to cover your outlets and move any cords out of your dog’s reach.
It’s best to remove anything that could be dangerous from the room completely. Think hard about where you store your cleaning products or whether or not that house plant is poisonous. However, if this isn’t possible it’s reasonable to use high shelves or closed closets or cabinets. The goal is to separate things your dog shouldn’t get to from your dog-proof space.
If the room you want to keep your dog in doesn’t have a door, like a laundry room or an entryway, consider getting a pet gate. Not only will they keep your dog confined, but it provides more visibility for them and you.
If you’re going to use a tactic like a room or pen, which may or may not be sufficiently secure, it’s a great idea to set up one or more baby monitors so you can keep an eye on your rescue dog. This is useful regardless of how you’re keeping your dog, but even more important if they are in a space they may be able to escape from.
While a baby monitor might seem like a high-tech option, you may be surprised at how affordable some very well-reviewed baby monitors are, like this one by Kasa.
This is definitely not one of the cheaper options on this list, but if your rescue dog is in transition and needs some time to adjust under someone’s careful supervision, you may decide that a pet sitter is a reasonable decision.
Pet sitters can observe the dog’s behavior and correct as necessary. In time, their help training can make their services unnecessary.
A pet sitter is a great option for rescue dogs with separation anxiety. Talk to potential pet sitters about their comfort level with training dogs that have these kinds of concerns. The right pet setter can provide meaningful training and separation anxiety management while they keep your dog safe before they’re ready to be alone.
Any time you are working with a professional with your dog, whether a pet sitter in your home or full staff at a boarding facility, it’s extremely important to check credentials, meet the people, and visit the facility before you commit to letting them take care of your dog.
If your dog can handle the crate or be alone in the house, but they aren’t ready to be alone for a full workday, a dog walker could be a good solution.
A dog walker can come by and give your dog an opportunity to get out of the crate and socialize with a person for a bit in the midst of their alone time for the day.
Since a dog walker will only entertain your dog for a couple of hours max, you’ll likely need to couple this solution with another alternative on this list.
Daycare is the perfect solution for many rescue dogs and completely unimaginable for others.
This one really depends on the dog. If your rescue dog is sociable with other dogs and enjoys playing and being active, a dog daycare may be absolutely perfect.
The rescue or shelter that you got your dog from may be helpful in telling you whether your rescue dog would be a good candidate for dog daycare or not.
Here in Alachua County, we’re lucky enough to have an exchange program between a local dog daycare, Camp Run-A-Mutt, and animal services. Sending a few dogs to camp is wonderful for enabling them to get the enrichment they need, but it also lets potential adopters know that they’ll be able to bring their dog to daycare if they want.
Even if your local shelter or rescue doesn’t have a program like this, they may engage in playgroups. Research proves dog playgroups offer dozens of benefits to shelter dogs.
Does your local shelter or rescue have playgroups? There’s a very good chance they can tell you exactly how your rescue dog would do at dog daycare. Dog daycare is much more affordable than a dedicated pet sitter.
If they don’t, contact Dogs Playing for Life and see if they would be willing to come to do a demonstration at your shelter.
Most daycares charge around $25 or $30 for a full day of playtime. However, if you find that your dog benefits from daycare, most have programs that offer discounts for yearly memberships.
If Your Dog has Separation Anxiety…
Daycare can be a superb solution for rescue dogs with separation anxiety. Your dog can play with other dogs and get their energy out. They’ll be tired and ready for training when you get home. Dog-friendly dogs often do well in this environment.
However, make sure you let the staff know that your dog has separation anxiety. Many daycares have staff that come and go from the playroom to the front office. When they do, they leave the dogs to play by themselves for periods of time. This can cause a crisis for a rescue dog with separation anxiety.
When I worked at a dog daycare, I quickly learned which dogs had separation anxiety whether their owners told me or not. They became my sidekicks when I went to the front to talk to customers. There was no leaving them in the back.
And remember that it is possible to crate train your dog who has separation anxiety. In fact, crate training a rescue dog with separation anxiety is a great tool to help manage their symptoms (I wrote a whole article on it, check it out!)
Tethering is a training technique in which you physically connect the dog to yourself with a leash. You do this INSTEAD of putting them in a crate or other designated area. You can do some of your normal activities like doing the dishes or reading a book without constantly looking to see where your rescue dog is and whether they’re up to any mischief.
Tethering is one of my favorite training techniques for rescue dogs. There is just something so natural about moving closely with a dog as is required by tethering.
Tethering demands as much of the person as it does of the dog. You must constantly be aware of how the dog is moving at the end of the leash. Do they have enough room? Are they stressed or at ease? You can even employ it while you sleep. Put your dog in a comfortable harness and ask them to lie next to your bed.
A simple hands-free leash like this one makes tethering MUCH easier. The various clips and adjustable length enable you to move from tethering to yourself to tethering to an object more easily, and you can put the loop around your shoulder or hold the handle as you like.
The idea behind tethering is that you can have total control over your dog’s actions and behavior without having to keep them in a crate. Because it requires so much supervision from you, tethering is a lot to take on. It’s definitely not right for everyone.
Tethering may seem like a controversial option. Indeed, many people just picture a poor old dog chained up in the backyard. However, there’s a fascinating study that compared the behavior of dogs that were tethered vs penned. It concluded that dogs do just as well on tethers as they do in pens.
They had more opportunity for interaction with one another in the pen, but less space. Stereotypic pacing in the pens occurred more frequently than circling on the tether. There was no indication that tethering was more detrimental to the dogs’ welfare than housing in a pen. – Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science
Talk to your family members about whether they would object to having you tie a dog to yourself for the next few weeks. Keep in mind that you won’t need to be tethered all of the time; it’s just that whenever you aren’t going to be actively supervising your dog, you’ll be using the tether in place of a crate.
Needless to say, it isn’t a solution if you can’t be with your dog all day. However, if you’re available, your workplace is tolerant, or multiple people in your family or friend group are happy to engage in the training, tethering is a great solution for some families.
It can be a shock If you were planning on crating your rescue dog while you worked, slept, or otherwise lived your own life and find that you can’t. However, with a little bit of creativity, you’ll find a solution that works for you and your dog.
It may take one or many of the techniques on this list before you decide your dog is ok out of the crate or is crate trained. Don’t be afraid to try things out and take a step back if necessary.
Remember, you and your dog are working together to prepare them to have more autonomy in your home and life. The restrictions and supervision I discuss in this article are an essential part of that process.