Raising a puppy can be challenging. They’re like babies — unpredictable, energetic, and can’t hold their bladders. These furballs will run around your house, chew everything, and may even use your white carpet as a toilet. So, how do you survive this destructive puppy stage?
Crate training a puppy helps, but it comes with its challenges. It requires consistency, lots of patience, and immense amounts of doggy treats. That said, if you do it right, it can be an excellent tool for house training your dog.
In this article, you’ll find everything you need to know about:
- What is Crate Training?
- How to Choose the Right Crate
- The “Don’Ts” of Crate Training
- How to Crate Train Your Puppy: A Step by Step Guide
- Crating On the First Night
- Example of a Crate Training Schedule
- Best Tips for Puppy Crate Training
What Is Crate Training a Puppy?
It’s a way of conditioning your puppy to behave non-destructively at home. To do that, you’ll need to follow several steps that we’ll cover below. If you do it right, your puppy will have a safe space where it can rest, relax, and retreat if overwhelmed.
This training teaches puppies responsibility and independence. The crate becomes their den and your furniture’s personal savior.
What Are the Benefits of Crate Training a Puppy?
First, it makes home training so much easier. If your puppy stays in its crate while you’re out, the chances of it eating your secret stash of toilet paper are non-existent.
Second, potty training a puppy with a crate is effortless, as your pup will learn to do its business only when you take it outside for a walk. Dogs don’t like soiling their dens and will do it only as a last resort.
Finally, the crate provides your doggy with a haven. As den animals, canines love dark narrow spaces that help them feel secure.
And that, my friends, is why crate training a puppy is beneficial for both you and your pet.
Choosing the Right Crate for Your Puppy
If you’re wondering how to start crate training a puppy, picking the best crate for your animal companion is always the first step. There are three main types of crates — metal, plastic, and fabric. All of them have pros and cons, so choose wisely.
Metal Wire Crates
We recommend these types of crates for large breed puppies. They’re usually collapsible, come with dividers, and are available in many sizes. Also, metal crates are very sturdy, which comes in handy if your puppy’s a big chewer.
They’re also well aerated — a bonus if you have a pug, bulldog, or another dog with breathing complications.
While a metal crate doesn’t offer any solitude, you can quickly fix this by covering it with a blanket or crate cover.
Even though there’s no one best crate for crate training a puppy, plastic crates are usually an excellent and highly recommended option. They’re perfect for traveling by car and plane, instead of metal crates that aren’t plane-approved.
Plastic crates also provide your puppy with much-needed coziness, as they prevent it from seeing too much of the outside world and feeling overstimulated.
However, they don’t come with dividers. That said, you can borrow a crate from your local shelter. When your pup outgrows it, return it and take a bigger one.
One of the essential rules of crate training a puppy is never leaving it unattended with harmful items. Puppies love chewing stuff, and a soft fabric crate would be a chef’s kiss for them. That’s why we don’t recommend fabric crates for new puppies.
But these crates can be an excellent option for older dogs who already know better than to chew on furniture. The soft fabric is also great for traveling with small dog breeds, as you can easily put them under the seat.
A crate should be just big enough for your pet to stand up, turn around, and lie down.
If it’s too big, the doggie can go to the toilet in one corner and sleep in the other. But when it’s too little, it can be harmful to the joints in the long term.
When Crate Training a Puppy, Where Should the Crate Be?
Position it in a place away from direct sunlight, where you and your family spend lots of time. The living room is usually a good option.
That said, for nighttime training, you should place the crate in your bedroom. As puppies can’t control their bladders or bowels, they need frequent toilet breaks. And you should be able to hear them when they whine to go to the toilet.
Could Crate Training Stress a Puppy Too Much?
In short, yes, it could. That’s why crate training comes with strict rules that you shouldn’t crossed:
- Never use the crate as punishment.
- Don’t leave your puppy inside the crate for too long.
- Never hit or shout at the puppy if they have a potty accident inside.
- Don’t deny toilet breaks to your puppy.
- Don’t crate your puppy with their collar on. It can get caught in the crate and strangle your furry pal.
How to Crate Train a Puppy?
Patience is crucial when crate training a puppy. If you’re not composed around your doggy, it’ll feel stressed out, and you’ll have to start all over again. So, give it time to adapt to the new home, be supportive, and reward its progress.
Let’s dive into the basic steps to crate training a puppy.
Creating a Positive Association With the Crate
If you’re planning on crate training your puppy, you might want to buy a crate before taking your pet home. This way, your new friend will view it as part of the interior and won’t be surprised when a crate suddenly appears one afternoon.
So, how to get your puppy used to their crate? Make it as comfy as possible. You can start by padding the floor with a chew-proof crate pad or soft blanket and placing a few chewy toys inside. A nice trick is to add some calming dog treats inside, too.
Next, let your little buddy investigate.
Reward your pup when it gets close to the crate and praise it if it steps inside. If it’s reluctant, toss a treat nearby and wait for your dog to find it. Next, throw one inside and encourage it to get it. If treats aren’t helping, try tossing one of its favorite toys there instead.
Don’t rush it. Crate training a puppy takes time and effort.
After your pet enters the crate comfortably, you can start giving it the daily meals inside. It’s a way to increase the positive association with the den.
You can also stay close to your pup while it’s eating to make it feel protected. Just fasten the door open, so it doesn’t accidentally hit and scare your pet.
When your dog begins to eat food inside the crate with no issues, you can move on to the next step.
Start Closing the Door During Meals
Training a puppy to stay in the crate becomes easier when your pet associates it with pleasure and relaxation. So, a good way to officially start the training is to close the crate’s door during your dog’s meals.
When it’s finished, open the door and congratulate your pup — give it a treat, or pet and praise it.
Increase the Time Your Pup Spends Inside After a Meal
Extend the period by a minute or two after every meal. If your furry pal starts whining, you might have increased the time too much. When that happens, open the door, reassure the pup that it’s safe. Next time, shorten the stay.
You should always take the steps to crate training a puppy slowly so your champ doesn’t get stressed. It will be a massive step back if it starts associating the crate with unpleasant emotions.
Train Your Dog to Be Alone in Their Crate
When your puppy can stay 10 minutes inside the crate without whining or barking, it’s time to start the final stage of the training.
After your dog’s meal, calmly sit next to the crate for 10 minutes. Then, stand up and leave the room for a couple of minutes. If your puppy starts whining, don’t go back immediately and wait until it stops. When you return right away, you might teach it that whining receives attention.
After you come back into the room, sit next to the crate for 10 more minutes. Then, let your pet out and reward it with treats and praise.
You should follow this crate training schedule several times a day, slowly increasing the time you spend in the other room. This way, your puppy will learn that it’s not that scary to be alone. It’ll also teach it the lesson that you always come back and it shouldn’t be afraid of you leaving.
Leave Your Puppy Inside the Crate When Going Out
After you’ve successfully taken the previous steps, you can now leave the house while your puppy is safely crated. But again, start slowly.
Crate your puppy between 5–20 minutes before going out. It’s crucial not to make a big deal out of leaving. Don’t wave goodbye or talk in a baby voice – leaving should be just a matter of fact. Pet it, give it a treat and leave.
Initially, you can just go out to grab a coffee and come back. Remember, when crate training a puppy, you shouldn’t leave it alone for more than two hours, as it needs to go to the toilet often.
When you come back, try not to get too emotional. If your puppy hears you and starts barking or whining, don’t come in right away. Wait until it calms down, and then go in and reward it.
If all goes well, you can slowly increase the time you leave it alone. Still, remember to follow these simple rules for crate training a puppy:
- 10 weeks old puppies can be left in a crate for up to one hour at a time. They can’t hold their bladder and need frequent potty breaks.
- 10–12 weeks old puppies can stay crated for up to two hours.
- 12–24 weeks old puppies can be crated for their age in months. So, if your puppy is 4 months old, you can leave it for four hours.
- 6+ months old puppies can be left inside for up to six hours.
Crate Training a Puppy During the Day
It’s vital to crate your puppy even when you’re at home. If you only do it when going out, it’ll start associating crating with being left alone. Be careful, as this can ruin all the progress you’ve made so far.
Crate your pup every day for a few hours at a time to turn the training into a relaxing and pleasant habit.
Crate Training a Puppy While at Work
Many people wonder if it’s ok to leave their puppies crated while they’re at work. Sadly, the answer is no.
Leaving your pet crated for 8 hours every day can lead to potty incidents, depression, separation anxiety, and urinary infections.
If you can’t be at home during the day, ask a friend to come by and take your doggy out. Alternatively, you can hire a puppy sitter or take your pup to daycare. Any of these solutions are fine, as long as you don’t leave your furry pal on its own for the whole day.
Crate Training a Puppy on the First Night
Night training is arguably the most challenging part, especially if it’s your puppy’s first night at home.
After all, it’s in an entirely new place with an unfamiliar person. Also, your pet is away from its littermates and mom for the first time in its life.
Crate training a puppy to sleep at night can be a pain. But you shouldn’t give up. In dog training, consistency is key.
Place the crate in the bedroom, close to your bed. It’s essential to play a lot with the puppy during that day, so it’s tired before sleep. Also, don’t forget to take it out to the toilet a few times before bedtime.
It would be great if you have a play den to put around the crate. This way, your puppy won’t be pressured to go inside the crate if it’s not ready yet.
Crate training a new puppy requires sacrifices, so prepare yourself for at least a few sleepless nights. You’ll have to wake up every two hours to take it out to pee.
It’s even better if you set up alarms to take it out proactively. Otherwise, it will start whining and crying. It might even learn that crying sets it free from the crate.
Example of a Puppy Crate Training Schedule
Depending on your consistency and the puppy’s character, crate training can take up to six months. To evade negative associations, never pressure your pet to get inside their crate.
Here’s an example schedule for crate training a puppy, which we hope can give you a better idea of what yours might look like.
Bear in mind that it’s just an example. Every puppy has a unique experience with crate training. Some might start sleeping inside right away. Others might take weeks just to enter the crate. The trial and error approach is a helpful tool. So, here’s what our crate schedule looks like:
- 6 AM — Walk your puppy
- 6:15 AM — Playtime
- 7 AM — Give meal inside the crate
- 7:30 AM — Walk your puppy
- 7:45 AM — Playing and training a puppy to stay in the crate
- 9:45 AM — Walk your puppy
- 10 AM — Playtime
- 10:30 AM — Crate the puppy
- 12 PM — Walk your puppy
- 12:15 PM — Playtime
- 12:45 PM — Give meal inside the crate
- 1:15 PM — Walk your puppy
- 1:30 PM — House training a puppy with a crate
- 3:30 PM — Walk your puppy
Repeat throughout the day and include some basic command training to diversify the activities. Giving your dog interactive toys to exercise its brain is a great idea, too.
Additional Tips on Crate Training a Puppy:
- Buy it a snuggle toy with a warming pad — puppies find them comforting.
- Give your pup puzzles and interactive toys to keep it occupied in the crate.
- Make crating fun — play crate games (e.g., hide treats inside and encourage your puppy to find them).
- Try crating in different locations to increase your dog’s confidence.
- Always provide a non-spill bowl of water inside the crate.
Now you know how to get your puppy used to the crate without stressing it out. Remember to go slowly, and always reward your pup when it behaves accordingly.
You should pick the best crate for your new friend based on its size. Then, create a positive association with the crate by rewarding your furry friend when it gets in. Proceed by feeding the pup inside and closing the door. Finally, leave your dog crated when you go out to teach it independence.
Crate training a puppy at night can be challenging, but if you approach it with patience and care, it’ll pay back. Don’t forget to set up alarms for taking your puppy out every two hours.
If you still feel unsure about crate training, ask your vet for advice.
Frequent Questions on Crate Training a Puppy
Here are some frequently asked questions on crate training:
Can I Start Crate Training a Puppy With Separation Anxiety?
Sadly, crate training is not a good solution for puppies suffering from separation anxiety. It can make things worse. The best you can do is ask your vet or an animal behavior specialist for help.
Is Crate Training a Puppy With Another Dog in the House Possible?
Yes, but it’s best if you crate train your new puppy in a separate room from the other dog. This way, they’ll have time to get used to each other, and the puppy won’t be constantly distracted by their new sibling.
When to Start Crate Training a Puppy?
Ideally, as soon as you take your puppy home and it should be around four weeks old. But be careful — puppies this young need almost constant supervision and shouldn’t be left alone in the crate for more than an hour.
How Long Does Crate Training Take?
It can take anywhere from three to six months. Crate training a puppy is a long and tiresome process that shouldn’t be hurried. So, don’t get discouraged if your puppy doesn’t get along with its crate from the very beginning.