Crate training a puppy
Crates can be used to help puppies settle in and have a safe place of their own to eat, rest and sleep. Here’s what you need to know about crate training a puppy.
What is crate training?
Crate training is the process of teaching your puppy to use a crate. A crate is intended to be a safe place for your puppy to go when you are unable to supervise them, for example at night when you are sleeping.
It’s also good for your puppy to have somewhere to go of their own accord when they need to rest. We all need to be able to take some time out!
How long does it take to crate train a puppy?
You will need to take baby steps with crate training your puppy. This is so that they learn to associate their crate with something nice, rather than something to fear. You should only ever use a crate as your dog’s ‘happy place’ rather than a place to go as punishment.
How to crate train a puppy
Crate training a puppy at night
You can begin to get your puppy used to their crate straightaway. However, the first night with your puppy should be about helping them to feel settled in their new environment.
This will be their first night away from their mum and siblings and it may take a few days for your puppy to feel secure in their new home.
Where should my puppy sleep at nighttime?
Until your puppy feels more settled, it’s a good idea to let your puppy sleep in with you at night. If it’s not possible to have your puppy in the bedroom with you, you can set up a makeshift bed in the same room as your puppy.
At bedtime, place a hot water bottle under a nice cosy blanket that smells of you in their crate. This will help them feel more settled. If your puppy is not ready for the crate door to be closed, and you’re worried that your puppy may wander around the house and get into trouble while you are sleeping, you can always use a baby gate on the door as an extra layer of security.
Be prepared for some disturbed nights’ sleep with your new puppy. It will take time before they sleep comfortably through the night. This will be hard on you to begin with, and is one of the main reasons why new owners experience something called the new puppy blues.
How do you stop a puppy from crying in the crate at night?
It’s important to work out why your puppy is crying. They may be barking because they are distressed, asking to go to the toilet or seeking attention.
If your puppy is distressed about being in the crate, you may need to go back a few steps. Work on getting them used to being in their crate and then used to being left alone, slowly building the amount of time up again.
While you are toilet training your puppy, avoid leaving them without a toilet break in the night. Puppies don’t like to go to the toilet where they sleep. It can also create bad habits that you will find hard to break.
If your puppy is going to the toilet in their crate, it may also be a sign that the crate is too big (e.g. your puppy is treating it as an ensuite toilet next to their bed). Consider a smaller crate or section it off so that only the sleeping area is accessible.
Puppies often cry at night because they are not used to sleeping on their own. They need to get used to being away from their mum and siblings. You can help your puppy to sleep at night by establishing a good bedtime routine.
Adaptil Junior – worn as a collar, it is designed to comfort puppies at night.
Adaptil Calm Home 30 Day starter kit – diffuser and refill
What to put in a puppy crate at night?
Your puppy will need a nice comfortable bed or a soft blanket and some toys. You can buy soft cuddly toys for dogs, but these will only help to comfort your puppy if your puppy is already feeling secure. This can be achieved by having your puppy in your bedroom with you at night, or by you sleeping in the same room as your puppy, just until they feel more settled and are comfortably sleeping through the night.
How long can you leave a puppy in a crate?
The amount of time you can leave your puppy in their crate will depend on their age and where you are in the crate training process. In the early days your puppy is unlikely to be able to stay in their crate for very long. They may become anxious if left alone.
This can be hard if you have a young puppy and need to pop out, for example, to the shops. While you are crate training or teaching your puppy to be left alone, you may need to call on the help of friends and family to run errands for you.
How to choose the right size dog crate
Dog crates are available to buy in a range of sizes, styles and materials. Wire-framed crates are the most common and are suitable for use in a fixed position in the house. Some crates are made from a collapsible heavy-duty fabric, which can be useful when travelling. Choose a size that will fit your dog as they grow. Crates range in size from extra small, to giant, to cover all breeds and types of dogs. Your puppy needs to be able to stand, lie flat on their side and turn around comfortably.
Is crate training cruel?
Some people don’t like using crates as they are worried about confining their dog. However, most dog trainers and behaviourists support the use of crates. The advice is to use them in a positive way, e.g. as a happy place for your dog to go to sleep, and not for punishment. Think of a crate as a den or bedroom rather than a cage. You can also create a similar safe space for your puppy using baby gates in a small room or a puppy pen.