How to crate train 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 how to crate train a puppy.
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.
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 used a crate as your dog’s ‘happy place’ rather than a place to go as punishment.
Introducing your puppy to their crate
Start by placing a nice comfy bed and some treats in the crate. Then let your puppy find them and enter the crate of their own accord. Continue with the treats – and lots of praise. After a couple of days, once your puppy seems happy to be in the crate – start feeding them in there.
At this point, you can begin getting them used to the door being closed. At first do this just until they have finished eating, slowly increasing the amount of time that the door remains closed. Once your puppy is happy being in the crate for 10 minutes after finishing eating, they should be ready to be left for longer.
If your puppy becomes upset about being in the crate, or loses interest in their food, go back a few steps. Gradually build the time up to the point where they are happy in their crate.
The next stage is to slowly get them used to being in their crate when they are left alone.
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.
Crate training a puppy at night
You may find it helpful to use a crate for your puppy at night. Your puppy will feel more secure if they know you are close by. It can be helpful to place the crate in your bedroom, near your bed, to begin with. As your puppy gets used to being in their crate and sleeping longer at night, you can move the crate out of your room. You may find it helpful to have two crates – one in the bedroom and one in your living area.
How do I get my puppy to stop crying in his crate?
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.
- Read more about why puppies cry at night and what you can do about it.
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 den or bedroom rather than a cage. You can also create a similar safe space for your puppy using baby gates on a small room or a puppy pen.