Crate training a puppy in 6 easy steps

When you bring home a new puppy, there are a lot of things you’ll need to work on with them. Of course, puppies need to learn where to go to the bathroom and how to behave around others, but those things are just the beginning. Learning how to crate train a puppy can be a great way to teach your dog to be more obedient, especially when you leave the house.

Tips on How to Crate Train a Puppy

Crate training a puppy is no easy task. Like every other training method, crate training takes lots of time, consistency, and patience. However, with enough dedication, your puppy will eventually learn how to use their crate correctly.

What is Puppy Crate Training?

Puppy crate training refers to the process of teaching a puppy to use their crate. Some dog parents use a crate every time they leave the house, some use a crate at night, and some rarely use one at all. Regardless of how often you plan to use the crate, you should still crate train your puppy.

Crate training your puppy is more than just confining them while you’re away. The crate is supposed to be like a safe space for your dog. So, you should first allow them to voluntarily go in and out of it. Crate training your puppy includes making sure your dog feels comfortable in their crate and that they show no signs of stress. With proper crate training, your dog should be able to relax in the crate with no whining and no destructive behaviors. 

How to Choose the Right Crate for crate training puppies

Before you start crate training your puppy, you’ll need to choose the right crate for them. Most crates are made with a wire frame and they’re collapsible. However, some crates are plastic with a door on them while some are even fabric. Additionally, they come in a wide range of sizes.

Usually, the best crate type to choose is a wire crate. This is because it allows your dog to easily see out of the crate from every side. This can help your dog feel more comfortable when they’re inside. Plastic crates without much visibility for your dog are usually more suited for airplanes and other situations where it’s safer for your dog not to see distractions. If you want some inspiration on which crate to choose, take a look at our article on the best heavy duty dog dog crates.

A crate should be big enough for your dog to comfortably stand and turn around in. However, the crate shouldn’t be so big that your dog can have an accident in one corner and then sleep in the other corner without being bothered. Dogs generally don’t want to sleep near their bathroom area, so they shouldn’t be given enough space to create a bathroom spot. 

If your puppy still has a lot of growing to do, you should get a crate that will be big enough for their adult size. However, to make training easier, you should see if a friend or local shelter can rent you a smaller crate for the time being. That way, they can use the small crate for now so they don’t have too much space. Then, once they’ve outgrown the rental crate, you can move them to their adult crate.

Why Should You Crate Train Puppies?

There are a lot of great reasons to crate train puppies, and it goes above and beyond just keeping them contained. In fact, the most important thing about crate training is that it provides a safe space for your dog. If you use it right, you will be giving your dog a place to retreat to if they ever need some time to themselves. It’s especially important to teach children that when a dog is in their crate, they should be left alone. 

Crates can also help your dog with housetraining. Since dogs don’t like to sleep in a soiled bed, they will try to refrain from going to the bathroom while in their crate. It’s a great step for teaching them bladder control. However, it’s important that you never leave your dog in a crate for too long, especially as a puppy. After all, puppies can usually only hold their bladders for a few hours at most.

Finally, the most well-known use for crates is keeping your pup contained while you’re away. Many dog parents crate their dogs every time they leave the house. This prevents your puppy from getting into trouble while you’re gone. It prevents them from roaming freely and causing destruction. Even if you don’t plan to use a crate for their whole life, it can be a good tool to use for puppies because it will get them used to being alone and behaving themselves. 

Crate traing a puppy: How Long Does it Take?

Every puppy learns new things at different paces. Some puppies will pick up on crate training after only a few days, but others might take months to understand. If your puppy struggles with crate training, it’s important not to be hard on them because like humans, dogs all learn differently. Some might take more time than others, but they’ll eventually get the hang of it.

The best way to help your dog learn crate training quickly is to start early. As soon as you bring your dog home, start working on basic training. Get them familiar with the crate as soon as possible and slowly start incorporating it into their routine. Be consistent with your training and make sure to show them how fun and comfortable a crate can be. 

6 Steps to Crate Train a Puppy

Learning how to crate train a puppy is not an easy process, but if you take it one step at a time, it will be much easier for your dog. So, here are some simple steps you can take. 

Step 1: Introduce the Crate

Place your puppy’s crate in a quiet area of the house. Put comfortable bedding in it, preferably something that your dog already recognizes as their own. A favorite toy could work too. Then, let your puppy investigate the crate on their own. If they approach it or go inside it on their own terms, make sure to praise and reward them.

Step 2: Teach Them to Step Inside

After your puppy has gotten used to the crate, you can teach them to step inside on command. You can start by throwing treats into the crate to help them go in on their own. Then, you can eventually start using a command word, such as “crate”. If they go inside on command, be sure to praise them.

Step 3: Start Closing the Door

Once your puppy seems comfortable inside the crate, you should try closing the door. First, you should only close it for a second or two, and then reward them if they are quiet and well-behaved. From there, you can slowly lengthen the amount of time they’re in the crate.

Step 4: Use the Crate When They’re Most Comfortable

If your dog does well with the door closed, you should start keeping them in there for longer periods of time to help them get used to it. It’s a good idea to put them in the crate when they eat their meals and take naps. This can help them associate the crate with things they like to do.

Step 5: Leave Them Alone, But Don’t Go Far

Once your dog seems comfortable with all the previous steps, you should try leaving them alone for short periods of time. Tell them to go in their crate and then calmly leave them there when you exit the room. If they whine or bark, just ignore it. Then, after a few minutes, let them out and praise them for good behavior. Check out our article on how to stop dog barking for addition information.

Step 6: Leave Them Home Alone

Finally, once your dog seems comfortable being left alone in a room, you can try leaving the house while they’re in the crate. Again, you should only start off with a few minutes at a time and work your way up from there. Eventually, your dog should feel comfortable staying in their crate alone. 

Common Misuses of Crates

There are a lot of common misconceptions when it comes to crate training. Some of these ideas will actually hurt your dog instead of help them. The most significant problem dog parents face is using the crate as a punishment. You should never punish your dog by sending them into their crate. This will only teach them that they should fear the crate, which will make crate training much more difficult for both of you. 

Many dog parents also use crates too often. You should never use the crate as a tool to spend less time with your dog. Just because a dog is left alone in a crate doesn’t mean they’ll be safe and content, especially if you leave them alone for too long. Dogs need lots of love and attention, so if you have a busy schedule, you should find someone to check on your dog rather than leaving them in a crate all day.

A lot of the practices expained in this post you can also apply to dog beds. For more information on outdoor dog beds check out our article on that.

Crate Training a Puppy While at Work

a dog in a crate at the office

If you plan to leave your puppy in a crate while you go to work, you’ll need to make sure they’re comfortable before you do it. Follow all the above steps for crate training your puppy. Start by only leaving the house for short periods of time, and then work your way up to leaving the house for a couple hours. Eventually, your puppy will learn to be more comfortable in the crate while you go to work.

Also, if it’s possible, you should try to stop by during the day to let your puppy out or you can have someone stop by to check on them. Puppies can’t hold their bladder long enough for a full workday. So, if you can have a neighbor stop by to walk them or if you can take them out during your lunch break, then that would be ideal.

How to Crate Train a dog at Night

A lot of dog parents use crates at night because puppies often have a difficult time sleeping through the night. If they sleep with you, they might constantly wake you up to play or go to the bathroom. Using a crate can help train your dog without disturbing your sleep pattern.

To properly use a crate at night, you should make sure you don’t give your dog food or water right before bed. You should start doing this a few hours before bedtime, but make sure your puppy got all their regular meals first. Then, you should also make sure your puppy uses the bathroom during this time before bed. This can help you avoid overnight accidents.

It’s also a good idea to make sure your puppy is tired before putting them in the crate. Run around and play with them before bed so they’ll be exhausted by the time they’re in their crate. This will help them sleep through the night without waking up to relieve themselves. Most puppies can sleep for seven hours straight if they’re tired enough.

If you do take your puppy out in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, make sure it’s only to relieve themselves. Do not play with your puppy or give them attention because they might want to stay up and play. It’ll be hard not to give your puppy lots of love, but it will also help them learn.

Finally, in the morning, you should try to wake up your puppy before they wake you up. Don’t wait until they start barking to let them out of their crate. This might mean you have to get up earlier than you normally would, but that’s a sacrifice you have to make when you have a young puppy in the house.

How Long Can a Puppy Be Left in a Crate?

Some dog parents seem to think that dogs can be left in crates for long periods of time, but that’s only a myth. Dogs shouldn’t have to hold their bladders, so the shorter amount of time they’re alone, the better. This is especially true for young puppies.

When puppies are only 8 to 10 weeks old, they shouldn’t be left alone for more than an hour. Then, as your puppy gets older, they’ll be able to handle being alone longer and they’ll be able to hold their bladder better. 

At 10 to 12 weeks old, they can be left alone for up to 2 hours. For 3 to 6 months, it’s an hour per month rule, so 3 hours for 3 months and so on. Then, once your puppy is 6 months or older, they shouldn’t be left alone more than 6 hours if possible. Some adult dogs are okay being left alone for up to 8 hours, but you shouldn’t stretch it if you don’t have to.

Potential Problems with Crate Training

At first, your puppy might whine or bark a lot when left alone in their crate. This can be sad to listen to, but you shouldn’t give in. Ignore the barking and pretend that you don’t hear it. That way, your puppy will realize that barking and whining doesn’t solve anything. Try to wait until they quiet down before letting them out of their crate.

Some puppies might also experience separation anxiety, especially at a young age. This could also cause puppies to bark excessively or have destructive behaviors. If this happens with your puppy, you should try leaving something in the crate that smells like you. It could provide them comfort while you’re gone. Leaving your puppy with a toy to keep them busy might also calm them down.

Summary

Learning how to crate train a puppy is no easy task, but it’s something that every new dog parent needs to learn. Be patient with your puppy and give them time to get used to the crate before leaving them home alone. With enough consistency and hard work, your puppy will eventually learn that their crate is a safe space, making crate time much easier for both of you. 

TIP: want to know more about having your dog play safely outside check out our article on wireless dog fences.

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Peter Schoeman