The Ultimate Guide to Crate Training a Puppy

Filed in Dog Training on September 22, 2020

crate training a puppyAre you welcoming a new puppy to your home?

Are you looking to potty train them or prevent destructive behaviors?

Maybe you either want to give them a safe space at home or comfortably transport them?

Crate training is an effective and proven training method with many benefits and uses.

Read on to learn more in this Ultimate Guide to Crate Training a Puppy.

What is Crate Training?

what is crate trainingCrate training is the process of teaching your dog to be calm and accepting of crate confinement.

If you have a puppy that gets into trouble while you’re away, crate training can help.

Some people believe that dogs are den animals and have a natural instinct to find their own personal space.

While there is some debate over this, crate training can be an invaluable tool for dog training.

Benefits of Crate Training a Puppy

Benefits of Crate TrainingCrates can be used when you’re away from home, overnight while the dog sleeps, during travel (crates are the safest way to transport dogs in vehicles), or whenever you can’t supervise your pup.

They can also serve as a hideaway for dogs who feel overwhelmed in addition to a potty training tool.

Let’s look at some pros and cons of crates to better understand why crate training is so valuable.

Pros of Crate Training

  • Puppies won’t be able to destroy anything
  • Puppies won’t soil carpets or other areas of the home
  • Crates keep your puppy safe and secure when you can’t supervise
  • Crates are effective potty training tools
  • Crates provide comfortable confinement during parties if your puppy is overexcited or overwhelmed
  • Crates reduce the risk of injury or death in the incident of a car accident

Cons of Crate Training

  • Some dogs may feel isolated in their crates
  • It often takes a long time for puppies to get used to being crated
  • Dogs who can’t control their bladders or bowels can develop other illnesses if kept in crates and are unable to escape messes

Crate Selection

wire dog crate

Dog sitting in a wire crate

There are 5 different kinds of crates available on the market: wire crates, plastic crates, heavy duty crates, fabric crates, and furniture crates.

Pro Tip: If you can afford it, it is recommended to start with both a wire crate (to spend time around its owner) and a plastic crate (for quiet time). If your budget is limited, you can start with just a plastic crate.

1. Wire Crates

Wire crates are one of the most well-known types. They’re usually made of metal, and recent models are often foldable while providing two doors. The foldable feature makes them a lot easier to transport, but they’re still much heavier than plastic or fabric crates. Many wire crates include a divider for potty training, along with a plastic floor pan that slides out for easy cleaning, making them a good choice for puppies.

Pros: Take up less space since foldable, easy to watch your dog, able to use in car, can adjust size with divider as puppy grows, more air circulation

Cons: Heavier weight, unable to use on airplanes

2. Plastic Crates

White and green plastic dog cratePlastic crates offer more seclusion than wire crates because dogs can only see out of the door or a few holes on the sides. This can be comforting for some dogs. These crates are lightweight, which is useful for puppy owners who may be moving the crate in and out of bedrooms while the puppy becomes accustomed to sleeping alone.

Pros: Easy to clean, more soothing since darker, good for driving and flying, budget friendly, lightweight

Cons: Limited view and air circulation, doesn’t fold flat like a wire crate

3. Heavy Duty Crates

Heavy duty crates are often made from steel (or some other strong metal) with a coating to prevent corrosion. These indestructible dog crates are almost impossible to escape and chew-proof. You will pay a higher price, but they should last longer. Keep in mind that the crates weigh a lot more than normal crates, although they can come with wheels to move more easily.

Pros: Safest for driving, last longest, harder to escape from

Cons: Heaviest, more expensive

4. Fabric Crates

Fabric crates are also called soft-sided crates. These crates are typically made of canvas or nylon, and many of them are foldable and portable. However, because they are made of fabric, they may not be the best choice for a teething puppy.

Fabric crates might not be the best option for a destructive puppy either, since they won’t hold up to intense chewing! These also wouldn’t be a good option for puppies suffering from separation anxiety.

Pros: Lighter, foldable, great for hotels and travel, best for already trained dogs

Cons: Not ideal for crate training, not recommended for anxious dogs, harder to clean

5. Furniture Crates

Furniture crates function both as furniture pieces and as crates. These crates blend in with your house’s decor and are quite beautiful. Many are handmade and very expensive. Because they are meant to double as furniture, they are heavy and not at all portable. While this type of crate may be alright for an older, crate-trained dog, a puppy that loves to chew may damage it.

Whichever crate you choose, be sure that it is big enough for your puppy to stand up and turn around in.

Pros: Blends in with existing furniture, many styles to choose

Cons: Heavier, more expensive, can be damaged from scratching or chewing

Before Crate Training

things to consider before crate trainingBefore you begin crate training, there are a few important things you should consider:

  1. For cost savings, some owners may decide to buy a crate that will suit their puppy’s size when they are full-grown. If you do so, you’ll need to use a crate divider. If your puppy has too much space, she may eliminate at one end of the crate while sleeping at the other end. Dogs don’t want to soil their confined sleeping areas, so keeping the crate appropriately sized can help with potty training.
  2. There is a possibility for leashes and collars to catch on the crate and endanger your dog’s life. You can either remove these from your dog before putting her in a crate or use a breakaway collar.
  3. You should situate your dog’s crate in an area that your family spends a lot of time in so that your dog doesn’t feel isolated when you crate her.
  4. Crates should never be used as a punishment. Your dog should have only positive experiences associated with her crate; otherwise, she may grow fearful and refuse to enter it.

How To Crate Train a Puppy: A Step-by-Step Guide

Basic Steps for Crate Training a Puppy

Crate training a puppy is all about taking it slow. If you force your puppy to do things she isn’t ready for, she may become fearful of the crate, which is the exact opposite of what we want.

To increase your chances of success, exercise your dog before you work on crate training. We want our dogs to rest while they’re in their crates, and exercising will help tire them out for a nap.

It’s also worth noting that you shouldn’t pull your puppy away from a fun activity in order to work on crate training. You don’t want your puppy associating her crate with the end of a good time.

By combining our own expertise with that of the Humane Society, we’ve created a step by step guide detailing how to crate train your puppy.

 Note: there is not one right way to crate train a puppy, so you will see variations in the required steps. Feel free to try out different methods as you see fit. 

Step 1: Introduce the Crate

Bring your puppy over to the crate and let her investigate it. Have the door open so that she can go inside if she wants to. If she does, be sure to give her a treat.

If your dog isn’t comfortable going inside yet, that’s okay. You can start by throwing some treats near the opening of the crate, and then just inside the crate so that she doesn’t have to fully enter to get them.

As your puppy gains confidence, throw the treats farther and farther into the crate. Your ultimate goal is to get your puppy to enter willingly.

If your puppy is more motivated by play than treats, try throwing a toy near the crate and eventually into the crate for her to fetch.

Using food rewards while crate training will help your puppy form positive connections with the crate. This is a great thing! If your puppy associates positive experiences, the training will likely run smoothly.

Step 2: Feed Your Puppy Inside the Crate

Once your puppy has been introduced to the crate, you can begin feeding her meals inside it. This will help her build a positive association with the crate and get used to being in it for more than a couple of seconds.

If your dog is still afraid to enter the crate, you can use this step to help relieve that fear. Place your puppy’s food dish just inside the crate near the entrance so that she doesn’t have to step in to eat it.

As your dog gets more comfortable, you can push the bowl farther and farther into the crate.

Step 3: Practice Closing The Crate Door

Once your puppy is able to eat her food inside the crate without showing any signs of distress, you can close the door while she’s eating. The first time you do this, you should open it immediately after she’s finished her meal.

Repeat this as many times as it takes for your dog to be comfortable with the closed door. Then, gradually increase the amount of time you keep the door closed after your puppy is done eating.

Once your puppy is able to stay in the crate for 10 minutes after being fed, you can move to the next step.

Step 4: Practice Crating for Longer Periods of Time

Ideally, you will want your dog to be able to relax in her crate for a few hours while you’re away. This won’t happen overnight, though. You have to work up to it.

Start off by locking your dog in her crate for about 10 minutes. At first, stay in the room with her and keep your energy calm and quiet. After 10 minutes have passed, you can briefly leave the room and then return.

If your dog barks or whines, don’t return until she is quiet. If you do, you are rewarding this behavior.

You’ll want to gradually increase the amount of time you can leave your puppy in the crate as well as the amount of time you’re out of sight for.

You can also begin to practice a command for asking your dog to enter her crate. Say your preferred command and lure your puppy into the crate. Give her a treat and close the door.

Step 4 is often one of the hardest parts of crate training because it is the first time your dog will be left alone while locked in the crate, so it may take her some time to adjust. It’s good to practice a few times a day to help your dog get used to spending more time alone in her crate.

If your dog is struggling, don’t be afraid to repeat steps 1-3.

Dangers of Separation Anxiety

If you don’t move through this process gradually, your puppy might become fearful of being left alone. Dogs have injured themselves trying to chew through metal bars! It’s important you gradually introduce your puppy to the crate and isolation, teaching her you’ll return every time.

Step 5: Leave the House

Woman leaving house for crate trainingAfter you’ve practiced leaving your dog alone and she’s comfortable on her own for at least 30 minutes, you can leave the house. As with all the other steps, you want to start small. Simply go outside for a few minutes and come back in. You’ll be able to hear from outside if your dog is barking or not (again, don’t reward barking with your presence).

If your dog does well, you can increase the amount of time you spend outside before coming back in. If not, then you may want to go back a step.

If your dog doesn’t bark or whine when you leave the house, you can go on short trips — no longer than 20 to 30 minutes at first. You really want to ease your dog into being completely alone in her crate.

You can reduce the chances of your dog becoming stressed by your departure by exercising her before you leave. If your dog is tired, she’s more likely to lay down quietly in her crate for a nap.

Stuffing a Kong with goodies and freezing it is another great way to keep your dog occupied while you’re away. Just make sure that anything you put in the Kong is easy to swallow and won’t be a choking hazard, and beware that puppies’ stomachs can be sensitive.

If you only crate your dog when you leave, she may learn to associate the crate with being left behind and begin refusing to enter it. Therefore, you should still crate your dog for short periods of time while you’re at home

Similarly, when you are preparing to leave your house, vary the moment when you put your dog in her crate. This way, it will be harder for her to pick up on your departure routine. If she doesn’t know you’re about to leave, she’ll be more willing to enter the crate.

Keep your manner calm both when you are leaving and when you are returning home. You should praise your dog for being good in her crate when you’re leaving, but avoid exciting her. When you return, be careful not to reward your dog for being excited to exit her crate. Being too enthusiastic can make your dog look forward to your return and even cause anxiety about it.

Step 6: Crating Your Dog at Night

Dog sleeping overnight in crateIf you’re interested in crating your dog overnight, you’ll need to start with steps 1 through 5 (above) to help her get used to the crate.

When you first start putting your dog in her crate overnight, you should have the crate located nearby, preferably in your bedroom. This way you can hear if your puppy has to go potty. Your presence will also be comforting to your dog and even just sleeping in the same room can strengthen your bond.

If you don’t plan to keep the crate in your bedroom long-term, you can begin moving it when your puppy is sleeping in it through the night. Once again, slow and steady wins the race, so don’t immediately move it to its final destination. Instead, move it short distances, making sure that your puppy is sleeping comfortably through the night each time the crate gets farther away from you.

Crate Training on the First Night

Now that you understand how to go about crating your dog overnight, let’s focus on the first night specifically. Many people would prefer to crate their puppies right away so they won’t have to worry about them soiling the house or chewing anything up overnight.

As we’ve explained, you shouldn’t crate your dog without proper training first. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t try to use the crate at all.

We would recommend bringing the crate into your room and putting it near your bed. Set up a playpen around the crate and line the floor with pee pads. This will effectively confine your puppy and allow her to choose if she wants to go in the crate or not.

You can practice step 1 to get her acquainted with the crate, but don’t expect her to sleep in it the whole night, if at all.

To help my readers, I also found a great video from a vlogger named Rachel Fusaro who has provided similar steps below plus more helpful tips:

Potty Training & Puppy Care

Your puppy crate can be an extremely valuable potty training tool.

The reason for this is simple: dogs naturally don’t like to eliminate in confined spaces where they sleep.

If your puppy is old enough to have gained bladder control for an entire night, he will do his best to hold his business until let outside.

Set a Schedule

Young puppies only have so much control and will need to eliminate frequently, so be sure to set a rigid schedule. Stick to your schedule, so eventually your puppy will learn to expect potty breaks. He’ll know how long he needs to hold his bladder for!

Always Crate Puppy When Away

The dog crate can be a safe space, just like a human baby crib. No mother would let her newborn crawl around all day unsupervised, right?

Babies love to put absolutely anything tiny in their mouths and might go places they shouldn’t. Puppies are the exact same!

They love to grab any tiny object they can with their little mouths, chew on electrical wires, and cause all kinds of havoc.

Crate training is absolutely vital for puppy care when you can’t be around to offer supervision.

Crate Training When Your Puppy is Crying, Whining, or Barking

crate training when puppy cryingOne of the most common problems people face during the crate training process is crying, whining, or barking. These are always a clear sign that your puppy is not comfortable with some aspect of the training.

However, if your puppy is whining or barking because she’s locked in the crate, you shouldn’t let her out. If you do, she will learn that being noisy is her ticket to freedom, and she will continue to use this tactic. It can be difficult, but you simply have to ignore your puppy until she is quiet; you can then let her out of the crate.

One of the best ways to deal with whining and barking is to prevent it from happening in the first place. To do so, you want to make the crate a positive place for your dog to be. No matter what step you’re on in the crate training process, you should continue to play games with your dog that involve the crate.

Throw or hide treats in it, play with a toy in it, or feed a kong in it. You want your dog to believe that good things happen while she is inside her crate.

If you do encounter whining or barking, you should take it as a sign that you may have pushed your dog too far. Consider going back a step in the process or altering the step you’re on to make it easier for your puppy. Try to set her up for success.

How Long Does It Take to Crate Train a Puppy?

You may be wondering how long the entire crate training process will take. While some dogs will be comfortable with the crate right away, others may take months to get used to it. It all depends on your dog.

Once your puppy can be crated for extended periods of time without whining or barking, you can consider her trained. However, training is never truly over. You should still crate your puppy for short periods of time while you’re around so that she doesn’t grow to associate the crate with your absence.

Can You Crate Your Puppy While You’re at Work?

Can You Crate Your Puppy While You’re at WorkYou may be wondering if you can crate your puppy while you’re at work.

If your puppy isn’t crate trained, the answer is no. Remember, locking a puppy up in a crate before she’s ready often leads to fear and aversion. Furthermore, puppies’ bladders are just too small, and even a crate won’t stop them from urinating if they aren’t let out often enough.

If you have a full-time job that keeps you away from home for eight hours, your best option would be to enlist a friend or family member for help. Someone should stop by the house and let the puppy out to potty every one to two hours. This person can also provide enrichment through play or training.

No matter how well your puppy has been doing with crate training, she should not be crated for the full eight hours that you are gone. Avoid crating your pup for more than three to four hours at a time. Younger puppies with smaller bladders shouldn’t be crated for more than one to two hours.

Alternatives to Crate Training a Puppy

Akita Inu puppy in playpen

Puppy in a playpen

Crate training a puppy can take months, so what do you do if you need to go out for a couple of hours but you can only crate your puppy for 10 minutes? What do you do if your puppy isn’t ready to be crated at all?

Or, what if you’ve simply determined that, for one reason or another, crate training isn’t the best option for your situation? How do you keep your puppy from tearing up the house while you’re away?

Luckily, there are a few alternatives to crate training that you can try.

Puppy-Proof a Space

When it comes to puppy-proofing a space for while you’re away, you have two options. The first is to puppy-proof an entire room, and the second is to use baby gates to block off a small space for your puppy to stay in while you’re away.

Make sure there’s nothing in the area that your puppy can chew on, and accept the fact that she may go potty in that space, especially if it’s a larger area. You can put pee pads down if you feel your puppy is unlikely to eat them while you’re gone or use a space with a hard floor that is easy to clean.

Use a Playpen

If you don’t have a room available or baby gates won’t work for you, you can try getting a playpen. This will restrict your puppy’s access to the whole house.

Again, you’ll either want to set this up in an area that is easy to clean or line the floor with puppy pads. Make sure the walls of the pen are high enough that your puppy cannot climb out of it.

Send Your Puppy to a Doggy Daycare

If you work all day, dropping your puppy off at a doggy daycare may be a great option for you. At a doggy daycare, your puppy can get a lot of enrichment through play and exercise. You also won’t have to worry about her destroying items in your house or peeing on the floor. Just be sure to research any doggy daycares you’re interested in so you know they are safe and hygienic.

Hire a Pet Sitter

If doggy daycare doesn’t seem like the right option for you, you can consider hiring a pet sitter instead. Pet sitters will come to your home to take care of your puppy while you’re away. If the pet sitter is willing, you can even ask them to help with crate training.

As with doggy daycares, you should research pet sitters before considering their services.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, crate training a puppy takes patience and persistence.

However, with the tips in this ultimate guide, you should have a clearer idea of how to get started and what to expect.

Once your puppy is comfortable with being crated, you can move on to training your puppy on bigger and better things.

As a side note, if you are looking for more advanced training, I wrote an article on the best online dog training courses.

Let us know your experiences and thoughts in the comments below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *