Puppy Advice

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 some advice about crate training a puppy.

Corgi puppy resting upside down inside crate

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

The first thing to do is to get your puppy used to being in the crate. Place a nice comfy bed and some treats in the crate and let your puppy enter 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 you can 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. Ensuring to open the door before they panic. 

Once your puppy is happy being in the crate for 10 minutes after finishing eating, they should be ready to be left for longer. Gradually build the time up to the point where they are happy in their crate. In the beginning you should be in the same room and gradually build to leaving the room.

If your puppy becomes upset about being in the crate, or loses interest in their food, go back a few steps. You don't always need to make it harder, sometimes practise and make it easier by leaving them in there for elss time or not shutting the door. Otherwise they may anticipate it getting harder each time. The next stage is to slowly get them used to being in their crate when they are left alone.

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. You can help them by taking the crate upstairs to your bedroom or sleeping downstairs with your puppy. 

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. 

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

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.

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