- What is crate training
- Why should I crate-train my puppy?
- Where should my puppy’s crate be?
- When should I start crate training my puppy?
- What do I need to start crate training?
- How to Crate Train a Puppy in 5 easy steps
- 1. Get the right-sized crate
- 2. Make the crate really comfortable
- 3. Introduce the crate
- 4. Feed your puppy their meals in the crate
- 5. Start letting them sleep in the crate
- Should I leave my puppy to cry in their crate?
- Alternatives to puppy crates
- Is crate training cruel?
There are many good reasons why you should crate train your puppy, from helping with toilet training – especially through the night, to keeping them safe at times when you can’t give them your undivided attention. But there are some essential pieces of information you need to know before starting, from why you might find crate training your puppy useful, and how to crate train a puppy.
What is crate training
Crate training is the process of introducing your puppy to a crate which will in time become a safe space, at times when you can’t give them your full attention – such as during the night or when you are busy. This will keep them safe, make sure they don’t get into trouble and also simplify their toilet training.
Why should I crate-train my puppy?
There are plenty of reasons why you should crate-train your puppy, such as:
- Making travelling with your dog easier – whether that be in the car, train or on the plane, and when you get to hotels or the homes of friends/family
- Help prepare them for any future vet visits where they may have to stay overnight, or recuperation
- Helps with toilet training
Where should my puppy’s crate be?
When your puppy comes home with you, they are just a tiny baby and are alone for the very first time in their life – without their mother or their littermates. For a puppy, this is scary, as so for their security, and to help with the bonding process, they need to be close to you, and therefore you want them to sleep in the same room as you beside your bed.
But you do want them to be safe and not be able to wander off and get into trouble while you snooze! The best way to do this is to set up a secure bed for your puppy beside yours.
An indoor puppy crate can be invaluable here as it means your puppy can be beside you but still be safely contained so both of you have a chance to get some sleep – and your puppy begins to learn that night times are for settling down and sleeping.
It also simplifies toilet training as the puppy won’t want to soil the area where they sleep (their mum has already taught them that) and so they can’t sneak off to a corner of the room.
Asking them to hold on like this however, can be difficult for a young puppy (and impossible for the first couple of weeks and for far longer in small breeds) so it does mean you have to be ready to take them out when they wake up (either in the middle of the night or early in the morning) - as you don’t want them to get distressed from needing to go and having to hold on.
While for now, your puppy’s place is beside you, an advantage of a puppy crate is that once your puppy is settled, you can gradually move this to wherever you ultimately want your puppy to spend the night. They do not have to stay in the bedroom forever (unless you want them to of course) - but for now and in these early weeks/months, they need the comfort of being beside you.
The puppy will have the comfort of your presence, you are beginning the bonding process and building trust, and even better, you will know if your puppy wakes and needs to go out to the toilet – which will make your toilet training even quicker and easier too.
When should I start crate training my puppy?
Crate training can be started as soon as you bring your puppy home – and many responsible breeders will have already started the process which will make it even easier for you.
What do I need to start crate training?
There are of course a few obvious things you need to start crate training, such as a puppy and your crate, apart from that, you will need:
How to Crate Train a Puppy in 5 easy steps
If a puppy has never been in a crate before, this will be something new for them that you need to introduce slowly – always making the crate a safe space with the use of treats, toys and positive associations.
1. Get the right-sized crate
First of all, make sure you get a crate the right size for your puppy – and this may mean you upgrade it several times as your dog grows. Sometimes if you visit local social media groups, you can find people who might even be able to lend you one for a short time. Having two crates to start with can help too (then you don’t have to move it around if you are using one for your puppy to sleep in and another for those times you can’t watch them all the time in the house!).
At all times, the crate should be big enough that your puppy can stand up comfortably, lie stretched out and be able to get up and turn around. It shouldn’t be so big however that they can use one end for sleeping and the other end as a toilet!
2. Make the crate really comfortable
Line it with veterinary bedding that goes up the sides to keep the pup warm and comfortable. You can also use blankets, old duvets, or a small, low-sided doughnut-shaped bed – as long as they are washable.
3. Introduce the crate
Then introduce it slowly the crate to your puppy. This is really important. On your puppy’s first night, you can’t just stick him in there and expect him to be happy about it - however most puppies are used to sleeping in a puppy pen with their mum and littermates, so this isn’t going to be new for them.
Do this during the day - and when you are playing with the pup, encourage them to go into the crate by their own choice – possibly to chase a toy, or to get a treat. You are teaching them that the crate is a safe and rewarding place to be. Don’t shut the door yet!
4. Feed your puppy their meals in the crate
Put your puppy’s meals in the crate - and while they are eating you can push the door over (not locked) for a few minutes.
Whenever the pup is sleepy, put them in the crate beside you (even if you sit on the floor next to them to start with, so they feel comfortable about sleeping in there.
Make a hard and fast rule that no one ever disturbs the puppy when they are in the crate. It’s important especially on the first night with the new puppy to teach them that this is a safe haven away from the craziness of their new life where they can totally relax. For many dogs who have been properly introduced to a crate, this can go on to be a sanctuary from the craziness of family-like – or at potentially stressful times.
Always stay close by and where your puppy can see you, so your puppy doesn’t feel abandoned or ‘locked away’ from you.
5. Start letting them sleep in the crate
Once the puppy is happy and relaxed about sleeping in the crate and going in and out of it, they can be put in there to spend the night – and for most pups this doesn’t take long at all, and they should be ready on the first evening.
Thankfully many breeders will have already crate-trained their puppies (as it is a lot easier for them not to have puppies running riot around their house) and this will make things so much easier for you and allow you to start as you mean to go on – so it may well be something you want to ask the breeder right at the very start.
Every pup is different though and so you need to be sensitive to your own dog and not rush this.
For some puppies – and their people – a playpen is preferable, and that has the advantage of being able to grow as your puppy does. More athletic or adventurous puppies can learn to climb out, however!
Remember, a crate is a place of safety and security designed to help you manage the puppy’s early nights at home and at times when you can’t give them your undivided attention – it is not something to use for long periods of time.
A crate is to be used to keep your puppy safe beside you - not to lock them away from you. This is how a crate can be misused and why some people are very anti-crates!
Your puppy should spend their life out and about with you, learning about this new world and bonding with you – not shut in a crate!
NOTE: If your puppy wears a collar in the house, always take it off before you put them in the crate.
Should I leave my puppy to cry in their crate?
If you use your crate to toilet train or sleep train there are some things you shouldn’t do. You should not leave your puppy in a crate, away from you, crying or showing any signs of distress. They will not ‘cry it out’ or if they do, not without causing distress and potential behaviour issues in the future (such as separation-related behaviours problems).
Leaving and allowing your puppy to cry or bark in their crate will cause them a large amount of stress and will create a negative association with it. It will also severely damage the bond between you and cause future problems and an insecure attachment. You will have taught your puppy that they will be left alone, it is scary, and they can’t trust you to help them.
If you notice your puppy crying in their crate, there is often a reason why. These include:
- They need the toilet
- They are stressed or feeling lonely (especially in the first few days)
- They are bored or frustrated
- They have not learned that a crate is a safe place – or you are leaving them alone in the crate
Alternatives to puppy crates
If you don’t like the idea of your puppy being in a crate, although it is completely safe, there are alternatives that are just as good. These include a puppy pen or just being prepared to watch your puppy all the time.
If you choose not to use a puppy crate, have a soft, warm, safe bed that you can put on the floor beside you but set up a puppy playpen or a barrier around it so your puppy is more likely to settle down and sleep – and so get into a sleeping routine – and can’t wander off, chew things, play, or use various parts of your bedroom as a toilet! This keeps your puppy safe – and means you don’t stay awake all night worrying about what they are doing!
During the day your puppy needs plenty of opportunity to be able to sleep too.
Puppies have bursts of energy followed by frequent naps to recover – so they need somewhere comfortable and quiet to sleep, while still being close to you. You can set up a crate or a playpen with soft veterinary bedding in every room you are likely to spend time – or more likely you can get a bed to put in a quiet area of the room, as you will be there to supervise daytime napping.
Many people do not like the idea of using a puppy crate – and there is no doubt they can be misused by people who use them as a way to shut their dog away from them – but used properly, a crate is a useful training aid that can help you keep your puppy safe, simplify your toilet training, and make sure you both get some sleep in those early days of your life together.
Is crate training cruel?
If it is done properly – and then used properly - crate training isn’t cruel – in fact, it is a great way for your puppy to come everywhere with you and stay safe even if you are distracted or working.
It can however be misused.
If training is rushed or forced, your puppy may associate negatively with the crate, and therefore not want to be in or near it. Or if a crate is used to leave your puppy ‘home alone’ or to keep them away from you this can cause significant and lasting behaviour problems – and indeed, is cruel. And of course, a crate should never be used as a form of punishment.