How To Crate Train A Puppy – Step-By-Step Guide

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Whatever breed of dog you own, you should crate train your pet when he’s still a puppy. 

But why is crate training so important? What’s the point of teaching your dog to stay in a crate? And for how long can you keep your dog in a crate while you’re out at work?

Keep reading for a comprehensive guide to the entire crate training process, including our special step-by-step guide on how to crate train a puppy.

What Do You Need To Crate Train Your Puppy?

Before we go on to discuss how to crate train your puppy and why that’s so important, let’s look at what items of equipment you need.

A High-Quality Dog Crate

First of all, you need to choose a high-quality dog crate. 

There are many different kinds of dog crates, including:

You can also buy dog crates that can double up as items of furniture, such as end tables or media consoles. However, these crates are not suitable for crate training a puppy, as they don’t generally include a puppy divider panel and can be vulnerable to damage from chewing.

Ideally, a wire dog crate that includes a divider panel is the best choice for crate training a puppy. Also, metal crates are usually collapsible, making it easier to transport and store the crate when you need to. A double door crate with a divider panel enables you to expand the crate as the puppy grows, as well as making it easier for potty training your furbaby. Check out this link for our reviews of some of the best crates with dividers before you make your final crate selection.

The main downside of wire crates is that they can be noisy when the puppy moves around, which could disturb you at night. However, if you buy a crate with crate mat included, that can help.

Fabric Crates

I would advise against using a fabric crate for a puppy or for a dog from an animal shelter. Dogs that are stressed by being crated are not averse to nibbling and chewing on stuff, including their crate. A soft-sided or fabric crate is very easy to chew through, and you don’t want your dog to escape or damage your brand new crate beyond repair!

The Correct Crate Size

The crate must be the correct size for your puppy.

As a minimum, your puppy should:

  • Be able to turn around without bumping into the sides of the crate
  • Be able to stand up without his head or his ears touching the top of the crate
  • Be able to comfortably lie down flat

Remember to allow sufficient space for a water bowl or bottle and a food dish, and make allowances for a thick crate pad or mat.

Crates are quite expensive to buy, so you only want to buy once if you possibly can. Ideally, therefore, you want to get a crate with a puppy divider panel that enables you to expand the crate as your puppy grows. 

Also, when you’re potty training your puppy, you don’t want the crate to be too spacious or your puppy might start using one end of the crate as a toileting area.

Leash And Harness

You’ll need a leash and a correctly fitted harness for your puppy. 

Calming Treats

It’s a good idea to have a supply of calming treats on hand to help your puppy relax during his crate training experience.

Where Should You Put Your Puppy’s Crate?

Chocolate Labrador Puppy lying down in a wire crate 7 weeks old

Once you’ve chosen your puppy’s crate, you need to decide where to put it in your home.

I recommend that you choose somewhere quiet where the puppy will be able to feel relaxed and where he won’t feel that he’s in the way or underfoot. To create a cozy, den-like feel for the crate, put blankets over the top, and remember to kit out the cage with some soft, comfy bedding for your furry friend.

What’s The Point Of Crate Training Your Puppy?

Crate training your puppy might seem like a whole lot of expense and hassle. So, what’s the point?

Well, there are several important reasons for crate training your dog, including:

Safety When Home Alone

If you have to leave your dog home alone for a short while, keeping him confined in a crate can help to keep your beloved pet safe and out of mischief and can even be an effective remedy for separation anxiety.

Travel Safety

Obedient dachshund dog sits in blue pet carrier in public place and waits the owner. Safe travel with animals by plane or train. Customs quarantine before or after transporting animals across border

The safest way to travel with your dog is to have him safely confined to a crate. 

With your dog safely in his crate, your pet won’t be at risk of injuring himself, you, or your passengers, and he will be less stressed during the journey. Also, it’s illegal to travel with your dog on the loose in your vehicle because of the distraction he could cause you while you’re driving.

Finally, if you’re traveling by air, many airlines permit dogs to travel in the cabin or in the cargo hold, provided they are confined to an approved travel crate.

A Natural Den

Dogs are naturally denning animals that need a safe space where they can get away from it all and spend some quality alone time when they need to.

Your dog’s crate can provide him with that valuable space to enjoy some quiet time.

Potty Training

Miniature Golden Doodle Puppy and Potty Training

The most effective and quickest way to potty train a puppy is to use a crate. 

Dogs have an innate instinct to keep their crate clean and hygienic, and they will try not to soil their sleeping area. So, by keeping your dog crated and letting him out regularly to relieve himself in a designated, approved area outside in your backyard, you’ll quickly teach him where it’s okay to go.

Keeping Your Possessions Safe

Puppies are notorious chewers! First of all, your puppy is a curious creature that uses its mouth to explore new things. Unfortunately, that exploration can quickly escalate into destruction, especially in puppies that are teething.

By keeping your puppy crated when you’re not around to supervise him, you can keep your furniture, shoes, and other valuables out of his reach. Instead, provide your pet with a chew toy that he can fixate on while he’s in his crate, and your pet will quickly learn what he can and cannot chew.

Quarantine, Veterinary Treatment, And Emergencies

No matter how hard to try, there may be occasions when things go wrong, and your dog will need to be crated for his own safety and wellbeing.

If your dog needs to be kept in quarantine, has to undergo surgery, or there’s an emergency situation in your home, you might need to put your pet into a crate. That’s going to be much easier for you and less stressful and upsetting for your dog if he’s accustomed to spending time in a crate at home.

Is Crate Training Always Successful?

French Bulldog puppy resting inside a metal crate

No! Unfortunately, there are some dogs that simply do not accept spending time in a crate.

Generally, all puppies can be successfully crate trained, especially if you begin teaching them from day one, and you go about crate training your pet correctly. 

However, some adult dogs that have had a bad start in life never settle in a crate, no matter how hard you try. That’s often the case with breeding dogs that have been rescued from puppy mills or mistreated dogs from shelters that associate a crate with punishment.

That said, those cases are the exception rather than the rule, and most dogs quickly learn to love spending time in their “safe place,” especially if you make their crate a comfy place with their favorite toys and treats on offer!

How Long Does It Usually Take To Crate Train A Puppy?

Every dog is different, and there’s no definitive answer to that question. That can be frustrating for new owners, as it’s difficult to set a firm date by which you expect your puppy to be crate trained.

However, as a general rule, you can expect your puppy to be crate trained within around a month, provided that you go about training your pet patiently and correctly. That said, it’s not unheard of for a puppy to be happily using his crate after just a week.

My Puppy Cries In His Crate – What Do I Do?

If your puppy cries in his crate, to begin with, don’t panic!  

When a puppy is removed from his mother and siblings, he quickly gets to look on you and your family as his new pack. So, when you put him in his crate, he’s certain to miss you and cry to get your attention, just like a human baby.

Always make sure that your puppy is comfortable, hasn’t injured himself somehow while in his crate, and doesn’t need to relieve himself. Then it’s really a case of trying to ignore the crying until your pup settles down, which he invariably will do. It’s also worth noting that some breeds suffer from separation anxiety more than others. If your puppy falls into one of those breed categories, sometimes, it can help to calm your pet if you put the crate in a room where your furbaby can see you and your family.

How To Crate Train A Puppy

Now, let’s get into our step-by-step guide on how to successfully crate train your puppy.

Introducing Your Puppy To His Crate

Before crate training procedures can begin in earnest, you need to introduce your puppy to his new den. Here are a few useful, tried and tested training steps to achieve that.

Make Spending Time In The Crate A Treat!

Most dogs are food-oriented to some extent, and you can use that when training your pet.

Set up the crate with a comfortable bed, a water bottle or bowl, and a cover to make the environment cozy and inviting for your puppy. Leave the crate door open, and put your puppy in the same room as the crate.

Now, pop a few yummy treats in the crate. Finding a few snacks inside his new den helps to create a positive association with the crate for your puppy. For the same reason, it’s also a good idea to feed your puppy all his meals inside the crate.

If your puppy is reluctant to go into the crate, try putting his favorite treats and food just inside the doorway. Once your puppy is more confident, move the food and treats further back into the crate.

Toy Time

Goldendoodle clutching toy in his mouth while playing

All puppies love to play with toys, especially when your furbaby is teething. So, take your pup’s favorite chew or toy and fix it to the back of the crate. 

That can encourage your baby dog to lie down in the crate and play with the toy, helping to further build pleasant associations with your pet’s new den.

Patience Is Crucial

Patience is a crucial quality that you must have when you’re training your puppy to do anything, including learning to spend time in his crate.

Never try to force or push your puppy into his crate. If your pet is frightened of his crate, he will never see it as a pleasurable place where he wants to spend his time.

Crate Training In Six Easy Steps

Now that your puppy will go into the crate of his own volition, you can begin crate training him in earnest.

Step 1 – Games!

Once your puppy has gone into the crate a few times, you can begin to make a game of it.

Let your puppy see you throw toys into the crate and encourage your pet to run into the crate to retrieve them. Make a great fuss of your puppy when he fetches the toy back to you.

Repeat the game a few times each day, leaving the crate door open.

Step 2 – “Go To Bed!”

puppy in crate

Once your puppy will happily run into the crate to retrieve a toy or grab a treat, you can begin teaching your pet the “Go To Bed!” command.

Before you can begin this step, your puppy must be happy to go into the crate on cue to retrieve a toy or treat. Once he does that, say “Go To Bed!” Praise your puppy as soon as he goes into the crate.

Repeat that up to five times over ten training sessions until your pet runs into his crate on cue to grab the treat.

Now, try telling your puppy to “Go To Bed!” before you give him a treat. If the puppy doesn’t go into the crate, take a step back and continue with the previous step before trying again.

Step 3 – Lockdown!

Once you can get your puppy to enter the crate on command, it’s time to close the door.

Ask your pet to “Go To Bed!” This time, close the door once your pet is inside the crate. Reward your puppy with treats, feeding him through the door. 

Open the door and let your pet out. Now, repeat the exercise up to five times.

Up the ante. Put your puppy in the crate, close the door, and walk around the crate a few times. Once you can manage a few laps around the crate without your puppy getting upset, move on to the next stage.

Step 4 – Short Stays

Black Dog inside a crate

Now, you need to have your puppy spend short time periods of time inside the crate.

Provide your pet with a special toy or a chew bone to keep him amused inside the crate. Send your puppy into the crate, and close the door. Place a chair beside the crate and settle down to read a book or watch TV.

Leave the room a few times for a few minutes, before returning to the crate. You might even want to bring a food treat back for your puppy. The idea is to make your pup’s first lockdown experience a positive one.

If your puppy throws a tantrum, ignore it. If you acknowledge that behavior, you will endorse it as acceptable, which it is not. After a half hour, let the puppy out of the crate, provided that he’s quiet. Don’t make a fuss. Your puppy needs to understand that spending time in the crate is normal and an everyday occurrence.

Ask your puppy to go back inside the crate, offering him a treat and leaving the door open this time. If your pet refuses to comply, do whatever it takes to bribe him to reenter the crate but don’t shut him inside.

Step 5 – Extended Stays

When your puppy is happy to remain in the crate for short time periods, you can extend the duration of the lockdown schedule.

Start with a few minute, gradually building up the time your puppy spends inside the crate to a couple of hours. Keep your puppy safe and secure during crating periods by making sure the kennel is locked.

Remember that puppies only have small bladders. So, don’t expect your puppy to last for extended periods without a potty break.

Step 6 – Home Alone

Dog laying down on a crate bed

Once your puppy is happy and relaxed in the crate, you can leave him home alone for a short period of time

Prepare your pet for some alone time by giving him plenty of exercise before you put him in his crate and leave him. It’s also helpful to give your pup a chew toy to keep him busy and place a cover over the crate to create a cozy space. Leave your puppy for a little while, perhaps just for half an hour or so to begin with. 

Don’t make a big deal out of leaving or coming home again. Your puppy must realise that your departure and arrival are simply part of a normal routine.

Bedtime Crate Training

Make it a house crate rule that your puppy goes into his crate for sleep every night.

When you put your puppy in his crate at night, you can expect a bit of crying or barking. If that carries on for more than a few minutes, it’s probable that your furbaby needs a toilet break before settling down for the night. 

You can prevent that by making a bathroom break before bedtime. Again, very young puppies can’t hold on for the whole night, so you need to be prepared to get up once or twice during the night for bathroom potty breaks. Don’t worry! The older your puppy is, the longer he can go between toilet breaks, and it won’t be long until he can sleep right through the night.

It usually helps your puppy to settle if you place the crate in your bedroom next to your bed. That way you can talk to your puppy and put your fingers into the crate if he vocalizes during the night. If your pup doesn’t settle quickly, he probably needs to go potty. Simply pick up your puppy and take him outside to relieve himself before returning straight back to bed. Don’t play with your puppy! He needs to know that it’s sleep time, not playtime.

Puppy Crate Training Tips

If you take your time and be patient with your puppy, your crate training should go well. However, here are a few more helpful tips and advice for crate training to set you up for success.

Accident Prevention

Always make sure that your puppy has relieved himself before you put him in his crate. That’s one of the basics of crate training!

If you pup does have an accident in the crate, do not punish him. Clean the crate using an enzymatic cleaner and wash any bedding. Don’t use cleaning products that contain ammonia. That smells like pee, and your pup might think it’s acceptable to mess in the crate if it smells like a potty.

If you’re using the crate for house training, use a crate divider panel so that the crate doesn’t have so much space that your puppy can make a toilet area at one end of the crate. As you pet grows, remember to move the divider to give him more space.

How Long Is Too Long?

As mentioned above, you should be careful not to leave your puppy in the crate for too long during each crate training session. Puppies of a few months of age should not be left crated for too long, simply because they can’t hold on for as long as older dogs can, so you’ll need to factor that into your crate training schedule.

Crate Training Puppy Schedule

Puppy’s Age

Time Between Potty Breaks

8 to 10 weeks

30 to 60 minutes

11 to 14 weeks

1 to 3 hours

15 to 16 weeks

3 to 4 hours

17+ weeks

4 to 6 hours

8 to 10 weeks:
30 to 60 minutes

11 to 14 weeks:
1 to 3 hours

15 to 16 weeks:
Straight, wavy, curly

17+ weeks:
Depends on coat length

Unless crated overnight, you should never keep a puppy or an adult dog in a crate for more than 5 to 6 hours.

Don’t Use The Crate As A Punishment!

Even if your puppy becomes overexcited and hyper, which all pups do from time to time, never shut your puppy in his crate as a punishment. You risk undoing all your good work if you make your puppy resentful of spending time in the crate.

That said, you can use the crate for timeouts if your furbaby gets too rambunctious and goes over the top. Excited behavior can result in destructive behaviors and even loss of bladder control, which you definitely don’t want to encourage.

Simply tell your puppy to go into his crate, reward him with a treat, and give him a toy to play with until he calms down.

In Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed our guide on how to crate train your precious puppy. If you found the information we’ve included here, please share it.

The key to successful crate training is patience and understanding. On average, it takes from as little as one week up to a month or two to fully crate train a puppy. Make it fun for your puppy to spend time in his crate and make the crate a safe, comfortable den for your pet, and he will love spending time there. Remember that very young puppies need frequent potty breaks, and never keep your dog confined in his crate for more than six hours at a stretch unless that’s overnight.

How did you do with crate training your puppy? Tell us your story in the comments box below.

Meet our writer

Alison Page was brought up with dogs and various other pets! For a few years, Alison worked as a Practice Manager in a small animal veterinary clinic. Alison is now a full-time writer, specializing in creating articles on the care and training of dogs, cats, and fish.

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