When To Stop Crate Training Your Canine Friends

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Crate training is generally used when potty training puppies, for helping dogs that suffer from separation anxiety, and for containing your pet when you’re not home.

However, many dogs continue to enjoy using their crate as a safe refuge and chill-out zone long after the initial crate training period has ended. So, how long should crate training take? How do you know when your puppy is fully crate trained? And do you even need to use a crate for your dog?

Read this guide to learn when to stop crate training your furry friend and much more!

What Are The Benefits Of Crate Training?

dog eating from a bowl inside his crate

Crate training is a very useful tool for dog owners that provides many benefits for both the dog and the owner, including:

  • Makes potty training puppies easier and can prevent accidents in the home
  • Provides the dog with a comfortable, safe resting place
  • Keeps the dog safely confined when you’re not around
  • Can help dogs that suffer from separation anxiety
  • Helps to prevent destructive behavior when you’re not there to supervise your dog

Many owners are a fan of crate training for travel and always travel their dogs in a crate, as that keeps the dog safely contained and prevents driver distraction when on road trips.

When Should I Stop Crate Training My Dog?

Crate training sessions generally take place every day while your puppy is growing up. Adult dogs also typically require daily crate training, but when can you stop crate training your pet?

Generally, you can stop crate training your dog once he has achieved the following: 

  •  The dog willingly goes into his crate when requested.
  • The dog is happy to have the crate door closed while he is inside.
  • The dog rests comfortably inside his crate for a few hours when required.
  • The dog can be left alone inside his crate while you go out for extended periods of up to eight hours.
  • Your pet doesn’t howl, bark, or whine when confined to his crate
  • Your dog doesn’t defecate or urinate in his crate.

Once your canine companion has achieved all these things, it could be time to reduce your crate training sessions.

Take Your Time

French Bulldog puppy resting inside a metal crate

No matter how confident you are that your dog is fully crate trained, you should gradually taper off the training rather than stop it abruptly. You can do that by offering intermittent rewards, such as a handful of treats to encourage the dog to go into his crate or a food-stuffed chew toy to entertain Fido while you go out.

This unpredictable reinforcement pattern will make your dog more likely to continue using his crate as desired, simply because he never knows when he will receive a tasty reward. Gradually, reduce the frequency of the rewards, but still offer your dog an occasional treat when he behaves correctly. That should ensure your dog maintains the desirable behavior for life. 

When To Abandon Crate Training

Although crate training is undoubtedly beneficial for both you and your pet, some dogs absolutely hate being confined to a crate. Forcing the issue is incredibly stressful for your dog and can result in long-term behavioral problems and damages that important bond between you.

Often, dogs from shelters or rescues find being crated extremely stressful. That could simply be because the dog is not used to being confined, or it could be because a crate has been used as a punishment tool in the past. 

Signs that it’s time to abandon crate training can include:

  • Crying, whining, barking, and howling while in the crate
  • Destructive behavior, such as chewing or scratching at the crate
  • Attempting to escape from the crate
  • Panting excessively
  • Pacing, circling, or inability to settle in the crate
  • Defecating or urinating in the crate
  • Becoming aggressive when approached in the crate
  • Refusing to enter the crate

All the above signs are clear symptoms of separation anxiety and are effectively your dog’s cry for help. So, although you can buy indestructible dog crates, it’s much better to stop crate training and take a step back.

It might be that a positive reinforcement-based dog trainer or board-certified veterinary behaviorist can help you and devise a plan to revisit the crate training process. An expert can help identify your dog’s triggers so that you can work on overcoming your pet’s fears through proper crate training. Or it could be that an alternative to a crate, such as an exercise run or pen might be a better training tool for a dog that has severe separation anxiety.

When Should I Stop Crating My Dog?

German Shepherd dog inside the crate

Your dog’s crate is his safe space. Your pet can retreat to his crate when he wants to sleep or relax in a comfy bed, and the crate can provide a safe refuge for your dog if he becomes stressed. So, there’s not really a time when you can stop crating your dog completely. Ideally, your pet’s crate or den-like space should always be available to him.

However, you can generally stop closing the door to the crate once your dog is around two years old. Until then, your dog is more likely to get into mischief when unsupervised.

That said, many dog owners like to put their dogs in the crate before bed. Keeping your pet in his crate at night will ensure that there are no potty accidents in your home overnight, and can help to prevent destructive behaviors. Also, you won’t be disturbed by your furry friend wandering around the house while you’re asleep.

In fact, many dogs love to spend time in their crate and happily go into it throughout the day to take naps and simply relax.

Should I Stop Crating My Dog At Night?

One of the primary goals of crate training is to keep your dog contained at night. 

Crating your pet overnight has several benefits, including:

Potty Training

Miniature Golden Doodle Puppy and Potty Training

Containing your dog in a crate overnight can help to prevent potty accidents around your home while you’re asleep and not around to let your dog outside.

As a general rule, larger dogs have large bladders and are able to hold on for longer than small breeds. So, in theory, you don’t need to crate a large dog once he’s fully toilet trained, whereas you might prefer to crate a tiny pup, just in case of accidents.

Silent Night!

We all need a decent night’s sleep, especially if a full day of work awaits you in the morning. Unfortunately, a dog roaming around your home can be a nuisance, especially if your beloved furry friend decides to jump up onto your bed at 3 am!  

So, by keeping your dog in his crate overnight, you are more likely to get a sound night’s sleep. Usually, once a dog is fully crate trained, he will go into his crate at night once he’s been let outside for the last potty stop before the family settles down for the night.

Preventing Destructive Behavior

Not every dog is well behaved while unsupervised, and bad behavior can happen while you’re fast asleep in bed at night if you leave your dog free to roam.

By keeping your dog confined to his crate at night, you know that you not going to find your new shoes chewed up or the kitchen trash can overturned.

Is It Cruel to Crate My Dog At Night?

Sad dog behind the bars of her crate

Provided that your dog has undergone proper crate training and he doesn’t get distressed and upset when crated, confining your pet overnight is one of the benefits of crate training.

Putting your dog in his crate overnight is not cruel. Rather, crating your dog overnight provides your pet with a safe, comfortable place where he can relax and feel secure. Crating a properly trained dog doesn’t cause aggression, either. Dogs are highly sensitive to their owner’s moods. So, if you can relax and settle down for a good night’s rest without worrying about what your dog might get up to during the hours of darkness, your canine companion is more likely to settle down, too.

At night while you’re asleep, you’re obviously not around to keep an eye on your dog. That means he could potentially get into trouble or even come to harm. If your pet is safely settled in his comfy crate bed with a chew toy to keep him happy, you can rest in the knowledge that your dog is safe.

Should I Ever Stop Crating My Dog?

Should you ever stop crating your dog?

That’s a commonly asked question for dog owners and it’s also something of a bone of contention, excuse the pun! Proper crate training undoubtedly has many benefits, as we’ve already discussed above. But surely there comes a time when a puppy or young dog no longer needs to be confined to a crate?

Whether to continue crating your pet throughout his life completely depends on you and your dog. For example, if you have a very small dog, you might find that keeping him crated overnight helps to prevent toileting accidents. 

But most dog owners stop crating their dogs once they can trust the dog to behave as required. That varies between dogs. Some breeds are more trainable and trustworthy than others, and every dog has a slightly different temperament. So, whether you need to keep crating your dog for reasons of safety, potty training, or trust is something you will need to decide.

How To Leave My Dog Out Of His Crate?

Happy Goldendoodle getting pet

If you decide to stop confining your dog in his crate for extended periods, for example, once toilet training is complete, how do you go about that?

Well, basically, you need to introduce your dog to the idea of freedom slowly and carefully. Rather than suddenly releasing your pet for extended periods, aim to introduce the idea of freedom gradually. Wait until your dog has been accident-free for at least two months and understands how to ask you when he wants to go outside for a potty break.

Keep to your usual potty break schedule, i.e., after meals, first thing in the morning, and last thing at night before bed. Gradually allow your dog to spend longer and longer periods out of his crate. Remember that our pet sees his crate as a safe space into which he can retreat when he wants to, especially in stressful situations. So, don’t remove your dog’s access to the crate.

Don’t Take Away Your Dog’s Crate Completely!

One of your crate training goals was to provide your pet with a safe, comfortable refuge that he can go to whenever he feels the need. So, even if you decide not to confine your pet to his crate anymore, you should never remove the crate altogether.

Taking away the crate can be extremely counterproductive, as you could inadvertently leave your dog feeling isolated and insecure, which would undo all the good work you did when you crate trained your pet. Basically, your dog should always have ready access to his safe den so that he can get away from it all and relax whenever he wants to.

In Sickness And In Health

black and white dog in metal cage or crate

When your dog is sick or injured, his crate provides him with a safe, comfortable space where he can rest and recuperate. 

If your dog has to spend time in a veterinary clinic, following minor surgery or recovering from an illness, the familiar, comforting environment of a crate can provide a stress-free refuge for your dog that can even speed up the recovery process.

Going Places

Many dogs don’t enjoy car travel and find the experience quite stressful. Riding in a crate can make the experience much more enjoyable and safe for both the dog, the driver, and the passengers in the vehicle.

Don’t be tempted to remove your dog’s crate and travel him loose in your vehicle. That’s potentially a very dangerous, upsetting scenario for everyone concerned. Bottom line: keep your dog’s travel crate and use it!

Vacation Location

Many dog owners take their pets with them on vacation. Although your dog will love to come along on the trip with his human family, spending nights in a strange place can be disorientating for your pet. 

If you take your dog’s crate or exercise pen with you when you go traveling, he will enjoy a home-from-home experience that can prevent nighttime wandering and toileting accidents.

Final Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed our guide on when to stop crating your canine companion. If you found the information helpful, please share the article with your dog-loving friends!

Your dog’s crate is his safe space. The crate is somewhere your dog can relax in comfort whenever he wants some peace and alone time. A dog crate is also useful when potty training a puppy and for confining a destructive dog when you’re not around to watch him. However, there may come a time when you want to allow your dog more freedom to roam around your home.

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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