Crate Training Puppies: Tips and Techniques for Success with Crate Training

Behavior & training
Labrador dog in crate laying in bed after being crate trained

Anytime you bring home a new puppy, you want to do everything right to make sure that he is safe, happy, and healthy. While some people may think that dogs don’t like being “locked up” in a crate, crate training your puppy is one of the best things you can teach your pup!  

When used appropriately, crates are not only a useful tool to help your puppy with potty training and prevent him from being destructive, but they also provide a safe and happy place for your pup to relax. Training your dog to be happy in his crate is a valuable skill that your dog will benefit from throughout his entire life!  

Benefits of Crate Training 

Crate training a puppy is the simple act of taking time to condition your puppy to be calm and relaxed inside a crate. Since crate training has so many benefits, it should be one of the first things at the top of your new puppy checklist that you should teach your puppy.   

  • Helps with potty training. Most puppies naturally won't use the bathroom where they sleep. If you keep your puppy crated when you can’t watch him, he’ll learn to hold it until you take him outside.  

  • Provides a safe space. Just like people, puppies need safe, quiet places to relax and decompress. Think of your dog’s crate as his own, small, comfortable bedroom!  

  • Keeps your dog calm. There will be times throughout your dog’s life when he isn’t feeling well or needs to be confined for recovery after a surgical procedure. Hopefully, these situations won’t occur often, but when they do, your pup will be much happier and less stressed if they’ve already been fully crate trained. 

  • Keeps your dog safe. Puppies are known for getting in trouble in mere seconds if you take your eyes off them! Crates can be helpful at home to keep your puppy from being destructive and chewing on things when you can't watch them.  

Dog laying in front of its crate during puppy crate training

Step 1: Choose The Right Crate for your Puppy 

When you bring a new puppy home, chances are you’ll have a new puppy checklist with everything you need to do for him. After getting the necessities like food and water bowls, a leash, and a harness, signing your puppy up for puppy insurance, and choosing a crate are the next things that you should do on day one.   

There are many types of crates available, so the first step is to choose the right crate for your dog. Plastic crates and collapsible metal crates are the most commonly used ones inside the home; however, there are other types, like collapsible fabric crates and even wooden crates that function as furniture pieces and blend into your home decor.   

When selecting a crate for your puppy, it’s most cost-effective to buy the right size for their adult, full-grown size. The crate should be big enough that your dog will be able to stand up and turn around and not have a ton of excess space. While your puppy is still small and growing, you can buy a divider that will limit the amount of space your puppy has access to. If the crate is too big, your puppy may be tempted to potty on one side since he’ll be able to get away from it and sleep on the other.  

Step 2: Choosing The Right Place For The Crate 

It’s important to find the perfect spot inside your home to place the crate. You’ll want to find a quiet place that isn’t too far away from where the family spends a lot of time. A corner of the main living space is usually an ideal area. Some puppies may prefer to be in even more quiet areas, like a bedroom with a door that can be closed.  

If you’re going to crate your puppy at night, having a second crate in or near your bedroom will be helpful and prevent you from lugging the crate throughout your house.  

Step 3: Introducing The Crate To Your Puppy 

Start the crate training process by keeping the door open and allow your puppy to explore it at their own pace. If your puppy seems hesitant, you can encourage him by dropping treats near the crate. Once your puppy is more comfortable, you can drop treats and even a favorite toy inside the crate.  

If your puppy is hesitant, that’s okay! Keep placing treats near the crate and inside the crate, but never force your puppy to go inside. 

Step 4: Feeding Your Puppy Inside The Crate 

Once your dog is comfortable stepping into the crate, you can begin feeding him his regular meals inside the crate. Feeding your puppy his meals inside the crate will help your puppy establish a positive association with the crate!  

Since the crate is still new to your puppy, begin by placing his bowl just inside the door. As your puppy gets more comfortable, you can gradually move his food bowl to the back of the crate each time you feed him.  

Step 5: Practice Closing The Door 

Once your puppy is standing comfortably and eating his meal at the back of the crate, you can begin to close the door while he’s eating. As soon as your puppy is done eating, immediately open the door. With each meal, keep the door closed for an additional 2-3 minutes before you let him out until you can reach 10-15 minutes total. 

If your puppy begins whining or barking before you let him out, go back to the beginning of this step where you’re only closing the door while he’s eating and then immediately opening the door. It’s important to shorten the time he’s in the crate before barking. The goal is to let your puppy out of his crate before he barks.  

Step 6: Extend The Time Your Puppy Is Crated 

Once your puppy has established a positive association with his crate and is showing no signs of fear or anxiety eating inside, you can begin to crate him for short periods of time and gradually extend that time.  

To do this, bring your puppy over to the crate and give him a treat for going inside. Give a verbal cue, such as “crate” or “kennel” and lure them inside the crate with a treat in your hand. Once your puppy is inside, praise him, give him the treat, and close the door. Step out of sight from the crate for a few minutes and return quietly without making a fuss, and then let your puppy out.  

Repeat this process several times per day while slowly increasing the length of time you leave your puppy in the crate while you’re out of sight. Once your puppy is quiet in the crate for about 30 minutes, you can begin leaving your puppy crated while you’re gone for short periods of time.  

Dog in crate laying upside down

Crating Your Dog At Night 

You can crate your dog at night using the method above by luring your dog to the crate, giving him his verbal “crate” cue, and then praising and rewarding him when he enters the crate.  

Every puppy is different, so the time will vary on how long do puppies sleep. Plus, puppies have small bladders, so they will need to go potty overnight. If your puppy begins whining, you’ll want to take him immediately outside to potty. You don’t want your puppy to think it’s play time, so take him straight to a spot where he usually potties. If your puppy doesn’t potty, take them back inside and try to ignore the whining.  

As time goes on, you’ll begin to understand and differentiate your puppy’s whining noises. It’s important to take them outside when they need to potty, but you’ll want to ignore any whining noises that may indicate they just want attention.  

If your puppy continuously whines, it may be best and most effective to start the crate training process over.  

Puppy Crate Training Troubleshooting For Common Problems 

Crate training can take a long time, so be patient. There will be times when your puppy whines or barks. If your puppy is making whining noises because he’s bored or wants attention, you’ll have to ignore that. Your puppy should settle down soon enough. It’s important to understand that crating your puppy isn’t going to be the answer for how to stop a puppy from barking.  

If your puppy is whining, barking, and not settling down, it’s possible you rushed the crate training process, and your puppy isn’t relaxed or happy inside his crate. You’ll need to go back several steps in the training process or start over at step one so your puppy can establish a positive association with the crate.  

If your puppy suffers from separation anxiety, crate training is not the answer. While the crate may prevent your puppy from being destructive to your home, he will be in distress and may injure himself trying to escape. If you suspect your puppy has separation anxiety, consult your veterinarian immediately. Separation anxiety is a serious condition that requires specific training techniques to remedy it and may sometimes even benefit from medication.  

Puppy in a crate laying in its bed after dog crate training

Crate Training: Trust The Process 

Every puppy is different, so each puppy will vary with the amount of time and the ease with which they become fully crate trained. Crate training takes time, patience, and consistency. It’s important to remember that as much as we love our dogs, they love being around us too! This means that training them to be comfortable in a crate by themselves can take some time.  

When trained properly, crate training your puppy has so many benefits! Not only will the crate become your pup’s favorite spot to relax, but you’ll be able to rely on it as a trustworthy way to keep him safe and confined. When you first bring home your new puppy, getting pet insurance and starting the crate training process are two of the most important things you can do! Both will benefit your puppy throughout his life and set him up for success.