How to crate train a puppy

20 December 2021 - 5 min read
Puppy in a dog crate

Crates are a popular and effective training tool for dogs of all ages, but it's easiest to introduce one when they're a puppy.

What is crate training for dogs?

Crate training involves introducing a dog to an indoor dog crate or kennel. You can use one as a safe and secure den for your new puppy to help them rest and relax for short periods of time.

They’re suitable for dogs of all ages but are popular with owners of puppies that are house training.

Puppies can be quite destructive when they arrive in their new homes. Toileting in the wrong places and causing damage to furniture by chewing are common, but you can use a crate for training to help reduce these incidents.

They can also stop your puppy accidentally injuring themself by eating and chewing things they shouldn't.

It's a good idea to take out puppy insurance as soon as you bring your new friend home so you're covered for any mishaps as soon as possible.

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What are the benefits of crate training?

  • Calming - A crate gives your dog a place to go when they are tired or stressed and need to relax.

  • Toilet training - Crates can help with toilet training as dogs don’t like to make a mess in the place where they sleep.

  • Confidence - They can help build confidence and allow your dog to get use to a new environment.

  • Recovery - They provide a place where your dog can recover from illness or injury.

  • Travel - Crates are ideal for travelling with your pet in the car to keep them safe and restrained while you’re driving.

How to use a crate for training

First things first, find a suitable room or area in your home to place the crate.

Make sure the surrounding area is clear and there are no objects lying around that might distract your dog or puppy. Try not to force your puppy immediately inside the crate. Let them explore it in their own time.

They may be reluctant to enter at first but it’s important to be patient. Always use positive reinforcements, like treats, rewards or play to encourage them around the crate.

An empty crate can look unappealing to your puppy. To help them feel more comfortable, our Veterinary Relationship manager, Sarah Dawson says: “You can line your crate with comfy blanket or something nonslip, place a favourite toy in there and some pets prefer a blanket over the top to create a den.

"Make sure the crate is big enough for them to stand up and move around a little and has space for a water bowl if they'll be shut in overnight or for longer periods.

Building up time in the crate slowly is key, says Sarah. “Slowly get them used to the crate. Start to feed them in the crate with the door open until they’re confident. Then close the door for only a few seconds. Build this time up over time to avoid them panicking and seeing it as a scary.”

The door of the crate shouldn’t be shut for longer than is necessary. At first, try to remain nearby or in the same room and continue doing this for a couple of days.

It can take some time and persistence to build up the association and familiarity of the crate with your dog, but you shouldn’t give up. Keep your routine going until they become comfortable and familiar with the crate.

Dogs are individuals with their own personalities and characters and may take to crate training quicker than others. You can always check with your breeder to find out whether your puppy has had experience of crate training during their first few months.

What should you not do when crate training a puppy?

When crate training there are some things, you should avoid doing. “Never use the crate for punishment. It needs to be a fun space the pet can feel safe,” advises Sarah.

Crates are great at keeping young dogs safe and secure, but they shouldn’t be used for really long periods of time.

If your dog starts showing signs of distress - whining, barking, digging or self-harming - you should avoid putting them inside the crate.

Puppies aged six months or younger ideally shouldn’t be left inside their crate for more than three or four hours at any given time.

Using a crate for toilet training

Crates are used as a popular method for toilet training puppies.

Dogs don’t tend to go to the toilet in the areas where they eat and sleep. When they do, it’s usually a sign of distress and they may be spending too much time inside their crate.

Crates are used for toilet training as they can help puppies control and hold their bladders. When they do leave their crates, they will immediately want to go to the toilet.

Letting them go outside will make them keen to go to the toilet and with some encouragement and praise they will learn that outside is where they should go.

Tips for crate training a puppy at night

ManyPets vet Dr Kirsten Ronngren says: "In the hours leading up to bedtime, large meals should be avoided and water consumption monitored.

"This can help you predict the needs of your puppy overnight. For example, letting your puppy gulp lots of water before bedtime is almost a way to guarantee an accident - as they will need to go more frequently.

"Allowing them to drink if needed (without draining the bowl) will keep them hydrated without overload prior to bedtime!

"Remember, giving your pup a chance to go to the toilet right before they go in their crate and right after is helpful to set a successful routine."

With puppies, you may need to sleep next to them in the first few days and weeks of bringing them home with you. This can be challenging at first, but puppies will eventually grow out it.

How to choose a dog crate

You will find there are various types of dog crates available, including fabric, plastic, and metal crates. What you choose should depend on your specific pup's tendencies i.e. fabric may not be best for excessive chewers or diggers.

You should choose a crate that’s right for your dog’s size. When inside, they should be able to stand up, turn around and lie down. If they can’t do this, the crate is the wrong size.

Most crates will be very similar in design and build. You should try to choose one that can be used for puppies, adult dogs and dogs in old age. A crate that offers good value for money should be an obvious consideration.

Whichever crate you choose, you can personalise it by adding accessories such as blankets, toys and chews to make it a cosy comfortable refuge. Use our puppy shopping list for a few ideas.

When to stop crate training

When your dog or puppy can remain calm and relaxed inside their crate for more than 30 minutes that’s usually a good sign that they’re now comfortable with their crate.

Once you’ve managed to house train your dog you may find that you don’t need to use the crate as often.

You might decide you don’t need to use a crate after house training has finished, but lots of owners continue using it as a safe den-like area for their dogs.

The choice will depend on each individual dog and the personal circumstances of their owners.

Crate training has become a popular discussion topic among dog owners.

The benefits are that it teaches your dog how to behave in your home, as well as giving them a comfortable, safe place if they feel stressed or overwhelmed.

Don’t leave your dog inside a crate for hours on end, and always make sure you use your crate for the right reasons.

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Rodney Dennis
Content marketing executive

Rodney joined ManyPets in 2018 to specialise in pet health and insurance content. He previously worked in the Financial Services sector writing articles, blogs and thought leadership papers on banking regulation and financial technology.