Resources – Crate Training Your Dog

Your dog’s crate should become your dog’s personal den where he/she finds peace and solitude. Their safe space. This will only happen if you introduce it in a right and positive way. The place that you choose for their crate is important as well; you want to pick a place that is not in the middle of household traffic, but just one room away from main traffic if possible. While this may seem like a lot of work at the beginning, rest assured that it will most certainly pay off. In the end, it will provide comfort for the dog, and peace of mind for you. – knowing your family member is safe, secure, and not shredding your house up while you’re gone.

Recently there has been a stigma against using a crate to train your dog. Some of the reasons cited are that it is unnatural and inhumane. What most people don’t realize is that a dog’s natural instincts are to retreat into a den-like home where it sleeps, takes refuge, and raises a family. However, there are some owners that mistreat the intended use of a crate. We genuinely hope that you recognize the incredible responsibility you have as a dog owner. And remember, the point of crate training is to train your dog to be a part of your family and not kept in their crate.

Benefits of Crating

There are several benefits to crate training. Some of the benefits include (and are not limited to):

House-training. Dogs don’t like to soil their dens. You can use this to train them when/where to go. Creating boundaries. The crate can limit access to the rest of the house while he learns other house rules. This will reduce their ability to participate in destructive or nuisance behaviors. Transportation. Crates are a safe way to bring your dog with you to places like the veterinarian and groomer.
After training is thoroughly complete, your puppy should be comfortable in a crate and hopefully enjoy spending time there.

Selecting a Crate

While there are several types of crates available (plastic, fabric, metal), we recommend training in a collapsible metal crate. Metal is preferable over plastic because it is easier to clean and allows your puppy to watch everything going on around them. Check out our shopping list for purchasing options.

We recommend you get a crate that will fit your puppy when its an adult. The rule of thumb is to add approximately 4 inches to the overall length and height of your grown dog to get the length and height of the crate. We generally recommend a 30″ crate for petite, 36″ for minis, 42″ for mediums, and 48″ crate for standards.

If the crate is initially too big for your puppy, get a crate divider or make one of your own (I’ve used an ice chest). This will prevent your dog from eliminating in one end and retreating to the other. You can move the divider as the puppy grows. Most new crates are sold with dividers at no additional cost.

Crates are sold with either one door or two. The ones sold with two doors give you more options because one door is on the side while the other door is on the end. See our shopping list for this recommended two-door crate.

The Crate Training Process

It is important to start the crate training when you first bring him/her home, and while the puppy is still developing habits and learning the house rules. Crate training can take days or weeks, depending on your dog’s age, temperament, and past experience. It is important to keep two things in mind while crate training:

– The crate should always be associated with something pleasant.

– Training should take place in a series of small steps. Please take your time and don’t go too fast, for your sake and the puppy.

We know that the bigger goal is to have your furry friend a part of your family and able to roam free. So these steps will help ensure this in the easiest way possible.

Step 1: Introduce the Crate Slowly

First things first. Make sure you place the crate in the center of the house or where your family spends a lot of time but giving some slight privacy if possible. Like behind the corner from the kitchen, or in a hallway from the kitchen (not in the middle of the kitchen literally). That way your puppy won’t feel like he is being isolated or banished. I find that its helpful to put toys or a soft blanket in the crate.

This is when patience comes in. Don’t force your puppy in the crate. Some puppies will naturally be curious and explore the crate right away. If this is not the case for your puppy, I would recommend placing a toy or treat near the crate, depending on whichever your puppy prefers over the other. Gradually place treats closer to the crate, right at the entrance and finally inside the crate.

At no point during the step should you force the puppy inside the crate or close the crate door. This step may take a few minutes or possibly as long as several days.

Step 2: In the Crates

After your dog is familiar with his/her crate, place their food bowl near the crate. That way, your puppy will begin to associate the crate with a pleasant experience and that their needs are within reach and therefore, being met. Depending on how fast your dog readily enters the crate at this point, you can start putting the bowl in the crate itself or scatter some food inside to help with the association. Some people will choose to feed their animals in their crate. I prefer to feed my puppy/dog outside the crate, due to more control and predictability of when potty breaks will be needed.

Once your dog is comfortable with the crate, you can close the door. Try to set up a regular daily routine and stick to it. When your dog begins to bark after being in their crate for a period of time; you know that they have a need that needs to be met. Generally, they need to go use the potty and they are speaking up to let you know. I is better to let him out when he’s still comfortable rather than in distress. Don’t wait until he realizes he wants to be let out and makes a fuss, or even worse; after he has already relieved himself in his crate. Remember, it’s important to associate the crate with happy feelings. If your puppy does whine, don’t let him out until he stops or you risk rewarding their negative behavior and unwillingly teaching them to whine to get what he wants.

Step 3: Lengthen the Crating Periods

I try to put my puppy in their crate after they have been well fed, taken out to potty and then lots of play time which wears them out! They are tired and ready to lay down their little heads. Because the long-term goal of crate training is for your dog to find peace and security in the crate while training them to control their bladder, you’ll need to get your dog used to the crate while you’re gone. At this point, your dog has experienced the crate positively with family close by. Now you need to begin withdrawing from the room or out of sight while he’s relaxing or playing in his crate. Make sure to keep the separation time short initially, as he gets more used to it, you can extend that time.

I find it helpful to start associating the crate with a command, such as “kennel”. The best way to do this is to give a treat and praise him when he enters the crate upon command. Keep your dog entertained in the meantime with a toy or chew, particularly a puzzle. Bored dogs tend to get destructive.

Once your dog will stay quietly (aka not whining) in the crate for at least 30 minutes with you mostly out of sight, you can transition into the next step. This might take a few days.

Step 4: Crate Your Dog When You Leave or At Night

After your dog can spend about 30 minutes in the crate without becoming anxious or afraid, you can begin leaving him crated for short periods when you leave the house and extend the time the older they get. When you get back home, don’t respond to your dog in an enthusiastic way to avoid increasing anxiety for your return.

At night, put your dog in the crate using your regular command and a treat. If needed, you may want to put the crate near your bedroom if your puppy whines and/or to hear them when they need to be taken out to go potty. I like to refer to a new puppy to a newborn baby. You are training your puppy and you’ll need to respond to their needs. Often puppies need to go outside in the middle of the night, and you’ll want to be close enough to hear your puppy. Once your dog is sleeping comfortably through the night with his crate near you, you can gradually move it to a more preferable location. Remember, any time spent with your dog is a change to strengthen the bond between you and your pet.

Possible Issues to Note

Never use the crate as a punishment. Your dog will come to fear it and refuse to enter it. Don’t leave your dog in the crate too long. A dog that’s crated day and night doesn’t get enough exercise or human interaction and can become depressed or anxious. So long term crating is never the plan. In addition, puppies under 6 months of age shouldn’t be in a crate for more than 3 to 4 hours at a time, because they can’t hold it for that long. Keeping towels or a cloth to switch out for possible accident during the night is recommended if you don’t wake up to walk your pup during the night. Make sure you don’t reward bad behavior. For instance, if your dog whines or cries, it may be due to wanting to be out of the crate, or because he needs to go outside to eliminate. You should never reward whining, instead, you should wait until he stops. Don’t pound on the crate or yell at your dog to make them stop, ask the command you use for going outside and if he gets excited, let him out only for that purpose. The crate is not a remedy for separation anxiety. The Humane Society of the United States notes “A crate may prevent your dog from being destructive, but he may injure himself in an attempt to escape from the crate. Separation anxiety problems can only be resolved with counter-conditioning and desensitization procedures. You may want to consult a professional animal-behavior specialist for help” ( From the Humane Society of the United States web article on Crate Training 101.
Please check out our other Resource page titled: Weaning your dog off the crate and into your home.