This is the 6th article in my 8 part definitive guide to crate training.
We’ve been through lots of theory and discussion in the previous articles, now it’s time to start putting it all into practice.
In this article I show you exactly how to crate train a puppy and take them from never having seen a crate to being happy spending time in there and even seeking it out on their own as their preferred place of rest.
We will be working with your puppy’s natural curiosity and denning instincts to achieve this goal, the methods described using zero force or coercion along the way.
Contents & Quick Navigation
- What Is Puppy Crate Training?
- Why Do We Go Through The Effort Of Crate Training A Puppy?
- How Long Does It Take To Crate Train A Puppy?
- Can I provide An Example Puppy Crate Training Schedule?
- Before We Start
- How To Crate Train A Puppy
- My 20 Step Plan
- Steps 1 to 8: Puppy’s First Time In A Crate – Use No Force!
- Step 9: Extending Time In The Crate
- Steps 10 To 11: It’s Time To Start Closing The Door
- Step 12: First Time Locked In! Time To Start Latching The Door
- Steps 13 To 17: Build Puppy’s Confidence So We Can Leave The Room
- Step 18: We Have The Final Behavior We Want, Now Extend The Time
- Steps 19 To 20: Taking It To The Next Level – Beyond Basics.
- How To Crate Train A Puppy At Night
- How To Crate Train A Puppy When You Work Full Time
- Bonus Puppy Crate Training Tips And Things To Remember
- How To Crate Train A Puppy Fast – Crate Training In A Weekend
- Crate Duration Guidelines – How Long Can A Puppy Be Left In The Crate?
- More information:
- Save this to Pinterest
What Is Puppy Crate Training?
Before learning how to crate train a puppy, we should first be clear on what crate training truly is.
It’s the process we go through to teach our puppy that their crate is a special happy place all of their own, a place where only good things happen, so they become willing and even look forward to spending calm, relaxed time there.
A crate trained dog will voluntarily go in and out of their crate without any force, feel comfortable being locked in occasionally and will be calm inside, causing no fuss and showing no signs of stress.
They will look and feel safe and secure, look perfectly happy with no crying for release and often head to their crate of their own accord.
Why Do We Go Through The Effort Of Crate Training A Puppy?
Because without first going through a crate training process, if you tried to crate your puppy they will almost certainly be afraid, feel isolated and fear the crate instead of love it.
By taking the time to go through small incremental steps, from slowly introducing your puppy to the crate, to spending small but increasing amounts of time in there, they will learn to love it and you can both enjoy the enormous benefits it offers.
Many people say their dog loves being in their crate when in fact this isn’t nearly always true.
Until you can ask your dog to go the crate, they do so happily and when they get there they look truly happy to get inside and relax, play with a toy, and never cry to get out even with the door closed, then crate training is something you need to spend time on.
And until you have fully crate trained your puppy, you will not be able to take advantage of the many benefits it offers to both you and your puppy. Such as:
- Providing a place of their own for comfort and security
- Speeding up the house training process
- Keeping your puppy safe when you cannot supervise them
- Protecting your possessions when you cannot supervise your puppy
- Preparing your puppy for time crated at the vets or boarding kennels
- …And much more besides!
How Long Does It Take To Crate Train A Puppy?
I’m afraid there is no definite answer. Depending on your puppy’s personality and how things go, this whole process could take a week or a month. It varies wildly from dog to dog.
With the dog’s we’ve owned, we never had a problem. Of course they cried now and then and it wasn’t all plain sailing, we’d be lying if we said it was that simple, but after just a few short days they were mostly quiet throughout the night and happy to spend time in there during the day. They had the occasional hiccup, but were very receptive to the crate after decent training.
However, growing up I had a Lurcher-cross-Terrier that we adopted and she took a lot of work before she was happy being crated for anything more than 15 minutes. My memory’s hazy but I’m sure it took many weeks.
I have to admit though, I do recall my parents not properly crate training her and sometimes even using force to put her in the crate…but it was decades ago, I was young and my family’s knowledge wasn’t as good then as it is now.
With consistent, well-planned strategic training, the majority of puppies are happy spending time in the crate within 1 to 3 weeks.
Can I provide An Example Puppy Crate Training Schedule?
I could, but I’m reluctant to because every puppy and every owner is different.
Some pups take to being crated right away with little to no fuss. Others need careful coaching for many weeks, and most fall somewhere in between.
Another factor is how much effort you as your puppy’s trainer are able to put into the process.
If you’re a stay at home person who can dedicate to lots of small periods of training throughout every single day, you will succeed far sooner than a full-time office based worker who can only crate train during some mornings, evenings and weekends.
So rather than provide a schedule, I provide a plan you can follow from start to finish at whatever pace you and more importantly your puppy can manage.
Whether it takes you 6 days or 6 weeks, it doesn’t matter. Just work through each step, one after the other at your own pace and you’ll be sure to have a happily crate trained puppy before you know it.
Before We Start
As you’ve landed on this page, I assume you’ve already decided that you’re going to crate your puppy?
You’ve made the right decision as it’s one of the best things you can do for your puppy’s early development.
But if you’re still undecided, please read: why you should use a dog crate to see the many benefits and debunk the myths of it being cruel.
And before we get into the nuts and bolts of how to crate train a puppy, for those that haven’t followed my crate training series so far, you’ll first need to have a crate ready and soak in some introductory knowledge.
First of all and most importantly, please make sure you read when and when not to crate your puppy so you only ever use it with your dogs best interests in mind and remove any chance of using it in a cruel way.
Secondly, make sure you read up on what size crate your puppy needs because too small is inhumane, too large and it loses a lot of its usefulness and appeal to your puppy. The linked article contains instructions and advice on how to measure your puppy correctly for a crate and why it’s so important.
If you haven’t purchased a crate yet, you can see a list of the best quality, most highly rated dog crates that we’re happy to recommended by clicking here.
And finally, before you start…
Make sure the crate is comfortable and above all…Safe!
Please position the crate out of direct sunlight, away from heat sources and not in the path of any draughts.
Line the bottom of the crate with ‘VetBed’ or whatever bedding you’ve decided to use. You want to make it inviting and comfortable to lay in.
If you happen to be crating more than one dog, follow a one dog per crate rule. A crate belongs to a single dog and is their own special place and not for sharing, particularly because dogs confined together are more likely to fight and there will be no escape.
Finally, for safety reasons, before you ever allow your puppy into the crate, make sure they have nothing on. No leash or collar, nothing! These can snag and can choke your puppy.
Click here to read my article on where to put your crate, how to prepare and what to put in it to make it safe and comfortable.
First Get Puppy Used To The Crate
Because your puppy getting scared of the crate is the worst thing that could possibly happen, the first thing you want to do is just to get your puppy used to it being there, the sight of it, perhaps even wander in and out of it of their own accord, without you doing any formal training or trying to get them inside.
Initially, have the crate set up and fix the door so it will always stay open or remove it if you can. If it shuts on your puppy, they may panic and you do not want this.
If you’ve followed my advice from earlier articles, your crate is set up in a busy area of the house where you spend lots of time.
So place a few treats near to, around and just inside the crate, then bring your puppy near to it with you, place him on the floor and then just relax. Watch TV, or do the crossword. Do not make a fuss of the crate.
Let your puppy investigate it all by themselves as they go around eating the treats. They will eventually pop their head just inside to eat the treats there. When they do, pop a few more just inside for them to eat.
After a few minutes, move away with your puppy and do something else. When they’re not looking, add a few more treats close to and just inside the crate, then go back to it and let your puppy investigate. Again, if they pop their head (or more) inside to eat the treats, toss a few more just inside.
After just 3 or 4 repetitions of this, place a favorite toy of your puppies inside the crate and repeat the exercise, but this time place a few treats further in so they’re tempted to go inside.
Never force them in, just hope that they do. This isn’t training yet and we’re not concerned if they go in or not, it would just be a bonus. But what we’re doing is teaching them the crate is there, full of treats and even fun toys and chews…it’s not so scary.
After a few sessions of this over the course of a couple of days, we can begin formal crate training.
How To Crate Train A Puppy
The methods we’re going to use to crate train your puppy is a mixture of luring (click for explanation) and shaping (click for explanation) which are very good ways to teach that have your puppy learning without you having to add any force.
What we need to do is imagine the end goal, that of our puppy laying calm and relaxed in the crate, with the door closed and for an extended period, alone with nobody else in the room.
Then think how we can get from where we are now to that lofty end goal in many small and incremental steps. List those steps, and create a training plan to take us from step 1 through to the end.
I use a clicker and high value food rewards for crate training, the clicker being a little device that emits a sound when you click it to tell your puppy they’ve done something we want and will get a reward. A high value treat being cooked meats…not just kibble.
If you don’t have a clicker, you can use praise but try to make it a single quick punchy word to really mark when the good behavior occurs. A simple ‘GOOD!’ or ‘YES!’. Two words cannot be spoken quick enough for precision so rule out ‘good boy’ or anything similar as a marker.
My 20 Step Plan
The following is a sample 20-step plan to crate training a puppy.
Although this site and it’s content is written mostly with Labrador’s in mind, this training will work equally well with a puppy of any breed.
You don’t have to follow everything to the exact letter, and most dogs will be able to skip a few steps. But please, read the article to the end before starting training to get an overall idea of what’s required, including the hints and tips that come after the steps.
There’s important information to use at every step listed at the end of the article that’s not to be missed!
So without further delay, let’s begin one of the best things you can do to help guide your dog safely through the early years of their development.
Steps 1 to 8: Puppy’s First Time In A Crate – Use No Force!
From first seeing the crate, to getting inside and laying down.
Puppy pays the crate any attention such as turning their head toward it, or a sideways glance. Click and treat.
Puppy moves even the tiniest bit toward the crate. Click and treat. If they don’t head toward the crate, click for attention as above and toss the treat slightly toward the crate so they head in that direction.
Puppy pays any attention to the entrance, either putting their head in, a paw in, or getting close to the entrance in any way. Click and treat.
Puppy puts a paw into the crate. Click and treat.
Puppy puts both their front paws into the crate. Click and treat.
Puppy gets completely into the crate, all four paws inside. Click and treat.
It’s a good idea to start teaching a cue word for going into the crate from this point forward.
Say ‘crate up‘ (or a cue word of your choosing) as they get in and click and treat so they start to learn the cue word early. Of course, this is the cue you’ll use when you’d like them to go to the crate at any time once they’re trained. So start using it now and start using it often.
Your puppy sits in the crate. Click and treat.
From this point forward, always feed the treat by placing it in the crate and do not give it to your puppy hand to mouth.
If they leave the crate, they do not get the treat, they must stay in the crate to receive the treat. This way they learn to stay in the crate until treated and you release them. This will help prevent them bolting out when the door opens later in life.
Have your puppy lie down in the crate. Click and treat.
From this point forward it’s a very good idea to feed your puppy all their meals in the crate.
They’ve proven they’re happy to go in there now and by feeding them food and stuffed Kong toys in the crate, you’re promoting the idea that only good things happen there, increasing your puppy’s time in the crate under no pressure and really making them feel like it’s a special place.
VIDEO: A Puppy’s First Crate Training Session
For those of you that have never clicker trained using the idea of shaping before, I’ve found a pretty good video from Pam’s Dog Academy on YouTube where you can see a puppy going through its first crate training session.
You can see in the video how the puppy is offering behaviors itself, never being forced, and we merely click and treat. You can at times see the puppy thinking, trying to figure out what’s wanted. The puppy is keen and eager to learn, enjoying the process.
Hopefully this video gives you an idea of how to go about things if this will be your first time :-)
Supplementary Notes For Steps 1 To 8
In steps 1 to 8 we’re really hoping for our puppy to offer these behaviors of their own accord and we simply click and treat when they do so. No coercion from us at all. This is shaping and is the best way for them to learn.
But if they really do fail to offer the behavior, and please do be patient giving them ample time to perform, then you should try to lure them into the behavior.
For instance, if they just won’t put a paw into the crate, place a treat just inside so they only have to poke their head in to eat it. Then move it 2 inches further in and let them get it, then further and further in until eventually they have to step into the crate.
Or if they won’t lay down in the crate, assuming you have trained or are training a ‘down’ command, ask them to lay down or lure them into a down position with a treat.
But please, do not try to lure them entirely into the crate if they won’t even put a single paw in. Throwing a treat right into the back so they have to go all the way in to get it is just doomed to failure, just too big an ask. Lure just their head inside a few times, then a single paw a few times, then two etc. Always small steps.
Now, if for all your shaping, gentle luring (never any forcing) and leaving the crate open all day with a stuffed Kong toy or something inside they just will not venture in, you should take the crate apart and train getting your puppy into only the bottom tray before re-assembling the crate and going through the steps again.
Maybe also with an intermediate step of adding just three walls and the roof if it is still too scary for them to enter.
Anyway, once we’ve completed steps 1 to 8, we now have the behavior we want, our puppy will enter the crate and lay down, so we now need to begin extending the amount of time they’re happy to do this.
This is easier to achieve with the door remaining open as a closed door may initially scare your puppy. Remember, we’re trying to take as many small steps as possible to promote the greatest chance of success! So train time in the crate with the door open before going back and training time in the crate with the door closed.
Step 9: Extending Time In The Crate
From this point forward, teaching them to spend time in the crate, it’s very important (like in all training) that we begin to reward only intermittently. Click and praise every time, but do not reward every time.
If you were to reward 100% of the time your puppy will learn to expect it and be disappointed and then rebel if they do not get rewarded. They will perform only for the treat and only when they want the treat, not at any other time. This means they will not be trained and listening to your cues, they’re merely responding to bribery.
So you need to start weaning them off the treats to avoid this.
Dogs are effectively ‘gambling addicts’ and by only rewarding them some of the time we tap into their innate desire to gamble and this keeps their enthusiasm for training high.
An explanation of the gambling phenomenon used in dog training is outside the scope of this article but you can read about it in modern dog magazine by clicking here.
So please do not treat every time. We need our puppy to learn that being in the crate is nice and relaxing, not just a way to get a guaranteed treat.
Have your puppy lie in the crate and slowly increase the time they must stay laying down before you click and treat.
Increase from 1 second to 1 minute in 5 second increments (1s, 5s, 10s, 15s…50s, 55s, 60s).
After every successful ‘down’ in the crate, click and treat inside the crate, then release them and allow them to come completely out of the crate before asking them back inside and down again.
When increasing the time, make sure you mix it up with both hard and easy repetitions. Ask for 10 seconds, then 20, then 40, then go back to an easy 5 before asking for 15 again. Mix it up but with a general flow toward longer times.
Steps 10 To 11: It’s Time To Start Closing The Door
Once puppy can successfully and reliably do a 1 minute down in the crate with the door open, it’s time to start closing the door, but not latching it. Simply push it closed but do not lock it.
Have them lie down in the crate, gently close the door and instantly open it again. Click and treat.
Slowly increase the time they must lay in the crate with the door closed before a click and treat, from 1 second to 1 minute in 5 second increments.
After every success, release them and allow them to come completely out of the crate before asking them back inside for the next down.
And just as in step 9, mix up waiting for longer and shorter periods to stay unpredictable.
Step 12: First Time Locked In! Time To Start Latching The Door
It’s now time to start not only closing the door to the crate, but latching it closed as well.
Repeat steps 10 and 11, but each time you close the door you will now also latch it.
Using Meal Time To Get Used To A Closed And Latched Door
From step 8 you should have been feeding your puppy their meals in the crate so they’re used to eating there.
So from this point forward when you feed your puppy, sit and talk them while they eat and repeatedly close, latch and then open the door. Sometimes for just a few seconds, sometimes for half a minute, but always open it before they get worried and cry and always before they have finished eating.
It’s an easy way to expose them to further door closings without much pressure or trouble as they will be so engrossed in eating that they will barely care, but they will be aware of what you’re doing, even if it seems they’re not if they don’t look up from their food!
Steps 13 To 17: Build Puppy’s Confidence So We Can Leave The Room
Once they can successfully and reliably do a 1 minute down in the crate with the door latched, it’s time to start training time in the crate as you move away and eventually completely leave the room.
Have puppy lay in the crate, close and latch the door and take a step backwards. Instantly return, open the door, click and treat.
Have puppy lay in the crate, close and latch the door, take a step backwards and wait a time before you click, return, open the door, treat and release.
Try to increase the time you wait from 1 sec to 1 minute in 5 second increments until your puppy consistently remains calmly laying in the crate with the door closed and you a step back for 1 minute.
Repeat steps 13 and 14, but this time take a few steps back.
Repeat steps 13 and 14, but this time move all the way to the exit of the room, remaining just inside.
Repeat steps 13 and 14, but this time completely leave the room.
Step 18: We Have The Final Behavior We Want, Now Extend The Time
It’s OK having your puppy laying calmly in the crate for 1 minute, but we need more than this.
Once you can ask puppy to go into the crate, have them lie down, close the door, latch it and leave the room for a minute reliably without puppy crying, it’s now just a case of extending the period of time you can leave them.
Try going up in 10 second intervals. 1 minute, 1 minute 10 secs, 1 minute 20 etc. until you can do 5 minutes. Then increase by 30 seconds at a time until you can get to half an hour and beyond.
Again though, be sure to mix up the durations you ask your puppy to spend in the crate. Lots of short little times with longer ones mixed in.
Perhaps over the course of a day, ask for 10 minutes for breakfast, then 3 minutes close to lunch, then 20 minutes for dinner, 2 lots of 3 minutes between dinner and bedtime, then all overnight. You get the idea.
Steps 19 To 20: Taking It To The Next Level – Beyond Basics.
Once puppy can reliably lay calmly in their crate, you shouldn’t stop there. At the vets or when boarding, there will be many distractions outside of the crate and you should prepare them for this.
Now puppy can remain calmly in the crate with the door closed, you need to start adding distractions. No puppy likes being confined when there’s a commotion going on that they (think they) should be involved in, so you need to train them to be calm when distracted.
As always, start slowly and build up the difficulty.
Perhaps start with reading and rustling a newspaper whilst they’re in the crate. Move up to sorting out your CD collection. Eat a meal and watch TV with them crated. Do the hoovering. Play catch with a friend.
Start with small distractions and build up to more noise and more motion slowly.
The final step! Well, I say it’s the final step, but you really should start doing this from step 9 onwards as soon as they’re willing to lie in the crate.
Because we want them to be able to stay calm in a crate in the car, at the vets or in a hotel, we need to crate train them in different locations otherwise they may only accept it and be calm when at home.
First move the crate to other areas of the house and train there. Then in your garden. Then train in your car if it fits or you have a car crate.
Finally, although not easy, try to do some crate training in friends houses and gardens. When it’s empty, when there are visitors, and when there’s a busy barbecue in their garden. We want them to be happy and importantly calm in a crate, everywhere and in every situation.
How To Crate Train A Puppy At Night
When you place your puppy in a crate and leave the room, it feels to them like abandonment so they cry in the hope that you’ll return.
With a puppy whining like this through the night, sleepless nights are a common frustration that many new puppy owners have to endure.
But there are, of course, some things you can do to help. So what should you do?
Here’s my advice for crate training through the night and what you can do to encourage your puppy to peacefully sleep so you can enjoy some much-needed rest too.
Make Sure Your Puppy Is Tired Before Bed
If your puppy is fully rested before you put them to bed, they’re going to be wide awake, full of beans and ready for play and attention. Therefore you want to make sure they are tired out and ready for sleep at the appropriate time.
To do this, make sure they have a lot of play and exercise throughout the day and particularly in the hour or so leading up to bed time, to properly tire them out.
Also, make sure they don’t have any naps leading up to bed time. If you catch them falling asleep, do everything you can to keep them active and awake, by fussing over and playing with them.
This way, when you put them in the crate for sleep it won’t be long before that’s exactly what they’ll do.
Never React To Or Reward The Crying
The worst thing you can do and the most common mistake people make is to worsen the problem by going to their crying puppy, to reassure them and maybe even let them out of the crate just to get a moment’s peace. Wrong move!
If your puppy whines at night and you go to them, they quickly learn that all the noise works and will in future try the same trick, even if they have to go on for hours.
And don’t scold or punish your puppy either. They’re only acting naturally so punishing them is immensely unfair.
Furthermore, ANY attention is exactly what they’re looking for and negative attention will suffice. To them it’s better than nothing. So going to them and telling them off, even shouting at them from a distance is actually rewarding their behavior and will encourage the behavior to continue in future.
The only way to deal with crying and whining is to completely ignore it.
Having said this though, you will have to go to your puppy at least once during the night….
Your Puppy Will Need To Potty During The Night
Until your puppy is 12 weeks old or more, they will be unable to hold their bladder throughout a whole 7 hour nights sleep. And for house training reasons you do not want them pottying in their crate or inside your home. Therefore you will need to go to them and take them to their bathroom spot at least once overnight.
In fact for the first few days, until they are 9 weeks old+, you will need to get up twice to take them to potty at 2.5 to 3 hour intervals. After this just once after 4 hours and then you can begin to stretch the time out until they last the night fully at 12 weeks+.
When going for a potty break, you must be absolutely silent. Take them out of the crate and straight to their bathroom spot, encourage them to do their business and then take them straight back and close the crate door, all in absolute silence except for a calm and quiet ‘good potty’ when they’ve done the right thing.
Any fuss at all and you can inadvertently teach your puppy that during the night is a time for play and attention. So don’t do it! Silence is the order of the day (or night as the case may be.)
It’s important they learn that you are coming only for a bathroom break and nothing else!
Make Sure Your Puppy Is Empty Before Bed
Puppies will cry if they need a bathroom break, but they also cry for your attention. So how do you make sure you aren’t ignoring a basic need and are only ignoring cries for attention?
First of all you want to make sure they are empty before bed. This means do not feed them in the 3 hours before and do not allow them to load up on water in the 2 hours before bed time. Then take them to potty right before bed
This gives them ample time to process the last food and water they did consume and are ready to get rid of the waste at their bathroom visit right before bed time.
Secondly, you get up during the night for scheduled bathroom breaks anyway.
In summary, you make sure they are empty so do not need to potty often during the night, and you have scheduled times as described in the previous section to attend to their basic bodily needs. This way you can be sure any crying is only for attention and you absolutely can and must simply ignore it.
Initially, Put Your Puppy’s Crate In Your Bedroom
To start with during the first few nights, you should place your puppy’s crate in your bedroom to sleep near you. Some people don’t mind carrying the one crate from room to room, others buy two having one in each of the living area and the bedroom. The choice is yours.
The reason you initially sleep them in the bedroom with you is so they can smell, hear and maybe even see you which makes them feel much safer and secure, taking away the feeling of abandonment which causes the crying.
After the first few days, slowly start moving the crate to where you finally want it, first moving it to the bedroom door, then the hallway but being able to see into your bedroom, then to the final resting place.
Doing this adds a step in between and helps to ease their transition from sleeping with their mother and litter-mates to being completely alone at night, while getting them used to sleeping in a crate where you want them.
Make sure if the bedroom is not their final sleeping place that you do this over the first couple of weeks max. If you sleep them in your bedroom for 3 weeks or more, they will get too used to it and then moving them to another room will be much harder.
It’s still likely when you move them out of your bedroom they will whine and cry. Just ignore it and only go to them for their scheduled potty break. You at least made things as easy for them as you possibly could.
Following all the above advice on crating during the night should have your puppy resting peacefully within a week or two.
How To Crate Train A Puppy When You Work Full Time
Even if your plan is (and it should be) to have a friend or family member come to take your puppy out for exercise, bathroom breaks and play during the day, they are still too young without enough bladder and bowel control to be crated for hours at a time.
Even if they did have enough bodily control, you can’t really crate them for hours until they are crate trained and happy spending time in one anyway, which is the very thing we are trying to train.
The only advice I can give, and what I do myself as I work full-time, is to fully puppy proof and enclose a small room for them to spend time in, or to set up an exercise pen instead.
Make sure the area has nothing in it at all that can be chewed or ingested. Cover one end of the area with newspaper and place puppy pads down for them to use as a toilet, and set up their crate, a water bowl and lots of safe and durable chew toys at the other end.
Place them in this safe zone during the times they have to be left alone, and dedicate yourself to concentrated efforts of crate and house training at all other times and as much possible.
You want to keep the number of times they are confined to an area as described to as few times as possible, instead arranging it so that they always have company and supervision, or are crated.
The time in an enclosure like this, where they can potty on paper or pads works against your house training efforts. But sometimes…and indeed it’s been true for me…this situation is simply unavoidable.
Bonus Puppy Crate Training Tips And Things To Remember
The following is a few extra hints and tips you should bear in mind as you go through crate training that I couldn’t fit into the steps above but are still of high importance:
Try to Avoid Crating a Puppy Before 9 Weeks Of Age
Before 9 weeks of age puppies need to toilet extremely often and unpredictably – They truly have no bladder and bowel control. Therefore, if crating them you need to watch them closely and clean them very often. It’s not fair to expect them to be confined and possibly lay in their mess.
In fact, it’s best to keep them out of the crate for the first week or so during the day. Keep them out with you, on blankets or towels if supervised, or kept safe in an open top cardboard box if not. This way you cut down on ‘toilet accidents’ within the crate which can harm your house training later.
Regardless of age though, for the first few days at home you should clear your diary to give them 100% attention to keep them out of trouble. And you should have them sleep near you in a crate or cardboard box at night, with some bedding from where they were born if you can for a familiar feel and smell.
A new home is a scary time, don’t add the stress of day time crate training right away.
Take Crate Training A Puppy Slowly
Throughout the crate training process we want to take things very slowly. Your puppy is young and only has a short attention span, so initially spend only 3 to 5 minutes at a time doing this training and then take a break to do something else.
Don’t rush it, don’t force your puppy. The last thing you want to do is create a bad experience. This could damage their view of the crate going forward and seriously set you back. If they start to fail at any step, go back a bit and move forward more slowly. Go at your puppy’s pace.
Likewise, if your puppy becomes stressed at any of the early stages in the process above, especially when the door is closed, go back a couple of steps to an earlier time where they again feel happy and can succeed. There’s a chance you may have rushed things so go more slowly this time.
As a general rule of thumb you want to have had your puppy be successful a good 10 times at any one step before moving on to the next one.
Taking things slowly and allowing your puppy to succeed often, before making things harder and asking for more will keep them enthusiastic and happy.
Initially Only Crate Your Puppy When You’re Present
When you first start to cue your puppy to go to the crate (with ‘kennel up’) it’s best you only do so for very short periods and while you are present. This will help to avoid any feelings of being alone, of being abandoned and associating these feelings with the crate.
Crate them little and often while you are in the same room. For instance when you vacuum, when you eat a meal, or when you relax and read the paper.
Once they’ve shown they’re happy being crated and have accepted it, then you can start to cue them to the crate and leave the room for short periods. And only once they’ve proven many, many times that they’re happy being in the crate with you being out of the room for some time should you consider crating them when you actually leave your home.
Tips To Speed Up And Increase Puppy’s Acceptance Of The Crate
To speed up their acceptance of the crate you should leave the crate open and accessible to your puppy all day every day.
Leave a couple of their favorite toys in there, and now and then go and place some treats inside to encourage them to wander in of their own accord and find wonderful things about the crate outside of training.
Another great tip is when you see your puppy nodding off during the day, gently persuade them to go to the crate to sleep.
If they fall asleep elsewhere, gently pick them up on to their feet and keep them moving, get them to the crate. This will slowly teach them in time to go to their crate when tired. It will become their default sleeping area and this will massively help speed up their love of the crate and the training process.
Always Have Something For Puppy To Do While Crated
Always make sure you have things in the crate to occupy your puppy if you’re expecting them to be in there for anything more than a minute.
A Kong toy stuffed with food, and other special chew toys that they absolutely love!
This keeps your puppies mind occupied in the crate and helps to stave of boredom and prevents their minds drifting to plans of escape.
It’s a good idea to take whatever becomes their favorite toy and keep it solely for play inside of the crate so it earns extra special meaning and is something they look forward to.
If Puppy Gets Stressed And Cries To Get Out
If your puppy gets to a stage in the process where the door is closed and they make a huge fuss crying trying to get out, the worst thing you can do is to let them out in this state.
This will teach them whining and crying gets them out and we really do not want this. We want the opposite, to teach them being calm and quiet is what gets them rewarded and released.
The worst thing you can do is let your puppy out of the crate after they’ve screamed a long time!
If you do this, you’ll end up with a puppy that continually cries in the crate and this could be VERY hard to fix later!
In the early stages of crate training, if they’re making a fuss, calmly reassure your puppy until they’re calm and quiet and only then release them. You should probably go back a few steps in the training.
In the later stages of training, or when crated overnight, only go to your puppy when they’ve become quiet for 5 seconds or more. This will teach them that being quiet is the only way to get you to come to them.
As you approach, if they start to scream again, simply ignore them. Stay in the room but busy yourself doing something else and do not turn your attention to them until they’re quiet again. Then praise and reward the quiet. They will soon get the idea but it will require patience…and maybe ear plugs…on your part.
How To Crate Train A Puppy Fast – Crate Training In A Weekend
I recommend and have always followed myself a nice gentle routine such as above when it comes to crate training my dogs. All logic says it will go much smoother as it’s so unforced and running at your dogs own pace, therefore it will be far less stressful and almost certainly have a higher chance of success than rushing it. However…
Some people may not have the time to dedicate perhaps weeks to the process or just really need to use a crate in a much quicker time.
If this is you, I recommend you check out this link to the ‘weekend crate training guide‘ from pets.webMD
A reputable source of information and I’ve read the guide and agree with a lot of what’s said. Indeed my method and theirs agrees on a lot of points.
So although I don’t recommend rushing through the crate training process as forcing it may end in hard to fix fears and failure, if you’re going to try and crate within a weekend, this is the guide to follow.
But I’ve always taken far more time myself so I cannot vouch for the speed of the ‘weekend’ process or guarantee it will work!
Crate Duration Guidelines – How Long Can A Puppy Be Left In The Crate?
The general advice is you can crate your puppy for a time in hours equal to the age they are in months plus one.
So for a 3 month old puppy: 3 + 1 = 4hrs max.
The problem with rules of thumb such as this are that all dogs are different. Some puppies are able to hold their bladder for 3 hours at 12 weeks, others are not.
So taking the best of not crating before 9 weeks, never exceeding 5 hours at any one time and taking into account the fact puppies physical maturity varies, the best I can suggest is the following:
- 9-10 Weeks old, between 30-60 minutes
- 11-14 Weeks old, between 1-3 hours
- 15-16 Weeks old, between 3-4 hours
- 17 + Weeks old, 4 hours+, but never more than 5 hours without a good break!
And please, have your puppy out of the crate as much as and as long as possible. It’s a management tool and training aid, not a way of life.
By taking on board everything said in this very detailed article, you should now be able to train your puppy to happily and calmly spend time in their crate.
It isn’t the easiest thing to do, but it isn’t too difficult either. All it requires is to follow the rules and steps laid out above and the patience and dedication to see it through calmly and methodically.
Some people may encounter problems. Hopefully I’ve addressed most of them above. But there will be a follow-up article in a couple of weeks addressing common problems and how to overcome them.
This was part 6 in an 8-part series that details everything you need to know about the use of a crate and crate training your puppy. The information applies equally well to dogs of all breeds and not just Labradors.
The Entire series is linked to here:
- Part 1: Crate training – The complete guide (introduction)
- Part 2: Why use a dog crate – and is it cruel to crate a dog?
- Part 3: How to use a dog crate – When and when NOT to crate a dog
- Part 4: What size dog crate should you get and which type is best?
- Part 5: What to put in a dog crate, where to put it, how to get it prepared
- Part 6: How to crate train a puppy: Day, night, even if you work
- Part 7: How to crate train an older dog – Yours or adopted
- Part 8: A List Of Dog Crates Highly Recommended By Labrador Training HQ
I’ve tried to cover literally every question I could imagine on dog crates and crate training in the article series above, but of course it’s hard to cover every question that people may possibly have.
So if there’s anything you need to know but cannot find an answer for above, please feel free to leave your questions in the comments section below and I will happily give all the help I can :-)
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