Crate Training Puppies

Crate training puppies is an exercise in patience (with Stetson it certainly was).  If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a guide dog puppy raiser it’s how to crate train a puppy.  I’ve been raising puppies now for the past seven years and I’m currently raising my third guide dog puppy.  Stetson, my first guide dog puppy was very stubborn and hated his crate.  Needless to say, Stetson almost ended my guide dog puppy raising career just as it was beginning.  If you’ve been following my blog for a while then you already know that it took Stetson over four weeks to get used to his crate.  In fact, he did not let me sleep more than two hours in a row during those four weeks.

Crate Training Puppies

When it comes to crate training puppies each puppy is at least slightly different.  Stetson was an extreme case and after those four weeks of pure torture much to my joy he went totally silent and would sleep in the crate all morning without a peep.  Dublin was on the other end of the spectrum and only had a couple nights of whimpering before he began sleeping through the night.  Below is Dublin during one of his first puppy crate training sessions.

Over the years I’ve learned many tips and tricks on crate training puppies.  Today we’re going to share with you the basics of how to crate train a puppy and then give you some of those tips and tricks for those of you who have a stubborn puppy who doesn’t want to adjust to his crate.

How To Crate Train A Puppy

As a guide dog puppy raiser we are given exact steps on how to crate train our puppies.  Here’s what our Guide Dogs of America puppy manual says about crate training puppies:

 A crate is a wire or molded plastic kennel that simulates a nest or den environment.  A crate can become a puppy’s safe place, not to mention a house saver.  When properly used, the crate becomes a security blanket, a place where the puppy can retreat to escape the household confusion and to feel secure.  Never use the crate as a form of punishment!  The dog crate should offer a positive, secure environment, a calming zone.

The crate can be effective in house training.  Confined to a crate, an unattended puppy cannot destroy or soil anything.  Do not crate the puppy during the day for more than 3 hours.

Start crate training your puppy on its first night.  Place the crate in your bedroom where the puppy can still see and hear what is going on.  Put a blanket or towel in the crate for bedding.  A pup will rarely soil the crate, however, if he does, try removing the bedding.  A crate should not be too big, but large enough for the puppy to stand stretch and turn around.

When placing the puppy in the crate, use the word “kennel” or “kennel up”.  If he should happen to fall asleep somewhere else, pick him up and place him inside and quietly shut the door.

Do not hesitate to periodically use the crate, even while you are home.  You may feed the puppy in his crate and give him some favorite toys, to keep the experience positive.

How To Crate Train A Puppy

Crate Training Puppies

Our Favorite Crate Training Tips

Over the past seven years we’ve learned quite a bit about crate training puppies from crate training our first puppy, Linus who we rescued from the animal shelter, to working on crate training litters of puppies as foster parents, and finally crate training our very own guide dog puppies as guide dog puppy raisers.  As you might have guessed over those past seven years we’ve learned many puppy training tips and tricks including a handful of useful crate training tips.  Here’s a list that will hopefully help you out if you have a stubborn pup who whines, whimpers, barks, yelps, cries, and pretty much any other disturbing noise a pup can make in his crate:

  1. If you get to meet your pups litter mates then bring a plush toy or blanket to rub all over his litter mates.  When it comes time to put your pup in his crate leave the toy or blanket in the crate too with the scent of his litter mates.  this may help your pup sleep better at night.  This seemed to work with Dublin.
  2. If your pup wakes up crying in the middle of the night take him straight to his potty spot to relieve himself.  As soon as he finishes up his business take him straight back to his crate without any play time or other distractions
  3. Make sure you feed him at least an hour and a half before bedtime.  Also, it’s been suggested to cut off water an hour and a half before bedtime so he won’t have to pee in the middle of the night.
  4. Play with your puppy for an extended period of time just before bedtime to tire him out.
  5. If you have a wire crate try putting a sheet over it to make him feel more cozy and enclosed.  Be careful because I’ve had pups pull and chew on the bed sheet over the crate.
  6. Put your crate near the bed where your puppy can see you and if he starts crying hang your arm down so he can smell your scent. and if that doesn’t work then…
  7. You can try sleeping on the floor next to the crate.  This worked with my rescue puppy, Linus.
  8. Feed him his meals in his crate.  This will make him more comfortable entering his crate.
  9. Put plush snuggly toys in the crate to keep him company.  Be careful.  I’ve had pups chew, destroy and swallow plush toys when unsupervised.
  10. If he takes a nap during the day move him from the floor into the crate. Try doing this with the door open and closed.
  11. Try leaving the door open but lying down across the doorway of the crate as if to nap with him, to make him feel more comfortable in the crate, and at the same time make my body block the doorway.
  12. When he’s in the crate and being quiet make sure to give him lots of praise
  13. Try the heart beat toy. I’ve heard of a toy that simulates the mom’s heartbeat that helps the puppy sleep.  We haven’t tried this one yet, but if we have another stubborn pup it will be on our wish list.
  14. Try the heated toy. I’ve also heard of a toy that has a thing on the inside that you can warm on the inside and insert in the toy. Makes the puppy feel like he’s with one of his litter mates.  Another one we haven’t tried yet, but will be on the top of our wish list if we have a pup who doesn’t sleep.
  15. The one that worked for me and Stetson – I was a wreck and I thought Stetson would never get used to his crate. The only way I was able to get him to sleep was to talk to him for 5-10 minutes, telling him what a “good boy” he was when he wasn’t crying (if he did cry I would just keep silent tell he stopped). To try and quiet him down I’d either say “quiet” or “Shhh”.
In Episode 1 of Puppy In Training TV we talked about some of the first things we do when bringing home a puppy.  We also talked a little bit about crate training puppies and Dublin’s first night in his crate.  Lucky for us there weren’t too many nights of Dublin howling in his crate.  Take a look at some of the basics in our first episode of Puppy In Training TV:

Dog Crate Training

Comments

  1. kare says

    Hi, we have an 11 week year old lab, we got her at 8 weeks old and began crate training her first night home. she is doing great with her crate at night at first she would get up to go around 3 am now she is sleeping through night. We are fortunate that our household has flexible schedules so she is never alone for more then 3 hours at a time in her crate. however, she never has an accident at night or during the day in crate when were home, but as soon as we leave her alone whether it be 20 mins or 2 hours she pees in crate. Now at night we have a towel in there for her and two of her snuggly toys. When were not home I take out the towel and toys and leave her only with 2 different kongs, cause im afraid she may chew and choke when were not there. We tried a towel over it but she pulled that through the crate after 10 mins when we pretended we left. what c an we do to help her I think she is scared to be alone.

    • Linda says

      Hello!! I have an 11 week GermanShepherd I started crate training about a week ago. My dog Zeus has been doing alright , I put a quilt over his crate because it stays put, its entirely way too big for him to pull in there, i keep 3 toys when I’m not home and his bed. I also walk him before putting him in the crate to avoid any accidents and it has worked. Zeus how ever likes to cry a lot when i take him out for his 3-4 am walks, i’ve just noticed turning on the tv helps keep him calm. maybe these are some things you can also try with your dog. Good Luck on your journey!!

    • says

      It does sound like she’s experiencing some separation anxiety. You might look into consulting with a professional dog trainer, but it sounds like you are doing things the right way by starting with leaving her alone for shorter periods of time. We had to do the same with Linus and while he’s not perfect he does pretty well when left home alone. Good luck with your training!

      • karyn Hattaway says

        My 12 week pit bull puppy pees in hrer crate all the time. If I leave the door open in the day she will go in and pee in it. She sleeps in the crate at night but wakes up every two to three hours crying. When I get up to take her outside she has already peed in the crate. This is all the time not to mention peeing on my furniture and peeing every 5 minutes when shes not sleeping. I took her to the vet he thought maybe she had a urinary tract infection put her in antibiotics twice no change. They also went directly in her bladder and no problems. I am very frustrsted help

  2. Katie says

    Hello Colby, Six days ago I picked up a seven week old husky-terrier mix named hiccup and I’ve had some issues with her not sleeping at night in her kennel. I feed her all of her meals in there, and even reward her with treats when she’s being good in it during the day. If she falls asleep on the floor in my room I will put her in the kennel and she’s good, for about thirty minutes. Sometimes she just has to potty but at around two in the morning she wails and cries so loudly she wakes up the whole house and sounds something fierce, somewhere between a monkey and a pig. I don’t know what to do and I think everyone in the house would love to get more than three hours of sleep. Please help!

    • says

      Congratulations on the new puppy! It sounds like you are doing things right with your crate training. Some puppies take longer then others. I’m not sure if you had the chance to read this post about my first guide dog puppy Stetson: http://puppyintraining.com/how-to-handle-your-puppys-first-night-at-home/

      Long story short it took Stetson about a month before he stopped crying/howling/barking in his crate. The good news is after he finally got used to his crate he was pretty much a perfect little puppy. All I can recommend is to follow the crate training guidelines in this post and be patient, persistent, and consistent.

      Good luck with your training!

  3. says

    I got a rescue from the shelter, a black and white beagle/bird dog mix and she is a sweet heart and less than a year old. She goes potty outside with my german shepherd, also a little less than a year old but sometimes she sneaks off and does it in the house. Even after I let her out. Sometimes she goes to the door, sometimes I see her sneaking off into a room and i can catch her before her accident. I praise her like crazy and use treats when she does her good girl outside. We crate the dogs together at night, when we are gone from the house, when it’s cold or bad weather, otherwise they are outside in our fenced in yard. Sometimes she pees in the crate on the bedding which is getting annoying. I’m wondering if she’ll ever get the hang of it. Any tips?

  4. Annette says

    Hi Colby, I have a 16 week old boxer. He wasn’t crate trained to sleep in his kennel but throughout the day we would leave him in there for short periods of time. He has been potty trained with an occasional accident but he does sleep through the night without potty breaks. In the beginning, he would go in the kennel with no hesitation but now he won’t even go near it. I feel he knows he will be left in there. He’s not destructive anymore but I still don’t feel comfortable letting him roam free in the house while no one is home. My questions is should I start all over with the training, like putting his food in there, never closing the door once he does go inside? Thank you for your advice.

    • says

      Hi Annette,

      Congratulations on your new puppy! We do exactly as you said and take steps back when our puppy regresses in his training. That is what I’d recommend you do if you’re having some problems with your crate training. Good luck with your training!

      Colby

  5. Megan says

    Hi,

    I have a 16 week old puppy who constantly urinates in her crate. The crate is not too big. She has no problem with peeing anywhere in crate and lying in it. I follow all he suggestions you posted here. Kind of at a loss as I don’t want her lying in her pee. Any suggestions ??

      • Shari says

        Yeah, that post doesn’t tell you anything really. What is someone supposed to do if they work? I left my puppy at 830 this morning, came home at 11:15 and she was covered in pee. Cleaned her and the crate up, had to leave at 12:30. Came back at 4:15 and she was even MORE wet. She doesn’t care. AND, she had been let out prior to being put back in the kennel. I’m at a loss…

        • says

          For people who work all day I recommend getting a family member, friend, neighbor, or pet sitter to help out with the training during the day.

          A puppy is not for everyone. If someone works a 9-5 job and can’t get a family member, friend, neighbor, or pet sitter to help out with training then I recommend an older dog cat that can stay home without incident. There are many dogs and cats in need of homes in shelters and rescues.

  6. Melissa says

    hi I have a 7 week old cockapoo and I started crate training him since day one. The first night he cried for about 30 minutes and went to sleep fine, after the first night he has been sleeping through the night. Sometimes when he naps I put him in there. I started living the room for 5 then 10 then 15 minutes so on. I have notice than he cries when I leave the house. Would he stop this?? And also how long can I leave him in the crate home alone??

    • says

      Congratulations on your new puppy! This sounds like most of our puppies and over time they get used to being in their crate alone. When we first bring our puppies home at around 7 weeks of age we do not crate them for more than 1-2 hours during the day. Hopefully that helps. Good luck with your training!

  7. April says

    We have a 12 week old Shih Tzu that we have had for 6 weeks. I started crate training from day one. Of course he yowled and cried the first time in the crate but we kept on with the training. Now he enjoys his crate. He never potties in it, goes in on his own for naps during the day, and at bedtime (10 pm) he goes into the crate no problem. I take him out every 3 hours (1 am and 4 am) and he goes back into the crate no issue. HOWEVER, between 4:30 and 5 am he is screeching, howling and whining and chewing the crate bars. I get up at 6 but I am awake and miserable (an obviously he is too) until then. I don’t reward him by going to him and getting him out when he is yowling. I wait until it’s my time to get up and then I tend to stand in the hall and try to wait until there is a few mins of silence before I enter the room so that he doesn’t connect howling with me appearing. For the life of me I can’t figure out what else to do.

  8. John says

    Hi Colby,
    I got a Aussie Shepard border collie mix for Christmas, named him Murph. He’s 8 weeks old on Dec 31st.

    My question is , is it usual for a puppy so young to know to go to the door to go potty? He’s had only 2 accients in the house.

    Also he seems to not recognize his name. Should I keep at it until he responds? I would like to take him to training classes but I think he needs to respond to his name first.

  9. BM2013 says

    Hi,

    I have a 4yr old French Bulldog (male) at home who is amazing! My husband and I got another Frenchie, she is 18 weeks (we got her at 16 weeks) she was at a breeder in a kennel that she would pee and poop in and it would fall to the bottom. She keeps having accidents in her crate and in the house. I have her on a strict feeding scheduled and I take her out just about every 2 hours. I wake up in the middle of the night to let her out and she is still having accidents and doesn’t mind laying in it and eating her poop. I am home all day with both of the dogs and I am at my breaking point and thinking of maybe finding a new home for her. It will break my heart but I just don’t know what to do. I have natures miracle and hard floors and have cleaned everything from top to bottom.
    Advise please!

  10. Gina says

    I have an 11 wk old Shih Tzu that I purchase from a breeder 3 wks ago. The first thing I did was make him feel comfortable getting into the crate and that has continued, he goes in there without any directions. The first night we bought him home he stayed in his crate but woke up a 2am, and of course I took him out so that he could do his business, and yes I praised him and continue to praise him every time he goes outside, that has ceased as he will hold his urine throughout the night. For the first 2 weeks everything seemed to go according to plan. He was sleeping all night without any crying, and only had full range of one room. He was doing pretty good with just a few accidents. Now, I am realistic and knew that he would have accidents in the house and had done some research about how to appropriately scold him and make him aware that he should not pee or poop in the house. however, lately he has been peeing and pooping in his crate, without any warning. He doesn’t bark or whine to go out side, we just have to watch for when he is sniffing around. I initially thought he was spending too much time in the crate and it was causing some behavioral issues so I take him out and we have our play time….. that doesn’t work. During the day he is in a room with his crate, blanket and a toy for teething along with the puppy pad, that he goes on.

    I do work a 9-5 job but I have a lot a autonomy and therefore I come home by 12 to take him outside; he has breakfast by 5am followed by a long walk, and a repeated walk at 8am, he eats again by 4:30pm followed by a nice long walk, and his last walk around 8:00pm, with walks in between as needed, but lately I can take him outside and 15 minutes later he will pee or poop in the house.

    My husband had initially taken his blanket out of the crate because he thought he didn’t like it, however, I put the blanket back into his crate and will start to feed him in it as well with the hope that this will help solve the problem. I know every dog is different, however, this is extremely frustrating. Recently it snowed and we realized he doesn’t like going outside in the snow, should I train him to go onto the puppy pads and continue to take him outside on a regular basis? Is he regressing or is it, he’s just a puppy? how long does it take for puppies to learn to hold their business and what else can I do to achieve the ultimate goal? What is your advise.

  11. Ranee says

    Can you tell me more about what you mean when you say not to crate your puppy for more than 2 hours? Do you take them out and then recreate them? What does you typical day routine look like for one of your puppies?

  12. Kelly says

    We just got a black lab mix a couple days ago and crate training her. She doesn’t have a problem “going” in her crate, she holds it until she is outside. She does have a problem barking when she gets put into it. We tell her “no quiet” then praise when she is quiet, but how long does that last. Also, when I have her out of the crate after going outside, we will play with her and about twenty min later she stops and pees. How long should she be played with each time out of crate? Thanks for your time.

    • says

      Congratulations on your new puppy! Every puppy is different. Some pups take to the crate immediately while others can take several weeks or longer. When our puppies are about 7-8 weeks old it seems they pee almost constantly (it seems). The keys is to learn to identify the warning signs before they have an accident (circling, sniffing, etc.). As one of our past trainers said “Play makes Pee”. Good luck with your training!

  13. pj says

    We have a 14 week old shepherd mix that will cry for an hour or more each night in her crate. We have had her for a week and a half. We have her in the living room because the crate will not fit in the bedroom. I have tried sleeping near her and that only made her cry, howl and bark more. I have tried the crate game, feeding her in her crate and nothing seems to make it easy. She goes in at around 11 when she does finally fall asleep then wakes to potty at 2 then will go crazy for at least another hour and finally fall asleep until 5 or 6. Do you have any advise? Her howl and cry is really high pitched.Thank you for your time.

    • says

      Congratulations on your puppy! Unfortunately, the 15 ideas on this list is pretty much everything we have and haven’t tried when working with puppies crying in their crates. As I’ve mentioned in the past every puppy is different some adapt immediately to the crate while others can take several weeks or longer. Hopefully things are improving. Good luck with your training.

  14. says

    Hi Colby i’m Sue and I just got a Jack Russel mix with boxer and she is 13 weeks she hates her crate and she goes potty in it and everything. Sometimes we try putting her in there and she doesn’t stop crying until she’s asleep. I don’t know what to do. PLEASE HELP ME!

    Thanks,
    Sue

    • says

      Congratulations on your puppy! You might want to look into getting a professional dog trainer to help you out. It’s difficult to tell exactly what might be going on. First of all, most puppies we’ve raised will usually bark, cry, howl, whine, the first few times they have to stay in their crate alone. In our experience it usually takes about a week for a puppy to get used to the crate, but has also taken us as long as a month (and we’ve heard of instances where it’s taken even longer). If she’s having accidents in her crate then you might want to check out this post: http://puppyintraining.com/how-can-i-get-my-dog-to-stop-peeing-in-her-crate/

      Hopefully that helps. Good luck with your training!

  15. Beatriz Kanarek says

    Hey I just got a 8 weeks golden doodle puppy last week , unfortunately my dad and I work all day, so I keep him in his crate for about 4-6 hours during the day. He is not potty trained yet so i can’t leave him freely roaming, how could i reinforce that he is not being punished, but that i have to leave to work ?
    When it comes to night time, he only really whined the first few days but only for a few minutes, and i ignored it, and praised him once he was quiet. The only problem i am having now is that when is time for me to sleep i try putting him inside the crate and he won’t go or stay, i have to give him treats and block his way out in order to close the door, i really like for him to start doing it freely at night, help ?
    Thanks!

    • says

      Congratulations on your new puppy! 4-6 hours is a long time for a puppy to spend in the crate during the day. You might look into getting a friend, family member, neighbor, or pet sitter to stop by and let your puppy out sometime during the day. The best thing to do is to always make going into the crate a positive experience. Good luck with your training.

  16. Aimee says

    Hello,

    My friend got a old English bulldog a week ago. She seems to be suffering from a bit of separation anxiety. She sleeps ok in her kennel when they are around; however, if they try to leave her in the kennel when they are not around she howls/crys, etc… Now should we just work on making her more comfortable with her kennel? Or should we re-focus on her separation anxiety. She is only 8 weeks old.

    • says

      Most puppies we’ve raised take at least a week and up to a month to adjust to the crate. The behavior you described sounds similar to most of my puppies. When our puppies are crying in the crate we ignore the behavior and praise when they are quiet. Also, remember you never want to let them out of the crate when they are barking/howling/crying only let them out when they are being quiet. Hopefully that helps. Good luck with your training!

  17. Lauren says

    Hi,
    I just recently rescued a terrier/ ? mix at the local SPCA. He has been doing wonderful…until this past week. Every time I have to leave the house, he destroys and escapes his crate. Hes on a metal/wire one now and still managed to get out. I’m at a loss. He behaves fine when I am with him, which is most of the time…but I cant even run to the store without coming home to very, very destructive, if not dangerous behavior. Please, any help would be much appreciated.

    • says

      If he’s escaping his crate maybe you could try getting him a new crate that he cannot escape or make some changes to the old crate so he cannot escape.

  18. Virginia says

    My 4 month old retriever has been doing very well in her crate sleeping through the night. My issue is trying to get her to not wake us up so early. I have tried ignoring her, but she will bark for an hour. If I let her out to pee and put her back in, she will just bark continuously again. Any suggestions?

  19. Polly Otto says

    My lab puppy is 10 weeks old and she is peeing in her crate fairly often – sometimes 20 minutes after I bring her in from playing outside. I am working hard at being consistent, persistent and patient – she is never left in her crate for more than 2-3 hours but I’m wondering if the smell of her pee is still in her bedding and the pad in the bottom of her crate even after we wash and spray it with the proper cleaners. I am crate training her and I’m wondering exactly what should be in the bottom of her crate besides the plastic tray. Thanks!

  20. Mikala says

    I recently adopted a 12 week old pitbull puppy from the shelter. He enjoys his crate at night and has almost no problem going into it and sleeping through the night, with only a few wake-ups to use the bathroom. However, during the day he doesn’t seem to want to go in it. We feed him in the crate and it is a hit or miss. Sometimes he leaves his butt sticking out to make sure we can’t shut the door on him. I’m scared to leave him alone in the crate, even just for a few minutes. Please help! Also, we have two other dogs in the household that no longer need to be in crates… Should we put the crate in a room with them or leave it in the bedroom upstairs away from the other dogs?

    • says

      Hi Mikala,

      Congratulations on your new puppy! When we crate train a new puppy we keep the crate next to our bed. One thing we do is start off crate training for short periods of time and gradually lengthen that time as our puppy becomes more accustomed to the crate. To answer your question: sometimes we keep our other dogs in the same room as the puppy we are crate training and sometimes we leave the puppy in the crate in the room by himself. We want our puppy to be able to behave whether he is accompanied by other dogs in the room or not.

      Good luck with your training!
      Colby

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