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


  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!

  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:

      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?

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