Crate Train Your Puppy In 5 Easy Steps

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Throughout my life I’ve learned how to potty train a puppy using various methods and have found the easiest way to potty train a dog or puppy is through crate training. As a Guide Dogs of America puppy raiser we are required to crate train our puppies. Lucky for me I successfully crated trained Linus 2 years before I received Stetson from Guide Dogs of America.

Many people have advised me that every dog is different when it comes to crate training. Some dogs will take to the crate very easily while others are a struggle. Unfortunately for me both Linus and Stetson were a struggle when it came to crate training. Just remember be consistent and persistent.

What Is A Crate?

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.

Stetson in His Crate

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 (this is recommended when the puppy is very young…as he gets older he will be able to tolerate more time in his crate during the day).

Wire Vs. Molded Plastic

I’ve used both types of crates and believe that both work very well for crate training. I prefer the wire crates vs. the molded plastic mainly for a few reasons.

  1. Wire crates can fold up flat for easy transportation.
  2. Wire crates have better air circulation.
  3. The wire crate I purchased came with a divider. You can use the divider to make the crate smaller during the early puppy stages.

The wire crate I currently use is called Midwest Life Stages Fold & Carry Wire Mesh Dog Crate – 24″L. This is a very versatile crate and has worked crate for both Stetson and Linus.

How to Crate Train Your Puppy

Start crate training your puppy on its first night.

  1. Place the crate in your bedroom where the puppy can still see and hear what is going on.
  2. Put a blanket or towels in the crate for bedding. A pup will rarely soil the crate, however, if he does, try removing the bedding.
  3. A crate should not be too big, but large enough for the puppy to stand, stretch and turn around.
  4. When placing the puppy in the crate, use word “kennel” or “kennel up”.
  5. 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.

My Recommendations Through Experiences With My Dogs

A few other points I learned with my own dogs.

  • Consistency – Just as I always preach be consistent. Linus and Stetson cried and whined the first few weeks of crate training. I rarely got more than a few consecutive hours of sleep. After about 4 weeks Stetson stopped crying, whining, and howling and would walk into his crate when I gave the “kennel up” command. Linus was not as bad when sleeping in the bedroom, but when I’d leave him alone he’d bark non-stop hours on end. It took him a couple weeks to get used to his crate. Stick to it and BE CONSISTENT.
  • Talk to your dog – Linus was fine in his crate when I was in the room, but Stetson whined even if I was in the bed right next to him. I used two things with Stetson. First to get him to stop whining I’d say “SHHH”. Second, when he stopped whining I’d give him praise (as long as he remained quiet). This was my ritual to get him to sleep.
  • Remove bedding (sometimes) – Stetson liked chewing on his bedding when I was away. If your dog does the same then be sure and remove the bedding so he does not choke on it.
  • Remove his collar – I recommend you remove your dogs collar (regular and training). You dogs collar can get caught on the crate and he could get choked.
  • Crate Size – As mentioned in step 3 make sure your crate is not too big. If the crate is too big your puppy may potty on one side of the crate while he sleeps on the other side.

One final hint that I learned when Stetson was staying with a puppy sitter. Be sure not to collapse your wire crate and lay it flat on the ground. Stetson’s crate was flat on the ground when he heard someone at the front door. He ran to greet them and tried to run over the top of the collapsed wire crate. Unfortunately, one of Stetson’s claws got caught in the crate and tore part of the quick in his paw. It wasn’t too bad, but we still took Stetson to the vet to clean up his paw. Below is a picture of Linus and Stetson with his injured paw after his crate accident.


Linus, Stetson and his injured paw

Parts of this article are taken from my Guide Dogs of America Puppy Manual. For more information on Guide Dogs visit the Guide Dogs of America website.

Have you crate trained your dog? Have you had any problems with crate training? Let me know your thoughts in the comments area.

Crate training puppies is not always an easy step-by-step process.  Check out this link on 14 tips that might help you crate train your puppy: Crate training puppies.

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  1. Hi I’d like to ask a question, I have a Rhodesian ridgeback puppy who is a lovely pup most of the time. But there are times when he snaps at us and I mean really snaps if he is told no for doing something like biting us he will come back and bite harder. We have tried all the tricks replacing arms with toys and ignoring it but he gets even more excited and then runs backwards and forwards barking and snapping. He will run to his bed and if I have to retrieve something he will growl and bark stands firm and then will snap aggressively at us. Other times he is lovely but it’s like he feels us getting worked up and becomes a loud rude and aggressive pup.
    What can we do about this and how can we stop him trying to be pack leader as that is what it feels like he is trying to achieve in the home.

    1. If your puppy is displaying aggressive behavior you might want to consider bringing in a certified professional dog trainer for an in home evaluation.

  2. great article , i really liked that you mentioned consistency as one of your main points, as consistency is such a massive factor in success with dog training.

    again fantastic article

  3. I currently keep my 3 month old puppy in a pen while I am gone during a day, so she has room to move, and then she sleeps in a crate at night. She has now been having about an accident a day in her pen and I’m not sure why it has started. We make sure to clean up with the enzyme spray so there is no odor but the accidents continue. This has been happening for about a week now. She also jumps and moves the pen some when I’m gone. I was thinking about having her stay in the crate when I am gone during the day instead of using the pen, but am really not sure which is best. Usually, when I leave now, I am gone 2-3 hours, but when I go back to work in September, I’ll be gone 6-8 (I am looking into a dog walker for the middle of the day)

    1. From what you’ve written it sounds like your puppy does not fully understand potty training. It’s common for a puppy to not potty in the area she sleeps, but if the area is too large then she will potty in one spot and sleep in the other. This also tends to happen during crate training when the crate is too large. If you’re only gone for 2-3 hours during the day then I’d recommend using the crate until your puppy fully understands potty training. However, in my opinion 6-8 hours is much too long for a puppy to stay in the crate during the day. Hopefully by the time September rolls around your puppy has figured out potty training. I hope that helps. Good luck with your training!

  4. What a great find your web site is…!!!! My wife just brought home a 10 week old chocolate lab for our anniversary…So I’ve been put in charge of training her as I’m retired “it will keep me busy”…lol…anyway I’m having a great time and do want to do the right things to raise the pup(Guinness…she’s the color or the beer)…anyway my question is regarding the crate…we are just getting her use to it and making progress but she would much rather lay in her dog bed w/her toys rather than in the kennel…is this ok…or do i put her bed in the kennel…do i move the kennel from the living area to the bedroom each night?…thanks for getting back to me and keep we will keep watching your site great info…thanks again Michael & Guinness

    1. Congratulations on your new puppy! When we first start working on crate training I usually let my pup’s fall asleep on the dog bed then I transfer them to the kennel. We put our dog beds in the kennel sometimes to make our pup’s feel more comfortable, but one problem is some pups end up chewing and tearing up the dog beds. At our house we keep the kennel/crate in the bedroom and we have a dog bed in the living room. Hopefully that helps answer your questions. Good luck with your training!

      1. Boy do i need help…our 12 week old lab is not responding to the crate training as we had hoped….she will readily get into the crate for treats, feeding time and even play time…if i stay in the room w/the door closed she will be ok after i leave her alone she starts getting fussy then that turns into full on out of control barking, whinnying, endless howling. I’ve tried ignoring it but after 30 min i say to myself this cant be the way to train the dog to love her crate…what am i doing wrong,,,? thanks Michael & Guinness

  5. Hi there – my puppy has been doing quite well with her crate training. We have had her for 3.5 weeks. She doesn’t soil the crate and is fairly quiet when we put her in it. I have still been sleeping in the same room as the crate and so far no problems with crying at night except when she needs to go out. I do have a couple of questions though. How do I get her to start to see the crate as her home/safe place? She certainly doesn’t want to go in the crate at this point (even though she does well in it) and never goes into it on her own. We have started feeding her in it once a day to get her to associate something good with it. Any other suggestions? Because she has been doing so well with potty training I haven’t been putting her in it as much (though we don’t give her free run of the house, she has a pen on tile floor). She really only goes in at night, and sometimes when she has yet to go to the bathroom I will return her for 20 minute intervals until she goes. Perhaps she still needs more time in there to start to see it as her safe place? Any thoughts on how to get her to like her crate?

    My 2nd question is that even though she is doing well with potty training. She is constantly piddling/peeing out of excitement. Even if she has just urinated she will go again. I don’t think it is in any way an intentional accident in the house, just pure excitement pee. The problem is that every time I go to remove her from her crate she gets so excited that she starts to piddle, I then grab her and rush her outside and she continues to go there. So she ends up peeing repeatedly in the crate every day, but never when in there alone, only when she sees you approaching to open the door and gets excited. She also shows tons of excitement and will pee anytime someone goes to pet her, anytime you feed her, anytime you give her a treat, anytime you approach the crate like you are going to take her out. I have noticed that smaller breeds of dogs have this problem but she is a medium/large breed so she’s not all that small, even now…(though only 11 weeks). I never feel like she is doing it on purpose in that it is very different when she was intentionally going in the house the first week and she cries or shows signs when she wants to be let out for pee/poo now. Is this something that will likely go away on its own as she gets older and has more bladder control or is this something to work on with her (not sure how).
    Thanks so much in advance to anyone who can offer advice!
    Best of luck with your pups!

    1. My lab puppy did the same thing. By 6 months we finally had the vet check her out and it turns out she had an ‘extra’ bladder. She’d urinate, but some of it would stay in that extra bladder and then leak out with activity. Surgery fixed the problem. Good luck!

      1. @Anne, thanks for responding. I have never heard of a puppy having an extra bladder. That’s very interesting. I’m glad your lab puppy is doing okay now. Take care!

    2. @Emily it sounds like your off to a great start with your puppy’s crate training. I would try associating more positive activities with her crate like you’ve already started by feeding her meals there. You may also try giving her a really special treat once in a while when she’s in her crate. We’ve used a sterile bone with a little bit of peanut butter in the middle. As guide dog puppy raisers we continue to use our crate throughout training. However, some of our puppies seem to like the crate more than others.

      Regarding your second question you may want to first check with your vet regarding her urination when excited. If she does not have any medical issues then you might first try consulting with a local dog trainer to witness her behavior first hand. However, as far as I can tell you may be experiencing submissive urination with your puppy. If this is the case you might try a few things we’ve done with our puppies in the past. The main thing we worked on with our puppies is to not let ourselves or others get excited when meeting and greeting our puppies. Any time you let her out of the crate, feed her, pet her, etc. make sure you and your guests remain as calm as possible. Do your best not to get your puppy excited. Good luck with your new puppy!

    3. My dog pees out of excitement also but with us she doesn’t do it so much only when she sees new people. Also with the crate I recommend buying a crate cover so she doesn’t see you coming and when she’s sleeping she is covered ! Also put her in the crate more during the day , even if it for 10-15 min . Like if you need to shower , or if your eating lunch . If your running errands put her in the crate also so she can get used to it as well . I definitely recommend the crate cover though because I bought one and my dog is always covered when she’s in there and she never wines , barks or anything it definitely a safe place For her .

  6. My cocker spaniel is 2 years old. I got her when she was 9 weeks old. I crate trained her and she did great. Then this past winter I took her on trips and she went just about everywhere with me. Now she has a fit when I leave and try to put her in her crate. She howls and barks and scratches the gate and will not stop. Any suggestions. It gets to hot in the summer to take her everywhere. thanks

    1. @Nancy did she have a bad experience in her crate? I would work on giving her positive experiences when she stays in her crate. You might try giving her treats in her crate or having meal times in her crate. We have also given our puppies kongs filled with peanut butter and porcelain bones with peanut butter. Just make sure if you leave anything in the crate with her unattended that it’s something she will not swallow and choke on.

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