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Crate training a puppy 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.
More importantly, I learned how to stop a puppy from barking in his crate at night!
I’ve been raising puppies now for over ten years and I’ve now raised 11 total puppies
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 getting started.
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. 🙁
The good news is he prepared me for parenthood. My three daughters have all been better sleepers than Stetson! 🙂
QUICK RECOMMENDATION: There are many different types and styles of dog crates. If you haven’t decided on a crate then check out our article on which crate is best for your puppy.
QUICK ACCESS: If you’re having puppy training problems then you should join our Puppy Training Tips email list and get instant access to our New Puppy Owner Checklist PDF. To get started CLICK HERE.
How To Crate Train A Puppy
When it comes to crate training puppies every puppy is 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 of nights whimpering before he began sleeping through the night.
Over the years I’ve learned many tips and tricks for crate training puppies.
Today we’re going to first share with you the basics of how to crate train a puppy and second, give you our best tips and tricks for those of you who have a stubborn puppy who doesn’t want to adjust to his crate.
QUICK TIP: We prefer the wire crates over the molded plastic crates for several reasons.
- Our wire crate is collapsible making it easier to store and travel with.
- The wire style crate circulates air better and gives us an option of either leaving it open or covering it with a blanket to make it more like a den.
- Longevity! We’re still using the same MidWest Life Stages Double Door Crate w/ Divider that we had when we brought home Linus over 13 years ago.
As a guide dog puppy raiser, we are given exact steps on how to crate train our puppies.
Here’s what we learned from Guide Dogs of America 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 for 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 his 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.
QUICK TIP: We’ve been using the Snuggle Puppy Toy w/ Heartbeat and Heat Pack to help our puppies get used to their crate. It worked great with our most recent golden retriever puppy, Charlie.
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.”
QUICK RECOMMENDATION: From day 1 we start feeding all meals in the crate. We feed all of our pups Wellness Core Puppy Food.
How To Stop A Puppy From Barking In His Crate At Night
Now that we have the basics of crate training down. Let’s talk about the reason why we’re all here…a barking puppy and tips to remedy said barker…
Over the past 10 years we’ve learned quite a bit about crate training starting with:
- Crate training our first puppy, Linus who we rescued from the animal shelter
- Crate training litters of puppies as foster parents
- And finally crate training over a dozen service dog puppies
As you might have guessed over those 10 years we’ve learned many crate training tips and tricks.
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 how to crate train a puppy and Dublin’s first night in his crate.
Lucky for us there weren’t too many nights of Dublin howling in his crate although we did catch a little bit of whining on video – see below.
Take a look at some of the basics in our first episode of Puppy In Training TV:
Crate Training Tips (21 and counting)
Here’s our comprehensive list for those of you with a stubborn pup who whines, whimpers, barks, yelps, cries, and pretty much any other disturbing noise a pup can make in his crate:
- If you get to meet your puppy’s litter mates then bring a plush toy (our new favorite plush toy for puppies is the Snuggle Puppy Toy w/ Heartbeat and Heat Pack) 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 with the scent of his litter mates this may help your pup sleep better at night. This worked well with Dublin.
- 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.
- 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.We don’t cut off water to our puppy because it’s so important to keep your puppy hydrated.
- Play with your puppy for an extended period of time just before bedtime to tire him out.
- 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.
- 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…
- You can try sleeping on the floor next to the crate. This worked with my rescue puppy, Linus.
- Feed him his meals in his crate. This will make him more comfortable entering his crate.
- Put different textured toys in the crate to keep him company. Be careful. I’ve had pups chew, destroy and swallow plush toys when unsupervised.
- 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.
- 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 your body block the doorway.
- When he’s in the crate and being quiet make sure to give him lots of praise.
- 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. UPDATE: We used the Snuggle Puppy Toy w/ Heartbeat and Heat Pack with Charlie and his first night in his crate…not a peep!
- Do you have a ticking clock lying around the house? You might try that instead of purchasing the Snuggle Puppy. It may help soothe your puppy to sleep.
- Try putting a stuffed KONG (we like the KONG Extreme which is better for heavy chewers like our Lab puppies) in the crate with your puppy. We’ve tried peanut butter (make sure the PB is safe for dogs), but you can try adding other treats like bananas, rice, chicken, yogurt to help get your puppy accustomed to being in the crate.
- You can also help your puppy get accustomed to the crate (and stop the barking) by giving him his favorite chew toy, one of our favorites are Bully Sticks. Just make sure you monitor your pup if you give him a chew he can consume like a Bully Stick.
- 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”.
- 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. UPDATE: Our Snuggle Puppy Toy w/ Heartbeat also came with heat pads, but we didn’t use it when crate training Charlie.
- You’ll have to purchase extra heat pads for the Snuggle Puppy Toy after the first night. Why not just try filling a water bottle up with warm water and putting it inside a thick comfy sock. Hey…you do what you can with the things you have around the house. 🙂
- One of our readers had a great suggestion: “We now have a new furbaby, another Golden. He is 8 wks and boy has he reminded us how much older we are now. We use the same night time method with the soothing music and it’s worked like a charm again!” We play soothing music for our older dogs when we leave the house. It never occurred to us to use soothing music to help our pup’s get used to their crate and new environment. Thank you K.Y. for the suggestion.
- Tire your puppy out mentally by working on his training right before bed time. It doesn’t take much to tire a puppy out mentally. Try working on some basic obedience for 10 minutes right before it’s time to go in the crate.
Those are my best tips and trick for getting your puppy to stop barking in the crate.
How about you guys?
Do you have any tips or tricks on how to stop a puppy from barking in his crate?
We’d love to hear about your experiences with crate training your puppy.
Is this one of your first nights home with your new puppy?
If so, check out Stetson’s first night home and read about what we did to ease him into his new home.
ONE FINAL NOTE: We recently found and plan on ordering the Snuggle Puppy – New Puppy Starter Kit which includes the Snuggle Puppy Toy, heartbeat, additional heat pads, chew toys and blanket.
Also, we recently put together our New Puppy Checklist detailing all the products we recommend for new puppy owners.
We plan on using this new puppy starter kit with our next puppy who will be arriving in early 2019…stay tuned 🙂
UPDATE: This post was originally posted on July 11th, 2011. It has been updated with new information based on our experiences over the years.
Top Picks For Our Puppies
- BEST PUPPY TOY
We Like: Snuggle Puppy w/ Heart Beat & Heat Pack - Perfect for new puppies. We get all of our Service Dog pups a Snuggle Puppy.
- BEST DOG CHEW
We Like: Best Bully Sticks - All of our puppies love to bite, nip, and chew. We love using Bully Sticks to help divert these unwanted behaviors.
- BEST DOG TREATS
We Like: Wellness Soft Puppy Bites - One of our favorite treats for training our service dog puppies.
- BEST FRESH DOG FOOD
We Like: The Farmer's Dog - A couple months ago we started feeding Raven fresh dog food and she loves it! Get 50% off your first order of The Farmer's Dog.
Check out more of our favorites on our New Puppy Checklist.