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Crate training a puppy

The essentials

  • Crate training is good for your puppy — Dogs need a safe place as much as humans do, and crate training helps instill good behaviors.
  • Choosing the right crate matters — Crate training can be stressful at first. Finding the most appropriate type of crate can help.
  • Patience and persistence will pay off — Pet parents who recognize crate training as a process that doesn’t happen overnight will be more successful.

Crate training is the process of training your dog to view their crate as a safe place so that they willingly enter the crate on their own or on command. Despite some common myths, crate training is not cruel. When done properly, it keeps your dog safer when you’re not around.  Read on to learn more about the benefits of crate training your puppy and step-by-step guide on how to do so.

Why is crate training a puppy important?

Dogs hate to mess up small spaces—especially in their cozy spaces—so they’ll likely hold their pee until they get out of the crate. Eventually, your dog will associate the proper potty place and go there on their own. Crate training benefits include:

  • A safe place. The crate acts as a boundary, keeping your dog from ruining the carpet, chewing furniture or ingesting dangerous objects.
  • Travel. If you’re planning on flying with your pet, they’ll need to be crate trained before you go.
  • Boarding. If your pup can’t come with you and your favorite petsitter isn’t available, you might need to board your dog at some point. Since they spend lots of time in a kennel at a boarding facility, it’s important that they’re comfortable with the idea of being in a crate before booking their stay.
  • Privacy. As much as your dog loves you, they need a safe place to spend some alone time, too, especially in stressful situations.
  • Potty training. Many pet parents also choose to crate train their puppy while potty training. This method requires consistency and discipline, but it’s an effective and popular proven way to teach your dog how and where to go potty.

How to select and set up your puppy's crate

Choosing the right type of crate is as important as your decision to crate train your puppy, and will largely determine the success of your mission. Here are some considerations to keep in mind as you shop for the best dog crate for your puppy:


You don’t want your dog to feel cramped in their crate, but giving them too much space can also be problematic. Your dog should be able to stand up and turn around inside their crate, but not much more. If they have room to use the bathroom in one area and rest in another (a major issue with potty training), that size is too large. Owners can purchase a crate with a divider so you can slowly expand the crate size as your pup grows to avoid this problem.


There are three main types of dog crates: metal, fabric, and plastic crates. All three crates are viable options. It just depends on you and your dog’s preferences.

  • Collapsible metal or wire crates are nice for in-home use as they allow you and your dog to see each other, perhaps giving less of a “trapped” feeling. Plus, the plastic bottom and wire sides are usually easy to clean.
  • Plastic crates can be nice for travel because they usually have fewer areas your dog can see out of, which can help keep them from getting overstimulated in foreign environments. Plus, these types of crates usually have handles that make carrying easier. Check out our comprehensive list of our favorite dog crates for travel.
  • Fabric crates are the lightest weight of the three options and generally fold more easily. The main benefit is portability, and they’re usually the most budget-friendly of the three. The downside is that these may not be as durable or strong as crates made of other materials.

How to prepare the crate

Once you’ve bought your crate, it’s time to put the finishing touches on your pup’s new cozy cave. Here are some things you’ll want to do or gather before introducing it to your dog:

Pick a prime location near an outside door — When considering the best place to put the crate, make sure it’s near an exit so you can rush your puppy outside to potty without having an accident. Ideally, choose a room where your dog can enjoy peace and quiet away from the hustle and bustle. Some pet parents prefer to leave on a TV or music to provide some background noise (and to keep your dog from barking at little noises). Do what you feel would be the best for putting your pup at ease.

Line the crate with towels and blankets — Make the crate the epitome of puppy hygge. While your dog is still super new to crate training, you might want to line the crate with some old towels in case they urinate or decide to become destructive. Once you feel confident that they won’t destroy things while you’re gone, you can add nicer blankets or even a plush dog bed. While you’ll use food to train them, it’s best not to leave a food and water bowl in the crate while they’re unsupervised.

⚠️ Never put dog toys that they may destroy in their crate while you’re gone. Opt for safe and durable toys, such as Kong toys. If you have a dog who likes to eat things, you shouldn’t put anything with stuffing or squeakers in the crate—even a stuffed dog bed.  

Step-in-step: How to crate train a puppy

Once you’ve purchased and prepped the best dog crate for your situation, you can start the training. With lots of treats and a positive mindset, you’ll have your dog crate trained for life. But it’s important not to rush the training steps.

1. Introduce the crate to your puppy — Toss treats or toys into the crate to entice your puppy to enter the crate on their own. Do not force them inside, no matter how long it takes. Let your pup inspect and sniff the crate with the crate door open. Don’t place them inside or shut the door on them to avoid creating negative associations. Use a happy tone of voice when talking about the crate or praising your puppy for walking in, even if it’s just to take a sniff.

2. Create positive associations with the crate — Leave the crate door open throughout the day, even when you aren’t actively attempting to lure your dog inside. You can also make the process fun by playing fetch or throwing a toy, such as a Kong, inside the crate for your dog to retrieve. Once your dog is comfortable,  the next step is to feed them regular meals in the crate. Place their food bowl at the very back of the crate. If your puppy refuses to go to their bowl, move it near the front and gradually move it toward the back at each meal.

3. Close the door for short periods — At first, only close the door while your dog is eating or engaged in playing with a safe toy. Wait a few minutes until they finish eating or are no longer preoccupied before opening the door. Over several days and weeks, slowly increase the amount of time that the door is shut after they’re done eating until you’ve reached several minutes.

👉 Make sure your dog is “naked” before going into the crate. Collars and bandanas can catch on a crate and can cause strangulation, especially if your dog begins to panic.

4. Introduce verbal cues — Now that your puppy is familiar with the crate, you can introduce a verbal cue to tell them when it’s time to head to their zone. Be sure to use the same command each time, such as “crate”, “kennel”, or “go to your bed” when placing toys, meals, or treats into the crate. Repetition and consistency are important. Eventually, you can gradually stop throwing toys or treats into the crate when saying the command. When they go in without a reward, shower them with praise and treats. Repeat until treats aren’t needed to get your dog to go into the crate.

5. Increase time inside the crate — The first time in the crate for a prolonged period is critical and must be a positive experience. While you’re home and in view of the crate, leave your dog crated for one to two hours. Get up once or twice and remove yourself from the area to see how your dog reacts. Gradually lengthen their crate time while you go about your day inside your home. Sprinkle in some shorter periods so that they don’t think that going in the crate always means several hours inside. After a few successful, short intervals in the crate alone, you can gradually increase the time to several hours—and you can leave the house for a short errand.

👉 You can use a home surveillance camera or pet camera with a speaker to record your dog while you’re gone and reassure them when needed. Many even include free apps to easily monitor how your pup performs at home alone.

6. Put your dog in the crate at night — Let your puppy use the bathroom at bedtime, then put a treat in the open crate and give your verbal cue. If you’re crate training a puppy for potty training, they will likely need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. In that case, bring the crate to your room. Otherwise, you can leave the crate in its normal area.

👉 It’s likely your dog will cry or whine on the first night. It’s OK to put your fingers in the crate and reassure them but don’t let them out frequently. If your dog is whining because they need to go out, wait until they’ve paused whining before calmly taking them outside without getting them excited. Once they’ve gone potty, return them to the crate. 

7. Leave the house for gradually longer periods — The last step is to slowly increase the length of time your dog spends in the crate. Establish a puppy crate training schedule and stick to it, never leaving your pup crated for more than six hours. Puppies and dogs that aren’t house-trained will need much more regular bathroom breaks.

👉 If you need to crate-train a puppy while at work, consider hiring a dog walker or dog sitter to relieve your puppy and give them some exercise and food so training sessions aren’t too long. 

Tips for successfully crate training a puppy

Most dogs will object to being put in a crate at first. It’s normal to experience problems for up to several months. If your dog has severe separation anxiety, they may hurt themselves when left alone in a crate. It’s important to closely monitor and respond to their behavior and body language.

🚨If you see bent crate wire or blood, remove your puppy immediately to check for injury. Anxious puppies can break nails and teeth or injure gums trying to free themselves.

Here are some things to keep in mind as you go through the crate training process with your puppy:

Patience is a must — Puppy parents will have to be patient and train in small steps. Treats, praise, and positive reinforcement are key. If you get frustrated, take a break.

Keep it positive — It’s important that you don’t become negative in your approach to training. If your dog sees the crate as a punishment, it will be more difficult to complete the training.

Make sure to never leave them in the crate too long — Never crate your dog for excessive periods. Leaving your dog in the crate all day and night is inhumane, depriving them of the exercise and social interaction they need to live healthy lives. Puppies under six months old and dogs being house-trained should not be crated for longer than three to four hours at a time as they need more frequent potty breaks.

Know when to ask for help — Is your puppy overly anxious? Some dogs may need help from a professional dog trainer or prescription medication from a veterinarian. Although it’s usually effective, crate training won’t be the best method for every temperament, especially for dogs with underlying anxiety.

Puppy crate training do’s and don’ts

Crate training is a process. Here are a few reminders that can encourage you along the way:

Do: Don’t:
✓ Be patient. Take each step at a comfortable pace for your dog. ✗ Get overemotional. Avoid overdoing the love and excitement when you come and go, as it may increase anxiety for your puppy.
✓ Exercise often. Make sure your puppy has enough playtime and exercise when not in the crate. ✗ Use the crate as a time-out. The crate is your puppy’s space, not a time-out zone. Always use positive associations with the crate.
✓ Take potty breaks. Give your puppy a chance to go potty before and after being crated. ✗ Leave dogs unattended for too long. Never leave your puppy in the crate for a long time. Consider hiring a dog walker for frequent breaks during those daytime hours.
✓ Reinforce good behavior. Treats, petting, and praise will help reinforce positive behavior around crate training. ✗ Have unrealistic expectations. A puppy can’t control their bladder for longer than three to four hours. Potty breaks are a necessity.
✓ Keep it low-key. Be as business-like as you can when coming and going. You don’t want your puppy to associate the crate with an emotional event.

What to do if you need backup

Crate training puppies can be frustrating and emotional. Puppy crate training at night, especially crate training a puppy on the first night, can make you want to grab your fluffball and snuggle them in your bed instead. Keep in mind that training is temporarily tough but offers long-term benefits for both of you.

There are times when heightened anxiety, downright defiance, or another problem may call for professional help. If you’re not up for the task, don’t hesitate to contact a dog trainer or behaviorist or talk to your veterinarian for advice.

New pet parents might want to attend a puppy training class to give you the rundown on all the basics, including crate training. Socialization also becomes vital around the same time your dog is crate training. If they’re already in a puppy obedience class or doggie daycare, you might want to ask their trainers for advice on what to do at home.

👉 New puppy at home? Don’t forget to get your free FidoAlert to safeguard your four-legged friend from getting lost. 

Although crate training may feel uncomfortable at first, over time, your dog will feel at home in their crate, which will make both of your lives easier. Crate training alongside housebreaking can also be beneficial to help your pup where to relieve themselves faster, but it’s not the only benefit. If you like to travel, crate training is essential because your dog will likely have to spend some time in a carrier, whether you’re on a plane, in a car, or if you make a reservation for them at a boarding kennel.

Just remember that it’s very common for the crate training process to take as long as six months, or occasionally longer if your pup had an unstable early history such as spending time in the shelter or with multiple owners. If you feel like it’s taking an abnormally long time to crate train your puppy, you can always reach out to your veterinarian for medical advice.

Frequently asked questions

How long does crate training a puppy take?

Crate training often takes around six months. This is why it’s vital to be patient and receptive to your dog’s behavior. You can move on to the next step of training when your dog is comfortable. Rushing your dog can stress them out, stalling and complicating the training process.

How long can I leave my eight-week-old puppy in a crate?

Young dogs have little bladder control, so eight to ten-week-old puppies can be left in the crate for a much shorter time period, typically 30-60 minutes.

Should I put my eight-week-old puppy in a crate at night?

Yes. Nighttime crate training will keep your puppy safe. Start by putting the crate beside your bed so your puppy will not feel so alone and can wake you for frequent potty breaks.

How do you stop a puppy from crying during crate training?

Some crying is inevitable. Use positive associations with the crate, stay consistent, and be patient when your puppy gets upset. And, even though it’s difficult to ignore a crying puppy, wait until your dog is quiet before letting them out of the crate to avoid rewarding their behavior. No matter what, never rush a puppy through crate training, or you will cause more anxiety and ultimately lengthen the process.

Is crate training cruel?

No. Dogs have a natural instinct to “den” or curl up in their own safe area. Crate training will give your puppy a sense of having their own home within your home, among other good things.