Puppy Crate Training – A Step-by-Step guide to Successful Crating

In this article we discuss Crate Training for dogs with a particular focus on Puppy Crate Training!

puppy crate training guide
A happy crate trained puppy.

We answer the 6 most frequent questions about puppy crate training and include a step-by-step guide to successfully crate train your puppy.

Jump to Section:

  1. What is crate training.
  2. Why is it beneficial for a puppy to be crate trained.
  3. When should you start crate training your puppy.
  4. How to choose the right crate for your puppy.
  5. Puppy crate training – A Step-by-Step guide.
  6. Crate training & potty training a puppy.

What is Crate Training?

Crate training means, gradually teaching your dog that a crate is his safe haven and a place where he can retreat to. A crate must be a dog’s happy place and never a place of punishment. A properly crate trained dog will relate the crate to a positive experience, enjoy his time in it and stay calmly inside it.

puppy sleeping in dog crate
A puppy calmly sleeping in his crate.

Crate training exploits every dog’s deeply buried natural instinct to have a den. Dogs have evolved from wolves and wolves tend to live in dens. Wolves generally dig their dens in soft ground such as soft soil. Wolves consider their den as a safe place where cubs are born, kept safe and raised.

Although through domestication dogs have lost quite some of the instinct that their ancestors had, they still retain their “denning instinct”. Through crate training you would be effectively giving your dog one of the fundamental things that he needs i.e. a den.

Why is Crate Training Beneficial for Puppies?

Crate training your puppy has several benefits ranging from safety concerns and independence. Crate training can act as a tool to more effective training such as house training your puppy. Some dog owners may consider crate training as cruel. However, as long as the crating process is done properly, you would be in reality helping your puppy feel safer by giving him his space of retreat.

A crate should never be a means of “parking your dog” somewhere! Improperly crating a puppy can traumatise it for life!

When done properly, crating benefits every puppy and adult dog alike. However when not, it can be traumatic for any dog. Dogs that have been traumatised due to improper crating techniques will suffer when placed in enclosed spaces. This is unhealthy for your dog and will also cause logistic issues when you need to transport your pet. This is especially so if you need to fly with your pet!

A crate can keep your puppy and whole family safe.

If you travel by car it is much safer for the whole family to have the dog in a crate as opposed to free in the car. There have been many cases of accidents caused by loose dogs in cars.

dog crate in the back of a car
A safe way to transport your dog in your car.

When should you Start Crate Training your Puppy?

You should start crate training your puppy as early as you can. This make it easier for your puppy to get used to the crate. At the same time it will help you with house training your puppy. Housebreaking a puppy can be quite a task for inexperienced dog owners.

crate training a puppy from a young age
Start crate training your puppy as early as possible.

In our related article Potty Training A Puppy – 5 House Training Tips we discuss five essential tips that will help you house train your puppy quicker. You may want to have a read trough that article as well!!

Never use the crate as a means of punishment. That goes against the whole crate training concept!

How to Choose the Right Crate for your Puppy.

There are a number of factors that you must consider when choosing a crate for your puppy. Crates come in all shapes, models, assembly & disassembly methods, materials and sizes. The selection can be overwhelming to the point of confusion!

In this section we look at each factor one by one. After reading this you will understand better what to look for in dog crate..

  • Crate Shape: Dog crates come in all shapes and sizes. The most common and less expensive ones are box like and slightly elongated. When buying a crate you should make sure that you can actually fit it in your car or vehicle where you intend to use it most. These things take up a lot of space, more than you may imagine! Before you buy any dog crate, try it in the car and see what space you have left. Some companies design dog crates to specifically fit certain vehicle models.
  • Crate Model: Although crates have the same basic model i.e. a box with a door, some may have optional extras. This depends mainly on the brand and model. Some dog crates have more than one door, others may have a carry handle while others may also have the option to attach wheels to them. It is very important to know what extras can fit your dog crate in case you need to use it in different situations. Dog crates are not that cheap so it makes sense to buy one that has multiple purposes.
  • Assembly & Disassembly: This is something that people greatly overlook. Many who buy a dog crate think that they will assemble it once and that is it. In reality you will need to disassemble it occasionally. Some crates have convenient system of latches and locks that do not require any tools to quickly assemble and disassemble. On the other side of the spectrum you find crates that have the top and bottom held together by bolts and nuts. Subsequently this would require you to have extra tools and a lot of parts that can go missing.
  • Material: The most commercially available dog crates are made of plastic. This makes them lighter and easier to clean. Plastic dog crates offer more safety to the dog. Such crates are ideal for crate training as they give the dog the privacy required and are easy to clean. Dog crates can also be made of wood, especially custom made crates for very big dogs. Other crates for smaller dogs can be made of a strong fabric on a metal frame. You can also find collapsible metal dog cages which are convenient to store but not so comfortable for the dog.
  • Size: Last but not least is the size. Many puppy owners make the same mistake when buying a crate. They do not think ahead for when the puppy grows. A crate should be big enough for a dog to comfortably stand up and turn around. In fact, airlines have strict rules about crate dimensions which have to meet the IATA pet container requirements.
dogs come in different sizes
A dog crate must be of the right size for your dog.

If you are confused which crate is suited for your dog, reach out to us and we will help you decide and even source one.

Puppy Crate Training – A Step-by-Step Guide!

Crate training a puppy can take days, weeks and in some cases months. There is no quick magic solution to successfully crate train your puppy. It is a process where you have to gauge your dog’s progress and move at his pace. The below step-by-step approach works in most cases. You may need to alter these steps to your specific case. Again, we are always here to help and you can contact us via email, Facebook or by leaving a comment below.

The one rue that you MUST FOLLOW is to give your dog time. Some dogs may pick up crate training quicker than others. 

  1. Introducing the crate: Your puppy will not know what the crate is and will need to get used to it. Remove the crate door and place it where you are most, usually the living room. Put your dog’s bed inside it and leave it there. Ignore it completely as if it was part of the furniture. In most cases your dog will show interest and start sniffing the crate.
  2. Encourage the dog to explore more: Put some treats or your dog’s favourite toy in the crate and allow him to venture inside. You should always praise the dog when he interacts with the crate. Hide a few treats in the innermost point of the crate and leave them there for the dog to discover by himself when he ventures inside. This may take a few days.
  3. Feed your dog in the crate: Once your dog is comfortable going in and out of the crate by himself, start feeding him in it. In that way he will relate the crate to a positive experience. Start by putting the bowl just inside the crate. The more comfortable the dog gets, the further in you should put the bowl. Give your dog time.

Any dog training should always be a good experience to the dog. You should always take a step wise approach where each step builds on the previous.

  1. Gradually start closing the door: The ideal way to do this is to only slightly close the door while the dog is eating inside the crate. Make sure to open it immediately when the dog finishes the meal. This is crucial because if the dog is to panic you would be back to square one! Repeat this over and over again and gauge how comfortable your dog is with each successive meal he has inside the crate.
  2. Gradually increase the time the door is kept closed: As the dog gets more and more comfortable eating in the crate, increase the time the door is kept closed after he has finished eating. Monitor your dog and make sure that he never gets anxious. You could slide in a couple of his favourite treats during this time. This redirects the attention from the door to the pleasant treat.
  3. Continue to increase the time with the door closed: The more comfortable the dog is in the crate the longer you ekeep the door closed. Reward with treats to reinforce this behaviour. At this stage you should stay close to the crate to reassure your dog.
  4. Go into another room: By now most dogs would be happy to go in the crate even if it is not to eat. Once your dog is comfortable in the crate and you see that he is totally calm, close the crate door and go into another room for a few seconds. Let him out as soon as you get back. Gradually increase the time you stay in the other room. Once your dog is able to stay calm in the crate for longer periods you should move to the next step.

Be ready to back track a bit if you see your dog getting confused, anxious or restless. In some cases, a couple of days off can help.

  1. Crate for the night with you in the bedroom: Bring the crate in your bedroom right next to you at night. Instruct the dog to go inside, praise, give a treat and close the crate door. Position the crate in a way that the dog can see you at all times. Once your dog manages to sleep comfortably all through the night move to the next step.
  2. Crate for the night but in a separate room: This is essentially the same as the step above but you place the dog in a different room. As you can see every step builds on the previous one.
  3. Leave the house: Tell the dog to go inside the crate, praise, give a treat and close the crate door. Without being anxious just casually move around the house and go out for a few minutes. Chances are that the dog will be all excited on your return. Ignore that because you should never reward anxious and excited dogs. If not you would be reinforcing unwanted behaviour. Ignore the dog and let him out only when he clams down. This will give him a message that anxiety and excitement will get him nowhere.

The above steps are not written in stone but are just a guideline to explain the process of gradually crate training your puppy. Different puppies will respond differently. Some may be quicker while others may take longer. The common denominator is that crate training is a gradual process.

If you are struggling to crate train your puppy, let us know and we can propose suggestions to your particular case.

Crate Training & Potty Training a Puppy?

In a nutshell, dogs will not dirty their den! Properly crate trained dogs will consider the crate as their den and will do their utmost to keep it clean.

Guilty puppy who peed in the house.

As we have established in this text, the aim of crating your puppy is to give him his safe haven, i.e. a place where he enjoys to be and calls home. Dogs learn cleanliness skills from their mother. That is another reason why you should never separate puppies from the mother before the age of 8 weeks, preferably 12. We shall dedicate an article to that topic later on.

Consequently, since puppies see the crate as their home, they will do their utmost to keep it clean. This works to our advantage because crating your puppy will allow you to control your puppy’s bladder up to an extent. Crating your puppy allows you to catch the moment when the he needs to do his business. This will enable you to guide him to the place where he should do his needs.

Never leave your puppy in a crate for a very long time.

Puppies need to move around and vent their energy. Too much time closed in a crate is not beneficial. Moreover, puppies still do not have total control on their bladder. Although they will try their best not to soil their den, there is a limit to what they can resist. Imagine you trying to hold a wee for too long!!

Last but not least, make sure to praise and reward your puppy when he does his needs in the designated place. And remember, patience and persistence will help you achieve your puppy training goals.

At the end of the day it is all about giving the message to your dog. Dogs understand a lot and in many cases it is us who fail to speak their language.


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Written by:

Matthew

Hi I'm Matthew. I am a scientist by profession with particular interest in canine behaviour.

I take time to deliver weekly blog posts relating to various interesting topics about our pets. I am also responsible for our Dog Walking Service and Pet House Sitting Service at Pet Sitting Algarve.