How to get a puppy to sleep in a crate

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Crate training might be a new concept for many puppy parents, but it’s a great tool for conditioning puppies and dogs. Your dog could take some time to become comfortable with a crate, but this helps you teach your dog about the concepts of boundaries, confinement, safety, responsibility, and independence.

Initially, puppies can struggle to stay in their crate, and often cry when they are left alone – especially at night! In this guide we explore how to get a puppy to sleep in a crate and the tips and tricks that we have used in the past.

Basic Requirements For Crate Training

A few decisions have to be made before crate training. These are as follows:

Choosing the Crate

Your dog should have enough space in the crate to stand up, sit down, turn round, and lie down.

When choosing a size of crate, you need to make sure your puppy will have enough space to sleep in it when it is fully grown. Some crates come with adjustable partitions that you can remove and change as your puppy grows.

Make sure not to get a huge crate – although this may seem like a great idea, your puppy won’t feel safe and secure in a large crate, and will often end up with your puppy going to the toilet more in their crate.

You can checkout our guide to the best soft dog crates for more ideas. 

Selecting the Spot

It would be best if you placed the crate in a quiet spot away from direct sunlight. Make sure that there are no electrical wires, radiators, heaters, cooling vents, or poisonous plants in the vicinity.

There are many important factors that determine the location the crate should be placed. Some of these factors include the presence of other pets, traffic sounds from outside, vibrations from appliances, and soundness of your sleep.

As a rule, place the crate where you always want your puppy to sleep in the long run. If you don’t want your dog sleeping in your bedroom, make sure from day 1 that you don’t have your crate in there.

On your first night with your puppy, it will likely cry – a lot. You must be strong and not move the crate into your bedroom, or allow them out of their crate to sleep with you.

Placing items inside

You can make the crate comfortable for your dog by choosing a soft bedding material that’d keep it warm. If your dog has the habit of chewing, you could place veterinary bedding until it grows out of the habit.

Get some tough chew toys to keep your dog occupied in the crate. This way you’d be able to prevent your dog from chewing bedding or any other item outside the crate. 

Crate training steps to get your puppy to sleep in a crate

The time required for crate training varies from one dog to another. This is due to factors such as age, personality, and life experiences of the dog.

We introduce our puppies to a crate on the first day that they arrive. We leave the crate open and often put toys in it so that they will explore it in the day. We also make sure that our puppies will sleep in the crate from night 1 – we start as we mean to go on and it means your puppy will understand over time that this is where he sleeps at night and feels safe and secure.

Step 1: During the day

When your puppy arrives home, it will explore your home. Make sure your crate is left open, and maybe leave some toys or a couple of treats in the crate to ensure your puppy is confident exploring it.

Test closing the door of the crate and sitting near your dog and playing with it (whilst its in the crate). This will get your dog used to the door being closed and will make the evening less traumatic.

You could also try leaving the house for 5-10 minutes and leaving the puppy in a crate. Make sure your puppy has been to the toilet before leaving, and don’t be worried if it cries – your puppy has rarely been alone before, so this will be new to them. Once you go back, let your dog outside. You can conduct multiple crate training sessions in a day. Slowly increase the time it stays inside and the time you’re away from it.

Step 2: Before bed, let it go out

When you are ready to go to bed on the first night, these are the steps we follow. Be aware that you don’t want your puppy to disturbed on the first night, so make sure your whole household is in bed before putting your dog into its crate.

Before bed, when you’re planning to put your dog in the crate, make sure that it gets sufficient time to go to the toilet outdoors. Be sure that your dog has been to the toilet – accompany it into the garden if needed. After this, bring your dog back in and take your dog to its crate after its activities are over. This way they’ll start seeing the crate as a resting place.

Step 3: Create a positive outlook towards the crate

As mentioned in the above steps, make the crate hospitable for your dog with interesting toys and comfortable bedding. Let your dog explore the crate on its own.

If your dog appears to be hesitant, you could place some treats to lure them inside (we still give our dog a treat before bed, 5 years after we trained him!). Use a specific word/sound whenever it enters the crate. You could then give it a toy, treat, or a food puzzle so that it learns the correct behaviour.

Step 4: Close the crate, and immediately leave your puppy alone

Once your puppy is closed in its crate, you should leave the room and make sure not to play with your dog. We simply close the door, turn the light off and leave the room.

It is highly likely that your puppy will cry on its first few nights. Although it may seem cruel, your puppy needs to adjust to being alone, and this is part of the process.

Sometimes this can last for a whole night, but often a dog will stop crying within 30 minutes.

The key thing to do is to leave your puppy alone and not to return to the crate. If you return, you are teaching your puppy that if it cries, you will come back to them. This is not the behaviour you want to teach, especially so early on.

Precautions For Crate Training

Some important points that’ll help you with dog crate training.

  • Ensure that your dog gets its fun time and toilet time outdoors before every crate training session.
  • Advance slowly with the crate training so that it becomes easy for your pet dog to learn.
  • Keep your arrival and departure low-key to keep its anxiety, anticipation, and excitement under control. 
  • You could play relaxing music or use calming pheromones to help your dog with the crate training.
  • Give treats, food puzzles, and toys to praise the dog for good behaviour.
  • When your dog doesn’t behave, make sure that it’s punishment has nothing to do with the crate. 
  • Keep your dog engaged with a food puzzle or a toy to several minutes before you head out.
  • Hire a pet-sitter or leave your dog at a day-care if you have to be out for the whole day.
  • When you get back home, allow it to leave the crate only when it is calm.
  • Make sure that your dog’s crate is not close to any dangerous materials like electrical wires or poisonous plants.
  • Use a different phrase/sound to confirm that it needs to be let out to attend the call of nature.
  • Place the crate away from vibrating machines like washing machines and dishwashers.