Crate Training

Ben and Spencer love the crate

One of the great joys of owning a dog is having them inside with you and your family. Allowing your dog inside creates so many wonderful opportunities for interaction and bonding. It also makes for a calmer more satisfied dog. I met a lovely man today who was walking his massive German Shepherd, I struck up a conversation with him (I couldn’t resist saying hello) and asked him if his dog lived inside with him? He laughed, and said…. “Yes, my dog lets me in sometimes”. The bond between them was evident, and much of it would be due to them sharing a life inside with one another.

If a dog is to live inside successfully he needs to learn many lessons. Often the best way to manage a new dog in the home is to make sure that they don’t have the opportunity to break any household rules. Using a crate to confine your new dog will ensure they learn how to behave in the home and will ultimately lead to greater freedom inside and outside the home. The crate is also useful for toilet training, developing your dogs’ separation confidence, and is portable, so if you take your dog somewhere just take the crate too.

So, what is a crate? Essentially it is a cage that you can buy at most pet shops. It can be wire, plastic or material (only recommended for non-chewing dogs). It can be set up anywhere in the home, although somewhere your dog can be close to you is a good idea. It should be used under supervision as the space in the crate is small, there should only be enough room for your dog to stand, stretch and lay down. Please don’t think it is cruel, used and introduced properly your dog will love it, and you will wonder how you ever did without one.

Introducing your dog to the crate should be a positive experience for both of you. If you feel bad about using it (lots of people do when they begin) just set it up with some treats inside and allow your dog to come and go from the crate with the door left open. You will probably find that they begin spending lots of time in it, especially if it takes the place of their indoor bed. You should always feel comfortable with any tools you use to train your dog, otherwise there will be little joy and where’s the fun in that?

A good time to lock your dog in the crate for the first time is after your dog has had a walk and been to the toilet. Please make sure you leave something to chew inside the crate for them. There should always be something tasty like a food stuffed chew toy waiting in there for them- this will develop a positive association with the crate. Never use it for punishment. Begin by leaving them locked in for a short time and slowly increase the time. For baby puppies this should be no more than an hour at a time of confinement. Each time you let your dog out of the crate it is a perfect opportunity to do some training, playing or walking. This means that when your dog is out of their crate you will be able to give them your full attention.

Anytime you cannot actively watch your dog they need to be confined in their crate. This is where the crate comes in to its own- we all lead busy lives and cannot watch our dogs all the time so the crate allows you to go about your business without fear that your dog is breaking any rules. You can also use the crate as an overnight bed, but you may need to get up during the night to let your dog out to toilet until they can last through the night.

The crate works for toilet training as dogs will not wee or poo inside the crate (unless they are desperate). Dogs are essentially clean animals- a reason we share our homes with them, they will do their best not to wee or poo in the space they sleep. Some dogs do wee and poo in their beds, however, these dogs often have another space they can go to sleep. The crate is so small it does not give your dog the choice to move elsewhere. Your dog will cry to be let out of the crate if they need to wee or poo.

This confinement will not have to last long, and soon you will be able to trust your dog to roam free inside. You will probably find that you will continue using the crate because your dog will love it.


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18 Responses to Crate Training

  1. Derek says:

    I just recently bought myself an 8 week old male german shepherd. I’ve been curious as to where I should have him sleep. I’ve read another one of your articles about having him in a crate next to my bed or even sleeping next to him on the floor. The first night home I had him sleep in the crate next to my bed, but of course he was crying and whining all night long. So the next night I had him sleep with me in my bed and he was completely fine except when he woke up at 4 am to go outside. When I brought him in he wouldn’t lay back down and kept whining and wanted to play, so I put him in his crate again to get some sleep. I’m curious as if I should try his crate again or continue having him sleep with me in my bed? Sorry for the long story!

    • katarina says:

      Hi Derek,
      On your bed is fine, you can always enforce a sleeping rule change when he is older and more settled. Most puppies will be awake and ready for the day before sunrise, but 4am is pushing things a little :) Putting him in his crate for another 90mins would be fine, eventually he will start sleeping through the night and longer in the morning. It’s absolutely fine to switch him between the crate and the bed, whatever works best for you and for him. All the best, I think GSD puppies are the cutest.

  2. christine says:

    Hello Katrina

    I have just bought a 8 week old crate trained bichon, she is quite happy being in the crate when she knows we are around. but the minute we go to bed she begins to howl, so we took her bed out of the crate crate and placed it next to the bed (crate wont fit in the room) and stroked her to calm her down and it worked. but now she wants to be in our room all the time? how do we stop this without leaving her in the crate till she stops howling at 3 am in the morning which is tiring the whole family.

    • katarina says:

      Hi Christine,
      You have two options, 1. you can sleep out with her next to her crate for a period of time while she gets used to her new family or 2. you can keep her sleeping in your bedroom (pop a bell around her collar so you can hear her when she starts to stir as she will need to toilet). Option 1 you will find she should settle quickly and you should be able to sleep in your own bed after a week. Option 2 you should be able to move her bed away over time to the preferred sleeping space. I find that once a dog is comfortable and bonded to their new family they become quite flexible about sleeping arrangements and you can move her around a bit. She’s just been removed from everything she knows so it stands to reason she is going to be nervous and scared, do what she feels comfortable with and over time you can slowly move her to her new sleeping place. All the best.

  3. Louise says:

    Hi, I have a border terrier cross. Shes a 2 yr old rescue who weve had about 7 weeks. I have 90% got her to settle in her crate at night now but she wakes around 5 for a wee which I don’t mind as it means she has learnt not to go in the house. However 5 is far too early for me to stay up from! I try putting her back to bed and she howls and cries something awful. I have tried staying in the next room and telling her off through the door as I did to make her settle at night and also water spray after 3 ‘no’ attempts but she still will not go back to sleep or stay quiet. Do you have any advice? Im becoming so exhausted that I don’t always hear her and she’s waking the whole family up.

    • katarina says:

      Hi Louise,
      As a 2 year old she should be able to ‘hold on’ all night (provided you take her out at night before you go to bed and there are no medical issues) so she shouldn’t need to go to the toilet at 5am or overnight. Given this, you could have her sleep in your room each night, either in her own bed on the floor or on your bed, or in the crate (even with the crate door open). She may settle being closer to you but to avoid her learning to continue waking at 5am simply start her out in your room at night. If this doesn’t help try contacting a reputable (word of mouth is best) trainer in your area.
      All the best.

  4. Cat says:

    Hi, I have a 3-months-old border collie for a month now. We kept him inside a dog playpen in the living room, but he was able to climb out so we now keep him inside a crate within the playpen. The problem is, he’s been barking regardless of being crated or not. He started barking and whining at about 6am, few days later around 5am, and now he barks at 4am! It’s getting earlier and earlier. We’d let him out for pee and put him right back inside the crate, but after awhile he would start barking again until it’s time for us to wake up for the day (around 7am). It’s draining us out. Would it be better if we move the crate into our bedroom so he’d feel more comfortable? Thanks!

    • katarina says:

      Puppies typically wake up with the sun, so 5.30 or 6am is going to be the time when he will be ready to start the day. At that time take him outside for toileting then give him his breakfast in a food dispensing toy like a Kong or scatter it in the back yard and then you can go back to bed for a little while. This is probably the hardest part about having a puppy- the early mornings. Don’t worry as he grows he will sleep a little longer. Take him out to toilet just before you go to bed, maybe around 11pm and he should last until about 5-6am, it may help to have him in your room. Also making sure he is getting enough stimulation during the day will help him sleep better at night. Follow this advice and ignore the barking at 4am but take him out anytime after 5am to start his day.

  5. Chris says:

    Hi Katrina, really like your posts. Very informative and best of all, lots of common sense! We are about to bring our Cocker Spaniel home on Thursday and going to take your advice on crate training, and sleeping arrangements. Reference sleeping, is it best to bring the crate down to the living area throughout the day and let him in there then take the same crate up at night? Many thanks, Chris.

    • katarina says:

      Hi Chris,
      Thank you for your comment. Congratulations on your new puppy, yes, if you do not have two crates you will have to move the one you have around the house. Alternatively, you can have a puppy play pen or baby gate set up down stairs and the crate can stay upstairs. Crates are notoriously heavy (although yours won’t be huge) so people often hate moving them around. Good luck and enjoy your new puppy. Katarina

  6. Lila-Nikol says:

    Hi! I have an eleven week old Olde English Bulldogge. He sleeps in the room with me in his crate, and for the last few weeks he was fine in his crate until around 7am (we go to sleep at 11pm, and I take him out at 2:30am then back to crate), but now he is waking up earlier in earlier. A few days ago he woke up at 6am whining and howling until I let him out, the next day 5:30am, and now 4:30am. I’m not sure what I need to do about this.

    • katarina says:

      Thanks for your question. If you take him to the toilet at 2.30 I would expect that he would be up and ready to go for the day just before sunrise, so even 5.30 or 6am isn’t unreasonable for such a young puppy. Any time before 5.30 you will just need to ignore the crying until he stops (even for a second) then let him out. Anything else you do will only reward the crying and increase the likelihood of him continuing.
      The early mornings are probably one of the hardest things about adopting a baby puppy, especially if you are not a morning person, stay consistent and understand while he is a puppy he will be ready to go for the day at sunrise. If you want a sleep in you can scatter his food in the back yard/play pen and leave him with a safe long lasting digestible chew.

  7. Meghan says:

    Hi Katrina, such a helpful website, thank you!
    We will be bringing home a new lab pup soon who will be just over 8 weeks old. I am getting everything ready for his arrival and I wanted some advice – we were going to have him sleep in a crate inside down stairs (our bedrooms are upstairs) and I will sleep next to him on a mattress for a week or so, then move back to my room. Can he sleep in a large lab size crate or should I section it off to be smaller so he doesn’t toilet in the crate overnight?
    When I go to the gym for an hour or to work for a couple of hours should I leave him in a large kids playpen with newspaper to toilet or in his crate? Do these toilet training mats work?
    Thank you so much! Meghan

    • katarina says:

      Hi Meghan,
      Congratulations on your new puppy, he may have arrived by now :)

      Yes, you will need to make his crate smaller if you have a large one. You can do this by using boxes to make the area smaller. Crates are fine for a couple of hours anything longer and the play pen with a toilet area is better. Yes, the mats work, you just need to train him to go on it placing him there regularly and rewarding him when he does his business on it. However, when you are home try and make training to go outside to toilet the priority because this is the ultimate goal.

      All the best.

  8. Rosie says:

    Hi, I have just bought a 9 week old Toy Poodle (Rocco). He is very placid however very clingy and follows us everywhere around the house. I am having trouble trying to settle him at night. I have a comfy bed for him that I have set up in the laundry but he cries and hops out. I am happy to bring his bed in my bedroom or my girls bedroom so we feels safe and loved. At the moment we are taking it in turn who takes him to their room (I have 3 girls) I am worried this will set in bad habits as I would like a routine for his sleep and have him eventually in his own bed in the laundry. At the moment he also does his business all around the house. How do I know he needs to pee etc? He has only been with us for 1 week. I hear alot about Crate training but I know nothing about it. Your advise would be most welcomed.

    • katarina says:

      Hi Rosie,
      Please download a copy of my ebook and it will have information on crate training for you. Crate training is the quickest way to help with toilet training a new puppy. Your puppy cannot have free run of the house at this stage, it will make training almost impossible. Please also book yourself in to see a reputable trainer asap to help support you and build your puppy’s confidence.

  9. claire Brown says:

    Hi Katrina,
    I have a 9 week old cockerpoo and shes been home with us nearly a week and her routine is such that I’m crating her at night to sleep I put her to bed at 11pm after wee time and she goes in with her heartbeat cushion and and cries for a bit then settles down, she wakes about 3am I take her out for a wee and place her back in crate with cushion she the cries for ages before settling and awakes about 5 and she has sometimes poo’d iin her crate. I let her out and end up staying up as she just wants to play… why is she starting to poo in her crate is that why shes crying as when I put her back in at 3am how do I know if the persistant crying is just for attention or that she wants a poo?? also she is very clingy to me she follows me everywhere and I’m trying the method of crating her for 5 mins leaving her to calm then letting her out and praising, or she cries at the baby gate when I go out the room and again I pay no attention but wait till shes calm then go back in and praise but its exhausting…am I doing the right things here especially with the crate at night? Ant advice be appreciated.

  10. Amanda says:

    Hi Katrina,

    We have 2 beautiful puppies. Cross between a Husky and a Labrador. They are about 7 weeks old now. We immediately started with the crate training and it works amazingly! I just have a question. They are meant to be outdoor dogs. At what age do I start moving them outside at night? And do you have any tips regarding this?

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