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Crate Training A Puppy: The Ultimate Guide

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Author: Niki French

Founder of Pup Talk, I’m a dog-mad, people-loving dog trainer and best-selling author.

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There are so many benefits to having a puppy that is calm and happy in a crate. No matter what age (yes even adult dogs), with positive training methods you can have a pup that loves chilling in a crate. We want crates to be a lovely place for our puppies to hang out, so we need to make sure they have all the skills they need and be trained in a positive way.

Why it’s a good idea to crate train a puppy

Crates can really help a new puppy settle into your home (with positive crate training) and teach them important life skills. Click To Tweet

Here are 6 great reasons to crate train your puppy:

  • Young puppies need a lot of supervision to keep them and your home safe. Crates are ideal when you can’t watch them for short periods of time to keep them out of trouble!
  • Crates can really help to speed up happy toilet training. Dogs and puppies are clean animals and will try really hard not to pee or poo where they sleep. Do make sure that they have plenty of toilet breaks to give them every opportunity to toilet in the right place.
  • Crates can be helpful in managing safe introductions with other dogs and household pets. It also gives your puppy a safe space when visitors come round.
  • Travelling in appropriate crates can be one of the safest ways for them to travel in vehicles.
  • When your dog needs to go to a vet or a groomer, it may need to spend time in a crate. If it’s a space they are already happy and familiar with, this will make life so much easier for them.
 A Saint Bernard Puppy going for a walk

Simple steps to start crate training a puppy

Before any crate time, we need to make sure all their needs have been met so that they are comfortable. Here’s a quick checklist for great crate time:

  • Is your dog hungry or thirsty?
  • Do they need the toilet?
  • Are they happy in the crate?

To start with you can have the door (or doors) open and be tossing a tasty treat for them to happily wander in and eat and wander out again. Keep throwing the food in a little piece at a time. We are just building positive associations with being in the crate. We want them to want to go in there.

You can leave the crate door open when you’re not crate training and just pop the odd, tasty morsel in there. Your puppy will start to get drawn to the crate to see if anything good is in there. Before you know it, they may choose to curl up in there and have a little nap.

Whenever your puppy chooses to go into their crate, reward the great choice they just made as quickly as you can. Keep a pot of their dry food or some treats right by the crate so that you’re ready whenever this happens.

When you’re doing some specific crate training and they’re happily trotting into the crate and eating in there you can test how much they love the space by tossing one piece of food outside of the crate. They will probably come out to eat it. But if they have been getting a ready supply of good things in the crate, they may well head straight back in. Good job! Reward them as soon as they go back in.

You can further boost their love of being in the crate by giving them a tasty chew, Kong or lick or snuffle mat in there. Even just scattering some of their dry biscuits/kibble in there could keep them happily snuffling around for a little while. You can use some of their daily food to keep them entertained and happy there. While they’re happy eating you can test moving the door and even closing it briefly to see if they’re fine with that.

Build up these small steps in short bursts of training every day. Don’t forget to take them outside to the toilet very regularly to help them get that right.

This is not a ‘shut them in and let them cry it out’ approach. This just teaches your puppy that their cries of distress go ignored.

Crate training at night, in the bedroom or not?

When it comes to crate training a puppy at night, they may find it easier to sleep if they are in the same room as you. If you don’t want to sleep on the sofa, everyone may get more sleep by having the crate in your bedroom for a little while. Puppies are babies that have been taken away from everything they’ve known so far, including warm mum and cuddly siblings. They need some comfort from you while they settle in.

If you want your puppy and their crate to be somewhere else overnight, gradually over time you can increase the distance between you and the crate position as they get more used to sleeping in this strange new place.

Bonus puppy crate training tips

Some dogs are naturally happy relaxing in a crate away from the rest of the family. But some dogs don’t. It’s really important to introduce a crate in a positive way so that they grow to love it rather than seeing it as a punishment.

Some puppies rest more easily in a crate that is covered and cosy. Others find it easier to settle if they can see you. Try both and see what works best for your dog.

What crate should I choose?

What size crate is right? It obviously depends on your pup, but a general guide is that they should be able to lay down, turn around and sit up straight without much extra space. If you are still working on toilet training, having a crate that’s too big could mean they wee in one area and happily sleep at the other end. Consider up-sizing the crate as your puppy grows or chose a crate that has a divider you can remove.

When your pup is resting in their crate, they should be left in peace. This is especially important to teach children that when your puppy is in their crate, they should be left to rest. Think of it like a teenager that has their bedroom door shut and doesn’t want constant interruptions! Puppies need a lot of good quality rest.

Don’t leave your puppy unattended in a crate with anything that they could swallow or injure themselves with. Collars and harnesses should also be removed before leaving a puppy unattended in a crate. Even chews and bedding can be a hazard. If in doubt, take it out.

When should I stop using the crate?

It’s useful to think about a pup’s crate as their bedroom. Somewhere that they can go and relax any time they want to. If you have the space, why not leave the crate in situ to be their happy place?


A happily crate-trained puppy is a wonderful thing – for them and us! If you feel you need some support with any aspect of your dog training, please seek help from a professional dog trainer that only uses positive, rewards-based training methods. Looking for more puppy tips? Be sure to get a copy of Niki’s latest best-seller Stop Walking Your Dog today!

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