How To Crate Train Your New Puppy

German Shepherd sleeping in wire crate.

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Bringing a new puppy into your home is both exciting and nerve-wracking. You want to make sure that you’re doing everything possible to make the transition go as smoothly as possible for both you and your pup. 

One of the most important things to do when crate training a new puppy is to make sure that they don’t associate the crate with feelings of fear or anxiety. This can be done by following a few simple steps.

By crate training your pup in a positive way, you can help them learn how to relax in their new surroundings and prevent them from developing bad habits down the road.

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What is crate training?

Crate training is the process of teaching your puppy or dog to feel comfortable and safe in their crate.

This can be an important part of the potty-training process, as well as a way to help your pup feel secure in their new home.

What are the benefits of crate training?

There are many benefits to crate training your pup, including:

  • Helping with potty training
  • Preventing destructive behaviors
  • Creating a safe space for your pup

When should I start crate training my puppy?

The ideal time to start crate training a puppy is as soon as possible, which, if you just got a new puppy, is usually around 8 weeks old.

Starting crate training the day your puppy comes home helps them to get used to their new environment and can make the crate seem like a safe and familiar place.

How long can a puppy be left in their crate?

Puppies can only spend a few hours in their crate at a time. The length of time is limited to how long they can hold their bladder, which is about 1 hour per month of age.

An 8-week-old puppy should spend no more than 2 hours in their crate at a time during the day. They can potentially spend a little longer in there at night depending on how well they can hold it when sleeping.

This doesn’t mean that once your puppy reaches 12 months old they can spend 12 hours in their crate. Just like humans don’t spend all day in their bedrooms, dogs shouldn’t be forced to stay in their crates all day either.

Choose the right crate for your dogs

When selecting a crate for your puppy or dog, there are a few things to consider.

Size

German Shepherd puppy sleeping in a wire crate.
Luna outgrew this crate very quickly.

The crate should be big enough for your dog to stand, turn around, and lie down, but not so big that they can use one side as a bathroom.

You also want to consider how big your puppy will be once they are full-grown, otherwise, you will end up like me and have to buy your puppy 3 different crates as they outgrow them.

Some wire crates come with a divider that allows you to make the space smaller while your puppy is little and increase the size as they grow.

Material

There are three main types of crates you can get for your dog. They are:

Fabric

Metal (also known as a wire crate)

Plastic

It’s important to make sure that whichever type you choose, it’s sturdy and won’t collapse if your dog jumps or scratches at it.

I personally have used both the wire and plastic crates, but have never used a fabric crate. I personally feel that the fabric crates would only really work for the littlest of dogs, which neither Luna nor Morgan fit that category.

You can get a crate at Amazon, Chewy, or Petco.

Transporting

If you plan on going places with your dog where you will want to have their crate, you need to consider how the crate will fit in your car.

Plastic crates are easier to carry and put into a car for your dog to ride in, whereas wire crates fold down fairly flat to make packing easier.

If you plan to fly with your dog you will need to factor in airline requirements as well.

What to put in the crate

German Shepherd laying in a wire crate.

Deciding what to put in your puppy’s crate can be a difficult thing.

Some people say you should put a bed or blanket in the crate along with some toys.

Others say don’t put anything in the crate so that your puppy doesn’t decide they can potty on the bed or blanket.

I started Luna with nothing in the crate at night and a toy or two during the day.

After she went the whole night without needing to go out to go potty, I decided to start her with an old towel (easy to clean) to give her something to sleep on. That was the first night she had an accident in her crate.

She peed on the towel and then shoved it in the corner. I went back to no towel for a few nights, had no accidents, and tried the towel again.

Again, she peed on the towel and then pushed it away. That was the end of anything in Luna’s crate until she was older.

Once she was older I put a blanket in the crate, but Luna just shoved it to the side (no potty accident, just didn’t want it). I now keep nothing in her crate as she prefers it empty.

Poodle Terrier laying next to a dog bed in a wire crate.

Morgan, on the other hand, has a bed that takes up half of the crate (she has a large for her crate that Luna outgrew) as that is what she prefers. But I didn’t start giving her anything to sleep on until she was fully potty trained.

So, ultimately, it’s up to you if you want to put something in the crate or not. I recommend starting with an old towel or a machine-washable blanket if you want to start your puppy with some bedding. That way if they do have an accident, you can easily wash the bedding.

Where to put the crate

There are a few recommendations for this as well. I’ve seen some say to place it in your room for the first few nights and then slowly move it closer to where you want it long term.

I’ve also seen to just start with it where you want it long term so your puppy gets used to that place being theirs.

Putting it in your room makes it easier for you to wake up if your puppy whines at night needing to go potty. It can also help the puppy feel less alone.

Putting the crate where you want it long-term makes it so you don’t have to train your puppy that they don’t get to sleep in your room after letting them sleep there for a few nights.

I, personally, put the crate where I wanted it to be long-term. For me, the decision was easy, there just wasn’t room for the crate in my bedroom without putting it in the walkway.

If you decide to put it somewhere that isn’t your room, just set an alarm to get up a couple of times for puppy potty breaks.

Introducing your puppy to the crate

This is the easy part. You just need to make sure that your puppy has a good experience with being in their crate.

You can do this by putting a treat in the crate to lure your puppy into it. Don’t shut the door, just let your puppy eat their treat and get a feel for the crate.

Teach your puppy to go in the crate on command

Once your puppy is happily going in and out of their crate, you can start teaching them to go in on command.

To do this, put a treat in the crate and give your puppy the command you want to use, I use the word “kennel” and point at the kennel. Once they’re in the crate, praise them and give them a treat.

Do this a few times until your puppy is going into the crate on command without you having to lure them in with a treat. This may take a few days for consistent results.

Start closing the door for brief periods of time

Now that your puppy will happily go into their crate on command, it’s time to start closing the door for short periods of time.

To do this, have your puppy go into their crate and give them a treat. Close the door and sit or stand next to the crate, don’t leave them alone yet.

After a minute or two, open the door and let your puppy out. Praise them for being good in their crate.

Do this a few times, gradually increasing the amount of time you have the door closed.

Leave the room while your puppy is in the crate

Once your puppy is used to the door being closed while they are in the crate you can start leaving the room for short periods of time.

To do this, have your puppy go into their crate and give them a treat. Close the door and then walk away from the crate.

Go do something else in another room for a minute or two and then come back and sit by the crate. After a minute or so, open the door and let your puppy out.

Do this a few times, gradually increasing the amount of time you’re gone.

Use the crate for mealtimes

German Shepherd laying down to eat in crate.

One of the best ways to get your puppy used to their crate is to start using it for mealtimes.

To do this, put their food bowl in the crate and let them eat their meal in there. This is also helpful if you have multiple dogs and want to make sure they are each eating their own food.

Once they’re done, let them out and praise them for being good.

Leave the house while your puppy is in their crate

Once your puppy is able to stay in the crate for a while with you in the other room, it’s time to start leaving the house.

Start with going outside for a few minutes and then coming home. Then, gradually increase the time you are gone.

Monitor your puppy while you’re away

If you want to keep an eye on your puppy while you are away you can invest in a pet camera like the Furbo, Kasa Indoor, or Blink Mini.

I know some people like having the ability to see what their dog is doing during the day, but I have not personally used any of these cameras and cannot comment on their quality.

How long does it take to crate train a puppy?

Crate training is different for every puppy and can take days to weeks, depending on your puppy’s age, temperament, and previous experiences.

If you have a puppy that is resistant to being in the crate you may need to take a step back and do more work on getting them used to the crate before moving on to the next steps.

Do not get discouraged if it takes a while, crate training is worth the effort and will help make your puppy (and you) happier in the long run.

Tips for crate training your puppy

Here are a few tips to help make crate training your puppy easier.

Give your puppy plenty of exercise

One of the best ways to help your puppy adjust to being in the crate is to make sure they are getting plenty of exercise.

A tired puppy is a good puppy and is more likely to be willing to go into their crate for a rest. This makes getting them used to the crate easier.

Avoid scolding

If your puppy is having a difficult time with their crate training, particularly with having accidents or whining, don’t scold them.

Scolding your puppy while they are in the crate will only make things harder by making them more resistant to going into the crate.

If they are having accidents in the crate, clean up the mess (making sure to use a good enzyme cleaner to eliminate the odor) and try to figure out why they had the accident.

Is the crate too large? Are they having accidents on the bedding? Did they not go out before going in the crate? Fix these issues and keep trying.

If they are whining, maybe you moved too quickly with the amount of time they are spending in the crate. Cut the time down and make sure to praise them when they aren’t whining.

Avoid using the crate as punishment

The crate should never be used as a punishment. This will only make your puppy resent the crate and make training harder.

Honestly, you shouldn’t be punishing your puppy in any way, that doesn’t help their training.

If they had an accident or chewed something up, or any other way a puppy can be naughty, it is most likely due to a lack of supervision or giving too much trust too soon.

Be Patient

The final tip is to be patient. Like I said, crate training is different for every puppy and can take days to weeks.

If you get frustrated it will only make things harder for both you and your puppy.

Take a break if you need to, but don’t give up. Your puppy will get the hang of it eventually.

Conclusion

Crate training can be a bit tricky, but it’s worth it for both you and your pup. By following these simple steps, you can make the process easier for everyone involved.

Do you have any tips for crate training a puppy? Let us know in the comments below!

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Pin image for crate train your new puppy the right way with a German Shepherd laying in a wire crate.

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