It started with a whimper. I had just put my new puppy Kuzy in his crate for the first time. I was sure that after a long day of meeting my family and exploring his new home, he would be exhausted and fall right asleep. But Kuzy apparently wasn’t ready for bedtime.
So, that little whimper was followed by a series of sharp yips. We tried to ignore them as best we could. But then Kuzy began howling — sad, deeply mournful cries that tore at our heart. And that’s when I remembered exactly how difficult puppy training at night with a crate can be.
What are the do’s and don’ts of puppy training at night with a crate?
- Do get the right-size crate.
- Do introduce the crate to your pup slowly
- Do make sure your pup gets enough exercise during the day before going in the crate
- Do allow your pup to relieve itself before going in the crate
- Do check on your pup every couple of hours during the night
- Do provide items that will comfort your pup
- Do create a den-like atmosphere
- Don’t yell at your puppy if it cries or makes a mess
- Don’t expect miracles.
Kuzy was not my first puppy. But crate training is a bit like giving birth. It’s painful (not physically like giving birth, but mentally). And even though you swear you’ll never do it again, you somehow forget about the pain. And then you decide to do it again! In this article, we’re going to explain those do’s and don’t’s in much detail so your experience of puppy training at night in a crate isn’t as bad as I had with Kuzy.
Make Sure to Crate Train the Right Way
Want to start a minor controversy among a group of dog owners? Then mention crating.
While many people love crates, others believe that they are nothing more than jail cells for dogs. The truth? When used properly, a crate can be a very useful way of keeping a dog safe and secure in your home. Many dogs, in fact, love their crates and consider them their personal retreats. Some dog experts theorize that this is a throwback to the behavior of their ancestors — who like wolves and foxes — would have lived in cozy, small dens.
But a crate can also be a jail sentence when not used properly. And that is why it’s so important to properly crate train a puppy.
Why Should You Listen To Me?
I have owned ten dogs, fostered four and, recently, helped my kids raise four grand puppies. Here is one of my grand puppies, Hachiko, getting into his crate at night at six months old.
I also volunteer at a no-kill rescue once a week.
I follow a number of breed-specific Facebook pages so that I can stay current on training tips and advice.
The following is the information you will need to raise a crate-loving puppy rather than one that is afraid of being caged up.
9 Tips for Puppy Training at Night with a Crate
If you’re a first-time crate user, you probably have a lot of questions — like where should puppy crate be at night? Or should you cover a puppy crate at night? Or should you close a puppy crate at night? How to get a puppy into a crate? No worries, the following is more detailed information on the Do’s and Don’ts of puppy training at night with a crate.
1. Crate size is important
Your new puppy’s crate should be just big enough for your fur baby to stand up, turn around with ease, move around a little and to lie down comfortably.
While this might sound a bit on the cramped side, there is a reason for this. Although there are a few exceptions, most dogs will not go to the bathroom in the same area that they sleep. So, while you might feel the urge to buy your pup a larger crate, resist that temptation. Otherwise, you could end up with unwanted messes to clean up in the morning.
If you hate the idea of having to buy new crates as your pup grows, you might want to consider the crate that I bought for Kuzy. It was a wire crate with a divider that could be moved to enlarge the space he lived in as he grew.
For our recommendation on the best crates specifically for puppies, you can go here.
2. Introduce the crate to your puppy during the day
Before you can get your puppy sleeping in a crate at night, you need to introduce your new fur baby to its enclosure during the day.
To do this, experts recommend you put a few chew toys, like Kongs, that you can fill with treats into the crate. Then when your pup is hungry, you can encourage it to go in the crate to enjoy its treat.
3. Tire your pup out
Some people make the mistake of allowing their puppies to sleep too much during the day, and then they wonder why their baby is full of energy and wanting to play at night.
Exercise is important for young pups.
No, this doesn’t mean you should take it on long walks (and, in fact, young puppies should only go on very limited jaunts). But you should definitely play with your puppy so it can get its sillies out before bedtime.
Of course, you don’t want to get your fur baby all riled up just before crating them. So, it’s best to end playtime approximately 30 minutes to 1 hour before you crate your puppy for the night.
4. Take your puppy out for a bathroom break before crating
It doesn’t matter if it’s raining, snowing or freezing cold, you still need to take your pup out to pee before crating it.
And you can’t just open the front door and send your pup out into the yard and hope it will go to the bathroom. You will need to stand with your fur baby and encourage it to go to the bathroom.
And if your puppy successfully goes to the bathroom, make sure to praise it.
5. Take your pup out every couple of hours to go to the bathroom.
Puppies have tiny bladders. So how long should you crate a puppy at night without worrying about an accident? The general rule of thumb is that your pup can hold its urine for approximately one hour for every month of age.
And, again, you cannot just set the pup outside and hope that it will understand that it should go to the bathroom. You need to walk with your puppy and encourage it to go to the bathroom.
6. Provide your puppy with comforting items
Remember, dogs are pack animals, and your puppy has suddenly been taken away from its mom and littermates.
So, while it may seem like your puppy hates its crate, it’s probably just very lonely. A solution? Provide your puppy with something comforting.
For example, dog experts often recommend asking your breeder for a piece of fabric that contains the scent of your puppy’s mother on it. My breeder sent home a sock filled with hair clippings from Kuzy’s mother.
Other experts recommend giving your pup a warm hot water bottle wrapped in a towel or placing a ticking clock in the crate.
Even better? I bought a Snuggle Puppy, which is a stuffed animal that contains a little device that simulates a dog’s heartbeat. Because I have a puppy cam, I was able to see how this toy worked at soothing Kuzy. When I would put him in his crate, Kuzy would cry for a few minutes, but then he would settle down next to the Snuggle Puppy and fall asleep.
Dog experts also recommend placing their favorite toy in their crate at night. Which toys are the best? Check out this article.
However, if your puppy is an aggressive chewer, I would think twice about leaving anything that can be totally destroyed in their crate overnight.
7. Create a den
A wolf or fox den is usually small, dark and cozy. So, to create that den-like atmosphere, experts recommend covering a puppy crate at night.
Make their crate warm and comfortable. What are the best ways to keep puppies warm in their crate at night? Read my guide here.
As to the question of where to put a puppy crate at night — this is a bit tricky.
You want the puppy to be close enough to you so that you can hear it cry when it needs to go to the bathroom.
But should a puppy crate be in the bedroom? If everyone is on board with being awakened several times during the night, the bedroom is one of the best locations for a dog crate. Your pup will appreciate being close to you and knowing that you are nearby.
Should you leave water with your puppy overnight in their crate? No. This article explains why.
What about water in their crate during the daytime?
8. Be patient
Believe me. I know it’s hard when a puppy keeps crying in a crate at night or makes a mess in its enclosure. But patience is key. Don’t yell or scold your puppy for soiling its crate or for barking or crying. Instead, try to figure out what is causing your pup’s behavior and seek ways to rectify those issues.
9. Don’t expect miracles
So, you’ve followed all the tips and you can still hear your puppy howling in a crate at night. So what do you do?
If you’ve given your pup items to soothe it and have taken it out to the bathroom, you may have to simply ignore your puppy screaming in a crate at night.
Yes, I said to ignore your puppy crying.
It can be hard on your nerves.
But just like babies, puppies can learn that if they cry, you will reward them by giving them attention. So, as hard and cruel as it may sound, you need to leave that puppy alone.
Your fur baby needs to learn how to cope with being on its own for short periods of time.
Quick Fix – What Should I Do When….
Here are some very common situations that can arise when puppy training at night with a crate.
My puppy pees in the crate at night?
If a puppy pees in a crate at night, you may have chosen too big of an enclosure.
If that’s not the problem, you may need to make some changes in your schedule. For instance, cut back on the amount of water you give your pup right before it goes in the crate.
You may also need to take your puppy out to relieve itself more frequently during the night.
My new puppy won’t stop barking in a crate at night?
It can be devastating to hear your new puppy crying in a crate at night, but if you give into its howling and barking and let it out of its enclosure, you’ll be rewarding your fur baby for this behavior. Instead, when your puppy cries, take it outside to go to the bathroom. If it doesn’t have to urinate or defecate, immediately put your pup back into its crate for the night.
My puppy hates crate at night
If your pup is crying or whining non-stop while in its enclosure, you may think it hates its crate. But the truth is your fur baby probably doesn’t hate the crate. It just wants to get out to play or be with you. So, try to ignore your pup if you’ve already taken it out to go to the bathroom.
My puppy won’t sleep in the crate at night
If your puppy won’t fall asleep in its crate, check to make sure that you’ve followed our advice. For instance, are you covering your puppy’s crate at night so that you aren’t accidentally keeping it awake? And have you been exercising your pup to make sure it’s tired at bedtime?
My puppy won’t stay in the crate at night
Some puppies are excellent at breaking loose from their crates.
If you have one of these puppy Houdinis and you are keeping them in a flimsy crate, it may be time to upgrade to a heavy-duty enclosure.
You may also have to reinforce the sides of your crate with zip ties and/or secure the latch with a clip or a padlock.
I once fostered a dog with super separation anxiety. He managed to get his crate’s latch unfastened on his first day in my house. So, I had to use a clip on the latch to ensure that he wouldn’t break out again!
My puppy is panting in a crate at night
If you discover your puppy panting in its crate, it’s probably because it has worked itself into a little tizzy, barking and howling. To help cool your puppy down, check that you’ve placed the crate is in a cool and well-ventilated spot. You may also want to offer your pup a little water.
Commonly Asked Questions about Crating
Should I be leaving a puppy crate open at night? Or should I lock puppy in the crate at night?
Contrary to what some people think, locking puppy in the crate at night is not cruel. So, yes, you should close your puppy’s crate at night for both your fur baby’s and your house’s sake and safety.
But you don’t need to padlock the crate unless your pup is a puppy Houdini, as I mentioned before.
Should I cover my puppy’s crate at night with a blanket that is heavy, so it won’t move?
A heavy blanket over your puppy’s crate is not a good idea. Your fur baby needs good airflow in its crate. So it’s best to cover puppy crate with a blanket that is lightweight or a sheet or using a proper crate cover.
How long should you crate a puppy at night?
As discussed before, a puppy can typically hold its pee for one hour for each month of its age. But if your puppy does not wake up on its own, your fur baby may be able to stay in its crate for a longer period of time at night
My puppy is refusing to enter his crate? How to get the puppy into the crate?
A slow introduction to the crate is important.
If you shove your pup into the crate, lock it and then leave it in the dark on its first night, your pup is probably going to be frightened by the thought of going back into its enclosure. Remember, it’s important to create a positive association of the crate in your puppy’s mind. You can start by either feeding your pup in the crate during the day or just encouraging your pup to enter the enclosure with a treat-filled Kong toy.
When to put the puppy in the crate at night?
Don’t put your puppy into its crate at night until you’ve given it plenty of exercise and allowed it to go to the bathroom outside. You also don’t want to put your fur baby in its crate too early. Otherwise, you’re likely to hear your puppy crying several times during the night while you’re trying to sleep.
Should you cover your puppy’s crate at night?
Covering a crate can help calm a puppy down since it can’t see the activity going on around it. In fact, many puppies begin to understand that when a blanket or sheet is covering its cage, it is time to go to sleep.
Where should you put your puppy’s crate at night? Should the puppy crate be in the bedroom?
It’s a common question — where should you put the puppy crate at night?
The Humane Society recommends that you place the crate either in your bedroom or in a hallway near you so that you can hear it cry if it needs to go to the bathroom. Of course, that won’t work for everyone. Take my family, for instance. Since my husband has to get up early for work and I have a more flexible schedule as a freelance writer, we decided that it would be best if I slept in the living room with our crated puppy.
What crate do I recommend for puppies?
You can read my comprehensive guide here.
Other Useful Resources
If you have a puppy, you may want to read other articles we’ve published here at Outdoor Dog Fun.
- Is your puppy pooping in their crate at night? Read this article.
- Exercise limits for Golden Retriever puppies
- Harness vs. collar? What’s best for a puppy?
- Swimming pools and puppies: good or bad idea?