Crate Training Your Puppy: The Key To A Pee-Free Home

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Puppy laying crateCrate training, when done effectively, can be a helpful tool. Not only does it provide your new puppy with a sense of safety and stability, it also provides you, as a new puppy owner, with a way to establish order and rule in your home. Implemented and followed through with correctly, crate training is a win for all parties involved – especially for your puppy.

The Crate Philosophy

Dogs are naturally den animals. In the wild, a dog’s den is their home, a safe space where he can sleep, retreat, and raise pups without fear of danger, without outside threat. For a domesticated dog, a crate fulfills this natural need for a safe haven. If introduced and used correctly, the crate will be where your dog willingly chooses to sleep, hide when it storms, and quite possibly, lay around in for no other reason other than it’s their very own space.

Why is Crate Training Your Puppy Beneficial?

There are a few, great reasons to crate train your dog.

House Training

Because your domesticated dog will treat their crate just as a wild dog would treat their den, he will not want to soil their sleeping space. Therefore, you can be sure that, if at all possible, your dog will not have an accident in their crate, so when you let them out of their crate to go outside, he will naturally seize that opportunity to relieve themself. While there are other methods of house training your puppy, this is a very instinctual transition, requiring mainly that you take your puppy out of their crate at reasonable intervals to use the restroom. This way, your puppy will pretty easily, and perceptively, pick up that he is expected to do their business outside, not in.

Learn more about housebreaking a puppy

Transporting

By familiarizing your puppy with a crate early on, you’re not only creating an easy avenue for house training, you’re also allowing them to become comfortable with their future means of transportation. A crate is a great way to transport your pup – whether it’s a short trip to the vet or a big move across country – and by familiarizing your pup with a crate early on, you’ll make travel a lot easier and more comfortable for your canine companion.

Teaching

Just like humans need rules to help us understand our place and our boundaries, so do dogs. Crate training is an excellent way to establish a hierarchy in your home while your pup is still learning what he can and cannot do. By placing your pup in a crate while you’re away, or when you’re at home and can’t be as attentive as you might need to be, you limit their access to your home and circumvent opportunities for your dog to chew your furniture or have an accident on your living room rug. Therefore, when you actually let your pup have free run of your home, it will be at a time when you’re able to reprimand them appropriately for any bad behavior that occurs, and he’ll quickly learn not only that their crate is their very own space, but that the rest of the house is their Alpha’s space.

Choosing a Great Crate for Your Dog

Not all crates are created equal. While there are several types of crates to choose from, you’ll want to make sure the one you choose is the best size and fit for your furry friend. The two most popular crate types are plastic and metal crates.

Plastic Dog Crates

Editor’s Pick
Petmate Two Door CratePetmate Two Door Crate

Plastic crates are maybe not the first choice for an in-home crate as they provide less visibility to the pup that calls it home, however, if you plan to do quite a bit of travel by plane, this is a great option as all airlines require this type of crate to transport your animal. Plastic crates are also great for pups that need a little more security, or for a home that has a higher level of activity (think on-the-go kiddos), as it gives your pup a bit more privacy.

Metal Dog Crates

Editor’s Pick
MidWest iCrateMidWest iCrate

Wire, metal crates are a top pick for crate training for several reasons: Their mesh-like, collapsible structure makes them easy to disassemble and transport, and, when constructed, provides a high level of visibility and ventilation for your pup while in the crate. Like plastic crates, metal, wire crates are also easy to clean out should your pup have an accident in their home. Sturdy and often escape proof, these crates make a great option for growing dogs as you can purchase a larger size and easily close off the extra space with a divider while they’re smaller, removing it or moving it as they grow.

A Note on Crate Size

No matter which crate type suits you or your pup best, you’ll want to make sure that your dog has enough room to stand up and turn around in their home, but not so much room that they can soil their cage on one side, and sleep on the other, as that would negate any progress you make on the house training front. While a plastic crate would likely require you to continually upgrade as your pup grows, newer wire, metal cages are customizable with an included, movable divider, so the larger space you buy for them as a pup will also fit them as an adult.

Crate Training Guide

Once you’ve decided that crate training is for you, and which crate suits your canine companion best, it’s time to look at the actual process of crate training your pup. While the length of time it takes to crate train depends on your individual animal, his or her attitude, age, and past experiences, one thing’s for sure: you always want your dog to associate the crate with something pleasant. And even with the best dogs, baby steps are the best way to make this happen.

First: Make the Introduction

Before you ever try to get your pup to step foot in their new crate, or even step near it, place the crate in a room where your dog spends a lot of his or her time. Remove or open the crate door, so your dog feels secure about exploring the ins and outs of their soon-to-be home. If he naturally shy’s away, that’s okay. Don’t force your dog to become familiar, rather try sitting beside the crate, and speaking to your pup in a friendly tone, placing treats around, and then eventually inside the crate until he finally steps in. Placing a familiar blanket or toy inside the crate is also a great way to entice them to enter.

Second: Make It A Dinner Date

Once your pup is comfortable entering, exiting, and spending a little time inside the crate – doors open, of course – start feeding your dog their meals inside their new home. Depending on his or her comfort level, place the food all the way at the back (for very comfortable) or around the middle (for dogs that are still a little wary). When your pup is eating inside comfortably, begin closing the door – just while he’s eating – opening immediately after he finishes. From there, work your way up to your pup spending up to 10 minutes in their crate with the door closed after finishing their dinner.

A Note on Whining

If your pup begins whining at this stage, it could be a sign that you’ve moved too fast. Return to a length of time where he’s comfortable without whining and move forward from there. If he does whine, do not let your dog out unless he stops or he will begin to associate whining with being let out. This is not a habit you want to start or perpetuate.

Third: Make It a Short Stay

When your pup is eating and spending a short period in their crate following a meal without any sign of distress, it’s time to start crating your pup for short periods while you’re at home. Call your dog over to the crate with a treat and an accompanying command – many use “kennel” or “kennel up” – and once your dog is inside, give them another treat, shut the door, and sit quietly with your pup for a few minutes before letting them out, giving them praise and another treat. From here, slowly add in minutes when you are away from the crate until your pup is comfortable with you being out of sight for 20-30 minutes. From here, you may begin leaving the house with your dog crated for short periods of time.

A Note on Returning Home

When returning home to a crated dog, keep it low key. Don’t encourage their excitement by responding to them in the same way. Come in quietly, don’t go immediately to your dog’s crate, and when you do a few minutes later, do so casually and calmly.

Fourth: Make it An Extended Stay (Or Even Overnight)

Whether it’s taken you seven days, or seven weeks for your dog to achieve this level of comfort, at this point, you can begin leaving your dog in their crate for extended periods or overnight as long as he or she shows no signs of anxiety. Other than keeping with the system you already have in place, a few tips for longer stays include:

  • Vary when you crate your pup. If you always “crate and leave,” your pup might begin to associate their kennel with being alone. Crating them anywhere from immediately prior to leaving to up to ten minutes before you leave will remind your pup that’s not always the case.
  • Keep him or her close at night. At least at first. Once your pup knows being crated at night is not a punishment or a form of social isolation, and that you’re still nearby, you can gradually move their kennel to the location you’d prefer.

Video: More Crate Training Advice

Here’s a quick one-minute video from the dog whisper himself Cesar Milan who demonstrates a few tricks to help.

A few other pointers to keep in mind:

  • When a dog whines in a crate, take them outside to eliminate, not to play. If he does not go potty, ignore their whining until he stops. If not, you will be training your dog to whine just to play or get out of the crate.
  • Never make the crate a place of punishment.
  • Do not yell or bang the crate around.
  • Puppies shouldn’t be left inside the crate for more than a few hours. They can’t hold their bowels and bladders for longer than that.
  • Dogs aren’t meant to be crated day and night. They need social interaction. If you find your schedule requires you pup to be crated for more time than is acceptable, try adding doggie daycare or a dog walker into his or her routine.

Good luck and happy crate training!

What’s your experience been like with crate training?

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Sara is a writer for Canine Journal. She adores dogs and recently adopted a rescue pup named Beamer. Whole she may be adjusting to life with another being to care for, she needed no time to adjust to all the extra love.

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Ariel
How do I transition my pup from kennel to being free? I’m so afraid of her peeing in the house while I’m not looking. She does very well in her kennel. I let her roam the house and she uses the bathroom in the backyard. However, I don’t know if she’s willing to wait for me to open the back door or she’s just going to pee in the house. I clock her bladder but I’m ready for her to let me know when she has to go. At times, I am letting her in the yard but she doesn’t have to use the bathroom. I rather let her out to the bathroom 6-10 times a day oppose to waiting for her to tell me. I am just tired of her not telling me. I don’t want to be upset with her so to avoid that I just let her out about every two hours un until 9:30. Her last meal is at 8pm. What to do?
Anita
I have a 4 month old terrier/Chihuahua mix. I got him at 2 months old. He will sleep in the crate overnight. He will go in the crate during the day by himself. My problem is that he is still peeing and pooping all over my house. I take him out in the morning, I take him out about every 1 and 1/2 to two hours. I don’t want to keep him in his crate all the time but if he is in the house and not in constant view he is peeing or pooping. And you wouldn’t believe how fast he is at it. If I take him out more often he just plays. I’ve crate trained dogs before and never had this problem. Please help
Ariel
I had this problem with my Chihuahua/Yorkie mixed. I moved her kennel by the back door. The backyard is where she uses the bathroom. I allowed her to stay in the yard for one hour per bathroom break. I monitored her intake. I noticed that after each meal she immediately used the bathroom- doing a number 1 and 2. I would never leave her food out because I wouldn’t be able to monitor her bathroom break. I fed her twice to 3xs a day with plenty of treats for using the bathroom outside. I treated her as soo as she walked back in the house- but that’s only if she actually used the bathroom. I hope this helps. House breaking a puppy can be frustrating.
Tricia
What I’m trying to understand is how do I keep puppy safe/keep from potting at night if I don’t keep him in the crate at night? We brought our puppy home a week ago and he’s slept in the crate since the first night. Outside of the first night, he’s slept through (10p-6a). I stayed downstairs with him the first 3 or 4 nights and moved him further into the kitchen each night. I’ve moved back up to my bedroom the last 3 nights. He yelps 5-10 minutes and then goes to sleep. Occasionally I put him in the crate during the day (preparing meals, using the bathroom). Am I doing more harm than good because he wasn’t introduced more gradually?
Jessica
My puppy is now 9 months old and still pees in his crate no matter what we have tried. He goes out multiple times in the morning and in the evening and still does it, what can we do to prevent this?
Michelle Schenker (Admin)
I would suggest that you talk with and probably meet with a dog trainer in your local area who can help you with this training concern.
Ariel
Use a smaller crate. However, because your pup is use to peeing freely, transitioning will require more of your attention. You will have to take your pup out for multiple bathroom breaks. Then gradually increase the crate time. All up until your pup can hold its bladder for about 8-9 hours. Giving treats as soon as your pup finish using the bathroom outside, give a favorite treat. I wouldn’t give my pup a treat if she didn’t use the bathroom during her bathroom break. My pup is now 5 months old and the last accident in our home was when she was 2 months old. It was my fault tho. I forgot to take her to the bathroom before taking her upstairs for her bath. She accidentally pooped upstairs. She didn’t know how to use the stairs yet. But she is an awesome pup. I love her. She respects me and what I ask her to do.
Debbie Oke
Hi, just adopted a Yorkie 4days ago. She is 12 weeks old. Just got a crate for her today. I live in a Seniors/Assisted Living apartment. Of course noise at night is very much undesirable. I have put her in the bathroom the first night (of course with bed, food & water, toys & pee pads.) I don’t know how 2 pounds of puppy can make that much noise. I let it go for a bit and then thought of eviction. Didn’t know what to do so let her out. What a mess in the morning from a puppy who was supposed to be pad trained. Everywhere but on the pee pad. Next night tried to use a travel bag, lots of room and just screened in sides. Lots more noise so brought her in the bedroom, night light on but she didn’t stop whining except when she was barking. Finally gave up at 4am and let her out but in my bed. Last night closed the bedroom door, her bed at the end of mine. Still a no go. In my bed again. Now I know I can’t put her in the crate for the night straight away and she has been in the crate with a treat for as long as the treat lasts and I’m there. I walk away and out she goes. The question is, until I have her happy in the crate, where do i put her without a mess and her sleeping with me? HELP.
Michelle Schenker (Admin)
It might be worth reaching out to a local dog trainer to ask for assistance with your unique situation.
Robbie
Her situation is not unique. Your (and others)crate training procedure assumes that the dog has an established room where he’s used to hanging out with the family and that you’ve had him/her for a while. Bull! You have to start this procedure on the very day you bring the puppy home. Otherwise, the puppy will get used to being in your bed, will start a bad habit of peeing on the floor and learn that barking and yipping through the night brings rewards. Please update your method to show how it’s done on day 1, not over time!! Thank You.
joey power
hi my puppy is 17 weeks and does goodin crate but when time to get him out he pees
Clare
I have a little 16 week lab. I got her from 8 weeks and what a nightmare. Being the one who took her away from the little I became mum. I could not go anywhere without her howling. From day 1 I was going to create train. The first night was fine but then she was howling during g the day in there. She was always ok at night but then got in a habit of waking up at 0430am and barking and howling for my attention. You have to ignor! They need to learn that this is my house and my rules. My friend gave me a great creating routine where you wake up straight out to the toilet, then breakfast and plAy, then creat for 2 hrs, then straight out to the toilet, then creat for 2 hrs, then toilet then play time then create then toilet etc etc until bedtime. My puppy learnt after 3 days where the toilet was and now as long as the back door is open she takes herself outside. Self creates if she is tried nd sleeps all night until 0730-0800 in her create with the door shut no issues.
Skye Light
On the fourth day with an 8-9 week old Siberian Husky pup, and I’m just going to say it now: It gets better! I’m 15, he’s my first pup, and.. He wouldn’t touch the crate at first, and on the first day he actually had it too large. I made it much smaller, played games of “find the treat!” and have a cheese stuffed kong in there, and now he’s steadily getting used to it. Never close the door on him when he’s first exploring and checking it out, he should be free to accept it as his own place! He was sleeping outside the crate at night, now is slowly getting introduced… truthfully, I’m tired and hoping he’ll be able to make it through the night soon ^^; never has accidents in the room unless bladder is full and he can’t help it. Immediately cleaned when it does. But he’s still a little anxious for now. Hoping to ease him in soon- don’t give up!
Laura
One dog owner said she actually layed on the ground becide her whining pup. I was thinking that if all you concerned dog owners spent half as much time love and concern with humans as you do with your pets this world might be a better place. Maybe more respect for others and not so much crime. Who knows….maybe humans might like the love from other humans.
Jenn
Nice balance between humans and animals seeing as how I have kids and a husband. That was kinda judgemental from you.
Laura
I was thinking about getting a small dog. After reading dog owner comments I’ve changed my mind. All this emotional problem that the dogs hav and their owner trying desperately to solve them. Whew….my kids are grown. I don’t want to spend time trying to figure out a dogs nervous hang ups. I’ll just stick with my happy parakeets. They don’t seem to have emotional hang ups.
Artimas
So get out of here then.
Mel Pipikos
I have a boxer who is 8 weeks old. We are crate training her. She is fine in the crate eats her meals in there goes in by herself when she’s tired at night however it’s totally different. The first 2 nights were fine but night 3 and 4 she just keeps whining. If I leave her there she doesn’t settle an pushes hard against the bottom of the door bending it. We have tried having someone sleep next to the crate but it did help. What do I do? I’m very tired
Tawny
I recently adopted a 7 week old German Shepherd puppy and want to crate train him. I take him out every couple of hours to use the restroom and play with him. When I take him outside he’ll use the restroom and we praise him. However, as soon as we bring him in the house to play he eliminates randomly. They are little spots of pee. I suggested to my family that we only play with our pup outside so we don’t have these accidents. I’m afraid I’m confusing him, because if he’s not in the crate he’s outside. I don’t have experience crate training or house training.
Emily
I took my puppy from a dog foster home about a year ago. I love him to bits; he has a great personality, and I feel that he loves our family so much. BUT he poops in the house A LOT. . So, leaving home is always a challenge for us.
My husband and I were thinking about taking him to ‘doggy school’, but then again, it’s extremely expensive, and the nearest ‘doggy school’ is far away from us. Maybe you have some advice? THANK YOU!!!!
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
A few questions:
How old is he?
Have you gone through potty training with him?
Do you crate him when you’re away from the house?
Is he pooping in his crate or other places too?
Ash
Hello. Do you have more video tutorials on exactly how to crate train your puppy? They are invaluable. Thanks!
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
Hi there! We do not have any videos covering crate training but we’ll be sure to consider it as a potential new video idea! Good luck and thanks for the suggestion!
Felicia
My 2 month old Siberian husky would continuously whine when we put him in his cage at night. Come to find out his puppy bed smelt like his pee. PSA: DOGS DONT LIKE TO LAY WHERE THEY MARK.
canine
We have 2 Italian Greyhounds (12 weeks old). Instead of crate training, we have a closed in terrace that is their “crate area”. We have built them a large grass box for potty, but they don’t use it a lot. I’m home with them most of the time, so I am able to correct their mistakes, but night time or if we are out of the house, they don’t use it. What would be the best way to get them going in the correct spot at the times they aren’t being supervised?
We have a communal yard, but as they are only 12 weeks, they haven’t had all of their vaccinations and I don’t want to risk any infections – it is also a massive mud pit at the slightest spot of rain – so the indoor grass is the cleaner option for most part.
R&R
Hi-I have 2 nine month labs. Initially I didn’t crate train. like you I had a crate area as I was v uncomfortable about confinement to a small area. For weeks I was mopping out the garage where they slept every morning as they just created spaces to relieve themselves wherever they chose away from their baskets. In desperation I bought 2 large crates recommended for their breed.The garage where they sleep is attached to the side of our kitchen. It’s insulated and a great dog space. I followed the training guidelines to get them to accept the crates increasing the length of time in them with the door closed and they now go in without any problems and sleep in them from 11pm TIL 6am peacefully. The dominant dog did have a night of barking. I let him out twice to his toilet area but he didn’t relieve himself so I made it clear I was displeased with him and put him in and ignored him. He soon gave in when he realised he wouldn’t win. I would get the crates and put them inside to begin, moving them away from you when they are used to them. Good luck – hope things have improved for you.
Erica Waites
I recently adopted a 2 month old beagle/hound mix. I was having the issue of her crying in her crate at night. I decided to put a pair of my shorts in her crate and now she sleeps through the night. I guess she feels safer if she can smell me near her.
Mike in Sonoma
Something I’ve not been able to find on any of these instructions for crate training, when do you start the crate training? We start with puppy pads in the room that they’re going to spend their six week eight week on, we let them per and poop on the pads, at what point do you put them in the kennel, Start a schedule of sleep play and taking them out and expect them to only poop outside? In the past this is taking about seven days and my dogs were housebroken, my question is when do you start that?
Jean
7-8 weeks
Rachel Roslin
I got my 9 month old puppy from a shelter. Reason she was surrendered was because she was chewing up things, running away, and wasn’t good with other dogs. I can’t seem to potty train her still, she won’t stay in her crate, crys and pants bad. Chews up her bedding. We love her and want to help her be happy here, but she’s not making it easy. I’ve never had a dog this old to introduce to my family. Her past concerns me, and I want her future to be happy here…help
Jody B Braverman
Did you get any help? I’m afraid I don’t have much to offer, but I just wanted to say thank you for adopting a problem pup and sticking by her! I’m sure she will grow out of this phase and be a wonderful doggie.
Lucy Singleton
She sounds anxious. How long have you had her? I just adopted a 6.5 month old puppy from the shelter and we have been having to go very slowly with her until she gets used to us. She also has shown some barking and aggression. I think rescuing is great thing, but any big change is stressful for them even for the better. Calm talking, lots of love, and controlling her environment (not letting her in bedroom, keeping feeding times & bedtimes consistent) have helped me calm her down while she settles in. I read that sometimes you can’t really begin training until you develop trust with them and they calm down. Good luck!
Tracy
My 10 week old Labradoodle has no problem with his crate overnight and we leave it open during the day. The last few days he has wandered in and peed. He has never peed in it at night. Why is he doing it during the day? He is very good about peeing on his training pad the rest of the time. We live where it is very cold and haven’t started outdoor training other than a small bit.
Haley b
Our puppy didn’t need the treator the slow process as soon as I got it together she sniffed it went in laid down and went to sleep with the door closed… let her out as soon as she woke up about 15 Min later no issue. Now it’s night time put her in there after taking her out to potty and she is freaking out. I don’t want to let her out becuase she’s whining and I don’t want her to think that gets her out but she simply won’t stop. What can I do to help get her to stop? Or calm down??
Lori Trump
Hi, I’ve crate trained before, years ago. I just got a 3mos old rescue mix yesterday. He did good in his bedroom crate, but now I’m trying to leave him alone in his other crate…he is fine til I’m out of site. I ignore the barking, but even though I just took him outside to potty, he soiled everything in the 15 minutes, he was I there. Is is just nerves?
Paula Washio
I have been trying to crate train my puppy and it has been a NIGHTMARE!!! There is never a time where he doesn’t freak out when he’s in the crate. He voluntarily goes into the crate and even eats in the crate but as soon as it’s closed, he goes ballistic. Basically, we are stuck at Step 3. I can’t keep him in the crate at night because he wakes other people up from crying and barking constantly. What should I do? I’ve tried everything!!
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
I’m sorry this is such a nightmare for you. So you’ve tried putting him in for short periods of time while he eats a treat and he still freaks out?
Michelle Schreiber
My puppy is very anxious with his crate, so I’ve slowed things down. The first night we brought him home we put him in the crate at bedtime. He was whining, crying, and thrashing about. So much so that the crate moved. My puppy is only 3.2 pounds, he was very upset. So I slowed things down so he could get used to his crate and feel comfortable. I feed him all his meals in the crate, hide treats,etc. today was the first day he’s been hanging in there by choice. During the day I was able to close the door for his nap. But he still goes nuts if I close the doors at night. Your article didn’t explain where to have the puppy sleep while you are slowing down the crate training. Where should he sleep while he’s getting accustomed to his crate?
Thanks,
Michelle
Emily
Hi did you ever get an answer to this question? We’re about to get a puppy and want to crate train him but not sure what were meant to do with him at night…. Here it reads keep them closer but don’t shut the door…. We don’t really want him in our room with us. We’re a confused. Can you give any advice please? Really hope your puppy settled in the Ed end.
Emily
I have a 5 month old whoodle who pees in his crate and lays in it. He doesn’t even whine :(. During the day I keep him in our dog run outside with our other dog. At night he sleeps in his crate with no problem. But if I put him in his crate say while I’m making dinner or after dinner when the family is winding down, he will pee and I won’t know until I go to let him out. Do you think I need to keep him either in the crate or enclosed in the kitchen during the day instead of the dog run?? I was originally doing that but was getting sick of cleaning the kitchen floor every day so I switched to keeping him outside….but do you think he’s maybe not learning to hold it because he’s outside?? Although he holds it all night…I’m confused. I didn’t have any issues crate training with my labradoodle. HELP!!
Lucy Singleton
Hi! I think you’re exactly right! It seems like he is learning he doesn’t need to hold his pee during the the day. I just adopted a 6 month old dog and we’re working on something similar. I would try to keep him inside and let him out periodically so that he learns going outside is time to pee and being inside is not. Good luck!