How to Crate Train a Puppy -13 Easy Steps

How to crate train a puppy
Photo: Tim Johnson, Kingsport Humor | Flickr

When figuring out how to crate train a puppy, it may seem like an impossible task but in reality, it’s not too difficult. The important thing to keep in mind is that the training should help to make your puppy feel safe, relaxed, and content in and around the crate.

Even though it can be a lengthy process, crate training, like any training, requires love and patience.

Consistency and repetition are key to getting the best results and following these steps will help you navigate crate training a little bit easier.

13 steps on how to crate train a puppy

1. Select the right crate

Before you even begin asking how to crate train a puppy, you can make your job far simpler by picking the proper crate. Two factors matter when selecting a crate, the first being your puppy’s preferences, the other being the breed’s requirements.

You will have a far harder time training your puppy to like its crate if it has to switch crates as it grows. Try and find a crate that will fit your puppy’s adult size, rather than its current size.

Another aspect to consider is how your puppy likes to sleep; if they like a dog bed or toys, you may want to account for more room as well.

2. Make the crate comfortable

This is where knowing what your puppy likes and needs come into play. You need to be patient and slowly introduce new elements into the crate since it is all trial and error.

Some dogs prefer sleeping on hard surfaces to stay cool or just because it is more comfortable. Other dogs much prefer dog beds, pillows, and soft surfaces to sleep on.

While you can do some research about the breed, no one online will give you as accurate of information as your puppy itself.

Your puppy may rip apart a bed or toy you put in the crate, but this is just its way of showing you its discomfort so be patient and keep trying.

3. Reward your puppy for going into the crate

With all dog training, the positive association goes a long way and crate training is no different. Whenever your puppy goes in the crate give it a treat.

A great way to get your puppy used to staying in the crate for more extended periods is to provide it with bones or any treat that will take some time to finish.

Overall, the crate should be a positive experience. Even if you lead your puppy there with a bone and then it doesn’t stay in, it just shows that the crate will bring it rewards, which will go a long way.

4. Establish a positive mindset

To further the power of positive reinforcement with dog training, establish positivity around the crate. It is generally best to associate the crate with a restful and relaxed mindset. A great time to lead your puppy to its crate is after a walk or playtime when tired.

Avoid bringing your puppy to its crate when its having fun playing. Interrupting play with crate time will cause your puppy to associate the crate with a gloomy place that removes it from play. Try and make sure they are not restless and instead tire them out with fun exercise beforehand.

5. Play games around the crate

When you start asking how to crate train a puppy, you need to start by asking how you can get your puppy in the crate at all.

In the beginning, you want to make sure every single experience your puppy has around the crate is the best possible. A practical method of getting your puppy to like the crate is to have fun games that will make it want to go in on its own.

You do not want to get your puppy riled up thinking it will get to play, throw a ball in the crate and close your puppy in; that is a surefire way to make it hate the crate. Instead, throw the ball in the crate casually when playing fetch. This way, it will have a reason to go in, and though it will come right out, your puppy will start to associate the crate with positive times.

6. Take off its collar in the crate

puppy crate training

Even if you are simultaneously training your puppy to be okay wearing a collar, take off its collar every time it goes in the crate. Not only will this make the puppy more comfortable in the crate, but it is also safer. Tags can easily get caught on the crate, which may not only cause a choking hazard but also terrify your puppy of ever going back in.

7. Keep your eye on them at first

Though you may want to leave your puppy in the crate alone eventually, please do not leave it in the crate without keeping an eye on it initially. Puppies may want to leave their crates for many different reasons, from being nervous to potty breaks.

One bad experience when your puppy gets restless, hungry, or when it has to use the bathroom can make training it to like the crate a nightmare.

Generally, keep your eye on your puppy and watch for signs that it wants to leave, even if you are keeping it in the crate for 5 minutes.

8. Feed your puppy in the crate

Though not all agree, many owners choose to feed their pups inside the crate. As puppies love eating, this will add another positive association with the space.

If your puppy is comfortable entering the crate, feel free just to put the bowl inside the crate and then let it enter on its own.

On the other hand, if your puppy is still hesitant about going in the crate, gradually move the bowl closer for every meal. When your puppy can finally eat its meal in the crate, do not close the door if it is still scared.

Do everything you can to make your puppy feel secure so that you create a positive association with the crate. When you can finally close the door, make sure to open it as soon as your puppy is finished eating.

9. Place the crate in a good spot

Where you put the crate is really up to you; however, some places will make it more comfortable for your puppy. Avoid placing the crate under a window or next to a radiator that will cause your puppy to overheat.

Mostly try to avoid anything that will make your puppy too uncomfortable to enjoy its time in the crate. It will also be helpful if you avoid putting the crate in a high traffic area as your puppy will continuously be woken up or excited.

10. Slowly distance yourself from the crate

Generally, if your puppy is crying when in the crate, it is because it does not want to be left alone, so this tip is perfect if you have a crying pup.

However, you should not start this training method until your puppy is more used to being in the crate, so it will not mind your closing the crate door while it is inside.

Essentially, have your puppy go in the crate, close the door and walk a distance away, then go back, open the crate, and give it a treat. You want to repeat this, slowly increasing your distance until your puppy does not feel stressed anymore.

Do not push it and leave the room if your puppy is visibly stressed or crying. Eventually, it will learn to feel safe and comfortable when you are away, which will help it stop crying when left alone in the crate.

11. Start with very short periods in the crate

Once your puppy is okay with you leaving the room, you can slowly increase the amount of time that you are away. Start with very short periods, increments as small as 15-30 seconds are enough to get your puppy used to being in the crate alone.

Slowly you can increase your time by 15-second intervals; however, if your puppy is crying, take a break; you want it to feel comfortable in the crate, not stressed.

12. Go out for short periods at first

Once your puppy’s time in the crate has slowly been increased to a few minutes you can slowly start going out for short periods.

Generally, the first few times, you want to be within earshot to ensure that your puppy isn’t suffering. Once you can get to 15 minutes or more while you are in the house, try leaving the house for a short period.

You want to do this in small steps, so go to the grocery store, not for a full night out. It can also help to use a recording device such as a security camera. This will give you an idea of your puppy’s stress levels, are they relaxed and sleeping or anxious and pacing.

Even if you are watching them on a camera, still only go out for short periods at first, you want to make sure your puppy knows you are coming home.

A great way to ensure your puppy gets used to full days in the crate is to introduce a crate training schedule slowly. Basically, have your puppy go in the crate at the time you would typically be going out and gradually build up its tolerance.

For example, if you plan to leave it in the crate for 4 hours at 9 in the morning, then every morning at 9, leave it in the crate for a short period. You can work your way up by 15-minute increments every day until your puppy can handle four hours away.

If you are instead wondering how to crate train a puppy for the night time, the same rule applies. You want to slowly build up its crate time at a scheduled time every night until the puppy can sleep in it through the night.

13. Be patient

The most important thing to remember when you are trying to teach your puppy anything new is to be patient. The amount of time crate training takes depends on your dog’s age and how you introduce the concept.

Generally, with puppies, crate training will take 2-3 months until they are more comfortable with being left alone in the crate. That being said, especially with young puppies, prepare yourself for six months or more before leaving them in the crate when you go to work.


Just remember, puppies can pick up on your temperament quite quickly, so stay calm and patient, and they will slowly learn the crate is nothing to fear.

Conclusion

If you started this journey wondering how to crate train a puppy, hopefully, this list of tips helped give you an idea of how to start and showed it’s not as impossible of a task as it may seem.

While crate training can be quite a long process, it does not have to be a painful one at all. Just remember to stay patient and keep calm, and with some time, you may even laugh at how much your puppy loves its crate compared to the initial days.