How to Crate Train a Puppy: A Complete Guide

Crate training a puppy is an essential process for both new and experienced dog owners. When implemented correctly using positive reinforcement methods, it can help potty train your pup, ease separation anxiety, prevent destructive behaviors, and give your dog a safe space to call their own.

“Crate training utilizes a dog’s natural instinct to seek out a safe, enclosed space.”

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Let’s get started on mastering crate training your new furry friend!

Why Should You Crate Train Your Puppy?

Crate training a puppy offers immense benefits for both pet parent and puppy by:

  • Aiding potty training through a puppy’s instinct to keep their space clean
  • Providing a secure retreat that becomes a comfort zone
  • Preventing destructive behaviors when unsupervised
  • Easing separation anxiety and distress
  • Establishing lifelong good habits like confinement tolerance
  • Giving pet parents peace of mind knowing their puppy is safe

As you can see, crate training offers major management and housebreaking advantages. Now, let’s dive into how to select the right crate for your puppy…

How to Choose the Best Crate for a Puppy?

Selecting an appropriately sized crate improves training success. Measure your puppy’s length from nose to rump. Add 12 inches for full-grown size. Other crate selection tips:

  • Wire Crates: Allow air flow and are easy to clean. Can use a divider panel to adjust space as your puppy grows.
  • Plastic Crates: Offer more enclosed den-like feel and can be used for air travel. Limit consecutive hours inside to prevent overheating.
  • Right Fit: Large enough for your puppy to stand, turn around, and lie down. But not so big he can potty in one corner and sleep in the other.
dog crate type, wire crate, plastic crate,

Avoid crates with wire bottoming without a tray. These can cause foot injuries. Place a soft blanket or dog bed inside for comfort.

During initial training, put treats, toys, and your pup’s food bowl inside the crate to build positive associations. Feeding your puppy his meals in the crate speeds up training.

Let’s review the process of crate training a puppy…

Crate Training a Puppy (Complete Process)

When crate training a puppy, following a step-by-step progression is key to preventing anxiety and distress. Move through these steps gradually:

Introducing Your Puppy to His Crate

Make a new puppy’s first exposure to his crate a positive experience. Moving too fast can cause fear and resistance. Here are tips for introduction:

1. Place Treats Near and Inside the Crate

Drop treats around and just inside the open crate door. Let your puppy wander over and discover them. As he becomes comfortable going inside, throw treats further back into the crate so he goes all the way in.

2. Feed Your Puppy His Meals Inside

After your puppy readily enters his crate for treats, start feeding him his regular kibble meals inside. This builds more positive associations.

3. Reward Entering the Crate

When your puppy is fine entering his crate, command “kennel up” or “crate” and give treats for compliance. Always reward with praise and treats.

4. Randomly Toss Treats In

Occasionally throw treats into the crate when your puppy isn’t looking to encourage him to check it frequently. This builds anticipation.

Take crate introduction slowly. Rushing can frighten your pup and undermine training.

“Make a puppy’s first crate experiences positive ones. Rushing introduction can frighten them.”

Once your puppy reliably enters his crate and eats inside, you’re ready to try briefly closing the door.

Closing the Crate Door

After your puppy is comfortable going inside his crate, start briefly closing the door:

puppy inside the closed crate, crate training,

Step 1: With your puppy inside, close the door and immediately reopen it. Repeat a few times while praising him.

Step 2: Work up to closing the door for a few seconds before opening it. Gradually increase time with door closed from 5 seconds to 30 seconds.

Step 3: Next, latch the door for a minute or two while sitting right beside the crate. Longer times when your puppy is relaxed and resting.

Step 4: Finally, close the crate door when standing further away or out of sight for short periods.

Go slowly only progressing durations if your puppy remains relaxed and quiet. If he cries, reduce times and build back up.

During initial training, place the crate in your main living area. Avoid isolating him in another room. Your presence helps him adjust. Now let’s go over troubleshooting whining during crate training.

Handling Crate Training Whining

Some whining during early crate training is normal as your puppy tests this new confinement. Correctly responding to whining prevents reinforcement of crying behavior. Here are tips:

  • Ignore Minor Fussing: For initial mild whining, ignore your puppy. Reward silence with praise and treats.
  • Don’t Release When Crying: Always wait for your puppy to quiet before opening the crate, even for a few seconds. This prevents reinforcing whining.
  • Provide Reassurance: If whining escalates, say “quiet” calmly and place fingers through crate openings to reassure your puppy.
  • Use Background Noise: Try placing the crate near household activities and use a fan or white noise to minimize frantic cries.
  • Avoid Responding to Howling: Never open the crate when your puppy is in a state of panicked howling. This strongly reinforces the behavior.
  • Adjust Training: If your puppy remains distressed, go back to shorter crate times and more treats to rebuild positive associations.

With consistency and patience, your puppy will learn the crate is nothing to fear.

Using Crates for Enforced Naptimes (Schedule)

Puppies need lots of sleep totaling 18-20 hours per day. However, excited puppies can fight sleep and become unruly without enforced naps. Place your overstimulated puppy in his crate for mandated rest periods using these guidelines:

AgeDaytime Nap DurationOvernight Sleep Duration
Puppies Under 3 MonthsUp to 2 hours naptime followed by 1 hour of playtime and interaction.6-8 hours overnight. Take out once.
Puppies 4-6 Months1-2 hours naptime.8 hours overnight.
Puppies Over 6 Months1-2 hours naptime for mental recharging.10 hours overnight once potty trained.

Adjust confinement times based on your individual puppy’s tolerance and rest needs. Enforcing naps prevents overtired behavior problems.

Crate Training Adult Dogs and Older Puppies

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Crate training becomes more challenging with undisciplined adult dogs and untrained older puppies. But it’s still possible with patience and persistence. Follow these tips:

Start From Scratch

Don’t assume your adult dog is crate trained. Start from the beginning with treats, feeding meals inside, and short sessions with the door closed.

Exercise First

Before crating periods, thoroughly exercise your adult dog physically and mentally. This prevents restlessness and anxiety.

Use Dog-Proof Room

If your adult dog struggles with crate training, opt for confining him to a dog-proof room on a trial basis instead.

Increase Incrementally

Progress very slowly from seconds to minutes when closing the crate door. Short, frequent sessions work best.

Give Interactive Toys

Place tasty chews or puzzle toys inside to occupy your adult dog’s mind during confinement.

Start crate training from scratch with adult dogs using exercise, frequent short sessions, and interactive toys inside.

Troubleshooting Common Crate Training Issues

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Despite your best efforts, sometimes crate training encounters speed bumps. Here are solutions to common problems:

Whining or barking: Ignore mild vocalizations. Never release your pup when he’s loudly protesting. Ensure his needs are met beforehand and use background noise to self-soothe.

Accidents in the crate: Close off excess crate room or use a divider. Avoid leaving puppy in crate too long. Thoroughly clean crate with enzymatic odor remover after accidents.

Escaping the crate: Ensure crate is properly closed and secured. Consider a crate with a roof if your puppy tries to jump out the top. Manage excitement levels before crating.

Refusing to enter: Backtrack training with high-value treats to rebuild positive associations. Feed all meals inside the crate. Exercise puppy beforehand so he’s tired.

Hates the crate when left: May have separation anxiety. Try confining to a small room instead. Give stimulating toys. Use synthetic pheromone diffusers to induce calm.

Be patient and consistent addressing problems. With time, your puppy will successfully master his crate training.

Tips for Smoother Crate Training

Following best practices from the start prevents many issues:

  • Choose the right size crate with room to stand and turn around but not excess space.
  • Furnish with soft bedding and toys to create a den atmosphere.
  • Use food, treats, and praise to motivate your puppy during training.
  • Start with brief sessions of just a few seconds to establish confidence.
  • Gradually increase time spent in the crate through positive reinforcement.
  • Directly supervise or use confinement when you can’t actively watch your puppy.
  • Thoroughly exercise your puppy before crating periods.
  • Respond calmly to any vocalizations to avoid reinforcing.
  • Be patient and consistent as your puppy adjusts.


I hope that this comprehensive guide has given you the confidence to effectively train your new puppy or adult dog using a crate. It is important to take things slowly, reward good behavior, and handle any reluctance with patience and consistency.

Successfully crate training your dog will set them up for a lifetime of good habits, so it is important to stick with it. Soon enough, your dog will come to appreciate their crate as a peaceful retreat.

For more puppy tips, check out these articles:

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