Crate Training your Puppy

An airline shipping crate or wire crate provides guaranteed confinement of your puppy for reasons of security, safety, travel, and housetraining. Dogs love crates! It is their own private place in your home, a “security blanket.” The crate helps to satisfy the “den instinct” inherited from their ancestors. Destruction of household items and failure to housebreak are major reasons dogs eventually end up at the animal shelter, or worse situations.

The crate, when correctly and humanely used, has many advantages for both you and your pet:

For you:

  • Enjoy total peace of mind when leaving your dog at home alone, knowing that nothing can be soiled or destroyed and he is comfortable, protected, and not developing any bad habits.
  • Housebreak your dog quicker by using the close confinement of the crate to encourage control, establish a regular routine for outdoor elimination, and to help prevent “accidents” at night or when left alone.
  • Effectively confine your dog at times when he may be underfoot (meals, family activities, unexpected guests, workmen, etc), over-excited or bothered by too much activity, too many children, or illness.
  • Travel with your dog without risk of the driver becoming dangerously distracted, or the dog getting loose and hopelessly lost, and with the assurance that he can easily adapt to any strange surroundings as long as he has his familiar “security blanket” along.

For your dog:

  • Enjoy the privacy and security of a “den” of his own to which he can retreat when tired, stressed, or ill.
  • Avoid much of the fear/confusion/punishment caused by your reaction to problem behavior.
  • More easily learn to control his bowels and to associate elimination only with the outdoors.
  • Be spared the loneliness and frustration of having to be isolated (basement, garage, outside) from comfortable surroundings when being restricted or left alone.
  • Be conveniently included in family outings, visits, and trips instead of being left behind at home.

You want to enjoy your pet and be pleased with his behavior; likewise your dog wants little more from life than to please you. If given a chance, a dog crate can help make your relationship what each of you wants and needs it to be.

Crate Cost:

Even the most expensive dog crate is a bargain when compared to the cost of repairing or replacing a sofa, chair, woodwork, walls, or carpeting! Always buy one that is “airline approved.”

Crate Size:

A crate should always be large enough to permit the dog to stretch out flat on his side without being cramped, and to sit up without hitting his head on top. It is always better to use a crate a little too large rather than one a little too small. Measure the dog from the tip of his nose to the base of his tail. Allow for growth by adding about 12 inches; a crate too large can be made smaller by adding a partition. Remember that a crate too large for a puppy defeats its purpose of providing security and promoting bowel control.


Since one of the main reasons for using a crate is to confine a dog without making him feel isolated or banished, it should be placed in, or as close to, a “people” area, in a spot free from drafts and not too near a direct heat source. To provide an even greater sense of security and privacy, backing it into a corner can be beneficial. Admittedly, a dog crate is not a thing of beauty, but it can be forgiven as it proves how much it can help the dog to remain a welcome addition to the household.

Crating a Puppy:

A young puppy (8-16 weeks) should normally have no problem accepting a crate as his “own place.” Any complaining he may do at first is not caused by the crate; buy by his learning to accept the controls of his new environment. Actually the crate will help him adapt more easily and quickly to his new world.

For bedding, use an old towel or blanket that can be easily washed. Avoid using newspaper or “puppy pads” under the crate or as bedding as the odor they produce may encourage elimination in the crate. Puppies should not be fed in the crate and will only tip over a bowl of water.

Make it clear to all family members that the crate is not a playhouse. It is meant to be a “special place” for the puppy, whose rights should be recognized and respected. You should, however, accustom the puppy from the start to letting you reach into the crate at any time, lest he become overprotective of it.

Establish a “crate routine” immediately, closing the puppy in it at regular intervals during the day (his own chosen nap times can be a good guide) and whenever he must be left alone for up to 3-4 hours. Give him an indestructable chew toy for distraction and be sure to remove collars and tags which could get caught in an opening.

The puppy should be shown no attention while in the crate. Dogs tend to be much better psychologists that their owners; often training their owners instead of vice versa. Any attention shown to the puppy will simply cause the puppy to believe whining, crying, and vocalizations in general is all that is needed for him to get more attention.

The puppy should be taken outside last thing every night before being crated. Once he goes into the crate, he should stay there until first thing the next morning. IMMEDEIATELY when the puppy is removed from the crate, he should be taken outside to relieve himself.

Always feed the puppy early enough to allow ample time for bowel elimination after eating before placing the puppy in the crate. This can be up to one hour depending on the dog. Simply clock the time after eating until the bowel movement occurs to determine this time interval for your particular puppy.

After the puppy is fully housetrained (usually 8-12 weeks of cage use) simply leave the door open, or take it off the crate, and allow the puppy to come and go from the crate as he pleases. If the puppy becomes destructive during his growing phases, it is a simple matter of confining him in the crate when he is not under your supervision.

Even if things do not go too smoothly at first, DON’T WEAKEN and DON’T WORRY! Be consistent, firm, and be very aware that you’re doing your pet a real favor by preventing him from getting into trouble.