5 Steps to Crate Train Your Dog

September 10, 2021
Posted in blog
September 10, 2021 Bryan Striegler

5 Steps to Crate Train Your Dog

Bernese puppy under bed

Crate training a dog can be a daunting task. But it doesn’t have to be! In this blog post, we will discuss how to crate train your new puppy or adult dog using 5 easy steps that you can follow from start to finish. These tips and tricks are tried and true, ensuring success for any type of pup!

What is a crate training?

Puppy crate training is the process of teaching your new pup to be comfortable in his very own den. By doing this, you are basically creating a safe zone where he knows that it is ok to sleep and relax away from distractions. This space will become especially important when potty training!

How long does it take to crate train my dog?

Crate training a dog is often compared to potty training. It can take anywhere from a couple days to weeks, depending on how fast your pup learns and how consistent you are with their crate time!

Finn-with-dog-toy

When should I start crate training?

In most cases, you can start crate training your puppy or dog as soon as you get him. Most young puppies go home at 8 weeks old. That is usually old enough.

If you are the puppy owners and had them at a younger age, you might wait till they get around that 8 week mark.

Benefits of Crate Training a Puppy

There are many benefits to crate training a puppy or dog. Here are just a few of our favorites!

– It helps with potty training

– Prevents destructive behavior when left alone in your home

– Keeps them safe while you’re away

– Helps with separation anxiety

– Keeps them out of trouble when you have guests over or are trying to cook dinner!

5 Basic Steps

Here are the 5 basic steps to crate training. At the end we will have more tips and things to consider, but follow these 5 steps and you’ll be on your way to having a crate trained dog.

Step 1 Introduce your dog to his crate

It’s normal for something new to be confusing or scary. I remember how Finn reacted when we brought home our puppy Ellie. It took him several days to get used to her.

The same will be true for the crate. Start off slow by putting the puppy or dog in the same room as the crate and leave the door open. Don’t force any kind of interaction. Let the dog or puppy explore things on his or her own and get used to it.

Step 2 Exploring the crate using treats

After a couple of days, you can start putting treats inside the crate so that your dog or puppy starts to think his own crate is not so bad after all!

Place the treat on one side and let him go in by himself. After he goes in, give him another treat from outside of the crate door. This process lets them know going into their den will get them good things! Do this several times then stop giving more treats as they should be getting used to it now without needing extra encouragement.

Step 3 Make the crate great

Start giving your dog special treats only when he is in the crate such as a bone or his favorite toy. This will help him to form positive associations with going into their den and being alone.

You should also put blankets, toys, and food in there as well to make the crate as comfortable as possible. You want the dog to have more reasons to want to go in versus not.

Step 4 Spending time in the crate closed

Once your dog or puppy starts spending time in the crate on their own, you can start closing it for short periods of time. Make sure to give them a treat before closing it so they don’t get startled when the door shuts. Spend more and more time with them closed while giving them treats then slowly increase how long you are leaving them in there.

Step 5 Home alone

The final step is to be gone for longer and longer periods of time. Make sure you start this with your pup when he or she is old enough not to need a bathroom break, usually around 16 weeks old!

When you can’t take them out yourself, they will most likely still cry because they don’t know how long it’s going to be until their owner comes home.

This howl-fest shouldn’t last more than 30 minutes unless the dog has separation anxiety. If that’s the case, crate training may not fix things so consult your local vet about how best to help your pooch cope with being alone!

Common Questions about Crate Training

So far we’ve given you the basic steps to crate training, but there are plenty of other questions you probably have. Below are some of the common questions about crate training a puppy or dog.

How long can I leave my puppy in their crate?

You should never leave your puppy or dog in their crate for longer than they are physically able to hold it. This is especially important with small breeds. Their crate is like their home and they will do about everything they can to not use the bathroom in it.

The time will then vary depending on the age of the dog and a few other things. Adult dogs will be able to stay in a crate longer than a puppy.

Bernese Puppy girl

As you start the crate training process, you’ll start to learn how long your dog can last before needing to go to the bathroom. My adult dogs can go all through the night or 6 or 7 hours in the day.

Where should I put my puppy’s crate at night?

You should put your puppy’s crate in the bedroom or somewhere nearby so you can hear them. This way you can get up at night and take them outside to go pee if they wake up.

When they get older, you can move the crate further away because they will be able to last through the night.

Should I cover my puppy’s crate?

A crate cover can be a good idea for some dogs. It makes them feel more enclosed and secure, but if it’s too hot or too cold they won’t want to go in their crate! Make sure you only use the crate with one when your pup is ready so he doesn’t have negative associations from being forced inside. See how your dog reacts as well. If it helps calm them, then use it. If they are calm until you put it on, then don’t.

Should I have water in my puppy’s crate?

You can leave water in your dog’s crate while they are inside, but it should be something you take out after a few hours so the puppy isn’t tempted to go potty or drink too much.

Crate Training Tips

Next, we have some other tips and tricks that will make crate training easier. We will also cover some important issues to think about.

Puppy or Dog Crate selection

You don’t want to pick just any crate for your dog. It needs to be big enough so they can comfortably turn around. You don’t want it too big though because then they could find a spot in the back to use the restroom. There are some crates that can be adjusted, so you won’t have to buy a new crate as the puppy grows.

There are plenty of crate options out there. The most popular are wire crates, which makes it last longer and sturdier. You can find a wire crate at all pet stores or used on Facebook or Craig’s List.

Another thing to look for is portability. Can it be easily moved or stored. Again, the metal wire crates I’ve used in the past work well for this. They easily fold down to about a 1.5 by 2.5 square.

Potential problems with crate training puppies or dogs

There are a few problems you could run into when crate training your dog.

Some puppies and dogs don’t like being in the crate, so they will howl or whine. This is common for a new puppy who isn’t used to it yet, but if your dog is howling because of separation anxiety you need to seek professional help.

Another issue could be that your pup pees or poops where he sleeps. This is because the crate is too big enough or you aren’t taking them out often enough.

Bernese Puppy in dog bed

Finally, if your dog is howling or being destructive in their crate when you are gone you have a couple problems. One could be that they just aren’t comfortable with the crate yet and it’s too big for them to call home. You can try using a cover on part of the top so they feel more secure. Secondly, maybe you are leaving them home alone for too long. Crates should be used as a training tool, not to leave your dog in all day every day.

Crate training when you have multiple dogs

If you have multiple dogs, how do you crate train them? If one of the dogs is older and house trained it’s very easy. Just put him in his own special crate!

If the dogs are small enough, you can put them together. It might actually help the puppy feel better about being in the crate.

two Bernese dogs

The hard part comes with puppies. You’ll need to work on training each dog separately so there isn’t any confusion or communication between them when they are first learning how to use their crates.

Create positive association with the crate

Above all, you want the crate to be a positive place. Don’t use it for punishment or out of anger. If you do that, it will continue to be a battle every time you use it.

A fan or sound machine for noise masking

We’ve been using a sound machine with our kids since they were little. The noise can help them relax and keeps them from hearing other noises. You can do the same thing during your crate training process.

There are a few different options. You can get an app for your phone or iPad, but that’s harder to keep near the crate at night. Instead, you might buy a dedicated sound machine or use a fan.

Be patient when Crate Training

You can’t just put your dog in their crate and expect them to learn how to use it overnight. It’s a process that takes time, patience, and understanding on both parts.

Take things slow and expect some problems a long the way. Most likely your puppy or dog will be crate trained within a month.

Is Crate Training Right for You?

I’ve done crate training with several of my dogs over the years, and the ones that I didn’t, I wish I had. If they aren’t crate trained, you have to either put them outside or worry about some kind of destruction or mischief. Right now, one of our Bernese likes to grab things off of the counter, so it’s a real problem.

If you think crate training is right for your family and your dog, I really suggest you do it. It might be some work at first, but after a few weeks, things will get easier and you’ll enjoy all the benefits.