How to Crate Train a Puppy in 8 Easy Steps

A small, red pit bull puppy cuddling with a white stuffed bear in the dog crate, ideal example of how to crate train a puppy
Image by sophiecat

Have you just welcomed a new puppy into your home? The thrill is real, but so are the challenges that come with it! Have you ever wondered how to create a structured, safe environment for your furry friend while speeding up potty training? Imagine a home where your puppy feels secure adapts quickly, and the number of little “accidents” is drastically reduced. Whether you want to crate train your dog or puppy, we’ll guide you step-by-step on how to crate train a puppy, ensuring peace of mind for every household member!

How to Crate Train a Puppy

Crate training doesn’t need to be complicated. Check out these steps to get a quick idea of what to expect!

  1. Choose the right crate
  2. Prepare the crate
  3. Build a positive relationship with the crate
  4. Short stays
  5. Crate time
  6. Cry it out
  7. Add time
  8. Be patient

Follow these instructions to help your puppy get accustomed to the crate quickly!

Step 1. Choose the Right Dog Crate

The initial step in crate training is ensuring you have the appropriate crate.

  • Type – Dog crates are typically available in three primary designs: plastic (suitable for airlines), wire, and soft fabric. For puppies, plastic and wire crates are the most suitable. Soft crates, while appealing, can be easily torn apart by a teething puppy.
  • Size – It’s crucial to get the size right. A crate that’s too snug can cause discomfort, while an overly spacious one might lead to your puppy making a mess, thinking it can avoid the aftermath. Ideally, the crate should only offer enough space for the puppy to stand, rotate, and recline easily.

For those with larger breed puppies, a practical approach is to invest in a wire crate designed for full-grown dogs. These crates often come equipped with dividers, allowing you to allocate a portion of the crate to your puppy and adjust the space as they mature.

Step 2: Prepare the Crate

Ensure the crate is a welcoming and secure haven for your puppy. Equip it with a plush blanket or a specialized crate pad, along with a durable chew toy tailored for puppies. It’s essential to always have a chewable item in the crate, deterring them from potentially damaging the pad. Remember, each puppy is unique. If you notice your puppy misusing or soiling the bedding, don’t hesitate to remove it. Dogs are adaptable and can find comfort even on firmer surfaces.

Put the crate in your bedroom or another quiet room to help your pup settle down. Leaving your young dog in the crate in high-traffic, busy areas during the crate training process will result in them struggling to calm down and relax.

Step 3: Build a Positive Relationship with the Crate

From the outset, it’s crucial for your young dog to associate the crate with a safe and positive space. Achieve this by serving their meals inside the crate, sprinkling treats deep within, towards the back of the crate, and reserving special chew toys solely for crate time. When not actively using the crate, ensure its door remains open, allowing your puppy to enter the crate and exit on its own.

Activity Suggestion: Toss a treat deep into the crate, allowing your puppy to dash in and savor it. Repeat this action, but intermittently shut the crate door briefly, sprinkling treats at the far end. As your pup pivots to retrieve them, promptly reopen the door. This exercise aids in alleviating any apprehension associated with the crate door.

Step 4: Short Stays

Recall the Activity Suggestion from the previous step. Persist with that exercise, occasionally keeping the crate door shut. As you progress, scatter a mix of kibble or treats inside the crate, then close the door and remain near the crate for several minutes. Periodically introduce treats into the crate during this time. After this interval, resume tossing treats towards the back. Only release your puppy when they exhibits calm behavior and refrain from scratching at the crate door.

Step 5: Crate Time

Before initiating an extended crate session, address all of your puppy’s immediate needs. Have they recently been taken out for a potty break? Did they engage in playful activities to expend energy? Once sure of their comfort, revisit the exercises from step 2 for reinforcement.

Scatter high-value treats deep inside the crate and place a filled Kong toy or a similar enticing item towards the back. Quickly exit the room before your pup can notice you leaving. Initially, these durations should be brief – crate for about 30 minutes for the starting sessions. If, upon checking, you find your puppy peacefully asleep, let them rest until they naturally awaken.

When wrapping up the session, your pup will likely be excited to come out and start pawing and whining. Sit quietly near the crate and wait for them to calm down before you let them out of the crate. Opening the crate while your pup is excited and rambunctious can result in poor crate manners and anxiety at the door.

Image by Stacey Welu

Step 6: Cry It Out

It’s common for puppies to vocalize their discomfort through whining or crying when first introduced to the crate. While our instinct might urge us to console them immediately, resisting this urge is imperative. Comforting them instantly can hinder their ability to self-soothe, potentially leading to separation anxiety in the future. Allowing your puppy to navigate this initial distress is crucial for their emotional development. If your puppy appears excessively agitated, consider using a crate cover or draping a blanket over the crate; this often has a calming effect.

Pro Tip: If there’s a lull in their distress and they suddenly start whining again after a quiet period, it might signal a need for a potty break.

Step 7: Add Time

With your puppy’s growth, it’s essential to extend their crate time by 30-minute intervals incrementally. A helpful guideline is that a puppy’s maximum duration in the crate is equivalent to their age in months plus one hour without necessitating a potty break.

For instance, A puppy aged eight weeks equates to 2 months. Thus, 2 hours (representing the two months) plus an additional hour culminates in 3 hours. This is the maximum duration the puppy should be in the crate before requiring a break for potty and play.

Similarly, a 4-month-old puppy should ideally spend no more than 5 hours in the crate before a necessary break.

Step 8: Patience is a Virtue

Each puppy is unique in its temperament and adaptability. While some may seamlessly acclimate to the crate, others might require an extended period to become comfortable. The cornerstone of successful crate training and all facets of dog training is unwavering consistency and patience.

Image by Audreycmk

Benefits of Crate Training

  • Keeps your dog safe in the car
  • Speeds up potty training and housebreaking
  • Excellent management tool to keep your dog out of trouble when you can’t fully supervise them
  • Keeps your dog safe during natural disasters and instances where you need to evacuate

Why You Should Crate Train Your Dog

Crate training your puppy offers numerous advantages. It facilitates efficient house and potty training and instills good behavior in puppies by introducing a consistent structure and routine. This foundation will benefit your dog throughout its adulthood.

There will be instances in your dog’s life where crating becomes necessary, such as during grooming sessions, stays at daycare facilities, boarding, transportation, and visits to the veterinarian. Dogs with adequate crate training tend to experience minimal stress during these standard life events. Conversely, dogs without proper crate training can face significant stress, leading to potentially adverse outcomes and even the risk of self-injury. Should a medical situation arise where your dog needs to be confined for recovery, a well-trained dog will recuperate more efficiently and with less distress.

Consider emergencies. Given the recent increase in natural disasters, your dog might need rescuing. First responders and disaster relief teams prioritize dogs familiar with crates in such scenarios. Dogs comfortable with crates are more likely to be attended to promptly in high-pressure situations where time is crucial.

Frequently Asked Questions

Absolutely not! Dogs are den animals by nature and instinctively seek out secluded, dimly lit spaces for solitude and comfort. When introduced and trained correctly, a dog perceives the crate as its sanctuary—a place of safety and relaxation. However, it’s essential to note that a dog without appropriate crate training may experience undue stress during routine events like boarding, veterinary appointments, and grooming sessions. Proper crate training ensures the dog views the crate as a positive and secure environment.

Yes, but with some considerations. If your puppy begins to whimper or cry at night, it often indicates they need a bathroom break. It’s advisable to promptly take your puppy outside to allow them the opportunity to relieve themselves. Once they’ve done so, return them to the crate. If they continue to cry after this, it’s generally safe to let them “cry it out.” However, always ensure their basic needs are met and they’re satisfied before opting for this approach.

An 8-week-old puppy should ideally be confined to the crate for a maximum duration of 3 hours consecutively. After this period, providing them with a potty break and some playtime is essential.

The duration required for crate training a puppy can significantly differ based on their genetic predisposition and early upbringing. If you’ve acquired your puppy from a reputable breeder who initiated crate training before the 8-week mark, the transition and continuation of the process at your home will likely be smoother. Conversely, the adjustment period might be more challenging and extended if the puppy needs to be familiarized with the crate before departing from its litter.

Yes, considering dogs’ natural inclination towards den-like environments, they often prefer quiet, dim, and snug spaces. If your puppy seems restless or uneasy within the crate, draping a blanket over it can provide that comforting, den-like atmosphere, potentially aiding in their relaxation.

Yes, but with discernment. Including chew toys in the crate is beneficial, as they promote a sense of tranquility and relaxation for your puppy. These toys naturally entice the puppy to settle and engage in a calming activity. However, avoiding highly stimulating toys, such as squeaky toys or balls, is advisable inside the crate. Such toys might incite playfulness, which contradicts the primary purpose of the crate as a serene sanctuary. The crate should always be associated with calm and restful moments.

No, it’s not advisable to place puppy pads inside the crate. Puppy pads are specifically designed, often with particular scents, to attract puppies to use them for their bathroom needs. Introducing these pads into the crate inadvertently signals to the puppy that relieving themselves in their sleeping area is acceptable. This can lead to undesirable habits and a messy crate. Maintaining the crate as a clean and comfortable space for your puppy to rest is essential.


Embarking on the journey of crate training a puppy might seem challenging initially, but with dedication and patience, it’s entirely achievable. It’s crucial to start with the right crate and set it up for optimal comfort when you crate train a dog. The following steps involve fostering a positive relationship between your puppy and their crate and progressively extending their time inside. While occasional whining is expected, it’s essential to remain consistent in your approach. By following these guidelines, you’ll be well-equipped to guide your furry companion towards a successful crate training experience. Here’s to many peaceful nights and a contented pup!

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