How to Crate Train a Puppy

A pet owner guide on how to crate train a puppy

By: Kelli Rascoe

Having a new puppy in your home is a fun and exciting time! While a puppy is adorable and fun to play with, training your new best friend is beneficial as they grow and develop. Naturally, training is valuable for all dogs. Whether you are new to puppy ownership or have multiple dogs, learning how to crate train a puppy is a skill that helps the entire family. We sat down with Trupanion veterinarian Dr. Caroline Wilde to learn more about how to crate train a puppy and tips for successful puppy crate training for the future.

Puppies are adventurous, curious, and may want a cozy place to retreat to after a long day of play. Besides being a place to rest, a crate is helpful from everything from pet travel to potty training. Wilde breaks down the essential steps to take to help crate train your new best friend.

Black and white puppy in a crate for training

Steps to crate train a puppy

  1. Buy a crate that is just big enough for your puppy to stand up and turn around comfortably.
  2. Buy a blanket or a mat to place in the crate.
  3. Your puppy will need to get used to the crate, and at first should be coaxed into the crate with treats or toys, so that they always have positive associations with the crate.
  4. Feeding your puppy in the crate can provide them with positive associations
  5. Also, the door should not be immediately closed while they are getting used to it, and your puppy should be allowed to go in and out. Once the puppy is used to the crate, the door can be closed and then reward the puppy with praise and treats. The puppy should then be let out of the crate. The amount of time in the crate should gradually increase.
  6. Your puppy should sleep in the crate. Younger puppies will often need to go to the bathroom overnight, so if the puppy wakes you up crying, they should be immediately taken outside, and then put back in the crate.
  7. In addition, your puppy should be taken from the crate directly outside on a walk or in the yard and should stay outside until they use the restroom. Puppies need to go to the bathroom fairly frequently and should be taken out as often as possible, generally every 2-3 hours to start for younger puppies.
  8. Your puppy should be immediately rewarded with praise and pats when they go to the bathroom outside. If they do not go to the bathroom, they should be placed back in the crate for a period of time and then taken out again. Only after they use the restroom should they be allowed to have free reign.
  9. Never punish the puppy when it has an accident. If you observe the puppy going to the bathroom inside, the puppy should be immediately interrupted with a loud noise, taken outside and allowed to finish.

Take your time with your puppy

Each puppy is different. It may take time for your new furry friend to become accustomed to their new space. Naturally, training doesn’t happen overnight, but by using positive reinforcement and having patience, your best friend will gradually learn over time. At the same time, you’re learning as well!

A cute puppy with red fur held by its owner

The benefits of crate training a puppy

Puppies are mischievous, energetic, and may get into things they shouldn’t. Alternatively, a crate may help avoid any unexpected situations while you’re away.

“Crate training can be an efficient way to housebreak a puppy. Also, crate training can give the puppy a “safe place” to go where they feel secure and comfortable. Further, this can help the puppy be at ease when they need to be crated for confinement purposes, like when leaving the house for a period of time, or when you have company over,” points out Wilde.

For an additional resource on the benefits of crate training, read here.

Tips for successful puppy crate training

So you got your puppy in the crate, now what? Wilde dives in on tips for successful crate training whether you are on the first day or last day of training.

  • Take your puppy outside as often as you can, and always reward for going in the correct place.
  • The crate needs to be the correct size. If it is too small, that can cause stress and anxiety for your pet, and if it is too big, your puppy may be more likely to go to the bathroom in the crate.
  • Watch your puppy carefully for cues that it needs to go to the bathroom. For instance, they will often sniff around, wander away, or circle. When you notice these signs, stop what you are doing and immediately take them outside. Further, your puppy should not be unsupervised during the early stages as they will often wander off to go to the bathroom.
  • Your puppy should never put in the crate as a punishment. Being in the crate should always be a positive experience.
  • You may need to buy bigger crates as your puppy gets bigger, or section off a larger crate.
  • Sometimes placing the crate in a dark room, or a quiet place can help your puppy settle down.
  • If your puppy is having accidents in the crate, consider whether the crate is appropriate. In addition, consider taking your puppy out more frequently
  • The crate should be left open, so they can go in and out as they please. When your dog has been successfully crate trained, they often will seek their crate as a resting place, or for comfort.
  • Don’t reach in to pull your dog out of their crate. Coax them out by calling them or coaxing them with toys or treats.

For more on how to get your puppy on a potty training schedule, read here.

Puppy with toys in a crate for training

The importance of positive interaction

Interacting and playing with your puppy is a wonderful way to solidify the human-pet bond. Without a doubt, the relationship between your pet and you is special. In essence, the more you interact, engage, and play, the more your relationship will strengthen. Also, this positive interaction is helpful during the training process, as the bond is starting to form. When you use positive reinforcement, your puppy will start to learn and trust while training.

Learning how to crate train a puppy may benefit the entire family

Crate training a puppy takes time, patience, and positivity. For the safety and wellness of your new family member, consider checking in with your veterinarian. They can help establish a training regime and help curb any unwanted behaviors. Further, your family can bond over the experience of training your new puppy.

To discover more on how to puppy train, read Five Recommended Puppy Training Tips.