Introducing a crate to puppies or adult dogs

Young Puppies in a Crate Stan Rawlinsion ImagesIntroducing a Crate to a Dog or a Puppy

Dogs and Puppies have a natural liking for enclosed sleeping places - think of how often your dog chooses to sleep under the table, against a wall or behind the settee! In the wild your dog would seek out a cosy safe den to sleep and rest up, that is all a crate is.


Although their resemblance to cages or prison puts many people off. If they are properly used and introduced, they can be a helpful aid to training and toileting and a comfort and a bolt hole when the dog is feeling stressed.

Once your dog is happy in the crate, he can be left there to prevent soiling and chewing when you are out for a short time, he can be restrained when the kids play noisy, energetic games which are not improved by his joining in, and he has a secure familiar bed which can be taken in the car and on holiday if needed.

It is even better if your breeder has introduced the puppies to a crate at a very early age the puppies will feel comfortable and settled immediately. A dog which is thrust unprepared into a crate and left, is going to associate the crate with a most unpleasant experience and be very unhappy about using them in the future. A dog which is carefully introduced to a crate usually finds it a pleasant and secure place to be, so it is worth spending some time over the introduction process.


HOW TO CRATE TRAIN YOUR DOGPuppy Great Dane by Stan Rawlinson

  • The crate should be big enough for your dog to stand up, turn round and stretch out when lying down. If he is a puppy, allow for growth. Cover the crate with a blanket or sheet so it is dark, den like and cosy.

  • If the crate is quite big, section off part of it whilst the puppy is young this will prevent him urinating or defecating in the corners. Never put newspaper in the crate this only stimulates the dog to eliminate in there, which defeats the object of using a crate for toilet training.
  • To begin with you will need to leave the crate set up all the time. Later you may prefer not to, and some crates fold flat for easy storage when not in use.

  • When left in the crate your dog should have a toy or chew bone to keep him occupied when awake, soft bedding to sleep on, I prefer Vet Bed or the equivalent and a drink of water. Get a coop cup it clips or screws on the inside of the crate then you don’t get spills.

  • Initially feed the dog in the crate every day, with the door open. This is an easy way to get him to like it. You should not be closing the door overnight until about 11/12 weeks of age as the dog may become very distressed as it is unable to control bowel or bladder movements until this age.
  • To keep the puppy safe whilst you are acclimatising it to the crate. Purchase a Playpen these are available in most pet stores.

  • Set the crate up in a quiet corner, and put the dog's bed into it. At this stage, leave the door pinned open so that the dog is never fastened in by mistake and never gets stressed.

  • Soon the dog should happily use the crate voluntarily. When you reach this stage, (NOT BEFORE) wait until he goes in for a sleep, then close the door. Stay in the room, and let him out as he starts to wake up.

  • When your dog is used to this routine, leave him for a minute after he wakes up, with you still in the room. Gradually (over about a week) increase the time you can do this. If your dog gets distressed shorten the time on the next attempt. Don't make a big fuss - sweet nothings and lots of attention can make him think you're praising him for being distressed, and he'll do it all the more. Aim for the "nursing sister" approach when she comes to give you a big injection, sympathetic but business like! See my article on Separation Anxiety

  • When you can leave the dog like this, leave the room for a few minutes but stay in the house. Again, gradually increase the time you are out of sight till you can put the dog into his crate when you go shopping.

  • Your dog should never be left in a crate for more than a couple of hours except overnight, and then do not lock your Puppy into the crate until it is about 11/12 weeks of age, as they cannot hold their bladder overnight until this age.
  • It may cause acute distress and anxiety if they cannot toilet away from the nest/bed, and may cause problems with toilet training and crate aversion if you lock them in too early.



©Stan Rawlinson

April 2005