What are the best strategies for crate training a puppy?

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Answered by: Kerry, An Expert in the Dog Training and Socialization Category
Crate training a puppy is key to successfully raising your new furry family member. Crate training helps a dog go longer between pee breaks and gives him his own territory and safe spot.

These tips and tricks for crate training can apply to puppies and adult dogs alike, so keep reading to learn how to raise a well-adjusted pup!

Tip 1— Choose the right crate size

Puppies start out small. Some can grow into great 200-lb. beasts—others top out at 10 lbs. Know your dog’s breed before buying the crate. Choosing the correct crate size is essential to crate training (and house training) success. A crate that is too big for your current pup’s size can lead to peeing and pooping in the crate instead of outside. Luckily, many crates now come with dividers, so you can change the size of the crate as your dog grows. Make sure your pooch has enough room to stand up and turn comfortably—a too-small crate will lead to a very cramped and unhappy dog.


A key to successful puppy crate training is making sure the dog is actually happy in the crate. Many puppies are very food-motivated. Drop some treats into the crate. Any treats will do, although high motivating treats (think hot dogs, bologna, etc.) work best. Make sure your pooch sees you doing this. You may have to lure him in with treats or physically place him. Give your dog plenty of belly rubs and ear scratches when he is in the crate to make positive associations. A good rule of thumb is to keep treats on hand for at least the first year of owning a dog.

Puppies learn quickly and will soon start going to the crate themselves in anticipation of food. That’s when you can start shutting the door. Gradually increase the length of time you leave him in the crate with the door shut. Start with 30 seconds and work your way up to a minute, 5 minutes, 20 minutes.

Tip 3—Give frequent potty breaks

Set your dog up for success. Whether it’s a new puppy or an adult dog new to house training, make sure you’re giving him plenty of time outside to pee and poop before placing him in the crate. Puppies have tiny bladders and will need frequent (every 20-30 minutes) outside breaks to learn that the house is not an appropriate place to eliminate. Fully crate training can happen before a dog is fully house trained, so even if your dog is calm and patient in the crate, he still needs his potty breaks.

Tip 4—Be patient

Bringing a new dog into the home is scary. A brand new environment away from their mother and littermates with different rules, exciting smells, and new humans will take some getting use to. Whining, crying, and barking are all to be expected.

The first few nights can be especially hard on new owners and dog alike, with a puppy whimpering at odd hours of the night. Try to keep the crate near your bed so he can see, smell, or hear you and be comforted. Resist the temptation to pet or talk to him when he cries---this is one of the main crate training mistakes that new dog owners make. The puppy will learn that crying gets him out of the scary crate. Instead, give him treats any time he is quiet in the crate, even if it's only for a few seconds to catch his breath. He will learn to associate being quiet with getting food.

Typically, puppies take 2 or more weeks to adjust to the new environment; some adult dogs can take longer, depending on their breed and background. The good news is that crate training a puppy or adult dog can happen very quickly if you are consistent with your positive reinforcement and potty scheduling!

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