Crate Training Your Dog

Fenix loves her crate at bedtime

The Pros and Cons to Crate Training

Crates – This one word can lead to many a discussion of varying opinions from dog parents, families and ‘experts’.  Indeed there are lots of debates as to whether crates are good or bad for dogs.  Some say they restrict freedom of movement, choice, are like prison cells and are the lazy training option.  The latter being that if you shut your dog away in a crate you aren’t training your dog to stay, to not chew and to behave appropriately for example.

On the other hand some state that when introduced correctly, a crate can provide a safe place for your dog, where they can relax, sleep, have peace and quiet and be left safely.

At Benafim dogs we have mixed views on the use of crates.  As a general rule we would not use crates to put puppies or dogs in for extended periods of time.   No dog should be restricted for more than a few hours per day from being able to move freely and carry out some of their basic needs.  In addition we believe a dog bed in a quiet area of your home does provide your dog with the peace, quiet, safe, comfortable place that is their own, no one else’s.

The Pros

Used correctly where the crate is a tool used correctly by you, we can however see the benefits of a dog knowing what a crate is and not being scared of one, especially in the following situations:

  • An alternative to a dog bed – used with the door open;
  • Your dog needs to travel either by road or plane;
  • Your dog needs to stay at the vets;
  • Your dogs needs a safe area to recover from an injury;
  • Your dog needs to go into boarding kennels;
  • Short term confinement – for example when puppy supervision is not possible.
Fleur recovers from a road accident in her crate

The Cons

When the crate is misused it is important to note, the crate isn’t to blame and isn’t what is cruel.  It is in fact the dog owner incorrectly using the crate and therefore being cruel:

  • A crate should not be used to contain your dog for prolonged periods of time;
  • A crate can cause physical harm – if your dog is left for too long this can lead to desperate behaviours – such as hurting themselves trying to escape and stress on limbs from not moving enough.
  • If used incorrectly a crate can be seen by your dog as punishment.
  • A crate should not be used for your dog if they suffer from claustrophobia and in certain cases separation anxiety.

The Dos and Don’ts of Crate Training

Do put the crate in a room where your dog will not feel lonely

Do choose the right size crate for your dog.  Your dog should be able to stand, sit, turn around and lie down with plenty of space.

Do purchase a wire crate with a tray at the bottom as these are much easier to clean

Do place the crate in a quiet place corner of a room often used, away from any sunlight.  Your dog must not be placed in a room on their own where they will feel isolated from you and your family.

Do make the crate inviting and comfortable.  Put soft bedding and toys such as kongs or toys to chew.

Do ensure your dog has access to water

Do introduce a crate to your dog slowly and ensure the training and introduction is positive

Do put a blanket over the top but not covering the front to create a cosier den like feel to the crate

Crates with the door open can be a comfortable alternative to a dog bed

Don’t rush crate training – some dogs with a traumatic past associated with confined spaces may resist crates.  In this case we highly recommend instead choosing a safe area and a dog bed as an alternative to a crate.

Don’t ever force your dog into a crate.

Don’t tell your dog off when they are in their crate – your dog must associate their crate with a positive experience.

Don’t leave you dog in a crate for extended periods of time.

Don’t use the crate for extended periods of time throughout the day.  Dogs need a good amount of exercise, play time and social time with people.

Don’t use the crate as a way to confine your dog to rectify ‘problem’ behaviour when outside of the crate.

Don’t put puppy pads or anything that will encourage your puppy or dog into using their crate as a toilet.

Don’t crate your puppy or dog whilst wearing a collar or lead as this can lead to injury or strangulation

Crate Training – Step by Step

Crates provide a safe way for dogs to travel

Crate Training A Puppy

Crate training takes time, remember to keep the training time short with puppies as their attention span will not focus for long on one thing, additionally keep it fun and positive.

Crate training a puppy can be helpful especially when it comes to toilet training and house training.

  • Start by placing a nice comfy blanket and some treats in the crate.
  • Sit by the crate and let your puppy come to you on their own and enter the crate of their own accord.  Don’t worry if your puppy doesn’t enter the crate, just let them explore, have a sniff and explore around the crate area.
  • Ensure to praise your puppy even if they are simply near the crate.
  • The closer your puppy gets to the crate – reward them with praise and treats.
  • Show your puppy the placement of treats in the crate – if they enter great, if they don’t do not force them
  • Keep the above process short.  If your puppy doesn’t go in to the crate, repeat the process later in the day and over the following days until they do enter the crate.
  • Once your puppy seems happy to enter the crate, ensure you reward with treats and praise whilst your puppy is in there, not before.
  • Practice closing the door on the crate and opening it again immediately.  Continue vocal praise during this step.
  • If your puppy immediately wants to get out of the crate let them.
  • Once you have reached the point where your puppy is okay in the crate for a few seconds, up to a minute with you still there, start very very gradually to leave them alone.
  • Crying, barking and whining are all very common and normal reactions from a puppy that doesn’t yet understand or accept the crate. It is not pleasant Hearing them cry isn’t pleasant, but this behaviour will change as your puppy gets used to his new hang out.
  • Keep the first time you leave your puppy in the crate to no more than a couple of minutes- give your puppy treats and leave the room
  • Hold your ground if they cry, whine or bark
  • Come back into the room after a couple of minutes, do not make a fuss, give them a treat.
  • The likelihood is your puppy will want to rush out of the crate as soon as you open the door.
  • Make sure you stroke your puppy, vocally calm them down and then when they are calm, open the door to let them out.
  • Repeat the above until your puppy is content being left for ten minutes.
  • Do not rush the process, if at any time your puppy is distressed more than a little crying or whining go back to the beginning and start the whole introducing to the crate again.
  • Gradually build the time up to the point where they are happy in their crate.

Crate Training An Older Dog

Lola jets off in her crate to Holland

Crate training an older dog can be really useful if they are not house trained or if, as per examples already mentioned, you need to take them to the vets or travel.

Crate training for puppies and adult dogs needs to be carried out in a positive way so that your dog associates the crate with a good experience not a bad one.

The good news is the steps are exactly the same as you would to train a puppy.  In exactly the same way you would train a puppy to use a crate, you need to get your older dog used to the presence of a crate and to not rush the process.  Potentially an older dog will be more resistant to entering a crate than a puppy.  An older dog unlike a puppy has already formed habits which of course can be changed, but the training process may take longer.

  • Remember to make the crate look inviting and to place it in the corner of a room you use so that they do not feel isolated.
  • Before you even start any training, leave the crate there for a few days just so your dog can get used to it’s presence and perhaps have a smell and explore a bit. Who knows they may even go in on their own accord if you are lucky!
  • Keep intervals of leaving your dog to five minutes and stay close and visible! When you have repeated this a few times and your dog is content with you being in the room, leave the room but for a matter of seconds, return to the room without making a fuss so your dog can see nothing bad happens when you leave the room.
  • Repeat and build up the time you are not in the room.


A crate must be used correctly and humanely as a place you teach your dog to love and use for peace and quiet, a place you use to confine them for safety, but NOT a place to imprison them for punishment, for entire days or just to ‘keep them out of the way.’

Being regularly locked away for extended periods of time is a miserable and isolated way of life.  This isn’t what a crate is for and this is when it’s cruel!

Be patient and positive when crate training.  Never force a puppy or dog into a crate, let them go in on their own free will.