Dogs evolved from wolves. Like wolves, they crave the security of a den. Many dog owners find that their dogs will seek out cave-like places to rest – for example, under a desk or table. Why not give your new puppy its own “cave” by giving him the best dog crate?
There are several reasons to do this. A properly sized crate will provide your dog with a sense of security and help him relax. There are benefits for you, as well.
If you’re trying to house train your newest family member, having a crate makes it much easier. Like wolves, dogs try to avoid soiling their dens.
A crate also provides your puppy with a safe place to stay when you can’t watch him. Baby dogs are curious and will put things in their mouth. The last thing you want to do is to come home and find out that your pet has chewed up your expensive shoes or, even worse, swallowed something poisonous. Putting him in his crate when you’re not home will keep this from happening.
Of course, you want to make your crate comfortable for your dog. There are several ways to do this. The most important is making sure that the crate is the proper size for him.
What size crate for a puppy?
Puppies come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The appropriate crate size for a Dachshund will not be the best size for a Great Dane.
You might think – why not just get the largest crate possible? Isn’t that the best thing, to give the puppy plenty of room? Unfortunately, that’s not a great idea. If you get a crate that is too large, your puppy may decide to use one part for sleeping and the other part for peeing and pooping. This is obviously not what you want!
You also don’t want a crate that’s too small. Like Goldilocks, you want to avoid something too big or too small, you want something that’s just right.
So what size is just right for your puppy?
He should be able to stand up in his crate without his head hitting the top. He should also be able to turn around and to stretch out to comfortably sleep. Anything smaller will be uncomfortable for him, but anything much larger will be too big.
While crates come with suggested weight ranges, remember that these just guidelines. You have to take into account your puppy’s unique size and shape. For example, basset hounds tend to be short-legged and heavy. If you went just by weight, you might get a larger crate than they actually need, given how short their legs are. On the other hand, some breeds tend to have long legs and slender torsos. So, they might need a crate that is larger than their weight would suggest.
There is another matter you have to keep in mind. Your dog will not remain a puppy forever. Puppies grow, and so the crate that is perfect for him now might not be a good fit later.
You might wonder – does an adult dog also need a crate? Many owners find that crates useful even after their dogs are fully grown. Fortunately, there are crates that come with movable dividers.
Dividers allow you to re-size your dog’s den based on how much he’s grown. You purchase a crate based on the estimated adult size of your dog. Then use the divider to provide just the right amount of space for him now. As he grows, you can continue to move the divider. By the time he is an adult, you will be able to eliminate it altogether.
Where should my dog sleep at night time?
For an adult dog, there are many good answers to this question. Some owners like their dogs in their beds with them. Others give him his own bed. Still, others have him sleep in his crate.
Isn’t that cruel, you may wonder, to make the dog sleep in his crate?
No, not really. Particularly since, for your older dog, you won’t need to close the door. If your dog feels comfortable in his crate, it’s fine for him to sleep there.
For a new puppy, it’s essential that he does. The crate provides him with a sense of security. It’s also the best way to housebreak him, and also to teach him not to be destructive when you are away.
How can I use a crate to house train my dog?
You can use the fact that dogs don’t like to soil their den to house train your puppy.
Ideally, you will feed your puppy 3 times a day and give him free access to water. After a meal, take him outside and praise him when he goes to the bathroom. The younger the puppy, the less bladder control they have, so the sooner you need to do this. For a new puppy, only wait about 5 minutes. As he gets older, increase the time.
Between meals, keep an eye on your puppy. If he starts to whine, circle, or look desperate, take him outside.
If you cannot keep an eye on your puppy, put him in his crate. For a young puppy, don’t keep him in his crate for more than a couple of hours at a time. When you take him out of his crate, immediately take him to use the bathroom.
For a young puppy (less than 3 months old), they may go the minute they step out of their crate. To avoid an accident, gently pick them up and carry them to their bathroom spot.
In the evening, give him his dinner about 3 hours before his bedtime. While you should allow him free access to water throughout the day, while you are housebreaking him, you should remove his water bowl after dinner. Take him to use the bathroom after his dinner, and again right before putting him to bed in his crate.
Remember that new puppies cannot hold their bladders through the whole night. You will need to set your alarm so you can take him out in the middle of the night. You do not want him to soil his crate!
For a young puppy that is less than 10 weeks old, you will need to take him out every 2 hours. Then, until he is about 14 weeks old, it’s every 3 hours. After that, you will generally be fine with every 4 hours. By the time he is 7 or 8 months old, he will generally be able to get through the night without any problems.
Is a crate comfortable for my puppy?
Absolutely, assuming you make it so.
The most important factor is the size of the crate, as discussed above. Another important factor is the type of crate.
There are plastic crates, metal wire crates, and fancy designer crates. They all have their pros and cons. Wire crates are easy to transport, often come with dividers and provide good airflow. For people who live in hot climates, they may be the most comfortable for your pet. Plastic crates can be warmer and give your dog a greater sense of privacy. They are also good for families who will often travel by air with their dogs. Soft-sided crates can be appealing but are best for smaller breeds. Wooden crates and other designer options are for those who want to integrate their dog’s crate with their home décor. They are expensive and probably not the best option for a puppy.
Whatever type of crate you choose, you should line the bottom of the crate with a soft crate pad. Take ambient temperature into consideration. Some pads are designed to keep him cool in hot weather while others will help keep him warm. Provide him with a soft blanket or a t-shirt or towel that has your scent on it. Also, give him a toy that he can chew.
Should you close a puppy crate at night?
Yes, absolutely. Particularly for house-training, the puppy needs to be confined. If your puppy can leave his crate and find a corner of your house to poop or pee in, then this will not help train him to go outside. It is not cruel to confine your puppy to his crate as long as you don’t do it for too long. Remember, a young puppy will not be able to hold his bladder through the night and it is cruel to expect him to do so.
If your puppy whines and cries about being confined to his crate, there are things you can do to help. Make sure you’ve given him some playtime and attention in the evening. Make sure he’s had a chance to use the bathroom before going into his crate. Put something soft inside the crate that smells like you do, and make sure he has something that he can chew on. Puppies gums often hurt due to teething, so they need safe chew toys. For a brand-new puppy, if you are able to get something that has the scent of his mother or littermates, that might also help soothe him.
Finally, there are devices that can help keep your puppy calm, such as those that mimic a heartbeat. Some people have found that playing soft music helps their puppy.
Should a puppy nap in a crate?
Absolutely. If you have properly crate trained your dog, you will find that sometimes he will want to go into his crate on his own. That’s because it is a place he associates with quiet and safety. It’s a comfortable place where he can lie down and relax.
There are times that your puppy may feel overwhelmed by the activity going on around him and he may want to isolate himself from that. This is particularly true if you have small children or often have visitors. Sometimes the activity level just gets too much for a puppy. Or he may have played hard and just feel tired. In either case, the crate provides him a safe place to take a nap. When he lies down in his crate, it’s best to allow him to remain there undisturbed until the next schedule activity – for example, his regular mealtime or walk.
When to stop crating the dog?
Since your puppy’s crate gives him a sanctuary of his own, you don’t want to take it away from him. In fact, if you’ve properly crate trained your dog, he will want to go inside when he feels anxious, overwhelmed, or tired. However, as he gets older, you will want to stop putting him in the crate and let it become something he does voluntarily.
For example, if you used the crate to house train your dog – at some point he will no longer have accidents, either in his crate or in your home. You can then start leaving him out of his crate for increasingly long periods of time. Always keep an eye on him when you do so, however. If he seems nervous, starts circling or whining, etc., take him outside so you give him a chance to relieve himself. You don’t want to set him up to fail.
As another example, if you normally put your dog in his crate when you are out of the house, you may try letting him out of his crate when you leave – but, again, do it gradually. The first time, just leave for 10 minutes and then come back. Slowly increase the amount of time he is left alone.
What if the dog likes the crate too much?
If your dog goes into his crate periodically, it’s no big deal. The crate is his go-to resting place. Maybe you’ve got company over and he’s feeling anxious or tired and doesn’t want to socialize. Let him stay in his crate. However, if you notice a change in behavior where he is staying in his crate for longer and longer periods of time – this could be the sign of an underlying problem. Dogs often retreat to their den when they are sick. So you’ll want to take him to a vet and have him checked out.
Michael is all about fitness and health. He conducts training on yoga and meditation. He recently made a business about it too.