Crate Training

If your dog has already developed anxiety or stress, you may also want to look at:

First of all, if this is what your new puppy sounds like in the crate (especially at night!), you are not alone. This is NORMAL. Every puppy and dog is going to be different, and some may work through being separated from you better than others.

My advice ---> DON'T GIVE UP! The many benefits of crate training far outweigh not crate training. What's the secret to success? Incrementally crating while you are physically present, not just when you leave the house or go to bed at night. Crating should be a POSITIVE experience, always.

The more diligent and consistent you are training in the beginning, the faster your puppy will start learning that whining, barking and acting out is NOT the way to get what it wants.

Why crate train?

  • To assist with potty training

    • When you first bring home your puppy you can utilize the crate as a potty training tool

    • Generally dogs to not like to soil their "dens" so should not want to potty in their crate (assuming the size is the proper fit for your dog)

    • When your puppy is in the crate they should be taken out in increments (every few hours) to potty outside. They will build up bladder control as they age and as time is increased with crate training (especially once they are sleeping through the night)

    • If the dog goes to the bathroom outside, having time out should be a reward

    • If the dog does not go to the bathroom they should return to the crate and go out again shortly for another try

  • To keep your dog safe when unsupervised

    • This is a great opportunity for you to go about your routine while you are home (while your dog can see you) to allow your dog to relax in your presence

    • This will keep your dog from getting into something they should not, going to the bathroom in the house, or being a nuisance if you are trying to get something done

  • To positively redirect your dog to

    • If your dog is being too rowdy or begging at the dinner table it is a great opportunity to positively send your dog to the crate so you are not reinforcing behaviors you do not want in the future

  • To teach and give your dog a sense of confidence and independence when away from you

    • This is EXTREMELY important

    • Your dog needs to know how to function without you

    • That it is OK to relax in the crate while you are physically present or are interacting with family members, friends, or perhaps even another dog

    • You do not want your dog constantly barking or whining while they are temporarily put away

    • Your dog should have the ability to be without you and understand it is OK

  • To teach a stay/wait

    • A great opportunity to begin your release cue and teach your dog impulse control when a crate door, gate door, house door, car door, etc opens up

  • To give your dog a place of relaxation

    • Your dog should have a place they can go to in order to relax and be at peace

  • To give your dog a place to sleep

    • This is especially important when potty training and teaching independence

    • YES, your dog will bark or whine through the night and have to potty a few times...this is NORMAL

    • You MUST work through this or you are teaching your dog they can get what they want (especially through barking or whining)

    • Allowing the dog to sleep in bed with you may lead to attachment and anxiety issues

  • To manage your dog in situations with company, workers, etc.

    • If your dog is constantly barking or jumping on company, this gives you a place to redirect and manage the behavior

    • You can also manage on leash or teaching your dog to hold position on a mat (that is a different training section) - but if your dog is not able to do that (or your guests do not follow directions) the crate is the best option

  • So your dog has a place of comfort in different environments (car, hotel, boarding facility, dog competitions)

    • Your dog cannot always generalize very well; just because your dog can crate well in your home when you leave, does not mean your dog will be comfortable in a crate in a hotel room when you need to step out for dinner

    • Crate your dog in many different environments and incrementally in different locations around your home so your dog gets used to the crate as a place of comfort

    • The LAST thing you want is to take your dog on a car ride and them salivating, throwing up, or getting loose bowel movements due to the build up of stress and anxiety

    • This is also true of boarding facilities - your dog may have loss of appetite, traces of blood in the stool, diarrhea, excessively salivate, chew wiring or welding on a crate, whine or bark constantly, defecate in the crate, etc. You do NOT want your dog to be in a panic

    • Do your dog a favor and allow them to have a crate so they have a place of comfort no matter where they go

Getting your dog in the crate:

  • You want your dog to CHOOSE to go into the crate (they can think for themselves we do not need to use force)

  • You can gently hold your dog in front of the open crate door (so the only option is to go in). You May want to have your dog leashed if their focus is not great leading them to go find something else to do

  • Be patient and let your dog make a choice (you can also hold your dog's collar if they are too large to hold by their body)

  • There is no need to slam the door shut when your dog goes in. We simply just want the dog to get used to going in and out of the crate. Closing the door will come later.

  • You may use food to help your dog into the crate (that is luring/bribery) but eventually you want your dog to go in without a lure

  • You need to start this at a slow pace if your dog is fearful or has other traumatic experiences (or separation anxiety) associated with the crate. There is no need to rush.

11 week old Dalmatian puppy is being reinforced for holding position (sit). He was lured into a sit in the beginning stages. If the puppy tries to bolt out, the door would close. As he remains seated and holds position, he is rewarded for it. This is teaching impulse control, waiting for a release, and that the crate is rewarding and fun...not a prison for punishment (it never should be used for punishment). It is important to NOT just crate our dogs when we leave the house or at night. We need to crate while we are physically present so the dog can function while we are in sight. If you crate while you leave you DO NOT need to rush to the crate to immediately let your dog out upon your return. They should display self control when you walk in the door. 

Release cue OKAY is used to let the puppy know he is free to move. This is great to start teaching your stay/wait, release cue, sit, etc. Remember, this puppy is only 11 weeks old and is fully capable of all of these skills at this age.

He CHOOSES to go in voluntarily each time (no cues or commands given) because it is rewarding. And he has figured out the behavior which results in a reward. 

Young puppy has been consistently driving to the crate (on his own) so now a cue is matched with the *perfect* behavior. 

The full behavior is to GO TO YOUR CRATE and hold a sit position until released.

Settler demoing CRATE GAMES for Sage.

My dog or puppy seems to be crate what?


There is no doubt a wire crate is an eye sore in your home (they make stylish crate covers!). However, how sure are you that your dog is comfortable in a crate? And if they are, why would you want to take down their place of comfort? Does your dog have other manners and skills that allow you to completely get rid of the crate (jumps on guests, barks out the window, bolts out of the front door)? I like to have crates available because it is sort of my dog's bedroom. It allows me to reinforce basic skills such as being released out of a door and holding position when I need them to.

While it is always your decision, it may be wise to continue to utilize the crate in increments and keep it available for your dog. It is a great training tool and can be such a fun game for your dog. There are a lot of skills you can build on. If you notice your dog is quite needy and attached, you may want to more frequently crate your dog and practice skills and drills in the crate. The more you practice, the better off for your dog.