Are you worried crate training will be scary for your puppy? We understand, and we get this question a lot. So, you have a new dog, and you want to be a responsible, supportive friend, so you bought all the books, bookmarked all the websites, and looked for advice in the social media space. It is hard to find a consensus.
Wag Ur Tail trainers believe there are plenty of good reasons to crate puppies overnight. The most important is their safety. Puppies quickly get into trouble if your house isn’t puppy-proofed. Having a den/crate limits any destructive behavior like chewing furniture or shoes out of boredom.
Benefits of Crate Training Your Puppy
A dog that is comfortable in its crate from a young age travels more easily. Crate training is also helpful during emergencies. If your dog is ever hospitalized at the vet, this confinement won’t come as a shock, making the situation even more stressful.
Housetraining is a close second to safety. Puppies are less prone to soil the place where they sleep (instinct!). At night, the container stops them from finding somewhere in the house to do their business. A crate protects household objects from sharp puppy teeth.
But, we know the first few nights can be rough. Here’s what to do if your new puppy cries at night in their crate.
What To Do The First Night
The first several weeks in your house will be a big transition for your pup, and it’s normal to have some issues on the first few nights. Your puppy probably isn’t ready to spend the whole night in the crate. They will cry because they want company and reassurance, and/or they need a bathroom break.
But, don’t throw in the towel; be consistent and kind, and your puppy will develop a routine over the next few days.
Whenever you hear a cry, the first thing you should do is take the puppy outside to go potty. It’s important to carry the pup outside to prevent an accident. Plan ahead for these nocturnal adventures. Put your shoes, coat, and food rewards (treats) in an easy-to-find spot next to the door. You are prepared to continue training no matter how late/early or how drowsy you feel.
The goal of crate training is that puppies feel relaxed and comfortable in their crate. If your puppy doesn’t settle within a couple of minutes, remove them from the crate and re-introduce it in a way that doesn’t create unhappy associations. It may seem counterintuitive but, removing them in the short term protects the long-term success of the training.
Should You Acknowledge a Crying Puppy or Let Them Be?
If your puppy cries in the crate at night, your instinct will be to help them—and that’s the right thing to do. At first, it helps to use a puppy pen for part of the night. Most puppies aren’t old enough to hold it overnight. If you aren’t able or willing or able to take them outside to potty, use a large crate or puppy pen with room for a commercial pee pad. However, understand this shortcut to getting up at night may set back your house-training efforts if you want a dog that eliminates outside.
Very young dogs (+/- 6 weeks) need to go to the bathroom every half hour. Past six weeks, they can typically wait to eliminate for about as many hours as their age in months. For example, a 12-week-old puppy should be able to wait for about three hours but may need to potty sooner.
When housetraining, take your puppy to the potty every couple of hours and reward them for toileting outside. If they are sleeping, there is no need to disturb them. Some puppies can sleep for several hours at night right away. You’ll learn your baby’s habits pretty quickly as long as you pay attention.
Responding to Cries: Am I Reinforcing Bad Habits?
Don’t worry that getting them out of the crate teaches them to cry. You want your baby to know that you will help them if they ask for help. Puppies need reassurance, and being a source of help and comfort builds trust between you.
Puppies learn cause and effect quickly. Your puppy may learn that communicating with you (aka crying) means you will come to get them from the crate. This is good. When dogs need to potty, feel sick, or are scared of storms or fireworks, they will whine, asking to be let out. If you follow a gradual crate training plan, take care of their needs and build happy associations with a crate, then you can also teach them to remain quietly in their crate. You are really teaching them that they still have a voice when they feel upset or uncomfortable because you will come and care for them.
It is crucial to always give comfort and show kindness to puppies. Comforting your puppy is never the wrong thing to do!
Where is the Best Place to Put the Crate?
In the beginning, the single best place for crate overnight is your bedroom. It eases the puppy’s anxiety. Puppies are babies, and just like human children, they need to feel safe. Your new dog has just been separated from mom and littermates and isn’t used to being alone. Bringing them into the bedroom where they can smell you, even if they can’t see you, provides some comfort. Practically, it’s also more likely you’ll hear their cry for help when they need a potty break.
Put the crate next to the bed so it will be easy to comfort them without letting them out of their crate. You can reach your hand down so your pup can sniff your fingers, and you can give them a little scratch behind the ears. Over time, you can slowly move the crate further away from the bedroom and to a more convenient spot if you don’t want the dog to sleep there forever.
Please Don’t Rush Crate Training
We urge you to do your homework and have reasonable expectations about crate training your puppy. Placing a baby dog in the crate without training makes puppies feel stressed, and they come to hate their crate. Rushing this critical process leads to more significant problems like separation anxiety.
In some severe separation anxiety cases, we advise owners to stop using a crate. If your puppy shows a strong aversion to their crate, separation anxiety may be the issue. Dogs with separation anxiety often can’t handle crating, and owners report broken crate bars, cracked teeth, and bleeding paws. Fortunately, this is rare, but taking the time to introduce the crate properly will pay off later.
Do You Have to Crate Train Your Puppy?
Crating your puppy overnight is a choice. Some puppies who aren’t sleeping well in their crate are happier cuddled up with you at night. If you go this route, be smart. Prepare for accidents with a waterproof mattress cover, and don’t use your best linens…at first. There is absolutely nothing wrong with letting your dog sleep with you.
However, every accident is a setback in toilet training, which is why most people prefer to wait until the puppy is adequately housetrained before considering letting them sleep in the bed. And remember, some puppies may not want to sleep on the bed, especially as they get bigger—and that’s their choice.
Crate Training Your Puppy: Let’s Sum it All Up
If your puppy cries at night, it likely means their needs aren’t being met, whether they need to go potty or want reassurance. Figure out what they need, and take it from there. And remember—the first few nights are the hardest; after that, it gets easier. Hang in there!
If you need help with your puppy or adult dog, reach out via our contact us form on our website. We’re happy to help!