Nighttime crate training can be stressful and overwhelming. I always felt terrible because I knew my pup was upset when I put her in the crate, but it was important that I trained her.
Learning how to crate train a puppy at night is an important obedience step that makes your life easier and ensures they don’t get into trouble when you go to bed.
It all starts with choosing a crate. Make sure the dog crate is big enough that they can easily fit, turn around, and lay down in a comfortable position.
Once you’ve found the perfect match, place it in a location that is central to the home while you’re awake and right near where you sleep at night. Your pup should be able to see you at all times!
Now let’s dive into the ins and outs of crate training on those first few nights.
How to Crate Train a Puppy at Night
I can recall that first night and let’s just say it was stressful. But I’ve learned from experience that there are a number of steps you can take to limit the emotional toll when you begin crate training a puppy. Follow these steps, and you’ll have a much easier time:
Familiarize Your Dog With the Crate
Your puppy’s crate should be an extension of their home. If they don’t feel comfortable in it, how could you expect them to want to sleep or eat in it?
Make sure this is a gradual and consistently positive experience. Place their crate in a centralized location in the home and leave the crate door open.
Encourage your pup to explore it by placing treats and toys inside, and never force them into it. A collapsible dog crate that’s easy to fold up will help you move it around the house.
By letting your puppy enter the crate on their own, they associate it with positive feelings so they won’t feel excluded or like they’re being punished when you try to put them in the crate at night.
Serve Your Dog Meals Inside the Crate
Nighttime crate training starts during the day! Use mealtime as an opportunity to associate positive experiences with the crate. I’m sure your pup loves to eat, so if you serve their meals inside the crate, your fur baby will associate something they love with their crate.
If you have a puppy playpen or an indoor dog kennel, you can even consider starting there and working your way up to the crate.
Remember to be patient again with this step as well. If your puppy is afraid of their crate, place the food bowl near it. Continually move it closer and closer to the crate until it’s eventually inside.
If the process is going well, consider closing the door briefly while they’re inside eating. This will get your pup used to being momentarily confined without feeling like they’re isolated.
Increase Crate Time Gradually
Throughout the nighttime crate training process, you want to gradually increase the amount of time your puppy spends inside the crate. This shouldn’t be a process built around force but motivation instead.
All the steps you’re taking to get your puppy into the crate should be positive steps. Begin by closing the crate door for short intervals while you are present, gradually increasing the duration. Offer treats and toys to keep your puppy occupied and make the experience positive.
I recommend starting with 30 seconds to one minute the first few nights and increasing to five minutes if the process is well received.
Remember to keep the crate in an area that is central to the home where you are constantly visible. If you’re cooking, washing dishes, or doing laundry, this is a great opportunity for your puppy to nap and relax while they can still see you. Work this into your puppy’s sleep schedule if possible.
Use the Crate When You’re Away
All the steps you’ve followed so far have led to this moment. If you’ve been patient and caused your pup to feel comfortable and safe in their crate, it will actually help with separation anxiety because your young puppy will feel better in their crate when you’re not home.
Ensure that it’s full of things they love, including comfortable bedding. Start by testing the limits by getting them in their crate and leaving them to stand outside for a minute. Increase the time to two minutes, three minutes, and so on.
Once that’s going okay, start having them go into the crate when you have small errands to run. Ensure you’ve already spent plenty of time with them and that they’re fed.
With consistency and positive reinforcement, your puppy will associate the crate with security.
Provide Nighttime Safety by Crating Your Dog
The ultimate goal is to crate train your puppy at night so you can get a good night’s sleep without worrying about mischief and potential danger.
Nighttime crate training helps get them into a sleep schedule where they associate the crate with a time of relaxation and comfort.
Start by getting the nighttime potty breaks out of the way, make sure they’re fed, and have them go into their crate the same way you would any other day.
Understand that this won’t be a perfect process. If your puppy cries or whines, it’s okay. Remain patient and use comforting words to help soothe them. With a little time and a lot of positive reinforcement, the process will work.
Always Establish a Routine for Crate Training Your Puppy
Consistency is the name of the game, so make sure you follow the same bedtime routine over and over again. If you plan to have your puppy sleep in their crate overnight, you’ll want to follow the same exact steps for a few weeks. The same rules apply for potty training.
Start with the nighttime potty break, maybe a treat, put on your pajamas, and turn down the lights. If you do this exact process followed by the puppy’s crate, after a while, they’ll catch on. You might even notice negative feelings when you do these things because they know it’s time for the crate.
Nighttime crate training requires you to sometimes do things in ways you normally wouldn’t. Keep in mind that this isn’t forever, and after a few weeks, your puppy’s sleep schedule will improve, and the crate training won’t be so stressful.
Why Do Puppies Bark in the Crate at Night
My Border Collie was a big-time barker, and no matter what you did, it seemed like it was just built into his personality. You might lay there in your bed with your puppy literally staring at you and barking and wondering what on Earth is going through their head.
Here are some reasons and what you can do about a barking puppy at night:
The crate is still new to your barking puppy, and whether it’s their first full night in it or their tenth, it doesn’t make much of a difference to them. They don’t like it, and it makes them nervous, but you know in your heart that you’re making the right decision for their well-being.
Keep in mind that there could be a handful of reasons you didn’t think about why they’re feeling nervous in the crate. Maybe they don’t like the dark, or perhaps there is something in the room that is bothering them.
Try your best to create a soothing environment by playing soft music or leaving a TV on low volume while you sleep. Just remember how these things can create permanent habits, so don’t do anything you wouldn’t be willing to do every single night.
If your puppy whines, keep in mind that most puppies do this because they’re trying to get your attention. While you don’t want to completely ignore them, you also need to set the standard and be the dominant person.
By giving in to their commands, you’re reinforcing bad behavior, and it will only make it harder for your overall crate training efforts.
Instead of giving in right away, wait for them to stop whining or barking. When they stop, that’s when you can let them out for a bit. This teaches that you will not respond to a puppy barking but will happily provide attention on your watch.
Part of the potty training process is knowing what’s a potty break and what is attention seeking. Unfortunately, you’ll have to pick up on this on your own, but having routines will help prevent unexpected potty breaks.
Young puppies have limited bladder control and might need to relieve themselves during the night. Establish a consistent potty routine by taking them out before bedtime, and if possible, set a specific time for a nighttime bathroom break. Keep the outing low-key and quiet to avoid stimulating play.
As your puppy gets older, this issue will go away on its own because they’ll gain better control of their bladder and prefer to sleep uninterrupted, just like you.
Puppy’s Mealtime and Water Schedule Impact Their Nighttime Potty Break
On the other hand, maybe you’re the culprit of all these late-night potty breaks! Make sure you’re monitoring their food and water intake towards the end of the night to minimize bathroom tips.
Don’t give your puppy a large meal before bed, and allow a few hours to ensure they can digest their food before their last potty break of the night.
Managing water intake is also important with potty breaks. Provide water whenever they want it throughout the day while restricting access leading up to their final potty break.
Assist Your Puppy Physically and Mentally To Burn Energy Before Bedtime
A puppy is a lot like a child. While adult dogs will happily chill out before bedtime and cuddle up on the couch with you, your puppy still wants to play.
The best way to ensure a better night’s sleep is to tire them out as much as possible prior to bedtime. Get them outside to run around and burn off some steam. Here are some great ways pet parents can help:
- Play fetch
- Go for a quick walk
- Get a puzzle toy
- Do some obedience training
- Teach them tricks
All of these tips will help make your bedtime routine easier!
Prepare a Cozy Crate Area for Your Puppy’s Nighttime Rest
As puppy owners, we do a lot to make our dogs happy. I always say that pet parents are some of the most selfless people on the planet, and our dogs return the favor when we treat them right.
Ensure that your new puppy is comfortable in their crate by following these simple steps:
Make Sure to Have a Suitable Crate Size for Your Puppy
Help your puppy feel comfortable by ensuring their crate is the proper size for them. This tip is probably one of the most important steps we’ve discussed so far because if the crate is too small, nothing else matters.
Crate time doesn’t mean your dog needs to be uncomfortable all night. The crate needs to be big enough for your puppy to stand up, turn around, and lie down in various positions.
That said, a crate that’s too big can actually be bad too. If it’s too large, puppies sometimes don’t associate it with a place of rest and relaxation which leads to potty accidents.
To figure out what size crate you need, you need to measure your puppy from the tip of their nose to the tip of their tail.
Here’s a table to provide you with a visual:
The key to having a comfortable puppy at night is ensuring they have a comfortable place to rest. You can conveniently find the perfect crate size for your pup using our user-friendly dog crate size calculator. Ensure comfort and safety in just a few clicks!
Mask Background Noise Using a Sound Machine
Quiet is sometimes important for both you and your puppy at night. This is why many pet parents turn to sound machines to provide background noise and reduce the risk of any interruptions.
This tip is especially useful if not everyone in the house is sleeping. If you have children or a partner who is still awake and active in the home, this can confuse your pup into thinking they should be awake, and they’ll try to get attention from the person who isn’t sleeping.
Make a sound machine part of your bedtime routine, and it just might make crate training a puppy a little easier.
Cover Your Puppy’s Crate
Some dog trainers swear by covering your puppy’s crate because it will create a quiet and restful environment. Covering it can mimic the natural instinct of your dog to find a safe den to rest in.
Doing this also blocks out noises, light, and any source of stimulation, such as another house pet or activity through a window.
It’s important to use a cover that will not block ventilation, and this is something you’ll want to incorporate into your crate time early on and introduce it gradually, like everything else.
Choose Bedding According to Your Puppy’s Preference
Just like we have preferences for what’s comfortable, so does your pup. Some enjoy plush softness, while others prefer something cool like a mat. Pay attention to their bedtime routine when crate training your puppy and see what types of things they like.
Do this during the day as well. See if they prefer to lounge out in the sun or if you find them lying on a cool tile floor. This will tell you a lot about what will make them comfortable when it’s time for bed.
I also recommend a comfortable puppy collar that doesn’t irritate your pup’s skin. Some collars are of higher quality than others.
Focus on Your Puppy’s Midnight Bathroom Breaks
Whether house training or crate training your puppy, the same rules apply. You will likely need to take your puppy out to prevent potty accidents in the middle of the night. They have limited bladder control and typically can’t hold it all night, so expect this to become a regular part of the bedtime routine.
As your young dog ages, this will go away, and you’ll have fond memories of the time you spent together. Just make sure to limit any sort of excessive interaction when you take them out late at night and be consistent with the timing.
Problems Your Puppy Can Face in Crate Training
Here are some of the issues many pet parents encounter when keeping their puppy crated overnight:
Distress barking in the middle of the night is a telltale sign of a young dog with anxiety. Your pup wants attention, and they’re nervous that they can’t see you.
This issue is why it’s so important to gradually introduce the dog crate and do things to create positive associations with it. Put fun toys inside, feed meals inside, and never force them into the crate. You want your puppy to see being in the crate as a perfectly normal experience.
Whining or Howling
Pay attention to your dog because each one is slightly different, so certain sounds can mean different things. If your puppy is whining or howling when being crate trained, it could mean they need something like a potty break or a play session.
Ensure that you give them plenty of attention before they enter the crate and rule out all potty-related issues by limiting food and water before bed and taking them out right before you go to sleep.
Be Patient and Consistent
Dogs are interesting because it can take forever to create a positive association and one second to create a negative association. Don’t find yourself in the latter.
Never force your dog into a wire crate, and do everything the same way over and over… and over.
As pet parents, we’re responsible for the adult dog we create, and it’s not that hard if we have patience and understanding. My rescue puppy gave me a hard time with just about everything, but I had to maintain my composure and follow the necessary steps.
If your puppy associates their crate with punishments, yelling, and force, you’ll never get them to spend the night in there.
Another interesting thought is that you can’t always see what goes on at night while you’re sleeping. You might sleep through gentle whining and tossing and turning without realizing that your puppy is uncomfortable or unhappy.
Installing a small camera in the direction of the crate is a great way to see what goes on at night so you can adjust accordingly. Figuring out what works right away will help prevent long-term issues down the road.
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about crate training.
Should I Put Water in My Puppy’s Crate?
It’s best not to put water in your puppy’s crate at night because it will lead to accidents and extra trips outside.
What if My Puppy Does Potty in a Crate?
If you’re trying to potty train your pup and they go in the crate, try not to scold them. Clean it up and adjust the potty schedule to prevent this from happening again.
How To Stop My Puppy From Crying in the Crate?
Slow and gentle acclimation to the crate will prevent them from getting upset. Remember to respond to good behavior and ignore bad behavior.
How Long Does Crate Training Take?
Depending on the puppy, it can take a couple of weeks to a few months. Following everything you’ve learned in this guide gives you a better chance of success.
Now that you know how to crate train a puppy at night, you can let out a big sigh and know that everything will be okay. Patience and consistency are the two most important qualities you can possess during this time.
Make sure their crate is big enough, that it’s comfortable, and that you never push something that isn’t working because it will only make it harder in the long run. Good luck!