Bringing home a new puppy is equal parts exciting and exhausting. While new pup parents often dream about all the adventures, the games of fetch in the yard, and all the happy years they’ll spend together, those tough young puppy months can be a grounding awakening they weren’t exactly planning for. Crate training a puppy at night is less challenging than you might think, and it could be your key to getting a full night’s rest with a happy, safe, and healthy pup every night.
Why Crate Train A Puppy At Night?
It doesn’t take long with a new puppy to realize that they’re naturally curious and they do enjoy getting into a little mischief. Afterall, your home is a new environment for them, and they’ll want to do as much as they can to get acquainted with their new space. Unfortunately, this could mean finding trouble – even the kind of trouble that could place them in dangerous situations. It takes a puppy just seconds to chew on a cord, get into the garbage can, or get their little teeth on a remote or another potentially dangerous electronic.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, there are three huge benefits that come along with crate training a puppy at night. First and foremost, dogs are natural den animals. By providing them with a cozy crate to sleep in, you’re fulfilling a natural environmental need that pups themselves may not even know they need at such a tender age. This leads to a calmer, happier, and better rested pup.
The second benefit is a safety benefit. If you and your pup fall asleep together, it’s important to remember that puppies wake up frequently throughout the night. If you’re asleep and fail to wake when they wake, they could have hours of unsupervised time around your bedroom or your home. This gives them plenty of time to explore the environment with no safety guidance, potentially getting themselves into dangerous situations in the name of curiosity.
The third benefit is one that makes your housebreaking much easier. Puppies, by nature, do not want to soil where they sleep or where they eat. While housebreaking your puppy, every time they eliminate appropriately outside, it’s a step forward. If they eliminate inappropriately inside, it’s a step back in their training. Allowing them to sleep uncrated during the night gives them the opportunity to get out of bed, move to another area of the home, and eliminate inappropriately – thereby making your job of housebreaking your pup that much more difficult. Crate training a puppy at night takes away this opportunity and keeps them safe and cozy in their new little “den” instead.
If your puppy does need to eliminate while in their crate, which they likely will when small, they will have ways to let you know. Many puppies will bark, cry, or whimper after waking during the night to signal they need to be let out to use the yard. According to The Housebreaking Bible, puppies aged 7 to 9 weeks will likely need to go outside of their crate to eliminate around every 2 hours, puppies aged 10 to 14 weeks will likely need to go every 3 hours, and from 14 weeks to about 1 year around every 4 hours. Of course, each puppy will be different, and larger breed dogs may have more bladder control earlier when compared to small or toy breeds, according to Homes Alive Pets.
How To Approach Crate Training A Puppy At Night
When puppies are small, many have experience sleeping in piles with their littermates, seldom really sleeping alone. You may find that your puppy naturally gravitates toward you for a nap so they have that same safe, warm, and comforting feeling they’d have curling up with their dog mom or their brothers and sisters. The crate is a new experience, and this can be scary for any little pup. There could be some bumps in the road when it comes to crate training a puppy at night at first, but getting over these hurdles together is important to reaping the many benefits offered by having a happy crate trained pup. Some tips for crate training a puppy at night include:
- Get the right crate – The right crate makes all the difference. A safe and sturdy crate that your puppy cannot escape from is important, as well as comfort items like a crate pad or a cooling fan. According to the American Kennel Club, a crate for at home kenneling should measure at least 3 to 4 inches higher than your dog’s height, and longer than your dog’s length for the most appropriate size. Puppies grow quickly, and investing in a larger crate will allow them to grow into their den in the coming weeks or months.
- Get puppy comfortable with the crate during the daytime – The crate should be a comfort space for your puppy. Waiting until nighttime and simply placing them in, shutting the door, and walking away can have the opposite effect. According to Vets4Pets.com, getting puppy acquainted with their crate during positive interactions in the daytime is important. Place the open crate in a comfortable space for your puppy, like where they spend the most time with you during the day.
With the door open, have some toys in the crate that they are encouraged to play and interact with. During mealtime, place their food and water bowl in the crate to further associate the crate with positive regular experiences. As your puppy gets used to the crate, you may want to place a special treat in the crate, close the door, and allow the puppy to ask you to let them inside.
- Create a consistent routine – Puppies thrive on routine, and this translates to their nighttime crate training as well. Before getting your puppy ready for bedtime in their crate, allow them to see and interact with the routine. Maybe you go to put on pajamas, you take them on a last pre-bedtime potty break, you grab a treat, and you start turning off the lights. They’ll get used to this routine, they’ll see the signs that it’s bedtime, and they’ll associate that crate time as part of their normal, regular, comfortable nighttime schedule. Routine can take the unknown or unsure feelings they may have about the crate according to the World Animal Foundation.
- Let mealtimes and drink times work with you, not against you – A full belly and a cool drink might make your puppy sleepy, but making it too close to bedtime could make your crate training more difficult as well. When crate training a puppy at night, try to limit any food, treats, or water intake starting about an hour before bedtime. This can limit frequent late-night potty trips and allow you both to sleep more comfortably.
- Mental and physical stimulation helps – If your puppy fights back on the crate training at night, and you find yourself frustrated with whining, barking, or fussing while you’re trying to sleep, the issue could be that they’re simply not tired enough when you’re putting them to bed. Puppies need plenty of both physical and mental stimulation to wind themselves down, and depending on breed, they can be particularly full of energy without it. Going for a quick walk with plenty of sniff opportunities, going through a quick trick training session, playing a game of tug or fetch, or breaking out a puzzle toy can be the perfect activity to wind them down for a calmer night’s sleep.
- Know how to handle the fuss – Puppies naturally want to push boundaries, learn about their new social order, and, sometimes, simply push to get their way. The American Kennel Club says that this is why it’s particularly important to establish routine and boundaries with your puppy as soon as possible. There are a few reasons why your puppy may fuss in their crate during the night and these are anxiety, vocal demands, or they need a bathroom break.
Anxious whining or barking is likeliest to happen early on in the nighttime crate training process. The environment is new, they may be used to sleeping with a pack, and they’re feeling unsure of this unfamiliar situation. If your puppy has gone on a potty break and it seems like they’re just uncomfortable in their space, there are a few things you can do to help. Make sure to make their crate as comfortable and safe as possible with crate pads, a safe toy, and maybe even a blanket or piece of clothing that smells like you. Puppy comfort toys for crate training are available that mimic the warmth and heartbeat they may feel sleeping with a littermate, and these can be effective in easing anxious barking in the crate as well.
The next type of barking is bathroom barking. Puppies will signal their needs to you while in the crate at night, and if they need to make a trip outside they may bark or whine to wake you up and let you know. If your puppy wakes you in the night with a whimper, simply take them out of their crate, go straight outside, and allow them to relieve themselves. Don’t encourage play, snacks, or any other stimulation during potty breaks, and simply bring them back in and back to their crate when they’re finished. Puppies need to learn that potty breaks are for potty, not playtime.
Lastly, your puppy could bark or whine to push boundaries and make “vocal demands”. If your puppy is not crate anxious, they’ve gone outside, and there is nothing that they need, they may need to “cry it out” for a while to learn that barking and whining does not reward them with the attention they want. When the puppy stops barking or whining, provide attention to show them that demands are met on your terms, not theirs.
Nighttime Crate Training Skills Are A Benefit For Life
Crate training a puppy at night is an effort that will benefit your dog and your relationship with them forever. With this skill, they’ll always have a safe and comfortable place to retreat to for sleep, to relax, or when outside factors leave them feeling nervous or uncomfortable (like during fireworks or a thunderstorm.) While crate training may be challenging at first, in a couple of months or less, your efforts will pay off in a big way for life.
Cover photo by, Brett Sayles