The benefits of crating your dog include protecting your possessions from those sharp puppy teeth, simplifying your potty training progress, and keeping your puppy safe when you are not watching over them.
There are downsides to dog crates though and it’s important that these are addressed. I can remember when crates first appeared on the scene thinking “putting a dog in a cage, what a horrible idea”. I’m going to explain why I changed my mind, and how you can make sure that you and your puppy both benefit from crate time.
If you decide to use a crate for your puppy or older dog, do check out our detailed guide to crate training. This will give you all the information you need to make crate training a success.
What Is A Dog Crate?
A dog crate is simply a wire cage sturdy enough to contain a dog for a limited period of time. Wire crates are collapsible and fold flat so that you can store them or transport them.
Most crates come with a plastic tray that slides out for cleaning, you’ll need to buy your own crate bed or line the bottom with an old blanket.
You can also get solid plastic crates that are designed for transporting dogs, these tend to be more expensive and heavier.
The Benefits Of Crating A Dog
The main benefits of a dog crate are:
- Helping the puppy to toilet in appropriate places and at appropriate times
- Preventing the puppy from damaging your possessions when you cannot supervise him
- Keeping the puppy safe when you cannot supervise him
- Teaching your dog to relax in a crate
Helping with toilet training
All puppies will instinctively avoid messing in their beds. So when you confine your puppy to a small crate, they will (within reason) wait to be released before toileting. This makes house training a whole lot easier, provided you don’t exceed the limits of your small puppy’s bladder capacity.
When you take your puppy outside after they have been shut in the crate for a while, they will almost certainly then oblige you when you take them to their toilet area.
It’s a good idea to prevent your puppy from accessing the floor for the last ten to fifteen minutes before their next bathroom break is due. The crate is a great place to put your puppy for this ten minutes or so, if you are too busy to carry them or cuddle them on your lap.
Protecting your possessions
Labrador puppies chew things. Your things. Favourite chew toys are chair legs and baseboads, shoes, and children’s toys. Not to mention their own beds, and anything they find lying on the floor.
Giving your puppy their own chew toys may help, but it will not prevent most puppies from chewing entirely. Some dogs chew more than others. Most Labs will chew quite a lot until they are over a year old. A few dogs, may be keen chewers for several more months.
I find many Labradors are prone to causing occasional damage through chewing up right up until about their second birthday. This is about the time you can usually safely purchase a nice fancy bed and they won’t destroy it. Until then, anything you provide is likely to be shredded. So don’t be tempted to spend a small mortgage on a designer dog duvet!
For those times when you cannot watch the puppy, the crate will protect your furniture and favourite shoes from his very sharp teeth and strong little jaws.
Keeping your puppy safe
Chewing does not just damage your stuff, it puts your puppy at risk. Electric cables are very attractive to puppies, and they sometimes swallow chunks of whatever they are chewing. The crate can prevent your puppy choking, being poisoned, or being electrocuted while you are out shopping or getting your kids ready for school.
In busy households, at busy times of the day, small puppies are at risk of being stepped on or tripped over, the crate is a place of safety at these times and gives the puppy a place to relax when all around them is chaotic.
Small children don’t understand that puppies get exhausted or over-excited and the crate is a great place for your puppy to recharge his batteries safely without being pulled around and prodded by your kids. Baby gates can also be very useful for this purpose!
Why Dogs Need To Learn To Relax In A Crate
Many dogs will have to be crated at some point in their lives. Crate rest is an inevitable part of recovery after some types of surgery. Crates are required for airline flights, and they provide safe spaces in vehicles on long journeys. Any dog admitted to the animal hospital will be in some kind of crate or cage for the duration of their stay.
A dog that is accustomed to a crate and is able to relax when confined is far less likely to be stressed when they have to be crated in an emergency, for transport, or because they are sick.
What Can Go Wrong With Crating A Dog? (And How To Make Sure It Doesn’t)
While a crate can be a great tool, it can also be a source of cruelty. Problems can arise with crate use if the crate is too small, too big, or if a dog is shut in there for too long (remember that your puppy’s bladder control is poor for the first few months). Problems can also arise if crating is introduced inappropriately and the puppy or dog is, or becomes, afraid of the crate.
It’s important that your dog crate is not too small. Make sure that your dog can stand, and sit up without banging their head on the top of the crate. They should also be able to turn around, and stretch out on their side in their crate.
When you are potty training your puppy the crate should not be too large. In a very big crate your puppy will relax at one end and pee at the other. You can buy dividers for some crates so that you can make the available space bigger for your puppy as he grows. This saves you buying another crate later on.
As a rule of thumb I don’t leave puppies under three months old in a crate for more than an hour, and that would only be after introducing the puppy very gradually and carefully to being shut in the crate. You’ll find more information on how long you can leave a puppy in a crate, in my crate training guide.
If you have recently brought home a rescue dog, remember that they may never have experienced a crate or may associate crates with unhappy experiences. So always introduce a crate slowly and gradually to adult dogs too
Most puppy owners will benefit from a car crate too. A young dog can do an enormous amount of damage to the interior of a vehicle in a surprisingly small window of time.
A car crate will protect your puppy from being thrown around the vehicle in the event of an accident and protects the inside of your car from your puppy’s teeth whilst you are driving or unloading.
How about you? Do you think crates are a good thing? Did you use one for your puppy? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website
My brother has been thinking about taking better care of his golden retriever by getting a crate for her. She would really like to get some help from a professional by getting one the right size. I liked what you said about how you can get a crate with room to grow by adding dividers.
Our Labrador is now 14months old goes to bed in the crate. She has one blanket anything else we put in there she either brings out or rips up. She wakes during the night about 3am if we take her down stairs she then curls up on the settee and for a back to sleep. Don’t want to leave her downstairs as sometimes pulls the settee cushions off and attacks them on the floor. Can you give some advice please as do need some sleep thanks
Must admit I never used a crate with any of my labs their baskets were their haven and the children knew that so left them alone once the dogs went in them. Mine didn’t chew either which may have been because the place was littered with dog toys lol but I can understand why some people choose to use them I just chose not to, perhaps I was lucky as all 3 of my labs were very obedient and a pleasure to have draped all over the house ?
It’s really smart to note that to avoid messing in their beds, puppies will wait until they’re released to relieve themselves. That sounds like a great way to toilet train! My wife and I just got a puppy, and we want to start training him early. Thanks for the information-I’ll be sure to use these tips!
My dog is 2 now has been crated from day 1. He’s adjusted beautifully from the start. Perfectly toilet trained from the start the crate is now his safe haven. He’s always in it when no one is around. Besides keeping him safe (he’d swallow anything he can get) it also keeps our belongings safe which would otherwise be chewed up. When someone is at home our boy is up on the couch or following us around like a shadow.
I love my crate for my lab. He is now 2 years old. He is now very obedient. I give his crate the credit. Great for house breaking. Also he now loves going to his crate on his own. I leave the door open at all times. He has a new comfy bed in his crate. It’s his quiet time. His nap time. I highly recommend a crate.
My lab loved his crate, we had one as soon as we got him. He was trained that he would go to it as soon as the door bell rang. He would also go as soon as he was tired of playing or being petted.
Hi. I have a 12 year old Labrador who has a crate. He only went into a crate for the first time when he was 10. He used to be left in the house between baby gates and a hard wood floor. This suited him. But we moved into a new house with only carpet as an option. The first time he was left alone the carpet was scratched to bits. We got him a cage and set it up in his corner and left the door open. He loved it from day one. He goes in there every time we go out and is always locked in it. When we come home the door is opened and he can go in and out all the time we are there. He loves it. It’s his little den. He is fed in there and water is in there all the time. We would never be without it now. At night when we are there he sleeps on the landing on a duvet. And doesn’t scratch the carpet when we are there. So it’s only used when we are out of the house.
My boy george is 2.5 yrs old he was crate trained asap. He travels in the car in a crate also. He crate in the house is his quiet space. He goes in when I hoover. He is really cool about using his crates.
We have litter mate brother and sister Labrador cross Springers, Mable and Wilf. We have had litter mate brother and sister before, Madge and Jethro. Madge and Jethro did not have a pen and chewed from pups. Mable and Wilf have had a pen and when tiny pups did not chew as much. Mable more springer was prone to getting out of the pen do we put lid in it to create a crate. Mable can chew her way out if in the mood! The pen is only used at night. Ironically the gate is left open throughout the day and Mable and Wilf are very often found lying in it, they are not distressed by it. Wilf does get frustrated when Msble gets out. Mable and Wilf are just over 9 months and we thought maybe it was time to let them sleep in the kitchen. We put the pen at the kitchen door and left the door open so they could use the pen and the kitchen. We put their you box and chew bones in the kitchen, much more than they would have had in the pen. This was fine until about 5.30’ish am when I heard them up and when I went down Wilf was chewing a floor mat. I removed the mat said no and swooped for a chew. I was only gone for mo more than 5 minutes and in that time Mabel had chewed a different mat and pulled some stuffing from the bed. Neither if them had gone for their chews or toys. Tonight they are back in the pen and I will give them more freedom at 5.30ish when they wake. Is it best to give more freedom gradually? Do you have any other suggestions. Just to add Mable and Wilf get two good long walks every day. They also have a good sized garden to run around in and play games so are well exercised. Thank you in advance for any advise.
We just brought our new 8 week old lab puppy home Wednesday and I had every intention of crate training him. He, Baxter, has other ideas! He goes in there to eat and get treats and knows what “go to your bed” means, he runs in with no hesitation. He is fine as long as I am there, but if I leave and close the door he literally “screams”. The first night I listened for 2 hours and couldn’t stand it anymore, so he and I have been sleeping on the couch ever since. I know I have done everything wrong, but I just couldn’t stand his crying and screaming. Do you have any ideas of what I can now do? I try to extend the time he is in there before he cries, but unless I am feeding him treats in there, he just is not happy at all.
Hi Susan, this is the article you need Good luck with your puppy, and do join the forum for support
We have kennel trained labs in the past with great success so when we got our current puppies we intended to do the same, but these two have taken longer to warm to their kennels then I would like. It has been two weeks now and
although they are not confined to the kennels during the day we do now feel that they are comfortable in their kennels during the daytime. The kennels are in the living room so the pups have access to the kennels and us. They have blankets in the kennels. We make sure there are a couple of toys in their kennels. They sleep, play, take treats in, etc at will in the kennels during the day. The problem comes around 3:30am when they begin barking non stop.
Our night time routine goes as follows – Dinner is at 6:00 and no water after 8:00. Last night, after dinner we took a short walk followed by time in the yard with them. Inside they continued to run and playing until they fell a sleep around 9:30 on the floor next to me. I woke them and took them outside, to bathroom. I brought them back inside and put them in their kennels. They went back to sleep with no whining . Around 3:30 they began to stir, I immediately took them outside. After they went to the bathroom I brought them back in to their kennels. They barked until I gave up on sleep at 5:00.
Any suggestions? They are only 9 weeks old so I expect to have to get up to let them out, actually I would have expected twice per night verses once. I also understand some whining and barking is normal and by ignoring it over time it will go away – but they don’t quit…They act like they want to get up and play – which we are not doing with them.
Any advice or suggestions would be GREATLY appreciated
Molly is now 5 months old and has been crate trained since we got her at 8 weeks old. Without a crate, we would not have been able to keep her. It provides her with a safe place to stay when we can’t watch her or to calm down when she gets too excited. I’ve heard horror stories from friends who don’t use a crate (their furniture, etc. gets destroyed by a bored, rambunctious puppy). So do yourself and your dog a favor, and get a crate. I also keep one in my car so that she can travel with me safely and comfortably.
I read all about the crate, before we purchased our lab. He is now 1 year old, loves his crate at night. If it is too hot in the house I let him sleep outside. It only took a couple of nights when we first trained him. Nobody can annoy him whilst he is in there., he is nice and quiet, and sleeps in it all night. If left outside he barks at all sorts of things, and keeps me awake. If he goes to the vet, they put him in a crate, he doesn’t get anxiety, because he is used to it. Even when he goes to pet stock for his bath, they put him in the crate, he is great, because he is used to it. We have the crate in the lounge room, where it is noisy, he learnt to stay in there with noise, and now we can watch tele, and talk, and he goes straight to sleep, he loves it. The best thing we ever did. My other dogs used to keep me awake all night with the constant barking. He has nothing to bark at in there. I get the perfect sleep, so does he and so do the neighbours. He is a much happier dog than any other dog I had, he can sleep inside without wrecking anything. It’s a perfect situation. It’s not cruel, I only put him in it at the vet at the pet shop, which isn’t long or when he is sleeping. He barks when he wakes up to get let out, I let him straight out. He usually sleeps at night for about 10 or 11 hours. I don’t put him in there when I go out, in case he needs to get out. Only when I am home watching him. Best idea ever.
We crated our puppy lab from day one. Got up every two hours initially increasing over 6 weeks to 6 hours and at 3 months she was doing 8. We used the crate to enforce time out when she was overtired or biting at the kids clothing. By 4 months she expected to go in there at night and would wait for her kong in there. We dont use much during the day as she has been outside kennelled in the day most days from 10 weeks old. Also use just old blankets and sheets in there as she hewed through anything with padding and ate it!
My husband and I have a chocolate lab who just turned 4. As a puppy, he chewed everything the second he was left alone! Because of this, he was put in his crate every time we left the house. Now that he is older, we’ve talked about getting rid of it to save the room it takes up, but he honestly loves it! Every once in a while he will disappear while we’re watching TV and we’ll find him asleep in his crate. He can tell whenever we’re getting ready to leave the house and just lays in there and waits for us to come shut the door. There is nothing mean about his cage, it’s HIS spot and he loves it.
I have owned 2 Labradors both from pups. The first one Djsngo, we didn’t use crates I’m not even sure that they were about. He was quite a chewer for the first 8 months after that fine, however he completely emptied the freezer which made him very unwell for a few days.
My latest lab jake, is now 6 months and he had a crate from day one. 3 hours in the car when we collected him at 9 weeks old. He sleeps in it at night, stays in in when we go to work, he is let out every 2 or 3 hours for toilet brakes, when we are home, the crate door is left open, he comes and goes as he pleases. And he is always safe which is the purpose. He loves it!! Don’t let the crate become a sin bin if he has been naughty, it is the dogs safe place.
Ours are definitely crated in the car. We have a Safedog crate which are much stronger than the normal wire ones. Our car is the Honda Accord in this photo http://www.safedog.co.uk/honda.htm which was taken after the crate was fitted. Only problem is dogs have loads of room but we need a roof box for the stuff that would have gone in the boot 🙂
I have always had Labrador and I have had so much damage done through chewing. I never used a crate always thought it was cruel. Well I got a little black lab first one I have had from little so thought I would try a crate so big dog gets a break from needle teeth. Little one loves it, I put some toys in there to chew, a teddy for him to cuddle, I cover the crate with nice blankets to keep the draft out. He is now 7 months old and I have never heard him cry in there. I would recommend a crate to everyone, I can go out for a couple of hours knowing my little boy is safe.
My partner Dave and I are planning to get a black lab puppy soon, I have been doing some reading about using a crate but I still have my doubts, do they not get distressed while in the crate all night? (Apart from taking him out for toilet breaks). And during the day would it be sensible to leave the puppy in the kitchen with the crate door open but a baby gate on the kitchen door to restrict the area he can move in?
Any thoughts on the subject would be very helpful! 🙂
Lena and Dave
Hi Lena, puppies do not find crates distressing. They do not like being alone for the first few nights and may cry unless they are close to you, this is not connected with the crate itself. Using baby gates to keep the puppy away from your carpets is a very good idea. Pippa