Until what age should a dog sleep in a crate? Dog crate training is a big deal, but so is taking this valuable tool away.
Teaching your puppy to love their crate, using it for potty training and to help them settle quietly at night takes time and patience. Yet the decision to take the crate away again can be even more life changing. Crate trained puppies are safe, settled and secure. They can’t get themselves into trouble, pee or poop on the floor, or tip their water dish everywhere if they are crated at night. But most families eventually want the crate removed as their new dog develops.
Your puppy might be happy to spend the rest of their life sleeping in a crate at night, but you have other plans. You want the space back in your kitchen or hate the asthetic of a large metal cage in your home. Which is reasonable! But letting your puppy sleep outside the crate can spell disaster if they are still occasionally having bathroom mistakes or chewing the furniture. It’s not so much age as behavior that is key.
- Until what age should a dog sleep in a crate?
- Should I lock my puppy in at night?
- Transitioning to a dog bed
- How long should my dog stay shut away at night?
When I got my first puppy, I was overwhelmed by the different schools of thought on crate training. It took me a long time to learn that the right answer really depends on your individual dog! It’s great to understand the science and philosophy behind crate training a puppy or older dog. And it is definitely a good idea to include crate training in your overall canine training plan. However, there are other factors that are also worth considering as you decide how or whether to crate train your particular pup.
Until What Age Should a Dog Sleep in a Crate?
In a perfect world, your little puppy will meet their dog crate the very first night they travel home with you. You will associate the crate with all good things – treats, quiet time, naps and safety during deep sleep. Your puppy will fall in love with it and naturally seek it out – so much so that the issue of ever allowing her to sleep elsewhere will quickly become a non-issue!
However, if you are reading my article, chances are good that this isn’t how training is going for you and your dog. Maybe you have even adopted a rescue pup who is crate-phobic or has separation anxiety when crated. If this describes you, it is important to know there is no single right age to permit your dog to sleep in a different bed. There is no single wrong age either. Instead, there is a suggested training protocol you can try out, adjusting as you go to meet your specific dog’s needs.
Should I Lock My Puppy in His Crate at Night?
For many newly rehomed puppies, the first night in your home will be the hardest. They are lonely, anxious and disoriented. Worse – now instead of their warm den with mom and litter mates, there is a strange square contraption they are apparently supposed to spend the night in.
Little puppies don’t necessarily know their crate is supposed to be calming. They only know they are in an unfamiliar setting and unfamiliarity is scary. This is the main reason why you should not lock your puppy in it alone for the entire night.
The other reason occurs when you aren’t willing to get up through the night to take your puppy out to pee. Young puppies can’t hold their bladder or bowels and will eliminate inside the crate if you don’t take them out. Once this happens, it is much more likely your puppy will not want to go back in at night again.
If you’re not willing to get up and take your pup outside at night, a better idea is to confine them to a specific room where the open crate also happens to be. You can add comfy bedding to the interior and cover the top with a soft dark cloth to eliminate drafts. You can also tuck in an item that smells like you or something familiar from their previous situation (if it was positive) so your puppy can anchor to a familiar smell and settle down to sleep in their crate more easily.
The Transition from Crate to Dog Bed
In the ideal world of perfectly trained pups, the transition from crate to bed would be totally optional. And, for some people, it is! Some dogs will love their crate, and even seek it out as needed for quiet time and sleep for the rest of their life. But, this isn’t the case for everyone. Either way, your dog is the one to decide if or when to transition from crate to dog bed.
Most pawrents consider crates optional after their dog is completely house-trained and can stay unsupervised in the home without causing trouble. Not surprisingly, this means dogs may make the transition at very different ages!
Should Dogs Sleep in their Crate Overnight?
One fact many stateside dog pawrents don’t know is that crate training a pet dog is quite an unusual practice outside of the United States. In some parts of the world, using a crate with a pet dog is even illegal. From this perspective, you might wonder how the idea of a dog crate or kennel ever caught on anywhere at all.
The original idea was to mimic the observed wild wolf instinct to seek out a private, protected area for sleep, giving birth and protecting very young cubs. It is worth noting here that these wild wolves were never forced to sleep in a particular location. Rather, they experienced positive benefits – like staying alive through the night – by choosing a secluded, dark, enclosed or protected place to sleep and do other vulnerable activities.
So if your dog feels safe and at ease in her crate and wants to stay there overnight, there is no harm in letting her stay inside to sleep. But the ultimate goal isn’t getting your dog to sleep in one overnight. It is getting your dog to sleep somewhere that feels safe at night. For many dogs, that place is not their crate and that is perfectly okay too.
Can a Crate Trained Dog Sleep in Bed?
They sure can – if you let them! However, the better question might be whether or not you want your dog snoring next to you, spooning your partner and hogging the covers. Many pup owners love having their fur babies sleep with them in their bed at night. As long as you don’t lose sleep because your dog is joining you in bed, it is your choice whether to allow your dog to do this or not.
How Long Should a Dog Sleep in a Crate at Night?
Here again, the correct answer depends on your dog crate philosophy as well as your individual dog’s ability to tolerate the crate. For general purposes (at least in North America), as soon as your puppy is potty trained and trustworthy when left home alone, they can be permitted to stay loose around the house, day or night.
Do I Need to Stop Using My Crate?
As I mentioned earlier, there’s nothing to force you to move your dog to a bed! In fact, it can set you up for other problems, if your dog likes making lots of noise or if they have destructive tendencies. You could find yourself woken by a squeaky toy, or coming downstairs to torn up cushions. If your dog is happy sleeping in their crate and you don’t experience any problems with using it, there’s no reason that you have to switch to a dog bed. It’s all down to you and your pup!
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