Crate Training Your Pup at Night: Is It Cruel?

You have probably run into conflicting information about this question, including whether dogs are considered den animals.

Let’s clear up a few things first. While dogs are not 100% den animals, they do exhibit denning instincts. Dogs, for example, prefer to birth their young in a den. A dog’s earliest memories should be of a warm and safe place. The same is true for when a dog is injured or ill or otherwise requires safety and comfort.

For den animals, like wild dogs, their den is their home, where they raise a family, hide from danger, and sleep.

At home, a crate is a substitute that provides your dog with a semblance of the solitude and comfort they would get from a den.Divider 8

Benefits of Crate Training a Dog

Crate training can be useful to both dog and owner.

Below are a few of the benefits.

Housetraining

Dog lovers know how quickly the excitement of a new dog can wane if you find yourself constantly cleaning up poo and pee. A crate is a great house-training tool for puppies, especially at night.

Quiet Refuge

Dogs have different personalities, much like human beings.

Aside from relaxing, a crate can also be a haven that your dog can retreat into when they experience anxiety. Thunderstorms, loud parties, and wild kids are examples of anxiety-inducing events that your pup might need to get away from.

However, if your dog always seems anxious, a vet can prescribe a drug such as Cerenia to help relax them.

Easy Transport

When traveling in cars or taking flights, having your dog settled in their crate can make traveling much more manageable.

golden retriever puppy in crate
Image Credit: Parilov, Shutterstock

Toxicity and Injury Prevention

Because you can’t — and probably shouldn’t — take your dog everywhere with you, safety becomes a primary concern.

Having a cozy crate for them to stay in when you are not home reduces the possibilities of your dog getting hurt.

Property Protection

Being adventurous, dogs might get too excited and damage furniture, clothes, shoes, cords, and so on.

Visits

There will be instances when your dog is required to be in a crate, for example, at the vet’s, boarding kennel, or the groomer’s.

Getting your dog accustomed to being in a crate will make these visits more pleasant, and your dog will stay calm.

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Crate Training 101

The big question is how to crate train the right way so your dog actually likes being in their crate and is not traumatized by the experience.

Two things are worth mentioning. First, strive to align crate training with positive events, so your dog does not associate it with punishment. Secondly, slow things down; allow the process to take as much time as is needed.

Here is a guide on how to go about it.

Step 1: Introduce the idea of a crate

Place the crate in a high-traffic area of your house, like the living room or the kitchen. Keep the door open.

Most pups will want to explore by going in and coming out as they please. Let your dog do this.

If this does not happen, bring your dog to the crate and put treats inside. Merrick power bites are hard to resist for most dogs. Do this gently, talking to the dog reassuringly.

Ensure that your dog has gone out potty whenever you try to introduce the idea. This way, if they whine, you know it’s not because they need a pee break.

You can also put their favorite toy inside if the treats don’t seem to be incentive enough.  Their favorite blanket would also be a great addition. The idea is to fashion the crate into a pleasant spot.

dog crate
Credit: Jagodka, Shutterstock

Step 2: Feed Your Dog in the Crate

Feeding your dog near the crate creates positive associations. If your dog is happy to be inside the crate, place the food at the back. If they are still reluctant, put it just as far as your dog is willing to go.

It will help to make delicious meals to incentivize them to go in. If you are at a loss on what to offer, you can try Blue Buffalo Wilderness Chicken.

Push the dish farther down at each mealtime to encourage your dog to go all the way in.

Once the dog gets used to eating their meals in the crate, then start closing the door.

As the dog gets comfortable with this, gradually lengthen the time that they remain inside the crate after their meal.

puppy in crate
Credit: Vellicos, shutterstock

Step 3: Lengthen the Crating Period

Once a dog begins to eat and to spend time after their meal inside the crate, you can go a step further by keeping them in the crate when you are home.

Introduce a command, such as “kennel,” as you motion for the dog to go in. You can hold treats to encourage them to get inside. Whenever they do, praise them and reward them with a treat.

Sit quietly where the dog can see you for a few minutes, then go and out of the room a few times, increasing how long you stay away each time.

Work up to 30 minutes of your dog being crated without much fuss, and then you can start leaving them in the crate when you leave the house for short periods.

Step 4: Crate the Dog when Leaving the House

Past the 30-minute mark, you can start leaving the dog crated as you leave the house.

Use the same command to call them into the kennel, give them a treat and a toy, and then leave the house.

While this process might cause you anxiety in the beginning, make departures unemotional. Say your goodbyes in a level tone, then leave. When you return, avoid being emotional or too excited. Greet the dog and go about your business.

This will prevent the dog from getting overly anxious over your expected arrival.

dog in crate
credit: Amber Sallot, shuttersetock

Step 5: Crate Your Dog at Night

The initial days of night crating will best be done in your bedroom so your dog can see you. Otherwise, your dog might feel abandoned.

Puppies might also need to relieve themselves at night. Having them near you will make it easier for you to get up to let them out.

Your dog will then start sleeping in the crate with little to no anxiety and eventually learn to sleep through the night.

Once they begin doing this, you can choose to leave the crate in your room or move it to a location of your choice in the house. However, most dog lovers like the idea of sleeping near their pet.

Your dog may also appreciate getting to see you in the room when they wake up in the morning.

dog in crate sleepy
Photo credit: Jimmy Chan, Pexels

What Not to Do

If crating is done or used incorrectly, it can cause behavioral problems and frustration in your dog.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Find ways to reprimand your dog that have nothing to do with the crate. If not, your dog will associate it with punishment and hate it.
  • Do not leave your dog in the crate day and night. Insufficient exercise and human interaction can lead to depression and heightened anxiety.
  • Puppies six months and below should not be crated for more than three hours at a time. They are still unable to control their bowels and bladders for this long.
  • Once you are sure your dog won’t hurt themselves or be destructive, you can stop locking the door; instead, allow your dog to go in and out of their crate as they wish.

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Easy Does It

Essentially, crate training a dog using the proper technique is far from cruel. In fact, it protects your dog, allows order and convenience, and teaches your dog self-reliance.

The key, however, is to read the dog’s cues and go at their pace to avoid traumatizing them, which could be counterproductive.


Featured image credit: Jimmy Chan, Pexels