Posted on: March 23, 2023 Posted by: Petsynse Comments: 0

I thought maybe a crash course in crate training post would be welcomed! We do have an older post with a longtime shared crate training manual hereBut I thought I’d share what I typically go over in short with each puppy parent here on gotcha day!

I’d like to open by saying, crate training is truly the easiest way to go about potty training your puppy, and it is in NO way inhumane or “mean”.

It’s difficult to even post pictures of a puppy sleeping sweetly in their crate, or a dog (because of course that’s when they perk their ears up just perfectly for you!), without fearing comments like “oh poor puppy… why would you lock them up? Don’t you want to be with them? So cruel…”

And unfortunately that’s coming from folks that don’t really get the entire premise of crate training, why it works, and why it’s the safest option for your pup.

Safety First!


From a purely safety perspective, your puppy having its own crate is going to keep not only your possessions safe from being chewed on, destroyed, etc… but more importantly it’s going to keep your puppy safe from ingesting something they should not! Have you ever dealt with a bowel obstruction in a dog? It’s not only devastating to watch your pup go through that, but your jaw will drop at the vet bills too…

I always tell puppy parents… if you can’t be watching and supervising the puppy when he or she is out, they should be in their crate. Not only do you want to catch potty cues, you don’t want to risk them getting into something they shouldn’t. A bored puppy is a mischievous puppy! If they have free reign of the house and you’re not there to be supervising, the possibilities of things they could get into are endless!

Crates are Dens!

The reason crate training works is because by nature, dogs are den animals. They want their own space, where they eat and where they sleep. This is where your crate comes in! Puppy should not only be sleeping in their crate, but I tell puppy parents to feed each meal in the crate. This reinforces that the crate is their den, their safe space. And instinctively, dogs don’t want to soil where they eat and sleep. Thus, they are much less likely to potty in there!

When potty training a puppy, you need to be able to catch them in the act to teach them where they should go. As soon as you see your pup start to circle and sniff for a spot to piddle, you scoop them up and take them outside to the designated potty spot. Once they potty outside, your job is to praise and reinforce whatever potty command you choose (potty, make, get busy… I’ve heard many). I personally use “go potty”, and so when a puppy piddles outside for me, I give a sing songy “yay! good potty!! good girl/boy!”. Pup perks their ears and wags and bounds toward you thinking, yay! I did a good thing!

When puppy is in a crate, their typically not going to just pee without giving some cues that they are anxious and need to go. If puppy is out free and not being supervised, you’re much more likely to turn a corner and find a puddle… already missing the window of correction. Now, the more accidents puppy starts to have on the floor that aren’t caught when they’re happening, puppy thinks “oh ok I can just go here”. There’s no connection or redirection to where that was supposed to happen. Thus I tell folks if you are not catching the puppy in the act of pottying and finding the piddle later, you’re giving them too much freedom too soon… and they need to be crated more.

Keep it Positive!

Does every puppy just love their crate from the get go? Probably not! It doesn’t mean it doesn’t work, or it’s mean, or it isn’t still the best way to potty train. Each time you put puppy in the crate, give them a little treat along with the a sing songy command like “kennel!” or “night-night!”. It’s fine to put crate safe toys (like nylabones, kongs, durable chew toys that can’t be torn up and eaten) in there with them to gnaw on, or put music on in the background (our pups are used to that here!), or a fan, white noise, etc. You can also use a lightweight sheet over the top of the crate to help it feel cozier and more denlike (just make sure no part of that sheet is sticking in the crate for pup to pull in and chew!).

Don’t be afraid to put your pup in the crate during the day for frequent naps/downtime! One mistake some folks make is keeping pup out with them all day long and then only trying to crate them overnight. This can make it much harder for puppy to get used to the crate. I’ve had some clients say they use a 2 in 2 out method of crate training during the day (2 hours in, 2 hours out, repeat). I think that’s a very fair day schedule for a new puppy and helps get a routine going from the get go. Puppies thrive with a routine and will train so much faster with one!

Always remember, puppies pee when they wake up! Whether it’s after a nap during the day, or first thing in the morning… when puppy wakes up, take them right outside first! Some make the mistake of greeting puppy with a happy good morning for a bit too long before taking them outside and they basically step outside of the crate, wag excitedly, and pee right there on your floor… whoops! Wake up, straight outside to potty, then you can come back in for wiggles, conversation and breakfast. And remember as already stated, back in the crate for mealtime. Give them about 20 minutes in the crate with their food and water… if they don’t finish the food in that time, pick it up and wait until the next meal. This is getting them into a feeding routine of eat now or later, there is no grazing… and helps the potty training schedule too!

Another tip I give folks is monitoring water intake in those early training weeks. You do not need to limit how much the pup is drinking, and of course you want to make sure they’re hydrated… but if puppy has free access to water you’ll find those piddles much more frequent and harder to predict. If you’re in control of when they’re getting the water (with meals, after play, after sleep, etc) then you’ll be able to better time potty breaks outside. Afterall, when they’re little… that water goes through pretty quickly! You may want to take them out within a 10 minute window even.

Bedtime and Overnight Protocol

Ok, so finally for the overnight protocol/routine…

The only time it’s ok to wake a sleeping puppy is right before you’re headed to bed yourself. Ideally you’d like to keep your puppy up in the evening to hope for a better night’s rest, but let’s be honest… when they’re brand new and little, and those early days of transition are so exhausting for them, they may crash and snooze a bit earlier than you’d love. So let’s say puppy dozes off at 9pm or so… but you’re getting ready to head to bed at 11pm give or take… take puppy out for one more potty break before bed. Don’t give any more water, just let them clear out their system! Then, it’s back to bed in the crate.

Now, it’s not uncommon that at this point there may be some vocal protesting happening. But that’s the whining that you have to just let settle out. As long as you know they just went potty, they’re safe and sound to settle in their crate, even if it takes a little bit…

Many keep the crate in their bedroom in the beginning, but if you choose to have a different designated crate area, make sure it’s somewhere you can hear them. Even use a baby monitor if necessary… Otherwise if they start to whimper and whine after sleeping a few hours because they need to potty, but you don’t hear them until they are howling… you may not get there in time and walk into an already messed crate, which really puppy does not enjoy. 🙁 Again, their instinct is to not soil their den, but obviously if it gets to the point that they can not hold it anymore, they’ll do what they have to.

So for those middle of the night potty breaks, remember it’s like changing a baby in the middle of the night! Take them right outside to relieve themselves… give them a few minutes as there may be a couple piddles, or a number two… but then back inside right back to bed in the crate to settle back down and go back to sleep. Again if you know they just were able to potty, the protesting cries have to be ignored to let them settle back down and realize it’s time to sleep again. This can be the hardest part for puppy parents… but stay strong and stay consistent. You know they are safe, you know they will not mess themselves, and it’s ok if they cry a bit until they settle. Again you can have music on, a fan, a sheet over the top, speak soothingly to them, that’s fine. But ultimately don’t cave… stay strong!

Puppy in his new bed

I hope this has been helpful for those of your preparing for puppyhood either the first time or just again but it’s been awhile!

If I missed anything or you have any questions, comment below!