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Is It Cruel To Crate a Dog at Night?

crate training a puppy

From my first dog as an adult (my beloved Abernathy) to my two stubborn, but wonderful Rat Terriers (Millie and Tillie), we have always used crate training for our dogs. And it’s been a successful strategy for us.

The question is “is it cruel to crate your dog at night?” Well, that depends on who you ask. For most Americans, it’s the best way to train and keep Rover feeling safe and out of trouble. But most Australians and Europeans are fully against it.

According to Sofija Stefanovic of the Guardian, Finnish law states than an animal can be in a crate only for “transportation, illness or other temporary and acceptable reason.”

Otherwise, it’s not only looked down on but heavily restricted and in Finland, illegal. Obviously the two sides disagree greatly so it may be just a matter of location. As for me, I think it is a good idea.

Unsure if you should crate train your dog at night? Check out our post “The Ultimate Guide to Crating Your Dog at Night”.

Why crate your dog at night?

Let’s be honest with ourselves. Man’s Best Friend can get into a lot of trouble and sometimes forgets the rules especially if they can roam free at night.

There are several situations that can occur simply because Rover has nothing else to do and the master is asleep.

Overhead view of a Corgi standing in the open door of a dog crate looking up at the camera

Some of those things may include:

1.    Chewing things that are not chew-toys.
2.    Soiling the carpet at night or leaving you little presents that you have to clean up in the morning. Dogs will not go in their own beds, but they will go in another room.
3.    Scavenging through the garbage can for food that master must have put there for their consumption.
4.    Barking at the squirrel in the tree trying to get in to steal Rover’s food and doggy treats.
5.    Pushing master out of the bed and onto the floor. A little leadership reversal is good for the soul at 3am, huh?

There are many other reasons that can cause someone to want or need to crate Rover. But is it cruel? Hmmm. I guess it can be, especially if it is done wrong or the cage is too small or used as punishment.

Also, let’s remember that dogs came from wolves and even wolves seek out closed off, safe places to sleep at night.

For thousands and thousands of years dogs have used dens to rest, recover from injuries and care for their pups.

Fact is, they feel safer in small enclosures while resting, so it is my opinion that it is not cruel but adhering to their own natural instincts. It isn’t only okay to crate your dog at night, but throughout the day when necessary as well

Need alternatives to crate training? Click here to learn more.

As PAWS states, “ Correctly and humanely used, a crate can have many advantages for both you and your dog:

Dog crate isolated on a white background

Your dog…

  • Can enjoy the privacy and security of a den of her own, to which she can retreat when tired, stressed or not feeling well.
  • Can avoid much of the fear, confusion and anxiety caused by your reaction to problem behavior.
  • Can more easily learn to control her bowels and to associate elimination only with the outdoors.
  • Can be spared the loneliness and frustration of having to be isolated, in the basement or outdoors, from indoor family surroundings when she needs to be restricted from certain things.
  • Can be more conveniently included in family outings and trips instead of being left behind alone.

Are those good reasons? I like to think so.

And let’s face it, you are here for a reason. You think crating your dog would be a good idea, so let me help you.

First, we must start with how to ‘crate’ train your dog the right way.

If done wrong, Rover will never feel comfortable in his new home and this could cause both of you a lot of stress.

Got your puppy crate all set up but don’t know what to put in it? Check out our post “What to Put in a Puppy Crate at Night?” to find out.

How to crate train your dog

Small dog in dog crate .

1.    Start them off when they are puppies and are still learning the rules of the house. That does not mean you cannot ‘crate’ train them when they are fully grown, just that it might be better to start out earlier.

2.    Find a crate that is of good size. We want to make sure that your dog can stand up and turn around easily in it. Also, make sure it is large enough for them to move around a little, or stretch if they need to.

Warning: Do not make the crate too large. Even though they will not go in their own bed, they will go in a space that will provide them with plenty of room to. So, make sure the crate is not too roomy.

3.    Create a positive ‘crate’ training experience for your dog by lining the crate with soft blankets, chew toys and gently coaxing him in. Giving treats after entering the crate is a sure-fire way to get the point across that it is a place where good things happen.

4.    Do not force your dog into the crate. This will have the opposite effect in that Rover will not want to use it.  

5.    In the beginning, allow your dog to spend only a few moments in the crate. Increase the time, day by day by providing treats and lining it with things he will enjoy. Before long, your dog will be going in on his own and sleeping there when he needs a break or becomes frightened.

Pitbull terrier paying in a dog crate with the door open

NOTE: If it is his first time in the crate, do not close the door. Being locked in can feel like punishment and will be confusing for the dog.

6.    Pet MD says the best way is to “Tempt the puppy to enter the crate by placing some kibble inside. Be generous with your praises, as he enters the crate to eat the kibble.

If he does not make a move to enter the crate, pick him up and slowly put him inside with the door left open. Reassure your puppy by petting him if he seems agitated and frightened. Once the puppy is inside the crate for a few moments, call him to come out of the crate to join you. Praise him with simple words and pats when he comes to you.

7. After practicing going in and out of the crate willingly several times, once the puppy appears to be at ease inside the crate and does not show any signs of fright, then you can close the door slowly. Keep it closed for one minute, as long as he remains calm all throughout. After that, open the door and invite him out while generously praising him.”

After a lot of research I have found that this does not only work with puppies but adult dogs as well, so give it a try.

When NOT to crate your dog.

dog in dog crate looking sad.

1.   Never, ever, ever use the crate as a detention center for bad behavior. We want your dog to associate the crate with safety not a place to be punished.

2.    Do not crate your dog if you have not given them some running around time coupled with toilet time. It is always best to crate them when they are tired so that they will sleep away some of their crating time.

How to crate train my dog at night?

Most experts agree on one good way to crate train your puppy at night.
Dog Parenting 101 says the best way is to tire him out. Take him for a walk to do his business. Play with him for a while until he is good and tired out. Then gently work your way towards his crate and have him go inside.

If you try to train your puppy to sleep in the crate just by sticking him in the crate, closing the door and then leaving the room, your puppy will feel abandoned which will lead to a night of whining and barking, which leads me to things you should never do to crate train your dog to sleep in his crate.

Beagle sitting on dog bed in crate.

Things to Avoid While Crate Training Your Dog at Night

  • Never, ever respond to him if he whines or barks. The moment you stick your head in there, he will understand that whining/barking will get your attention and you will set yourself up for a dog that constantly barks or whines to get your attention.

    If you had not taken him for a walk to do his business, at least wait until he is quiet before you even show your face in the room to take him out. Never respond to his whimpering or barking. Never.
  • Never give him food or water three hours before bedtime. Most likely you are going to be asleep for around seven hours which is a long time for a dog to hold it till you wake up to take him for his morning walk. 
  • According to Pet MD, A puppy must never be locked up and left alone if it is his first time inside the crate” (in my own opinion it can also be said for adult dogs).

    “This can be a very traumatic experience for your puppy and will only make it more difficult for you the next time you try and get him to go inside the crate and behave.”
  • Never crate your dog if it shows fear or anxiety getting into the crate. Your dog might at first appear to be happy with his new home, but if you see damage to the crate caused by attempts to escape, a wet floor due to drooling or urine and feces in the crate or reports from neighbors of barking and whimpering.

    This could mean that your dog has fear of the crate or might be suffering from separation anxiety. In this case, you need to go back to square one and teach your dog that the crate is a safe place.

    This is going to take a lot of time on your part because if you are not careful and decide that it is better not to crate him and let him run loose, you may come home to a house in ruins.

Note: If you are crate training an older dog then you need slightly different methods.

How Long Can You Crate a Dog at Night?

Dog relaxing in dog crate with water bowl.

Crating a dog seems cruel because of how we view being caged. Most dog owners do not realize that a dog may spend more than 18 hours a day sleeping.

And as I stated before, dogs in the wild choose enclosed places that provide them with safety from other predators, so there really should be no problem with caging a dog at night for long periods.

It is built in their DNA and once they realize that sleeping with you at night as not an option, they quickly, if they are crate trained right, will not have a problem with spending 7 to 10 hours sleeping at night in a crate.

Puppies on the other hand might be a bit more trouble so in order to make sure they don’t do their business in the crate, you may need to set an alarm to go off every three hours to let him out for a bathroom break.

As he grows older, lengthen the time between the bathroom breaks until you’re able to sleep through the night as the puppy will adapt and learn to hold it with age.

As Modern Dog Magazine points out, “A good estimate of how long a pup can wait before needing to relieve himself is as many hours as he is months old, plus one.

So a three-month-old pup can manage for about four hours. Overnight he can usually hold a bit longer, usually about 1.5 times the daytime maximum—about six hours for a three-month-old.”

How to Cover a Dog Crate

Greyhounds in a covered dog crate

Dogs need to feel secure, which is why they feel comfortable in small, enclosed places.

Often times, we have children running around, telephones ringing, music or the TV being played loudly and many other things going on that can disturb a dog’s beauty sleep, so covering their crate can provide them with a sense of security and privacy as well. It can be soothing for them but must be done right.

There are few things to remember:

  • Dogs are curious and no matter what, they will want to know what is going on, so be careful to cover the crate loosely, providing them with a small view of what is going on.
  • Do not cover the crate with anything that can be pulled into the cage. They may not always be sleeping when they are in them and might be bored enough grab a hold of the cover, pull it through the bars and use it as a chew toy and can even choke on them.

    So, make sure your cover is void of opportunity to be pulled in.
  • Crating your dog and covering it while traveling will provide them with a sense of security.

    Dogs often become confused and frustrated while traveling by car because of all the action going on outside as the scenery flies by, so it is good idea to cover their crates to relax them.

    According to Cuteness If you don’t have an old towel, blanket or sheet available to cover your dog’s crate, never fear. Many pet supplies stores sell ready-made crate covers that are designed to give dogs much-needed privacy and relaxation.

    Since these covers are form-fitting and hug crates snugly, you don’t have to worry about restless dogs pulling them off. They’re much easier to keep in place.

What to Put in a Dog Crate at Night.

Dog ripping up dog bed in crate.

Furnishing a crate with the right things can be vital to your dog’s safety.

1.    Towels, blankets or sheets

For adult dogs who are potty trained, these are just fine. But for puppies, it is not a good idea to provide the crate with towels, blankets or sheets.

Puppies are playful and when bored will take to chewing on anything placed in their crates which might lead to choking. They can also become messy if they have an accident. To provide comfort in the crate, it is best to provide a durable and easy to clean like these we found on Amazon,

1.    GoDog BedZzz Bubble Bolstered Dog & Cat Crate Mat (paid link)
2.    Big Barker Orthopedic Waterproof and Tear Resistant Pillow Top Dog Crate Pad (paid link)
3.    K9 Ballistics Tough Dog Crate Pad
4.    Durable Orthopedic Dog Bed (paid Link)
5.    Kuranda All Aluminum Elevated Bed (paid link)

Either one of these will be perfect for your dog or rambunctious pup because they can’t be chewed on and consumed.

overhead view of metal dog food and water bowls

2.    Food and Water

Not a good idea. It is important to be able to control the timing of bowel movements and providing a dog with food and water might disrupt that.

If you must add water to your dog’s crate be sure it is from a bottle and not a dish. Dish can be upended and the water will provide a very uncomfortable, cold and wet experience for your dog.

3.    Toys

If you are crating your dog for a long time, it might be a great idea to add some toys inside it.

Even dogs become bored so it is a good idea to put something in there that they can do. But be sure to not add anything that will break, splinter or that they can swallow.  

When to Stop Using a Dog Crate at Night

Dog sitting next to dog crate

Basically, this all depends on you and your dog.

Some will just refuse to stay in a crate and as I talked about earlier, suffer from anxiety over separation or fear of the crate. But do not give up.

This is not a reason to stop crating your dog. You’ll just need to go back to teaching that the crate is a safe, comfortable place. There are other reasons that you might want to stop crating your dog though, for example he is…

1.   finally housebroken
2.    understands the rules
3.    does not chew on anything while you are asleep or away

But as the nest points out, there is no reason to go cold turkey. “There are many times when it is helpful for your dog to be comfortable in his crate.

Trips to the vet, traveling, occasions when you have company over and times when your pet is ill and needs to be kept quiet are all instances where it is valuable to have a dog comfortable in the crate.

If your dog has a favorite spot he naps during the day, you may try leaving him out of the crate overnight. Leave the crate door open so he can go in if he wants. Try leaving him out of the crate while you’re away from home for short periods of time before leaving him out while you’re at work.”

Where to a Put a Dog Crate at Night

Black and white dog laying in a dog crate with the door open

For puppies it might be a good idea to crate the dog at night in your own bedroom. They have come from a litter and since dogs are very social animals, it will make him feel safer.

However, be warned, they can whimper a lot when in need of affection, so you might want to wear some earplugs. But don’t put them in too tightly. He might need a bathroom break and if you are unable to hear his whimpering to be given a bit of relief, well… he will just go in the cage, which is why I do not recommend crating him in another room.

Puppies require a lot of attention until they are older and able to control themselves. As they get older and you still feel the need to crate them, then pick a favorite place that they lay down in where the traffic in the house is heavy. They might feel more comfortable there because they are pack animal which means it is  important to be in a group.

Frankly, I prefer having two crates.

One, in an area that they can be part of what is going on and another one is a quiet location where they can escape if things get too noisy and exciting. There are places that you should never put them. A portable crate maybe a good idea but having two works better because they can choose where to nap at.

Don’t ever put your dog crate:

1.    near a fireplace
2.    in direct sunlight
3.    wet places
4.    places that are extremely hot or cold

What to Do When Your Dog Won’t Stop Barking in the Crate

yellow labrador in crate with head tilted

So, you put your dog in his crate but he won’t stop barking.  You go into the room to see if he is okay and of course… he is fine.

Well, your dog either knows that you will respond to his barks or he has separation anxiety. Either the case, the answer is the same.

Do not reward him for barking and do not give up. It is simply, mind over dog and time to retrain the dog that his crate is a safe place to be.

There are a few things that you can do that Wag points out:

  • Don’t reward barking.
  • Don’t use shock collars. These are cruel and never necessary.
  • Don’t worry if the barking get worse before it gets better.
  • Don’t ignore genuine need or destress.
  • Don’t make thing harder than they have to be.·  Start retraining the dog

What’s the Bottom Line on Crating your Dog at Night?

Black and tan dog laying in a dog crate with the door open

If you follow humane practices (like the ones outlined here) then crating your dog at night can be an excellent strategy to having a well behaved dog who is house broken more easily.

Dogs are able to go into their crates and feel more secure. You’ll notice that once your dog is crate trained they will seek out their crate when there is too much noise and commotion in the house.

You also don’t have to crate forever. Click here for when to stop crating.

Overall, crating — when done well — is a very good way to enhance your relationship with your pup.

Recommended Dog Training Courses Crate Training.

There are two online video based training courses that I recommend.

  1. Doggy Dan – The Online Dog Trainer
  2. Brain Training for Dogs

These two courses serve two very different purposes. The Doggy Dan course is the best behavioral training course that I’ve ever used. It tackles problem behaviors like barking in ways that are innovative and kind and most of all WORK.

The Brain Training for Dogs course is a course that will help give curious and bored dogs something to do so that they don’t get destructive. Bored dogs often behave badly. The games in this course are fun to play with your dog and they go from easy to very advanced. If you think your dog is barking out of boredom this video course is a good choice.

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