How to get a puppy to sleep in their crate at night
If you welcomed a puppy into your family over Christmas, congratulations!
Getting a new canine addition is an incredibly exciting but also stressful time. Perhaps one of the biggest minefields is night time routine and crate training.
There is a wealth of information out there about how to get your puppy through the night, some of it great and some of it not so great.
Before you bring them home
Preparation is the key to success! Have everything ready for their imminent arrival and you will set yourselves up for a stress free evening.
- Covered crate, not too large for your puppy
- Comfy bed
- Blanket from the breeder if possible
- Teddy (you can buy teddies with heartbeats in them online which can be really comforting)
The crate should be set up right next to your bed if you are happy for them to sleep in your room initially. Or if you would prefer them to stay downstairs you should be prepared to sleep on the sofa or on a camp bed next to the crate for at least the first two weeks.
Why do we have to sleep next to them?
I’m sure some of you are probably surprised to read that you should sleep right next to your pup as a lot of advice focusses on leaving them to their own devices to ‘cry it out.’
The logic is that puppies are just crying to get our attention and that if we respond to them they will do it forever more all night. Unfortunately this is misinformation which can be damaging if followed. Studies have shown that leaving puppies to cry it out can be neurologically damaging and a cause of separation anxiety.
The fact is 8 week old puppies don’t have the level of consciousness needed to be manipulative, all they know is how to aid their survival which is to ask their caregiver for help. If you’ve ever seen a duckling running round in circles quacking their little head off looking for their Mum it is for this reason.
The good news is it doesn’t have to be forever, in fact most puppies are settled enough in your home after a couple of weeks for you to start moving them to their new bedroom or for you to start making your way up to bed again.
How do you do this without upsetting them again?
This process usually has to be gradual and it is likely that your puppy will get a little upset initially when they realise you have gone. If you are sleeping downstairs with them wait until they are fast asleep and creep up to bed. If you hear your puppy cry at any point go straight back down to see them, take them out to the toilet and then wait for them to settle again. Once they are back to sleep repeat and repeat and repeat if you need to! Eventually they will wake up and realise there is no need to cry as you will always come back.
If you have had your puppy in your room and you would like to move them out this should also be done really gradually, inch by inch! Move their crate slowly across the room over several days until they are in their new position. Again, if they cry at any point go to settle them and wait until they are asleep before going back to bed.
This can seem like a lot of faff I know, but a few weeks of this is much more preferable to working through separation anxiety with an adult dog!
What if they already hate their crate
If your puppy is already becoming upset when you shut the crate door by pawing at it or crying, open the door and don’t shut it on them again until you have worked on getting them happier being in there. Use a puppy pen around the crate instead so that they don’t feel as confined but are still kept safe overnight.
Crate training steps
- Place lots of treats in your puppy’s crate and let them investigate with the door open
- Feed your puppy their meals in their crate
- Put lots of comfy blankets and their favourite toys in the crate
- When they are going in and out happily start shutting and opening the door for increasing amounts of time, if they show any signs of being worried open the crate door
Not all puppies naturally like their crate so don’t assume that they will immediately be happy with theirs. This process has to be done very gradually, slow and steady wins the race!
Rachael Claire is an IMDT accredited Behaviourist and Certified separation anxiety pro trainer working remotely across the UK.