How to Crate Train Your Puppy

cratetrainCrate training is the most helpful way to potty train your puppy and get them on a normal sleeping schedule.  They are most likely used to going whenever and wherever they want! It can be quite the process to teach them that there is a time and a place to “go.” Puppies can take a lot of time and effort to potty train! Crate training them allows you to control some of the elements and eliminate as many accidents as possible.

Keep in mind that puppies are not robots! Your puppy WILL have accidents! Your puppy WILL cry and bark when you first crate train them.  You will take your puppy to go outside and then give up and bring them in and not two seconds later will they finally pee…on your nice clean floors!

But…with patience, time, and love, you can help your puppy learn to control their bladder and get on a healthy schedule that fits your family.  I recommend having someone at home for at least one week to help with training.  Ideally, your breeder can provide a Puppy K program and then you can take the week off afterwards and continue the process.

Here is how we do it at Puppy K at J + A Family Doodles:

1.       Set them up to build their muscles and you want to know when they are going to need to go.  If you know when they are going to pee and poo, you can take them outside! To do this, give them a small bowl of water before you put them in their crate.  Now you know, the moment they are done in their crate, they are going to pee.  You can now make sure they go directly from the crate onto the grass and can create one more association with going potty outside.

When do you take them out? Check out the best schedule for potty training your puppy!

2.       Make sure you have the right crate! What you want in a crate is for there to be enough room for your puppy to lay down and turn around but not enough room so they could go to a corner to potty.  Our favorite is the Mid West Life Stages Crate.  It has an adjustable wall so you can move it back to create more room as your puppy grows.  The right size will keep your puppy from going in their crate, building their bladder control!

3.       Make the crate a safe place.  Some things that help are covering your crate with a towel or blanket.  Your puppy is used to sleeping closely with its siblings and mama where they were protected all around.

blanket draped over the sides to help him feel safe

4.       Make the crate a comfortable place.  We recommend this dog bed as it fits in the crate perfectly and is warm and comfy.  Also see if your breeder provides a “puppy lovey.”  This is usually a soft toy or blanket that is rubbed on the mama so it has her sent.  My dogs have kept and treasured these loveys all their lives.  If your breeder doesn’t provide their own, ask if you can send them one to rub on the mama.  Scroll to the second item on our “resource page” to see what we do.

5.       Make the crate a positive place.  No puppy wants to go into the crate at first.  To help build a positive association, we feed our puppies in the crate.  We scoop a small handful of their food and put it in an attachable food tray for them.

6.       Don’t “rescue” them from the crate.  When getting your puppy, don’t engage with them vocally.  We don’t coo or talk to them when getting them from the crate. You don’t want them to play the victim by treating them like one.  Instead, walk up to them, take them out and carry them directly outside to the grass.  Only say the words you’ve chosen for potty.  We say “go potty.” Once they go potty, then you can coo and tell them what a good puppy they are! Then it is play time!

We don’t let Wallace out of the crate on his own, instead we pick him up and carry him outside.
got him
Wallace snuggles in close and I’m happy to see him but I’m not talking to him yet.
sniffing for a place to go
Success!! Now I’ll say “good boy!”
Now it’s play time!

Can’t stand hearing them barking? Does it just break your heart? Try putting the crate in a back bedroom, laundry room, mudroom or back bathroom.  If they can see you during crate time, they are going to want your attention.  Here, we have the crate in the nursery/back bedroom. We don’t regularly go in there so they won’t see us as we go about our day. Of course, this will change once the baby comes! We will then put the crate in the laundry room and I’ll just avoid doing laundry during crate time! For bed time, we go through a lot of ear plugs…

Keep in mind: it is normal for puppies to cry and bark for the first few minutes and first week of crate training. It is so important not to give them ANY attention for it.  Even negative attention is attention! For the first few days, we ignore the behavior and just take them out of the crate at our scheduled times. Check out our schedule on our schedule blog post to find out when you should be getting your puppy.  However, after the third day we wait until they are not barking to get them out.

If they start to bark when we enter the room, we will turn our backs to the pup and cross our arms until they stop.  Once they’ve stopped barking, you can slowly turn around and start walking towards them.  Continue approaching them as long as they aren’t barking.  If they start to bark, reverse and even turn back around.  Continue this process until you can approach them and then take them out of the crate without barking.  Keep in mind, you’re not talking during this entire process! Also, be patient, and don’t do this if you don’t have the time! For some dogs, this could take a while!

not barking.png
He isn’t barking so I’ll take him out of the crate

*Note: we continue towards them and take them out if they reduce their barking to a quiet whimper/cry.  We feel it is an acceptable way to let us know they want something since our dogs are not big criers.  However, if this is annoying to you or a problem for your dog you can add this behavior into the barking category and treat it the same way.


Carpet=grass.  If you have nice rugs, roll them up.  We get really cheap ones when training puppies to put by the doors.  We train them not to go on the rugs with the cheap ones we don’t care about and when they are trained, we can roll the nice ones back out! Have carpeted floors? I would have a gate or a pen to put up so your puppy doesn’t wander to the carpet to do their business.  This doesn’t mean they can’t ever be on carpet, but I wouldn’t leave them unattended for any period of time until you are confident in their training.  Keep them on the kitchen floor or hardwood floors if you need to be doing something else so that if they go, it’s easy to clean up.

Leave the crate door open and let the puppy have access to it.  This will allow them to go to their crate for nap time if they’d like.

Happy crate training!

Jake carrying Sweetie out to go potty


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