This article was updated on April 24th, 2023
If you have ever brought home a puppy, then you know how difficult the first night can be.
Of course, they miss their mother and siblings! Your little furball might cry, howl, whimper… all normal puppy behavior. It can be heartbreaking to listen to. Eventually, though, most puppies grow into adult dogs who enjoy time spent in their crate.
Still, many dog owners wonder, “Should a puppy be locked in a crate all night? Is this cruel? Or is it good for their development and training?”
The canine experts at Senior Tail Waggers asked dog behaviorists for their perspectives on crating puppies throughout the night. This article covers everything pooch parents need to know, including whether or not to use crates, how to stop crying, and helpful tips and tricks to guarantee both your puppy (and you!) get a restful night’s sleep.
Should You Crate Puppies Overnight?
Let’s start with the most common two questions. Should a tiny puppy who was just separated from its litter be crated overnight? What about puppies that are older?
According to the Humane Society of the United States, crating can be beneficial, if done correctly. In terms of canine behavior, dogs naturally seek out quiet, safe spots to rest and sleep. A crate resembles a den in many ways. Just like their wolf ancestors, many modern pet dogs feel comfortable and cozy in enclosed spaces.
Puppies are the same!
It is 100% normal to want to crate train a puppy. The trick is making sure they psychologically associate the crate with relaxation and “chill time” instead of fear or anxiety. Be careful not to use a crate in the wrong way. For example, according to our Certified Dog Behaviorist and Dog Trainer, Mindy Waite, Ph.D., “leaving a puppy in a crate overnight for too long (depending on their age) could potentially damage their bladders. This can cause future bathroom problems and also stress associated with being in the crate.”
As a recommendation, 3 – 4 hours is the maximum length of time a puppy under 6 months old should be left in the crate – including during the night. Remember, puppies cannot control their bladders and bowels yet…they’re just babies!
Should You Leave a Dog’s Crate Open at Night?
Open or shut? When it comes to crate training a puppy at night, it’s a matter of personal choice. That being said, there are several reasons why closing a dog’s crate at bedtime is a good idea. For one, it prevents our four-legged friends from getting into trouble.
Waite explains, “Puppies and dogs are naturally curious. While their owners snooze, they might sneak around the house to chew on shoes, get into garbage, destroy the stuffing inside their toys.” You get the idea.
Closing a dog’s crate confines their movements. This is an extraordinarily important life skill for your dog to learn because it keeps them safe during times when you cannot supervise them. If your dog is emotionally mature and perfectly housetrained, the door can be left open.
Otherwise, keep it shut.
Should Puppies Sleep in a Crate Starting the First Night at Home?
Surviving the initial 24 hours with a brand-new puppy is tricky indeed.
When the sun goes down, it’s so tempting to cuddle with them in your “human” bed. But is this something dog behaviorists suggest?
No. And, according to Waite, here’s why: “Just like human babies, there are risks involved with bringing a puppy into bed. You could accidentally roll over and injure them, they could fall off the mattress, or they might (very likely) have a potty accident in the sheets.”
With that in mind, we recommend starting out with a crate. Later, you can always let them sleep elsewhere.
Disclaimer: This content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your vet for health decisions. Learn more.
When Can You Stop Crating Your Dog at Night?
Puppyhood is defined as the period between when a dog is born to approximately 6 – 18 months old, depending on the breed. This factors into when owners can stop crating their dog at night. Generally speaking, most breeds can go without a crate by the 2-year mark. Waite states that “many dogs can go without a crate much earlier than 2 years, although 2 years is a decent rule of thumb.”
However, the bigger the dog, the slower they are to mentally mature!
If your dog no longer has accidents, isn’t destructive towards household objects, and can be safely left alone unsupervised, consider removing their crate.
However, you can continue crating your adult dog at night, especially if they are prone to anxiety or sensitive to noise.
Can a Puppy Go All Night in a Crate?
All puppies will have a unique nighttime schedule.
Perhaps your breeder already established bedtime routines – awesome! Puppies are smart, and they will soon learn what to expect at night. Chances are, it will take a little trial and error to discover how long your puppy can comfortably remain in their crate.
Senior Tail Waggers follows these guidelines:
- 8 – 10 weeks old: 1-2 hours or less
- 3 – 6 months: 3-4 hours
- 6+ months: 6 or so hours (depending on how housebreaking is going)
Pay attention to your individual puppy’s habits and needs.
My Puppy is Crying at Night. Should I Ignore it?
Awhooo! Is there any sound sadder than a puppy crying?
Despite their little size, puppies sure do have strong vocal cords. In fact, during those first few nights, their howling is probably going to interrupt the family’s sleep schedule. As worrying and frustrating as this can be, try to remain calm. Puppy crying at night is normal.
Even better? It shouldn’t last long.
To speed up the process, you should aim to react appropriately. First, never, ever punish a puppy for crying. It could be that they are alerting you they need to use the bathroom. Wait a few minutes and see if the crying continues. If ignored, mild whining will eventually stop. But if it carries on, it’s best to go check on the puppy.
Say, “Let’s go potty!” and take them outside with a leash directly to their potty place. Do not engage in play or allow them to go off exploring. If they potty, give them a treat. Referencing studies by Dr. Erica Feuerbacher, Waite adds, “treats are typically more effective at reinforcing behavior than petting or praise for dogs.”
Ultimately, there are different schools of thought when it comes to letting puppies “cry it out.” Most dog behaviorists agree that leaving a puppy to cry for hours on end isn’t the best course of action, since it could potentially heighten their anxiety. Or lead to destructive behaviors, like chewing on crate bars/handles/doors.
3 Tips to Help Your Puppy Sleep Through the Night
The good news is puppy crying can be managed.
Rather than suffer unnecessarily, use these 3 tips.
- Make the crate a happy space
Delicious treats, fun toys, and feeding meals inside the crate will teach your puppy that their crate is a great space to be. Additionally, Waite recommends that the crate be “big enough for the puppy to turn around in” and full of “comfortable bedding.”
- Dim the lights
Secondly, establish a bedtime routine. Minimize chaos in the house. Calmly set up their sleeping area, speak in calm tones, and turn off the lights to set the mood for sleep time. “Any environmental cues you can develop which indicate that it’s bedtime can be helpful,” added Waite.
- Go for a walk beforehand
A tired puppy is a content puppy. Make sure your puppy has had an opportunity to relive him/herself before bed. Exercise (like playing a game of fetch or going for a walk) will tucker out your wee fluffball.
And there you have it! Everything dog owners need to know to answer the question, “Should a Puppy Be Locked in a Crate All Night?”
Disclaimer: This website's content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian for healthcare decisions. Read More.