Crate training is an invaluable tool for dog owners because it helps your dog get used to a routine-based structure in the home. The crate also acts as a safe ‘den’ for your canine companion. But how long can your dog stay in the crate? Should you keep your dog in his crate overnight? The answers to these questions are paramount to know, so let’s get into it!
So, how long can a dog stay in a crate? The general guidance from pet experts is that you should not leave your adult dog in a crate for longer than four hours during the day. If you own a puppy, this time should be dramatically reduced as puppies are less able to control their bladders. For puppies under ten weeks old, you should limit their time in the crate to 30-60 minutes. This can be increased in increments until they reach adulthood.
With any dog, it is essential that you introduce them to the crate slowly with the use of positive reinforcement and never use the crate as a method of punishment.
But even with the right approach, it’s impossible to give an exact recommendation for time for every dog.
We will soon see why.
But luckily, I have done the research for you, so read on to find out how to successfully use a crate for your dog!
How Long Should A Dog Stay In A Crate?
It is recommended that a dog should stay in its crate for increments between 30 minutes and 4 hours. Of course, the total time a dog can do so can be affected by a number of factors, including the age of your dog, their temperament, health status, and even where you choose to put the crate.
Some breeds are naturally more active so will struggle if cooped up for long periods; other dogs with certain medical conditions may struggle to hold their bladders for hours at a time.
As the owner, it is up to you to decide what is best for your canine companion.
Puppies of all breeds are the most energetic, and it is important to allow them this play-time as it aids in brain development.
So you should never crate a puppy for too long.
Below is a general guide on how long you can keep a puppy in a crate, according to age, but always remember that these times are the MAXIMUM and that each dog is different:
- Puppies under 10 weeks old: 30-60 minutes
- Puppies under 14 weeks old: 2 hours
- Puppies under 18 weeks old: 3 hours
As a general guide, adult dogs can be kept in a crate for around four hours, but again, do consider the temperament of your dog.
Even if your dog is trained to accept the crate and appears to be content with the routine, you may still find that he whines on occasion to be let out.
Crate training is a long-term process with some dogs, so it is essential that you remain constant in your approach, which means waiting until he has stopped complaining before letting him out!
Think about it; if you let your dog out every time he complains, he will very quickly come to realize that he just has to make a noise, and he will be back out in the room with his humans again!
So, it’s best to set a schedule early on and stick to it as much as possible.
I should stress that this approach is only for dogs that are already comfortable in the crate.
If your dog becomes highly stressed every time he is shut in the crate, then you should start the training process from the beginning again by building up a positive association with the crate.
Let us now quickly look at how you can do so
Crate Training Your Dog
When it comes to crate training, the first major decision you need to make is which crate to buy.
There are various options on the market for you to choose from, but you must ensure you find one that is big enough for your dog to stand up in, turn around easily, and lie down comfortably in.
There will also need to be extra room for bedding items, as well as food and water bowls.
Crates can be made from either plastic, metal, or fabric, but metal crates have remained the most popular with dog owners because they are often collapsible, which makes them easy to store and transport.
Do be wary of fabric crates if your dog is a chewer, as there is always the risk that he may be able to escape by tearing the fabric!
It is essential that you train your dog to accept the crate BEFORE leaving him alone in it for any length of time.
Dogs are highly social animals, so suddenly finding themselves alone and ‘trapped’ is likely to cause considerable stress.
When you first purchase the crate, you should aim to place it in a quiet area of your house as this will make it the ideal space for your dog to retreat to if he is feeling overwhelmed or tired.
Dogs are naturally curious, so you will probably find that your dog approaches the crate almost immediately, but don’t be concerned if you have a dog that is a little warier – every dog is different.
Leave the door open and let your dog investigate the crate in his own time.
You can also offer tasty treats and praise whenever he approaches, as this will help your dog to build up a positive association with the crate.
Once your dog seems comfortable with spending time in the crate with the door open, you can move on to feeding him in the crate with the door closed.
You must keep these sessions short as you do not want your dog to become stressed during the training process.
If your dog seems uneasy when you go to close the door, you can perhaps close it halfway in the beginning or close it, but don’t lock it.
It’s a good idea to add a command word at this stage to make training easier down the line.
This can be as simple as ‘crate’ or ‘bed.’
Further stages of the training process will involve leaving your dog for short periods in the crate and then slowly increasing the time periods.
You must always offer positive reinforcement after each crating session.
How Can I Make My Dog More Comfortable In His Crate?
Making your dog comfortable in their crate will require you to keep it clean, provide some form of cushioning, access to some form of stimulation in the form of toys, and access to food and water to keep any hunger at bay.
Remember, your goal is to make the crate your dogs’ ‘happy place,’ so adding his favorite toy and comfy blanket is an essential part of crate training!
If you are planning on leaving the house for several hours and prefer to use the crate rather than allow your dog to remain loose in the lounge, you will need to make sure he has a few activities to keep him entertained.
Kong toys are a great option as the rubber not only works to keep your dog’s teeth healthy, but the desire to retrieve the treat inside makes it a much more enticing option!
However, with dogs, it is important to always make sure you choose the right items for your pooch!
Whatever toys you decide to add to the crate, the most important factor is to ensure that none of them are small enough for your dog to accidentally swallow.
When in the crate, water should always be available, so ensure you purchase a sturdy, weighted water bowl that won’t easily get knocked over!
Food is also important, especially if you will be gone for a few hours.
It may be worth investing in a puzzle feeder or timed feeder here.
Otherwise, you run the risk of your dog devouring all the food available within the first hour of being alone!
Let’s run through the pros and cons of both options now:
Puzzle feeders: there are so many different types of puzzle feeders on the market that you may be a little spoilt for choice!
Some are specifically designed for wet food, others for dry food.
Some have moving parts, whereas others just have set compartments that are designed to slow your dogs’ eating down.
The big benefit of these feeders, according to vets, is that they prevent bloat and cases of GDV (Gastric-dilation-volvulus).
GDV is a potentially fatal condition whereby a dogs’ stomach bloats and twists.
It seems to be more common in ‘deep-chested’ dog breeds such as German Shepherds and Poodles; however, it has also been linked to dogs eating too quickly.
The other benefit to puzzle feeders is that they offer your dog mental stimulation.
There have been numerous studies done on the intelligence of domestic dogs, which show that they can learn hundreds of commands, solve simple arithmetic problems and follow social cues from their owners.
Offering food via a puzzle feeder is a great way to keep their brains busy as well as help them pass the time when they are alone.
Timed feeders: again, there are a variety of options to choose from here, so ensure you do your research to find the one that will work best for you.
These usually work best with dry dog food. However, there are some types that will also work with wet food.
Generally, these feeders are split into a number of different compartments, which allow you to portion out your dog’s meals.
You can then program each compartment to open at a specific time to allow your dog to eat.
You can also purchase ‘gravity feeders’ that work by dropping additional pellets into the bowl via a ‘gumball’ style storage section above as the bowl is emptied.
These feeders work best with dogs that pace themselves when feeding as there is always a supply of food available.
Should I Put My Dog In A Crate At Night?
The use of dog crates overnight is a bit of a controversial topic; however, you can look to put your dog in a crate at night so as long as your dog is comfortable, trained in the routine, and is able to sleep peacefully.
Whether you choose to only crate your dog for two hours during the day or whether you decide to use a crate overnight, you should still always ensure your dog is fully trained to accept the routine.
Skipping this first crucial step can lead to your dog becoming very stressed, which can impede on his welfare considerably.
Having your dog in a crate overnight can increase your pup’s independence and potentially save your bedsheets from excessive dog hair!
If you have a young puppy, you should ensure that you place the crate in an area that is close to your bedroom so you can listen out for any signs of distress.
Remember that young dogs cannot hold their bladders for as long as adults and can become very stressed if they make an ‘accident’ in their sleeping area that is not promptly cleaned up.
Finally, it is important to mention a little about caged dog syndrome, which is a behavioral issue caused by excessive crating.
Symptoms vary, but they can include aggression, cage chewing, destructive behavior, and withdrawal.
It tends to be more common in kennel dogs; however, it is possible for pet dogs to develop this issue if the crate is overused by their owners.
Dogs are social animals, so it is essential that they are allowed plenty of time to interact with their owners, play, and socialize with other dogs (if applicable).
So always factor this in when setting up your crating schedule.
If you train your dog to accept the crate, ensure it is set up to be as comfortable as possible, and stick to a schedule, both you and your dog can grow to enjoy the crating experience and benefit from it!
A dog crate can be a great aid, especially if you know you will be out of the house for long periods due to work or other commitments.
However, how long you can safely leave your dog in one is something that must be carefully considered.
It’s likely to change over the course of your dog’s life, too.
For instance, puppies should only be in a crate for up to an hour at a time. At most.
And it is essential that you slowly introduce the crate.
Never force it.
Nor use it as a punishment.
Monitor your dog closely when crate training and remember.
The least amount of time you can leave your dog in the crate, the better.
Sure they have their uses, but in reality, it’s best for a dog not to be crated too regularly or for too long.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.