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Is Dog Crate Training at Night Cruel? Tips, Facts & Advice

Grant Piper

By Grant Piper

cocker spaniel dog in the crate

Some people put their dogs in a crate overnight. This can be done for a number of reasons. Some people do not like having their dogs in their beds. Others need to keep their dogs safe from getting into things they shouldn’t when the lights go out. Some people work overnight hours and have to leave their dogs behind. Whatever the reason, there are ways to crate train a dog so that they will sleep comfortably overnight. Some dog owners think that crate training is cruel and should not be practiced. While everyone is entitled to their opinion, each dog is different, and crate training can have some very important benefits for you and your dog.

Here is a simple guide to crate training a dog, including for the overnight hours. This guide includes tips, tricks, and facts to help guide your training process and decision regarding crate training.

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Is Crate Training Cruel?

Some people believe that crate training a dog is cruel. At first glance, it can seem cold and heartless to lock a dog up in a cage and leave them alone for any period of time. However, not all dogs are equipped with the instincts to keep themselves safe when outside of human supervision.

Some people are fine with the idea of crate training but find that the training process itself is too difficult or unkind for them to stomach. It can be hard to hear your dog cry from the crate. It can also be hard to look at your dog’s sad expression as you walk away from them. Crate training a dog, especially overnight, can be difficult, but it can also come with a lot of benefits.

Benefits of Crate Training

Australian Labradoodle beside crate
Image Credit: sophiecat, Shutterstock

Crate training a dog can have many benefits. Some of the benefits are extremely important for a dog’s health and wellbeing. One of the primary benefits of crate training is that it keeps a dog out of trouble. Many dogs have a bad habit of counter surfing when people are not home. They can eat anything from shoes to clothes to bones. Veterinarians have pulled everything from plastic bags to jump ropes out of a dog’s stomach. Intestinal blockages can be fatal to a dog, and resolving the blockage through surgery is risky and expensive. One of the simplest ways to prevent a dog from eating something it shouldn’t and getting blocked is to keep them in a crate when no one is home to supervise them.

Crates can also help with a dog’s anxiety. Having your dog on a schedule, providing them with a space that is entirely their own, and keeping them away from the windows when you are gone can help soothe a dog’s nerves when they are left alone. Some dogs will chew or dig and destroy items when they are anxious and left out on their own and crating them can seriously reduce those issues.

Crate training also helps reduce the number of accidents a dog has inside. Dogs will work harder to hold their urine and feces when they are in a small space. Combining a crate with a robust routine and plenty of outside time can reduce how many messes you walk into when you arrive home from work or errands.

Can Dogs Sleep in Their Crates Overnight?

Yes. Adult dogs can sleep in their crate overnight if properly trained. As long as dogs go out before going into the crate and have plenty of food, water, and exercise before going into the crate, they can do just fine. Properly crate trained adult dogs will curl up and go to sleep and can easily sleep from the time you go to bed until the time you wake up.

Many dogs find the space in the crate comforting and relaxing, and they respond well to a consistent routine and schedule. If you are worried about putting your dog to bed in a crate overnight, don’t be. With the right tips and training, it can be a transition that benefits everyone in the long run.

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The 4 Tips On How to Crate Train Your Adult Dog for Nighttime

1. Cover Your Dog’s Crate

Some dogs respond well if you cover their crates at night. Putting a blanket or sheet over the crate will reduce visual stimulation, such as light or slight movements. It can also help muffle the sound from other parts of the house. A dark, quiet space is sometimes all dogs need to settle down and sleep through the night.

However, not all dogs like to be covered. Some dogs react very poorly to being covered up, so be sure to check and see how your dog does before landing on a consistent strategy. You also need to make sure that your dog crate is in a cool and well-ventilated area in general, but especially if you want to try and cover the crate at night.

2. Make Sure They Have Everything They Need

Before leaving your dog overnight, make sure they have everything they need. If they can be trusted, leave them with a bed and some of their favorite toys or bones. Some experts recommend leaving a small amount of food and water in the crate with the dog. This can sometimes lead to a mess if you do not have a crate big enough. Some vets say that dogs should always have access to water as it is a primary need that needs to be met at all times. You should not leave your dog in the crate overnight with just themselves and a blanket. They need a little more than that to last multiple hours alone.

Welsh corgi pembroke dog in an open crate during a crate training, happy and relaxed
Image Credit: Jus_Ol, Shutterstock

3. Don’t Let Dogs Out (Adults)

When you are putting your dog into the crate for the night, and you know they have everything they need, it can be tempting to let them out once you hear them whining or crying. But you should not do that. If you let your dog out when they cry, you will teach them that crying works. Most dogs will only cry for a short period of time before stopping, and after a while, the crying stops completely. If you let your dogs out when they whine and cry, they will continue to do it as a learned behavior.

Note this only applies to adult dogs. Puppies need to be checked on more frequently and could be crying for food or attention that needs to be provided when a dog is particularly young.

4. Don’t Start With Nighttime

When crate training your dog for overnight sleeping, you should already have your dog crate trained in general. Trying to crate train your dog for the first time and do it overnight can be a challenge. Once you already have your dog crate trained, it is easy to simply switch their normal schedule from day crate time to night crate time. You can crate train and night train your dog all at once, but it will just be more difficult overall.

dogs inside wire crate
Image Credit: Jumpstory

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The 5 Tips On How to Crate Train a Puppy

1. Be Patient

Puppies can be frustrating, and so can crate training. Crate training a puppy can be infuriating. Between accidents, constant crying, and the fact that puppies sometimes seem to just not get it, it takes a lot of patience to persevere. Do not get frustrated, and do not give up if you are attempting to crate train a puppy.

2. Set a Schedule

One of the best things you can do while crate training any dog is to stick to a schedule. Take them out at the same times whenever possible and put them away at the same times whenever possible. This will help your puppy get into a rhythm that will help with both potty training and eventual nighttime sleep training.

A miniature dachshund puppy that is sitting in a crate
Image Credit: Jaclyn Vernace, Shutterstock

3. Keep Them Close

If you are crate training a puppy, it is a good idea to keep them nearby. Not everyone can have a puppy sleep in their bedroom, but the puppy should be within earshot and preferably close to a door. Puppies need to be let out during the night to relieve themselves and eat, so you don’t want to have to trudge across the house in order to let them out and feed them. It is also a good idea to keep a puppy nearby so you can keep an eye on them to make sure they aren’t getting into any serious trouble.

4. Don’t Leave Them Too Long

Puppies need to be checked on and let out every three hours. This is the case for most of the first six months of their life until they reach adolescence. Not letting your puppy out at the proper intervals can lead to accidents which can lead to confusion and frustration on the part of both you and your dog. Letting your puppy out every three hours can be a drag, but you need to be patient and keep them close so you can keep up with them better.

silly westie puppy wriggling on his back in his crate
Image Credit: matthewcreid, Shutterstock

5. Take Them Outside Right Away

Every time you let your puppy out of its crate, for any reason, you should bring them outside immediately. If they use the bathroom (which many will), you should praise them. This helps in two respects. First, it builds that schedule and routine that is so important for crate training. Second, it prevents accidents and reinforces using the bathroom outside.

divider 9What Not to Do When Crate Training Your Dog

There are a few things you should never do while crate training a dog. First, you should never use the crate as a punishment. Do not yell at your dog while they are in the crate. Do not reprimand your dog and then put them in the crate. This can build a negative association with the dog crate, which can be detrimental to crate training as a whole.

Second, you should never leave your dog in the crate for too long. The absolute longest you should leave your dog for any period of time is 12 hours, and even that is pushing it. You should not leave your dog in the crate all day and all night, even if you let them out at regular intervals. If your dog is in the crate at night, you should leave them out during the day and vice versa. Long stretches in the crate without relief can, again, build a negative association with the crate and lead to hunger, fear, and accidents.

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Final Thoughts

Crate training a dog can be frustrating. Leaving a dog in a crate can feel cruel, but it really is not. Leaving a dog out and allowing them to ingest things they shouldn’t and have to get a painful surgery that they do not understand is arguably crueler. Crates build a routine and help keep your dog safe when you aren’t there to watch them and interact with them. These facts, tips, and tricks can help you crate train your dog, whether it is a puppy or if you are trying to crate train your dog overnight.

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Featured Image Credit: SGM, Shutterstock

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