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Crate Guilt is a Real Thing! (But should it be?)

by Heidi Atwood


We want our puppies to be comfortable and happy, and we notice right away that our newly bonded puppies love to be with us the most, so isn’t being with them every possible moment the way to make them happy? 



Not necessarily! We give our pups plenty of attention, food, treats, toys, walks, play sessions, potty breaks, and training sessions during the day. Those activities alone are a full day for a puppy, so what more could they need? Naps! A well-rested puppy is getting around 16 to 18 hours of sleep per day. Taking into consideration their nighttime hours of sleep, which is probably (and hopefully!) an average of 8 hours, that leaves a lot of time for napping throughout the day. 


Instead of looking at the crate as a negative space or a punishment, try to make it a very positive place for your puppy to spend time. We work on this right from the start by offering both long and short crate sessions, feeding meals in the crate, “hiding” pieces of kibble for your puppy to discover, and providing mentally stimulating toys to work on. When a puppy is overly tired, they will start nipping, jumping, growling, barking, and similar behaviors, which quite often indicate the need for some downtime. 


When puppies are getting acclimated to being away from their people in their crates, they will often cry, whine, and bark because they haven’t learned how to be alone. This is hard to listen to, but we want to look at our long-term goals, and help the puppy learn that crying and barking get no response. If we are completely ignoring the noise they make, they will give up on trying to get our attention this way. Crying isn’t really emotional for puppies. They aren’t “sad”; they are just simply trying to see if they can get our attention. If you think of it as a young child yelling “Look at me! Look at me!”, it will be easier for you to ignore, knowing that you are helping your puppy learn how to settle down nicely in their cozy crate. 


When I have a puppy in the house, I have a few items in my freezer ready to go such as stuffed kongs, lick mats or even a chew with a bit of a soft food smeared on it, to provide some positive and calming mental challenges at nap time. 


When you help a puppy learn that being in the crate is a wonderful thing, there is no need to feel guilty because you are helping them learn to settle down and love their crate. You have the ability to go about your regular activities and this will also become normal to your puppy. Even if you are frustrated and you both need a break, taking your puppy to their crate calmly, and using a casual tone of voice will help make it a positive experience. 


Some people plan to phase out the crate once they feel that their pups are trustworthy. However, there are times in a dog’s life that may require crate rest or separation, so keeping them well acclimated to being in the crate is very helpful when there are unexpected medical issues, when traveling, or if there is a setback in behavior, such as during adolescence. If your pup has gotten out of the habit of resting in the crate, it is going to be much harder for them to spend time in the crate in the future. 


Throw away the guilt and embrace the fact that your puppy can consider the crate a wonderful place to curl up and rest, and you are free to take a shower, exercise, read, or even leave your house! Taking care of a puppy is time consuming and hard work at times, so try not to get overwhelmed and remember that you are free to continue to do the activities that are important to you, knowing that your puppy is not only safe, but content in their crate.

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I was much better about using the crate when my pup was younger. Now that she’s 8 months old and very well behaved, we’re only putting her in there at night and we use her play pen when we leave her during the day. I do t want the pen in my kitchen forever and now I’m worried I cut out the crate too soon. Do you think it’s better for them to continue having crate time during the day even when they’re getting older?

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AskTheTrainer
AskTheTrainer
Mar 28
Replying to

B & B TRAINER RESPONSE: I want to be able to rely on the crate any time I might need it for the lifetime of my dog, in case of medical issues, when traveling, etc. Therefore, keeping them in the habit of being in the crate during the daytime makes it more "normal" for them when you need to use it. Continue to give daily positive experiences in the crate, especially since adolescence is a time when we might need to tighten up on freedom a bit more. Heidi

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What dog food do you recommend. Our Cavapoo is a picky eater but we can’t spend a fortune on food.

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AskTheTrainer
AskTheTrainer
Mar 25
Replying to

B & B TRAINER RESPONSE: Since food and feeding questions are considered health-related, we refer owners to their vet for the best advice for this type of question. ~Heidi

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Our puppy is now 7mos. She’s been crate trained since we got her. Just recently she wines and cries for a long time at night when she goes in. Much longer and louder than ever before. Are we in the terrible teen years where she’s testing boundaries? What advice do you have for how to react?

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AskTheTrainer
AskTheTrainer
Mar 25
Replying to

B & B TRAINER RESPONSE: First, make sure she hasn't outgrown the crate. Sometimes a puppy outgrows the crate without us noticing and then they have a hard time stretching out and getting comfy in the crate. Just a thought. The setback could also be a result of adolescence, and your puppy trying to do things "their way". Ignoring the whining, and giving her more crate sessions during the day can help her learn that whining is getting no response. ~Heidi

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So when we get our puppy how do i get the pup in crate for napping? Do i take treat in crate and close door?

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Replying to

This method really worked. My little Bichon pup was used to her crate within 24 hours.

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About the playpen…I guess the down side is once the puppy is trustworthy we will put away the playpen leaving the crate only. Are you saying it’s ok for the pup (12+weeks) to be in the crate as much as he is in the playpen? Currently, he sleeps at night and takes one day nap in the crate with no objections. Should we remove the playpen and only use the crate?

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AskTheTrainer
AskTheTrainer
Mar 15
Replying to

B & B TRAINER RESPONSE: I like to alternate between the two spaces so that my puppy gets acclimated to being in either the pen or the crate. Offering more crate sessions during the day if your puppy is having a hard time settling down for a nap can be helpful, since the pen allows a bit more freedom to move around and play. It sounds like he is handling the crate well, so it's up to you as far as which space you want him to spend time in. ~Heidi

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