There is a lot of debate about a puppy sleeping in a crate at night, and especially whether you should lock the crate or leave the door open.
Most people will agree that an open crate is generally best at night as long as the puppy is in your bedroom, in the crate, and close enough so that they can hear and smell you.
A crate is supposed to be your puppy’s safe place, it shouldn’t be used to punish or lock your dog away.
You want your puppy to feel safe and secure – a crate should be a happy place.
It takes time to train a puppy to get used to going into a crate and feeling comfortable with it. So you don’t want to just put them in it, lock the door, and walk away – your puppy will freak out and never want to go there again.
So start with an open door, and then train them to be happy in a locked crate if you need to.
However, for a nighttime wanderer, it becomes difficult as a puppy needs to go to the toilet every hour or so; it takes them six months to a year to be able to hold their pee for a couple of hours.
If they can’t get out of the crate, they may wake you up in their panic to go to the toilet. What is the use of toilet training them and then locking them out of the toilet area?
Rather than locking the crate door, I am more for shutting the bedroom door with the puppy by my bed in a crate that is unlocked.
They can get up and use a toilet pad when they want to. If they decide to wander, their area is limited to the bedroom so they won’t get into trouble
The caveat on the last statement is that puppies and trouble go hand in hand.
- Make a point of putting all your precious things up high where your pup can’t reach them.
- Lock your medicines in the cupboard.
- Close and bolt the walk-in robe, so they don’t chew your shoes, handbags, or best clothes.
Puppies don’t mean to be naughty, they are just curious.
Crates are an ideal solution if they are used ethically and humanely.
- The crate can become a puppy den.
- Keeps them safe at night.
- Can be used locked or unlocked.
- Provides a puppy with their own space.
- A crate is movable to suit your needs.
- Is a refuge for your puppy along with their best toys and blankets.
Locking a Crate Stops Them Getting Used to It
I believe in getting your puppy used to being in a crate with an open door first, and this can take a bit of time for them to accept the crate as their den.
If you try to force them into the crate and lock them in, it could backfire on you, and they may start to fear the crate. Keep the crate in the main living room to start training them, and move it into your bedroom at night.
How to get the puppy to like the crate
The aim is to get your puppy to like their crate, it’s not about locking them in there. You never want to upset your puppy or have them being at all uncomfortable.
Correct crate training means they like being in there, and this is how to do it.
- Crate training will enable your puppy to feel comfortable in the crate, and if they are in the bedroom with you but by your side, it will give them confidence.
- Anything new can take time to get used to, so try to make the introduction to the crate calm and keep the door wide open.
- Tempt your puppy into the crate using a trail of mini treats and sit by the open door and interact with them as they check out the inside.
- Start feeding them inside the crate so that they equate the crate with good things.
- Set the crate up to be comfortable. Put in some cuddly blankets or a bed that they can snuggle into.
- A blanket that has your scent on it will make comfort your pup at bedtime.
- Put some of their favorite toys inside the crate so your puppy can play with or snuggle up to.
- A large crate allows plenty of movement inside the crate.
- Nighttime is a scary time for new puppies. A special soft toy with a beating heart and that is soft and cuddly makes a nice puppy companion. It comforts and assures a lonely puppy.
- Try to make the crate a positive experience so that your puppy will grow to love their crate and will run to it at night when you say ‘bedtime!’
When to Lock the Door on the Crate
You really want to avoid doing it whenever possible, but there are times when you may want to close/lock the door to your puppy’s crate.
If you have introduced your pup to the crate in the right way, so that they enjoy their crate and don’t fear it, then closing and locking the door should not upset them.
Use the closed crate for these circumstances
Let’s start by stating the obvious. The crate should not be used when you are angry with them or to punish your puppy. They will learn to fear the crate if you do this.
The locked crate will keep your puppy (and your home) safe while you have to go out during the daytime.
But what about locking the door at night.?
Unless your puppy is an all-night dog who loves to wander and you need a good night’s sleep, you should leave the door open if the crate is in your bedroom. You can close the bedroom door to confine them or use childproof gates.
But if you choose not to have the crate in your bedroom with you, then it would be safer to lock the door, so they don’t wake up and get into trouble while exploring the home.
I would rather put the puppy and crate in a small room such as the laundry so the door to the crate can be kept open. This would allow the puppy to come out to use a toilet pad without waking the whole house.
Whatever room you confine your dog, you should puppy proof the room. Use childproof fences to restrict their nocturnal wandering.
Make sure the room you put your puppy in to sleep is safe for them. Put items up high or lock them away. Don’t have tablecloths on tables that a puppy can pull on and drag things off.
If they are unwell, and the vet advises minimum movement, check with the vet first, and if they suggest putting them in the crate and lock it, then it is okay to do so. But put the crate in an area where they can see you all and still feel part of the family.
Another use for the crate is when you have to travel. If your puppy isn’t a good traveler, put them into their locked crate while you drive. This is ideal if your puppy is an escape artist and takes off the moment you open the door.
Notes re the above:
I am against leaving a puppy in a locked crate for hours, whether it’s at night or during the day.
Most puppies under six months cannot control their bladder for more than a couple of hours at a time. So leaving your puppy in the crate for hours creates two problems.
- They will pee inside the crate, which goes against your toilet training. There is no use punishing them because they peed inside. You left them too long!
- The crate then becomes a cage where they are inhibited from naturally relieving themselves or being able to reach a water bowl. They may start howling at night, which is not a good habit to start.
Use the crate and lock it when you need to but always be ethical in your use. A growing puppy requires space to grow, and they need exercise to keep them strong and healthy, so keep that in mind when using the crate.
Keep Use of the Crate a Positive Experience
The use of the crate must be a positive experience for your puppy to enable it to work. Your dog must feel safe within the crate during the night or day.
The crate should be roomy enough for them to move around and have enough space for a cozy bed and blankets to burrow into.
Puppies respond well to positive encouragement and treats. But keep in mind that they can often take a while to remember orders or get used to things.
They forget easily, so be prepared to be patient and keep repeating their lessons, so they finally get the message you are trying to convey.
Take the time to make the crate seem like fun. Hide treats in there, so they get to equate the crate with rewards.
Keep crate training time to a minimum, to begin with. Just get them used to sleep in an open crate by your bedside, so they can hear and smell you are near. Teaching them to stay in a locked crate comes later.
Puppies are wired for fun, so if you make their crate a fun place for them to sleep,play, and to generally hang out in, you will have won the battle.
The Final Salutation
When it comes to the debate regarding locked or open crates, I tend to side with the open crate team. But I do appreciate the need for the crate to be locked to confine your puppy to keep them safe at times during the day.
I think it comes down to the ethical usage of the crate. Your puppy should not be locked up in a crate for hours on end.
Thankfully as your puppy grows, they will lose that puppy tendency to destroy everything they find. They will eventually be able to hold their bladder for longer, and as long as they get adequate exercise, they can endure longer periods in a crate.
So there is no right or wrong to the subject of locking the door of a crate, as long as the puppy is never upset or uncomfortable. I think what it comes down to is a caring use of the crate.
Used correctly, the crate at night becomes a handy tool. It’s their den, their territory, and it is their place to go to when they feel weary.
I like the sound of an open crate in the owner’s bedroom used in conjunction with childproof gates on the bedroom door to keep the puppy confined.
It’s an option that still allows the pup some limited freedom.
It is ethical, and one that provides everyone (hopefully) a good night’s sleep!
Writer: Jean Brewer