Is it Cruel to Crate a Dog at Night?

If you are a new dog owner or just new to crate training, chances are you maybe be somewhat freaked out.  Your dog may howl and bark up a storm when you leave him in his crate at night. Is it cruel to be crating your dog at night?

Many people refuse to crate their dogs at night because they feel confinement is cruel. However, a crate or kennel can give dogs a sense of security.

When properly done, crate training is also a very effective management system that can be a lifesaver for dog owners. Like any training method, crates can be abused, but using a crate for the correct periods of time is helpful in a variety of important goals, including house training, preventing destructive behavior, and teaching a dog to settle down and relax.

Locking up your dog as a means of punishing him will only detract from your crate training. Once a dog gets comfortable in his crate, it becomes a happy, safe and secure place for him. When you use the crate as a punishment, the dog will associate negative feelings with their crate. They will fight you tooth and nail when it comes to entering the crate. Then they whine all the time they are there.

This is the lazy way to get what you want, and it will only make it harder for your dog to listen to you in the future. A dog’s crate is his own personal space that he has for himself. Don’t take that away from him by making it a miserable experience.

Your dog should never be forced to enter his crate. He must enter volentarily. This is all part of the process of familiarizing them with their crate.

Why It Isn’t Cruel to Crate your Dog at Night

Crates are a great form of protection, especially for puppies.  When you are at work or school, puppies will try to chew and eat whatever they can because they are teething or get bored.

When your pup is crated, they won’t have access to electrical cords or other dangers that you may forget to hide or lock up. You protect them from themselves by keeping them in their crate.

Crates also are a crucial part of housebreaking.

For puppies, the crate acts like a sitter when you can’t be there to keep an eye out for unsafe or unwanted behavior. And because dogs instinctively try to keep their sleeping areas clean, the crate helps the puppy housebreak himself.

Positives of Crate Training

For the dog who often travels with his family, the crate can be a constant and trusted haven from car to weekend retreat – a place to feel safe while the world changes around him.

Since dogs feel responsible for their own territory, the insecure dog should have less space to protect, no more. A crate (instead of the whole house) means less territory to patrol, making it easier for the insecure dog to settle in and relax.

For the rescued dog, a crate is sometimes the only consistent environment he has ever had. A crate gives this dog time to adjust to a new environment safely, as well as the luxury of not having to fight for his own space in new territory. It can ease the transition from one family to another.

Lastly on why it isn’t cruel to crate your dog at night, is that having a crate-trained dog is great when you are travelling, when your dog needs to go to the vet or groomer, or if you plan to do dog sports.

Trained properly with positive reinforcement and patience, the crate becomes a safe place for a dog. You will find that your dog uses the crate when he is tired and comes in willingly and eagerly when asked.

On the other hand, using crates the wrong way can turn into a cruel experience for your dog.

What Not to Do

Not sure when a crate crosses the line from a safe den to a place your dog fears?

Double-check that you are not doing any of the following so your dog’s crate remains a comfortable place for him.

  1. The dog crate should not be too small
  2. Your dog may be claustrophobic – talk to your vet if your dog is constantly whining, shaking or pacing
  3. Ensure you are not using your dog crate to punish your dog

How Long Does Crate Training Take?

This varies from dog to dog. It can take anywhere from a week to a year. It is important to make sure your dog has the right conditions for proper crate training.

If you feel that your dog has met all of his necessary needs and he is still uncomfortable, you may need to look for alternative methods rather than crating your dog at night.

How Long Should You Crate Your Dog?

When considering the duration to crate your dog, we consider some major factors like the size of the crate and the age of your dog.

Note that it can be dangerous to leave your dog in their crate for too long. The longer they hold in their pee, the more likely they are to develop a bladder or kidney infection.

Puppies should never be crated for longer than they can hold their bladder.  As they grow, that times increases.

Adult dogs should never be crated for more than 6-8 hours.

While some dogs naturally go to a crate, others aren’t as keen. If your dog whines, cries and keeps you awake, it’s easy to give in and let him out of the crate.   That’s why it’s essential that your dog or puppy never learn that whining, howling, and barking will earn an invitation to your bed.

Be patient and follow the message that calm behavior is the key to being released. Even wait a few seconds of silence before opening the door.

Be strong and you will get through the first few nights. Set up a puppy’s crate with a hot water bottle and a blanket that has your scent on it.

This will help the puppy feel more secure and will be reminiscent of sleeping close to his canine mother and littermates. Remember, your puppy has just been taken away from his family. Everything he knows has changed and he is probably scared and confused.

If you are looking for information on how to crate train your dog, check out