One of the puppy essentials many people purchase for their new best friend is a crate. Crates are a great training tool for potty training, keeping your puppy from getting into things they shouldn’t, as well as creating a safe space for them. Dogs have an instinct to seek out dens and a crate makes a great den-like structure.
However, crate training is not just for puppies. Crates can give adult dogs a sense of security and be useful for newly re-homed dogs, dogs recovering from surgery or an illness, and aging dogs. At night time, crates are particularly handy since you cannot keep an eye on your dog while you are sleeping.
But until what age should a dog sleep in a crate?
Depending on your preference and the individual dog, dogs can be crated at night until around the age of 2 years old. Around that age is when they are usually fully potty trained and less likely to get into things as long as they have had plenty of exercise.
However, there is nothing wrong with continuing to crate your dog past the age of 2 years old (even forever) as long as they are being properly taken care of mentally and physically. On the other hand, if your dog is well-behaved out of the crate at night, you do not need to wait until a certain age to let your dog sleep out of the crate.
There are pros and cons to crating your dog and ultimately it is a personal choice based on your and your dog’s needs and personality.
Why Should You Crate Train Your Dog Or Puppy At Night?
They have not figured out how long they can hold it yet and a crate helps create structure around going outside to use the bathroom. Eventually, your new dog will be able to sleep through the night in the crate and you will not have to wake them up to pee.
Crate training is also important for management and making your life easier and your dog’s life safer as they navigate and learn the boundaries you set up in the house. There is a lot your dog can get into at night while you sleep, especially if they are bored and have not had enough exercise. They can get in the trash, bark, chew up furniture, or jump in the bed and wake you up at 4 am for a late-night play session.
However, a dog who has been properly crate trained will learn to sleep through the night as well as learn that their crate is a safe place, helping stop problematic behaviors. Some dogs learn to love their crate so much that they choose to continue sleeping in the crate with the door open.
If crate training is not done properly though, it can make a dog feel trapped and cause them to panic, bark, or whine when they are crated at night. Remember that crates are not a tool for punishment but a tool for management. Crate training should not be rushed, instead, positive associations for the crate are built with treats, toys, and praise.
Kikopup has a great video to help you get started on crate training your dog and how to help them sleep through the night in the crate.
When To Stop Crate Training?
Crate training is not only for puppies but is great for dogs of all ages. You never have to stop crate training your dog and there are many benefits to continuing using the crate throughout your dog’s adult life. Just because they are no longer having accidents or being destructive at night does not mean you have to stop crate training.
If you are a light sleeper, crate training helps you get through the night easier knowing your dog is safely crated through the night. Dogs also have a personal preference and your dog might love their crate and prefer to sleep in them. Whether it is your choice or your dog’s, there is nothing wrong with continuing crate training.
If you stop crate training, your dog might begin showing signs of crate training regression. Then you will have to start all over training them to be comfortable in the crate. This could be problematic and stressful if they were ever injured or needed to go on extended crate rest.
This video explains a situation when you have to crate rest your dog for a long period of time.
Furthermore, dogs who are used to sleeping in their crates during the night will be more comfortable in stressful situations like medical emergencies. Veterinarians require you to drop your dog off early for procedures like spays, neuters, dental cleanings, and other surgeries.
At the clinic, they will be crated as they wait for their procedure. While the vet can be stressful for the most laid-back dog, being acclimated to being in the crate at night at home will help them be less nervous about being in the crate at the veterinarian.
On a personal note, I do a lot of dog agility competitions which means my dogs have to be crated in the car for travel and crated at events unless we are walking or competing. Their crates give them a place to relax, nap, and rejuvenate after being in the ring, so they are always being crate trained!
When To Stop Using The Crate At Night?
When trained correctly, crates are a great place for puppies and younger dogs to sleep during the night.
Why is 2 years old the benchmark to stop using the crate at night? While big dogs usually grow and mature at different rates than small dogs, most dogs understand the household routine and rules and are less destructive by around the age of 2.
Even though they are past the puppy teething phase, young adult dogs can easily find trouble if they are bored or have too much energy. Dogs often settle down around 2 years old, making managing these behaviors easier.
The other reason we recommend crating your dog at night until the age of 2 years old is because properly potty trained dogs can usually hold it through the night at around that age. Sometimes accidents happen, but you never punish them, instead use positive reinforcement to make sure that they understand where to use the bathroom and that they do not have any medical issues.
But simply because your dog is 2 years old does not mean they have to sleep outside their crate. As long as they get plenty of exercise and mental stimulation, are happy in their crate, and are not spending most of their day in the crate, your dog can stay in their crate at night forever.
However, if you want to let your cuddle in bed with you, here are some signs that your dog or puppy is ready to sleep outside of the crate:
- They are potty trained
- They are quiet and happy in the crate
- They sleep through the night in the crate
- They are no longer being destructive
- You have puppy-proofed your house so they do not have the opportunity to be destructive.
Is It Cruel To Crate A Dog At Night? Pros and Cons Of Crating Your Dog At Night.
As long as your dog is getting plenty of exercise and mental stimulation, and has been properly crate-trained, it is not cruel to leave your dog in their crate at night. In fact, in some cases, it might not only be convenient to leave your dog in the crate at night but necessary. Let’s explore some of the pros and cons of crating your dog at night.
Pro: Your Dog Is Disturbing Your Sleep
Whether it is you or your dog who is a light sleeper, it is easy for dogs to disturb our sleep when they are out of the crate at night. There is nothing worse than waking up to a wet spot made by your dog licking the sheets, hearing your dog walk around at night, or them pouncing on the bed at 5:30 am to wake you up for the day.
Besides causing general mayhem at night, it can be more problematic if your dog is disturbing your sleep by being destructive. Not only are they destroying your house, but they can get into something that might make them sick. A good solution to help you and your dog sleep through the night is to properly crate train them at night.
Con: Your Dog Does Not Like The Crate
Whether it is because they have anxiety, were never properly crate trained, or have severe trauma from a previous home, there are that dogs do not like their crate. No matter how much work you put into creating positive associations, they are too stressed to be crated at night.
If you are not sure you can trust your dog to be loose in the house, there are other ways to contain them without crating them. Create a safe room for them with positive reinforcement and treats and block it with a baby gate.
An exercise pen (or x-pen) is another good alternative to a crate because it contains your dog while also giving them plenty of room to move around. They will not feel quite so trapped if they are in an x-pen rather than a crate at night.
This video gives you an idea of how to set up an x-pen for a puppy.
Pro: Your Dog Has Medical Issues
Choosing to keep your dog crated might be made easier if your dog has certain medical issues.
For example, crating an epileptic dog while they sleep is usually a safe choice. They could have a seizure at night and seriously hurt themselves by falling off of a tall bed or a couch. They could also be injured by another household animal while they are having a seizure. This is why you should never let two dogs share a crate if one of them is epileptic.
A big side effect of older dogs who develop dementia is that they seem to get lost in familiar places. They are usually more confused at night since their eyesight is poorer and it is harder to navigate in the dark.
Senior dogs with dementia are likely to become stressed at night, even if they are in a house they have lived in all their life. Crating them at night can help them feel safer and help them get a better night’s sleep.
Con: You Want Your Dog To Cuddle With You At Night
As someone who has at least one dog in their bed every night, I can tell you that I love cuddling with my dog. There is nothing wrong with wanting your dog to sleep in your bed at night. Studies have proven that petting and touching dogs relieve stress. That is why dogs make such great therapy animals like this dog visiting hospital patients.
A lot of dogs love sleeping with their humans as well. It is instinctual for them to want to sleep with you because they feel safer and many feel protective of you. So if your dog is 2 years old or ready to sleep outside the crate at night, invite them under the blankets and sleep well!
Pro: Managing A Multi-dog House
Speaking from experience as someone with a multi-dog household, sometimes crating certain dogs at night can make managing multiple dogs easier. For one thing, if I let my dogs all sleep in the bed there would not be much room left for me!
There is also a safety concern. I have 2 big dogs and 3 little dogs who all get along very well, but my big dogs could accidentally hurt my little dogs simply by playing too rough. I like to keep an eye on them and make sure they are all safe. Though they are adult dogs, I crate some of my dogs at night and when I am not at home.
There are multiple answers to the question “Until What Age Can A Dog Sleep In The Crate?” 2 years old is a good benchmark, but some dogs might be ready before that as long as they are fully potty-trained and no longer destructive. Any dog is going to sleep better through the night in or out of the crate if they are properly exercised and mentally stimulated.
However, there is nothing wrong with continuing to crate train throughout your dog’s life. Crates are a safe space and some dogs prefer to be in the crate. Dogs like a routine and the crate speaks to their need for a den-like space. Don’t worry, there are crates out there for all different sizes of dogs.
It is also important for crates to be a positive experience for dogs. A medical emergency might mean they have to spend a significant amount of time in their crate during the day and while they sleep, and they will be extra stressed if they do not have a good association with their crate. Luckily there are some great toys to help your dog get their crate training back on track if they ever need to be on crate rest.
As a responsible dog owner, do not think of crate training as something you have to do with your dog every day if they are well-behaved and do not need to sleep in it at night. But it is a behavior that needs to be maintained in case of an emergency or if you or your dog ever need a break. As long your dog is living a healthy and active life, they can sleep in their crate at night or sleep in bed with you!