Crate Training: What To Put In The Crate With Your Puppy & Where To Put Their Crate

Updated: August 14th, 2021

what to put in a crate

Depositphotos.com / FotoJagodka

In our series of articles dedicated to crate training, we have already talked about the benefits of crate training, when you should use it, and how to choose the right crate. Today, we turn our attention to the important questions of what to put in the crate with your puppy and where exactly to put their crate.

To get the full benefits of crate training, it needs to be done right. This means establishing the crate as a safe place that is the domain of the dog, kind of like a child’s bedroom. It should be a positive, warm, and happy place for your dog, and certainly never feel like a prison.

Key to achieving this is making sure the crate is effectively located in the home, somewhere that lets your dog still feel like part of the family and not as if they are being punished. Similarly, it should contain things that make the space feel cozy and like home.

An Overview Of The Best Dog Crate Accessories

We highly recommend looking at the comparison table we have below, where we highlight the features of each product.

IMAGE PRODUCT
helix durable dog bed
  • Outdoor-ready dog mat
  • Soft and comfortable
  • Durable
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kong puppy dog toy
  • Great for energetic dogs
  • Made in the USA
  • Specially designed for puppies’ gums.
CHECK PRICE →
smart pet love
  • Recreates intimacy
  • Reduces anxiety
  • Easy to clean
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midwest quiet time deluxe double bolster pet bed fleece
  • Extremely comfortable
  • Available in various sizes
  • Exquisitely soft
CHECK PRICE →

Why Put Anything In A Dog Crate?

The crate should be a warm and welcoming place of comfort and security, where your dog likes to spend carefree time, to enjoy a good relaxing chew session or to rest and indulge in some sleep.

Being a small, enclosed space automatically gives them a secure den-like feeling, but without a few accessories a crate is hardly a comfortable and enticing place. So, add a few things to make it nice for your dog or puppy.

The things you could put in a crate include bedding, toys, and sources of food and water. But not everything is suitable for a crate, and some things can even be dangerous.

Dog Crate Bedding

helix durable dog bed

Helix Durable Dog Bed & Crate Mat

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It’s a nice idea to put bedding in the crate with your dog to make it a bit more comfortable. They would much rather snuggle up against a soft blanket than the cold steel of the crate.

However, you do need to be careful to choose suitable bedding. Puppies are notorious for chewing on everything, as are some breeds of older dogs like golden retrievers. As a result, blankets and bath towels can quickly be destroyed. Not only is this a waste of money and a mess, but the smaller pieces can become a serious choking hazard.

For similar reasons, for some dogs ‘plush’ or ‘soft-stuffed’ dog beds aren’t suitable, either.

You know your dog and whether they are a chewer, so it is up to you to decide what is going to work.

If you do need chew-proof bedding, we recommend the Helix Durable Dog Bed & Crate Mat, used by countless vets and kennels worldwide.

This mat is soft and comfortable while being extremely strong and durable. It’s still not totally destruction-proof, but it’s far tougher than almost any other alternative.

It’s also non-allergenic, warm and insulating, and permeable, meaning moisture gets drawn away while air can flow through, making the mat ideal for puppies or elderly dogs that may have an ‘accident’ in the crate.

My recommendation is to start by using the Helix Crate Mat and then, when your puppy proves they can be trusted not to chew, you can change to any bedding of your choosing.

If your dog has already learned the art of not chewing up their bed, then you have many more options.

Try to go for a nice, thick, extremely comfortable stuffed bed with raised edges that they can really snuggle into and against—because your dog deserves the best in comfort, don’t they?

Dog Crate Toys

kong puppy dog toy

Kong Large Puppy Toy

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There are so many dog toys available, it’s hard to decide what’s good or not, and certainly not all toys are suitable.

Remember that when they are in the crate, your dog is probably going to be unsupervised, whether that’s because you aren’t at home or because you are asleep.

This means they should only have access to toys that are safe to use while unsupervised. This means no toys with small bits they can break off and swallow, and no toys with pieces they can get caught up in and become trapped and distressed.

This largely limits you to durable chew todays that your pup isn’t going to be able to break. And the key word is ‘durable.

KONG toys are ideal and are somewhat the globally agreed upon standard. They are extremely durable and can even be stuffed with tasty food and frozen, so a puppy can work at getting the treats out over time to keep them entertained.

There are many benefits associated with leaving chew toys in a crate:

  • It gives them something to do! ‘Occupational chewing’ keeps them relaxed and happy, chewing being a favorite pastime for most dogs!
  • It gives them an alternative to chewing their bedding.
  • It leads to a puppy forming a habit of chewing on the correct things—their toys—which means less chance of them chewing on your possessions when alone outside of the crate.
  • Knowing they get to relax with their chew toys increases their enjoyment of the crate and helps them look forward to spending time there.

Just one more thing to keep in mind is to make sure the chew toys you supply are a suitable size for the mouth of your dog.

Click here for our review of the best toys suitable for puppies.

But Can You Leave Soft Toys In The Crate?

smart pet love snuggle aid toy

Smart Pet Love Snuggle Puppy

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Whether or not your dog can have soft toys in the crate with them depends very much on your dog and whether they can be trusted with these types of toys.

That said, for a new puppy and their first few nights home, a Snuggle Puppy is often a very good idea.

A Snuggle Puppy is a soft toy that somewhat emulates being curled up with littermates they’ve just recently left behind.

You can insert a heat pack into the toy to provide warmth, and there’s a ‘real-feel,’ battery-driven heartbeat, these features making it feel to your puppy as though they’re curled up in another dog’s company.

If you can combine this with a piece of cloth from the litter’s box at the breeder’s, to provide a familiar scent, the combination can do wonders for preventing crying at night due to loneliness and separation from your puppy’s mother and littermates.

You do have to keep an eye on your puppy, though, because it’s a soft toy that’s easily chewed and destroyed by determined chewers, so your puppy may swallow pieces. If they do chew, you shouldn’t leave the soft toy in the crate with them any longer—only the durable chew toys.

Until your puppy is three months old or so, the soft toy will be fine—they will hardly be strong enough to destroy it—but after this period, I recommend not leaving any soft toys in the crate with them at all. Better to be safe than sorry.

Dog Crate Food And Water

MidWest Stainless Steel Snap'y Fit Dog Kennel Bowl

MidWest Stainless Steel Snap’y Fit Dog Kennel Bowl

While you should never leave your dog alone for long periods of time without access to water, as a general rule you should not be leaving food and water in their crate.

Most puppies have to wee very shortly after taking a drink, so if you leave water in the crate with them, there’s a high chance they will end up soiling their crate.

This goes against all good house training advice, as once they start peeing in the crate, they will start seeing the crate as a place where it is OK to go potty.

However, if you’re going to leave them crated for two or more hours, especially if it’s a warm day, then you are going to have to leave them some water. We recommend a crate-mounted water bowl, the type that clamps to the crate so it cannot be spilled.

What About Food In The Crate?

Again, don’t leave food in your dog’s crate in a way that gives them free access to food whenever they want it.

Puppies and dogs should have definite feeding times rather than being left to graze. Eating throughout the day can play havoc with their bathroom schedule and seriously undermine their house training.

Ideally, dogs should have regular meal times, which will help you maintain regular potty times too.

Although you shouldn’t leave food in the crate, you can feed your dog their main meal inside the crate. This can help promote the idea that the crate is a source of only good things.

Chew toys with treats inside should be OK, as your puppy hopefully isn’t getting enough calories at once to trigger their need for the bathroom. But do remember to subtract their treat calories from the overall number of calories you feed them each day.

What About A Pee Mat?

You might be tempted to leave something like a pee mat in your puppy’s crate as well, in case they do have an accident overnight. But again, this is not advised.

Pee mats are designed to tell your dog that this is the right place to do their business, and this is the last thing you want them thinking about their crate.

If they are a little accident-prone and you don’t want to be cleaning pee out of your carpet, put a protective layer such as cardboard or a plastic sheet under the crate, preferably where your dog can’t see it. That, and invest in a good pet urine stain remover.

Should You Cover Your Dog’s Crate?

MidWest Quiet Time Crate Cover

 

Whether your dog likes their crate covered or not comes down to personal preference, so you will need to experiment.

Most dogs prefer their crate covered, because it offers a nice, cozy, enclosed and secure feeling. Being covered also helps them take their mind off everything on the outside of their crate, so they feel much more relaxed.

However, some dogs do like the ability to look around and see what’s happening in their environment, and will therefore prefer their crate not be covered.

To see what your dog prefers, try it out, always leaving one side of your dog’s crate uncovered. Leave it for a little while even if they don’t like it at first, as they might just be adjusting. But, if they look like they are in real distress, then remove the covering immediately.

I recommend buying a crate cover rather than going DIY with towels and blankets. This is because your puppy can pull these soft coverings into the crate with them, leaving a lot of destruction in their wake. But again, this is a judgement call based on whether your dog is the type that is likely to do this.

Where Should You Put Your Dog’s Crate During The Day?

You should put it in the busiest family room of your home where everybody spends their time and hangs out, whether that be a living room, dining room, or the kitchen.

Keep in mind that dogs are highly social, and they want and need to feel they’re a part of your family and everything going on, to be happy and fulfilled.

By having their crate out of the way, in a room away from the family, they will feel isolated and excluded. It will feel like they’ve been abandoned or punished and could result in them hating the crate.

Where Should You Put Your Dog’s Crate During The Night?

golden retriever sleeping in a crate

 

When you are dealing with a brand new puppy, it is advisable to put their crate in a bedroom with someone.

Up until this point, new puppies will have slept with their mother and littermates, and sleeping alone can be a big shock for them. Being able to see and hear people during the night will help reduce this trauma, and can help stop them from crying though the night (in which case, no one gets any sleep).

If the new puppy is really struggling with sleeping alone, then the Snuggle Puppy we mentioned above can also help.

The puppy will only need to stay in the bedroom for a few weeks, after which time their crate can be moved to where they will be sleeping on a permanent basis.

Dog Crate Accessory And Preparation Checklist

So to recap what we’ve been over and to summarize the things you should do and buy to make the crate enticing, comfortable, and safe, you should:

  • Use Vet Bed as bedding for a puppy until they can be trusted not to chew it.
  • Buy a nice, thick, comfortable bed for your dog once you know they will not destroy it.
  • Consider a Snuggle Puppy for a new puppy, to comfort them during their first few nights. But once they start chewing with vigor, do not leave any soft toys in the crate at all. These are dangerous if swallowed.
  • Always leave two or more durable chew toys in the crate to keep your dog’s mind occupied, help them relax, and promote good chewing habits.
  • Once you are sure your dog is over their adolescent chewing stage, you can again allow soft toys in the crate if you choose.
  • Do not leave food or water in the crate unless you are crating your dog for two hours or more, or advised to do so by a vet. But you can feed them their main meal in the crate, removing the bowl after meal time.
  • Cover your dog’s crate because most dogs prefer it, it helps them relax, and provides a more secure feeling. Don’t cover it  if they show anxiety or they truly do not like it.
  • Place the crate in the busiest family room of your home, so your dog is still a part of things and not hidden away.
  • Sleep a new puppy in a crate in your bedroom to help them get over the feeling of loneliness, having just left their nest. Move them to their final sleeping place after a few days or two weeks max.

Conclusion

Many people shy away from crate training, as it looks a bit like a doggy prison—and no one likes the idea of punishing their new dog. But crate training is actually one of the fastest and most effective ways to quickly get your dog accustomed to their new home.

The idea of the crate is to give your dog a safe space that belongs to them. They can use it to chill out and relax without fear of other animals or the indelicate hands of young children. They will also learn to “hold it” as they don’t want to soil their space, making it integral to the house-training process.

So, how do you make the crate feel like a good place? First, put the crate in the busiest room in your home so that your sociable dog can feel like they are part of the action, even when they are curled up inside.

Second, put some creature comforts into the crate. This should include bedding, the smells of the litter for puppies, and toys to keep them mentally stimulated. Just make sure that whatever you put inside won’t be easily destroyed or swallowed, representing a serious health hazard.

Do you use a crate with your puppy? What do you include inside their crate? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below or via our social media.

A Complete Guide To Crate Training From Totally Goldens

For more information on crate training, please see our articles linked to below.

In time, this series will become the ultimate guide to crate training and will contain everything a Golden owner needs to know on the subject.

Please be aware this page contains affiliate links. TotallyGoldens receives a small commission if you make any purchases through any such links. This has absolutely no effect on the eventual price that you pay and we are very grateful for your support.

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4 Comments

  • Janet
    Posted November 18, 2016 at 5:23 am 0Likes

    Hi Wendy-
    Our family of 5 ( 2 adults, 3 kids- 12,10, & 6) is about to get a mini Goldendoodle this December. She will be 2 months old at the time of pick up. We have a 2 story house, with all bedrooms upstairs and everything else downstairs. I was planning on keeping the puppy crated in the master bedroom for the first 2 weeks. My question is after the 2 weeks, where should I place the crate? Upstairs in the hallway or downstairs in the family room? We have an open concept kitchen/family/dinning room. Our family spends most of the time downstairs but in the evenings we all go upstairs to finish homework and to get ready for bed.
    Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.- Janet

    • Wendy
      Posted November 30, 2016 at 5:28 pm 0Likes

      Hi Janet,

      Personally I always keep a crate in the busiest area of the house, where the family spend the majority of their time. Dogs spend a lot of time resting, sleeping, in some sort of relaxing state (lucky them!) and when properly crate trained – i.e. they love and see the crate as their own little space – you will find they go to their crate just to chill out and relax of their own accord. You would leave the door open for them, and they can just come and go. This is much better if the crate is in the busiest part of the home, so they can still see and hear everything going on, and feel a part of everything, and for you this sounds like the downstairs family room.

  • Craig
    Posted July 13, 2018 at 1:24 am 0Likes

    It’s been about 12 yrs since I create trained a Golden puppy. Being that my wife and I are getting ready to. embrace the joy of a puppy all over agin your insight knowledge and explanations were very helpful

    • Kari Maddox
      Posted August 30, 2019 at 8:20 pm 0Likes

      It’s been a long time since we’ve had a puppy in a crate, so this information has been so helpful. Thank you!

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