So far in my series of articles on crate training I've covered the many benefits it offers, debunked the myth of it being cruel, discussed when you should and should not use a crate, and finally how to choose the right size and type of crate to suit your dog.
There's just two things remaining that need to be discussed before we can begin the crate training process: What to put in a dog crate? And Where to put it?
Table Of Contents
- 1 Why Put Anything In A Dog Crate?
- 2 What To Put In A Crate With A Puppy?
- 3 What To Put In A Crate With An Adult Dog?
- 4 Should You Cover Your Dog's Crate?
- 5 Where Should You Put Your Dog's Crate During The Day?
- 6 Where Should You Put Your Dog's Crate During The Night?
- 7 Dog Crate Accessory And Preparation Checklist
- 8 Conclusion
- 9 A Complete Guide To Crate Training From Totally Goldens
Why Put Anything In A Dog Crate?
Because the crate should be a warm and welcoming place of comfort and security, where your dog likes to spend care-free 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 you add a few things to make it nice for 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 and some things can even be dangerous.
Also, a puppy will need and want slightly different things to an adult dog. So here's what you need to consider for each.
What To Put In A Crate With A Puppy?
You have to keep in mind with a puppy that they aren't yet responsible and cannot be trusted not to chew and swallow anything they can get their little teeth on.
This has the biggest bearing on what you can safely put in a crate with them because swallowing pieces of bedding or toys can cause a blockage and lead to a medical emergency.
So with that said:
What Crate Bedding Should You Use For A Puppy?
Things like blankets and bath towels should be avoided because a puppy might shred and then swallow pieces. Particularly with a 'mouthy' breed like the Golden Retriever.
Many 'plush' or 'soft-stuffed' dog beds aren't suitable for similar reasons.
We recommend 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 is permeable meaning moisture gets drawn away while air can flow through, making it 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, then when your puppy proves they can be trusted not to chew you can change to any bedding of your choosing.
This might sound like it's expensive, buying one bed now then changing for another later, but it's better than buying many expensive beds that are quickly destroyed, or covering vet bills when those nice stuffed beds get swallowed. You'll save money in the long run.
Dog Crate Toys: What's Suitable for a Puppy?
There are so many dog toys available it's hard to decide what's good or not and certainly not all things are suitable.
For a dog of any age you should leave durable chew toys in the crate with them. The key word being 'durable'.
'Kong Toys' are ideal and are somewhat the globally agreed 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 in there.
Just one more thing to keep in mind is to make sure the chew toys you supply are a suitable size for a puppy's small mouth.
Chew Toys Are Recommended, But Should You Leave Soft Toys In The Crate?
For a new puppy on 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 their litter-mates they've just 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 like they're curled up in company.
If you can combine this with a piece of cloth from the litter box at the breeders to provide a familiar scent, the combination can do wonders for preventing crying at night due to loneliness and separation from their mother and litter-mates.
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 it in the crate with them any longer, only the durable chew toys.
Until they are 3 months old or so it 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.
What To Put In A Crate With An Adult Dog?
This depends on how mature they are and whether or not they are over excessive chewing.
What Crate Bedding Should You Use With An Adult Dog?
If they still chew their bedding, you should stick with VetBed as I described for a puppy.
You cannot afford them chewing and swallowing their bedding, for monetary reasons but more so for their health. So use VetBed please until they stop chewing, then upgrade to something more luxurious.
If (and when) they get to the stage where they don't chew their bedding, use whatever you wish!
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?
There are many styles, shapes and colors to choose from. So spoil them while going for something you like the style and look of too.
Dog Crate Toys Suitable For Adult Dogs
You should always put chew toys in the crate, for any and every dog or puppy. Just make sure they are made for dogs as the ones they had as a puppy (if those toys survived this long) will be too small now for an adult dog.
Once they're over their adolescent chewing stage you can also now allow soft toys in the crate if they enjoy them. But only if they can be trusted not to destroy and swallow bits. This is your call.
Should You Leave Water And Food In A Dog Crate?
When you are home, the answer is a definite no.
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, so you should avoid this happening at all costs.
However, if you're going to leave them crated for 2 or more hours, especially if it's a warm day, then you should leave a crate mounted water bowl inside, the type that clamps to the crate so it cannot be spilled. Crating a dog in warm weather without water is wrong for obvious reasons.
But you should try to avoid this scenario until they are at least 4 months old and developed 'some' bladder control. This is because you do not want your puppy forced to soil inside and them losing their instinct to keep their crate clean.
I must add though that there may be times during illness that your vet recommends leaving water in the crate with your dog and of course you should always follow their advice.
Regarding leaving food in the crate: It's recommended mostly that you don't!
Your puppy or dog should have definite feeding times and not always have food available to free feed when they like. If they do it plays havoc with the house training process. Instead, if they eat at the same times each day, they potty at the same times and this is something you should actively promote.
Although you shouldn't leave food in the crate you can and maybe should feed your dog their main meal inside the crate. This helps to promote the idea that the crate is a source of only good things and will increase their enjoyment of being in there.
And of course feel free to stuff Kong toys for them, just remember to take these calories away from the main meals you give to keep their weight in check.
Should You Cover Your Dog's Crate?
Most dogs like it, but some dogs don't and the only way you will know is to try it.
If you have a plastic or wooden furniture style crate, they are already quite enclosed, but wire style crates are very, very open.
Most dogs prefer their crate covered because it offers a nice, cosy, enclosed secure feeling. Being covered also helps them take their mind off everything on the outside of their crate so they feel much more relaxed.
This is extremely useful for territorial or anxious dogs who feel the need to protect and guard 'their area'. A covered crate is easy to protect as it's just so small and they cannot see beyond it.
However, some dogs do like the ability to look around and see what's happening in their environment and will prefer their crate not to be covered.
The only way you will find out is to try it. I recommend purchasing a crate cover and trying it for a few weeks to see how it goes. Don't give up during the first few days if they seem to object. It's new and they might still like it, just objecting because it's unfamiliar. Give them a chance to get used to it.
But when you try it, remove it if they show true anxiety by crying, scratching at the crate cover and maybe even clawing or chewing the crate. This is when you know they truly don't like it.
If you're going to cover the crate, I recommend buying and using a proper cover designed for your crate because although using an old sheet or some bath towels is cheaper, they can more easily be pulled off and into the crate, leaving it uncovered but also then maybe chewed and parts swallowed.
Also, try to introduce it slowly. First covering only the roof for a day or two, then the roof and one side, then the roof and two sides and so. So the change is gradual and slow.
If you do use a cover of your own design, please make sure not to cover every side. There must be ventilation so they can control their temperature and have a fresh supply of air.
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 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.
So place the crate in the family room, and make sure it's away from the central heating and any sources of cold draughts because you don't want them to freeze or overheat. It needs to be comfortable.
Where Should You Put Your Dog's Crate During The Night?
It's not essential but: I recommend for a puppy's first few nights in a new home to put the crate in your bedroom, or buy two and have one in the family room and another in the bedroom if moving one around is too much like work.
You do this because a puppy will have spent their short life so far surrounded by their mother and litter-mates. The shock of going from that to being completely alone at night can be overwhelming and often leads to non-stop crying. (But remember, a Snuggle Puppy can help with this!)
Being able to see, hear and smell their new family for the first few nights is extremely comforting for a puppy and will help them deal with the change and to settle in.
If your bedroom isn't going to be their final sleeping place, you can and should move them out after just a few days to a couple of weeks. There's no exact figure, but if you leave it longer than a couple of weeks they will get so used to it that they'll likely resent being forced to sleep elsewhere.
So for a puppy, my recommendation is to sleep them in your bedroom, then move them to their final sleeping place within 2 weeks.
For an adult dog, put their crate in the place where they will sleep long-term, there's no need to have the step in your bedroom in between.
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. It's dangerous if swallowed.
- Always leave 2 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 if you choose.
- Do not leave food or water in the crate unless you are crating your dog 2 hours or more, or advised to by a vet. But you can feed them their main meal in the crate, removing the bowl after meal time.
- Cover your dogs crate because most dogs prefer it, it helps them relax and provides a more secure feeling. Don't 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 2 weeks max.
The crate is not a punishment and it shouldn't feel as such. You have to make it a nice place to spend time for your puppy or dog before you start to crate train them.
This means making it comfortable, giving them something enjoyable to do while in there, making sure it's safe and placing it somewhere in your home where your dog is still in the thick of things, not hidden away.
If you have any questions concerning what to put in a dog crate, where to put it or anything else related, please ask in the comment section below and I'll be happy to help.
And finally, now with the crate prepared, we can move on to actually crate training your puppy (article coming during the next week!)
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.
- The Benefits Of Crate Training A Dog Or Puppy
- Is Crate Training Cruel?
- How To Use A Dog Crate: When Should You Crate Your Dog?
- Crate Training: Times When You SHOULD NOT Crate Your Dog
- What Size Dog Crate Do You Need? Which Type Is Best?
- What Should You Put In A Dog Crate And Where To Put It?
- Crate Training Your Puppy Or Dog: A Step-By-Step Guide
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