Puppy Crate Training

Why is crate training necessary and why are dog crates useful?

I consider the crate the next best thing since the wheel was invented. Why? It gives the puppy a sense of security. It gives you some peace and quiet! Seriously, the crate needs to be the puppy’s safe place, its den if you like, where it can go when life gets too much for it and when it feels the need to rest. So, if you have small children, explain to them that this is not a play area, and that the puppy must not be disturbed whenever it is in its crate. So no poking or dragging the dog out of its crate. The crate will also be the place where the puppy sleeps at night and where you will leave it whenever you need to pop out for a quick errand. 


Crates are very handy for travelling. They provide a safe manner to get the puppy from point A to point B, whether it is a cross country journey in a plane or a few minutes drive inside a car to take your dog to the groomer. In most countries, it is illegal to travel with a dog roaming in a car, and for a good reason. A dog or a puppy roaming freely in a car is a distraction to the driver and can very easily cause an accident, potentially injuring itself, the driver or a third party… or worse. 

Even if you do not travel often with your dog, you will still need to get the puppy or dog to the vet at some point whether it’s for vaccines, spay/neuter surgery or simply because the dog or puppy got sick or injured. You also want the peace of mind of knowing your dog feels safe inside the crate should you need to carry the dog home after a surgery whether it is a major operation or some other simple veterinary procedure. You simply cannot afford to have a stressed animal inside a car after surgery. It is stressful for both the dog and the owner. 

Crate training as an aid for potty training

Puppies do not typically soil where they sleep. The crate should be used when you cannot watch the puppy for ques of when it needs to do its business. It is also much easier to grab the puppy and quickly take it to its toileting area once it wakes up and is inside the crate as opposed to having to run after it around the house. 

Make crate training fun!

You need to make crate training as positive as possible, above all the puppy must not think of it as a punishment which keeps him away from you and your family. 

Start by placing the crate in a place where the puppy can see you, and move to it the puppy’s sleeping area at night time. Place a sleeping rug inside and a toy. I love Kong toys, and my puppy owners will find it with my list of essentials for Aussie care. Australian Shepherds need to work off their energy, both physical and mental. A Kong toy, will take care of mental stimulation. Leave the door open and stay in the room. Ignore the puppy. Once the puppy enters the crate to explore it, give him a treat and praise it. If you are using clicker training, ‘Click & Treat’. Do not close the door for the time being. Once the puppy is comfortable going in and out of the crate, fill the Kong toy with some treats give it to the puppy inside the crate. 

Another tip is to feed the puppy its meals inside the crate. Watch the puppy and take cues from its behavior. Whenever you notice the puppy is about to fall asleep, place it inside the crate, and pet it until it falls asleep. Before you know it, it will start going inside the crate every time it is tired.  

Choosing and sizing the puppy crate

The crate needs to be large enough for the puppy to be able to turn around comfortably inside, but not large enough for it to be able to toilet in one place and sleep in another. You also do not want it to be too large if you are going to be traveling with it. The puppy may be slammed around from side to side each time turn a corner and every time you hit the breaks. Flight fares are also based on size and volume, so you will end up paying more than needed if you decide to fly with your dog at any point. 

Ideally, you start off with a small crate and progress to a larger one, but this is not the ideal world, and crates are expensive. Choose a crate based on the dog’s adult size. A size 400 Vari kennel or similar, should be enough for an Australian Shepherd.  If your crate is too large for your puppy, place a large blanket or pillow at the back of their crate.  Beware of pillows and stuffing however. If you notice the puppy is chewing on the pillow, remove it immediately. You do not want the puppy to swallow pillow stuffing. Using a blanket/pillow at the back of the crate will make the actual space smaller until the puppy grows into it. Some wire crates come with internal separators which you can use to make the crate smaller. Wire crates are however not approved by IATA for traveling inside a plane.

Safety inside the crate

No collars and tags! – Collars, especially the ones with tags dangling off them can very easily get caught in between the bars, seriously injuring and potentially killing your pet. Collars and tags are great for when you take your dog for a walk, in case it runs off, but they should be taken off inside crates. 

Adequate ventilation – Make sure the dog has adequate ventilation. Some people cover crates or the sides of a crate to keep the dog quite, especially dogs in wire crates. If you cover the crate, make sure its is covered with a material that allows for adequate ventilation. Do not use canvas. Ensure the area is well ventilated.

Beware of the temperature – Do not crate dogs in hot cars  (Never leave dogs in hot cars!). Be aware of the surrounding temperature. Remember the dog is not able to move away from the area if he is too hot or too cold. So ensure it is not too hot or too cold.


Never leave your dog inside the crate for too long. Start slowly and increase the time gradually…. and never ever use it to punish the puppy!

a black tricolor dog in a crate