Congratulations on your new puppy or dog…and double congratulations on setting up a crate training schedule. A crating schedule will help you raise a wiggly eight-week-old puppy into a dog who is full of good habits (chewing on appropriate items, settling quietly, going to the bathroom where you want) and free of bad habits (house soiling, indiscriminate barking and chewing, and other destructive behaviors).
Here is a sample crate training and feeding schedule with instructions for how to customize it to your situation. That way your good intentions and energy will produce the results you want: a fun puppy-hood and a well-behaved adult dog—with a minimum of mess.
Sample Crating, Feeding, and Training Schedule for an Eight-Week-Old Puppy
Like a muffin recipe, a crate schedule can be modified…sometimes. If everyone in your family hates nuts, you’d leave them out of your muffins and end up with a well-loved batch. But other principles of the recipe can’t be altered. Even if everyone in your family loves eggs, you wouldn’t add five extra to the recipe. Despite your good intentions, and despite your hard work, you’d end up with a total mess.
Read through this “basic muffin recipe” and then we’ll cover how to customize it to your needs.
Equipment and Ingredients:
- Acquire a crate that fits your pup, small enough that he can’t soil in one corner and sleep in another. The crate should be basic plastic or wire. Once he has passed the chewing period, you can look into soft-sided folding crates, wooden and wicker crates, and cloth crate covers.
- Store your absolute tastiest food reward—tiny freeze-dried liver treats work well—near the place you want your dog to eliminate. Every time he eliminates there, you will immediately praise him and give him three.
Stuff some hollow bones or toys with a smear of peanut butter, some dry food, and a couple of treats. You can slightly moisten and freeze them if you like: pup-sicles. Your puppy can work on these whenever he’s in his crate.
Directions: Crating, Feeding, and Training an Eight-Week-Old Puppy
6 a.m.: Up and out. Top-shelf reward for elimination.
6:05-6:15: Playtime-and-training. Puppy’s breakfast food as training treats.
6:15: Remainder of puppy’s breakfast served as his breakfast. Another chance to eliminate.
6:15-6:30: Direct supervision or special puppy-proof area.
6:30: Back to crate for naptime.
9 a.m. Up and out. Top-shelf reward for elimination.
9:05-9:15: Playtime-and-training. Puppy’s lunch food as training treats.
9:15-9:30 Direct supervision or puppy-proof area.
9:30: Back to crate for nap.
12:00: Up and out. Top-shelf reward for elimination.
12:05-12:15: Playtime-and-training. Puppy’s lunch food as training treats.
12:15: Remainder of puppy’s lunch served as his lunch. Another chance to eliminate.
12:15-12:30 Direct supervision or puppy-proof area.
12:30: Back to crate for nap.
3:00: Up and out. Top-shelf reward for elimination.
3:05-3:15: Playtime-and-training. Puppy’s dinner food as training treats.
3:15-3:30: Direct supervision or puppy-proof area.
3:30: Back to crate for nap.
6:00: Up and out. Top-shelf reward for elimination.
6:05-6:15: Playtime-and-training. Puppy’s dinner food as training treats.
6:15: Remainder of puppy’s dinner food served as his dinner. Another chance to eliminate.
6:15-6:30: Direct supervision or puppy-proof area.
6:30: Back to crate
9:00: Up and out. Top-shelf reward for elimination. Back in crate.
12:00: Up and out. Top-shelf reward for elimination. Back in crate.
3:00: Up and out. Top-shelf reward for elimination. Back in crate.
6:00 Up and out...and start the day again!
Crating Technique Notes:
- “Up and out” means that the pup goes directly from the crate to the elimination spot. Get your shoes on, find your keys, and put your phone in your pocket before you approach the crate.
- “Direct supervision” means you’re physically and mentally 100 percent present with the puppy, allowing or encouraging in-home habits you want, and redirecting any unwanted behaviors into desired behaviors. (Starting to chew a shoe? Oh no, puppy! Chew on this fantastic bone here instead—yes, what a good puppy who likes to have fun!) You’re not around the corner from the puppy, not next to the puppy but doing something else real quick. If you can’t be directly supervising—and of course you can’t always be—put him in a puppy-proof area while you text or make your coffee. That way he doesn’t have a chance to make mistakes that you don’t want.
How to Create Your Own Dog’s Daily Schedule
The times in the crating and feeding schedule template above are just examples. The times in the crating and feeding schedule template above are just examples. Like a muffin recipe that includes nuts, the exact details won’t work for every household. To create your own effective training schedule, you just need to understand the basic principles—and they’re not hard. Once you establish your puppy’s crating routine, you can introduce other behavior training as well.
Crate Training: Your Basic Rhythm
An effective crate training schedule will follow this rhythm:
- Exercise, Learning, and Fun
- …and back to the top again.
In addition, provide an opportunity for your puppy to eliminate after he eats, and any time you move from a situation of more confinement/supervision to less—for example, from crate to playtime, or from puppy pen to loose in the living room. A consistent crating routine helps with potty training and so much more.
Crate Training: How Long Can My Puppy ‘Hold It’?
The number one factor (so to speak) in crate training a puppy is his need to eliminate. A good rule of thumb is that the number of hours puppies can usually ‘hold it’ is their age in months, plus one.
|So a puppy who is…||Can usually hold it for…|
|8 weeks old (2 months)||3 hours|
|12 weeks old (3 months)||4 hours|
| 16 weeks old (4 months) ||5 hours|
| 20 weeks old (5 months) ||6 hours|
|24 weeks old (6 months)||7 hours|
|28 weeks old (7 months)||8 hours|
And yes, this includes overnight! It may be a while before everyone gets a full night of sleep.
Helping the puppy keep his crate clean so that you can reward him for eliminating where you want him to go is the mainstay of crate training. This principle cannot be modified without producing a mess. (Of course that includes the physical mess you probably thought of immediately. But the bigger problem would actually be the behavioral mess—a lot more work to clean up.) Set up your training schedule so that you always, always give your puppy a chance to relieve himself outside his crate well before his biology makes him soil it.
Making a Crating Schedule That Works for Your Family
Maybe there isn’t someone who can let the puppy out every three hours. That’s fine! Use a puppy pen or a dog gate to set up a small puppy-proof area or room. Maybe there are periods during the day or the evening when you’re physically around but unable to supervise your puppy 100 percent. You might be cooking dinner, watching TV, or folding laundry. Put him in his ‘play pen’ or tether him nearby so he can still be a part of the action. Every so often, give him a chance to empty, and then devote several minutes of focused attention and supervision so that the two of you can have fun together and he can continue to develop appropriate house habits. Set a timer on your kitchen clock, your phone, or your smart speaker to remind you to stop for ‘puppy time’ if necessary.
Maybe there are periods during the day or the evening when you’re physically around, but unable to supervise your puppy 100 percent. You might be cooking dinner, watching TV, or folding laundry. Put him in his ‘play pen’ or tether him nearby so he can still be a part of the action. Every so often, give him a chance to empty, and then devote several minutes of focused attention and supervision so that the two of you can have fun together and he can continue to develop appropriate house habits. Set a timer on your kitchen clock, your phone, or your smart speaker to remind you to stop for ‘puppy time’ if necessary.
Changing the Feeding Schedule as Your Dog Grows
After a few months of age, many dogs will move from eating three to four times a day to eating only twice a day. Talk to your vet about your dog’s optimal feeding schedule, which will depend on his age, size, activity level, and any health concerns. You can continue to use his mealtime food as training rewards throughout the day.
Creating a Crate Training Schedule for an Older Dog
You’ll notice that the puppy in the schedule above is out of his crate for only a few hours a day. He’s just a little guy, so he’s going to spend a lot of time sleeping. As he grows, he’ll be ready for more exercise and socialization, and his out-of-the-crate periods will get longer. At the same time, he’ll be able to go longer between walks, so his in-the-crate periods can get longer, too. The schedule as a whole will run on a longer repeat, as he goes longer between walks and enjoys more supervised free time with you in the house. But the essential structure of confinement, elimination, exercise/learning/fun, and supervision will stay the same.
If you have adopted an adult dog who has never been crate trained, you will want to proceed with a great deal of patience and deliberation. The goal is for your adult dog to think of the crate as his cozy home, not as a confusing prison. But at the same time, you may need to confine him in it to prevent housebreaking accidents. Associate the crate with meals, treats, and other goodies, and make sure to give him plenty of exercise before he goes in so that he is content to take a rest inside it. A crate also makes for a reliable option when you want him to be happy at home alone. For a sample scheme that can introduce your adult dog to the crate over the course of a weekend, see our guidelines on how to crate train your dog.
Introducing the Crate
When your pup leaves his mother at six to eight weeks, almost everything will be new to him—perhaps including the crate. Give him a nice little introduction to his den like so:
- Stuff a hollow bone or dog toy with a smear of peanut butter, some kibble, and/or some treats.
- Let your puppy examine the fantastic-ness of the treat-filled chew toy.
- Shut the toy inside the crate and your puppy outside the crate.
- Let your puppy contemplate his situation.
- Let your puppy into the crate, and close the door.
- Do this the first several times you put him in his crate. (It’s fine to give him a chew toy whenever he’s in there, for his entire life if you want to, but you don’t have to keep shutting him out first.)
With a sensible schedule for crating, feeding, and training, your puppy’s days—and yours—will be easier. Many happy puppy days to you and your new friend!
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Can You Leave a Puppy in a Crate?
The guiding principle for determining how many hours you can leave your puppy in his crate is his age in months plus one. So, a two-month-old puppy can stay crated for a maximum of three hours. If your puppy is six months old, he can stay in his crate for seven hours. Note that this formula is a guide only. Be sensitive to your pup and take him outside for a pee break sooner if he can’t hold it that long.
Should I Ignore My Puppy Whining in His Crate?
Yes—at first. Puppies often whine in their crates during the initial phases of training as they adjust to being alone. Wait to see if your new little guy settles down. Even though many of us feel compelled to comfort or console a crying puppy, resist the urge to offer attention as he whines. Waiting until he remains quiet for a few moments and only then releasing him will help him associate calmness with freedom from the crate.
Where Should a New Puppy Sleep the First Night?
He can sleep in his crate at night right from the beginning, and knowing what to put in your puppy’s crate at night helps his transition. Or if you have a lidless plastic storage tub that’s the right size, put it next to your bed and he can sleep in there. This alternative makes it easy to dangle your hand in if he frets during the night. You don’t want to play with him in the night—just reassure him that you are nearby and he isn’t alone in the world.
Should You Close the Puppy’s Crate at Night?
Yes—if you plan to crate train your puppy, you should close the door to his crate at night. An open crate door invites your puppy to wander around at will during the night, where he will soil the floor, damage your belongings, and potentially hurt himself. Remember that with proper crate training and conditioning, your puppy will see his crate as his sanctuary, and not as his prison. Confining him to his crate at night not only helps underscore your efforts at house training, but also reinforces his schedule, communicating to him that nighttime is a time for quiet and rest. You may also want to introduce a crate cover, but it’s best to consider the pros and cons of covering your dog’s crate before you make this decision.
Should You Wake a Puppy To Pee at Night?
Yes, until your puppy reaches four to six months of age, you should awaken him and get him outside for a pee break in the night. Even though it’s tiring and disruptive to your own sleep cycle, and even if he’s fast asleep, getting him up and out will continue the important work of house training your puppy. You’ll want to give a one-month-old puppy a chance to go out about every hour; at two months, aim for every couple of hours. And at three months, your puppy will be comfortable with a couple of outside breaks during the course of each night. By six months of age, your puppy’s bladder should be fully developed, and if you’ve been sticking to a schedule, he ought to be able to make it through an entire night without going outside. Note: The size of your dog will affect how long he’s able to go between breaks; a larger breed will be able to wait longer, and a smaller one will need more opportunities to go out. Remember to limit your puppy’s access to water right before bedtime—let him have a final sip, but avoid leaving a water bowl in his crate.
If you’re a first-time dog owner, we have more helpful guidance to get this new relationship off on the right foot (and paw).