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, and instructions on how to customize it to your situation wisely. 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. 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.
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.
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.
But 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. Make sure he has access only to items that you’d like him to use as chew toys: no crate covers, electrical cords, or garbage cans. Put an open crate in one corner, so your pup can go in and out at will. Place an absorbent material in another corner for him to use as a bathroom. If you can find a friend or neighbor to come over for playtime during the day, so much the better.
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 happy to take a rest inside it. 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.)
He can sleep in his crate at night right from the beginning, 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. That 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.
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!