By: Orvis Staff
Tempted to toss a pile of adorable plush toys into your puppy’s crate to keep her company at night? Perhaps a bolstered dog bed will cradle her in comfort. You love your new little peanut after all, and want her to feel happy and secure within the confines of her new human family. But how safe are her toys and bedding? You can’t watch her all night long, and puppies have an insatiable need to chew, indiscriminately. Given this truth, should you put anything at all in your new puppy’s crate at night?
The short answer is, of course you should. Your puppy—or even your mature dog—should view her crate only as a safe haven, a place she associates with warmth, nurture, and pleasure. When you crate train her properly she’ll seek it out on her own as a spot to nap or to indulge in her favorite chew toy, or even for sanctuary when she desperately needs an escape hatch (from too many bothersome guests and their grabby kids at the holiday party, for example).
A properly sized crate will feel natural to her like her den would in the wild. But without a few carefully chosen belongings, it won’t invite her inside and urge her to stay, during the daytime or at night. By all means, put toys and bedding in your puppy’s crate, but be advised that the single most important benchmark to use when you choose them is whether she can shred them and then swallow the tiny bits and pieces.
What kind of bedding should I put in my puppy’s crate?
Indestructible bedding is best for a puppy. Avoid blankets and towels, which a puppy can reduce to shreds and then swallow. Ingesting shredded textiles can invoke a trip to the veterinary ER to treat a potentially life-threatening blockage in your puppy’s gut. The same applies to many beds with soft or plush fill. Opt instead for a chew-proof bed that’s easy to clean. Later you can switch to another type of bedding if your puppy has demonstrated she will not attempt to chew and destroy her bed.
What toys are safe in my puppy’s crate at night?
Choose durable toys appropriately sized for your puppy’s mouth. Tough rubber toys you can stuff with treats and freeze are a safe bet for most puppies and dogs. This kind of toy is the most likely to keep a puppy engaged in a thing called ‘occupational chewing’—she’ll stay happy and relaxed for a long time, and giving her this toy right at bedtime may even keep her busy until she falls asleep.
A treat-filled rubber toy also gives her something to work on besides her bedding, while reinforcing the idea that some things are fair game (her chew toys) and others are not (your possessions). And finally, safe, satisfying chew toys placed in your puppy’s crate will help her associate the crate with pleasure, a principle that is fundamental to successfully crate training any dog.
For nighttime nurture specifically, a soft toy is an excellent choice for reassuring your puppy, especially on her first few nights with you—so long as the toy is durable. Keep a close vigil; most puppies under three months will not be able to destroy a soft chew toy. But if your puppy does, then choose only durable rubber chew toys. For the distraught puppy who cries all night, consider going high tech. A toy with a virtual heartbeat and warmable insert mimics the reassuring sound and feel of your puppy’s mother and may help her forget her woes long enough to fall asleep.
Is it safe to leave food and water bowls in my puppy’s crate?
It may be safe, but this practice is ill-advised for a puppy. She’ll need outside breaks during the night, and leaving water in the crate with her will only increase her urgency to pee. This also interferes with the process of housetraining your new puppy.
Food is recommended as a crate training strategy, to reinforce the idea that the crate = pleasure, but only during the day when you are there to supervise. The best practice is to observe a strict feeding schedule, which in turn will encourage bowel habits on a predictable schedule. The exception to the nighttime food rule is the treat-stuffed chew toy, but adjust your puppy’s daytime rations to help keep her at a healthy weight.
Feed and water your puppy an hour and a half before bedtime and get her outside. Then play with her to tire her out. Give her that delectable treat-stuffed toy and hopefully she’ll nod off in due course.
Puppy Crating Extras
- Crate size is important – Your puppy’s crate should allow her to stand, stretch, and turn around, and that’s about all. And this principle applies to a puppy or dog of any size. Your puppy will be reluctant to soil her sleeping space, but if her crate is too large she may soil one end of it and sleep in the other.
- Bring your puppy’s crate into your bedroom – At least for the first few nights, up to about two weeks. If moving the crate is too much work, get a second crate for the family room. Because your little gal only just left the nurture of her mother and littermates, asking her to sleep alone in a room isolated from yours will probably encourage anxiety and all-night crying. After two weeks, relocate your puppy’s crate to the room where you anticipate she’ll sleep.
Tip: Remember that puppies and smaller dog breeds can chill easily. Adjust the temperature of the room to keep your puppy comfortably warm.
Cover your puppy’s crate – Most dogs like the feeling of sleeping in a den, so if your puppy’s crate is wire—which can feel wide open to her—she may appreciate the extra security of a cover; take your cues from her. And while you can toss an old blanket or quilt over a crate to achieve this, you can’t yet trust your puppy not to pull the material through the crate’s wires to chew or destroy. A better option until you know her habits is a rigid cover specifically made for a crate, or a crate with solid walls.
Alternately, nudging the crate against one corner of your bedroom will cover two sides. Then place a piece of wood on top to help your puppy feel more secure. The walls and the wood pose no threats to her safety.
Give your new puppy all the love and nurture she deserves within the parameters of safety: choose toys and bedding she can’t destroy, and place them in her crate at night, or whenever you must crate her. She’ll soon seek out her crate as her own safe spot. And you’ll both rest easy.