You love your new little puppy, and you want her to feel happy and secure in her new human family. But hang on a second before you pile her crate full of cute toys and a velvety soft bed.
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 toys in your new puppy’s crate at night? For that matter, should you put anything in her crate?
The short answer is, of course you should. Your puppy—or even your mature dog—should view her crate as a safe haven, a place she associates with warmth, nurturing, 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 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 invite 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 result in 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 pastime 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, when you place safe, satisfying chew toys in your puppy’s crate, you will help her associate the crate with pleasure—an association fundamental to successful crate training.
Puppy’s First Night at Home: Crating Tips
The first night at home is a big event in puppy’s life. It’s not only her first night with her new family, but it might be her very first night away from her nest.
Start your life with your puppy as you mean to continue it: helping your puppy feel safe and comfortable while also gently and firmly establishing the contours of life. Here are some tips to help the first night in the crate go smoothly:
Where to Put the Crate the First Night
- Her proximity to you is probably the most important factor to her.
- Put her crate next to your bed, even if that’s not where you eventually want her to sleep.
- If possible, elevate the crate on a chair next to your bed so that she can feel she is in a new “nest,” with you.
- It’s fine to touch her through the crate to reassure her. (Just don’t remove her from the crate when she’s whining unless it is time for her to go outside.)
What to Put in the Crate the First Night
- If you have the luxury of plucking your new puppy right from her litter, consider bringing along a plush toy on adoption day to rub on her littermates. When it’s time to crate your puppy at night, place the toy inside the crate with her so she can snuggle up to the reassuring smells of her canine siblings.
- A toy with a virtual heartbeat and warmable insert mimics the reassuring sound and feel of your puppy’s mother. This may help her forget her woes long enough to fall asleep.
Puppy Night Whining
If your new puppy is crying at night, you’re probably wondering how long this will last—and when you might sleep again. Good news: Most puppies settle in after a few nights at home.
A soft toy can be an excellent choice for helping your puppy feel nurtured and reassured, especially on her first few nights with you—so long as the toy is durable. Keep a close watch; most puppies under three months will not be able to destroy a soft chew toy. But if your puppy does, then give her only durable rubber chew toys.
After the first few nights, move the crate slightly farther from your bed or down to the floor. After two weeks or so, you can move the puppy’s crate to wherever you would ultimately like her to sleep, if that’s not by your bed.
Is It Safe to Leave Food and Water Bowls in My Puppy’s Crate?
It may be safe, but leaving water in the crate isn’t advisable for a puppy. She’ll already need outside breaks during the night, and leaving water in the crate with her will only disrupt her schedule and increase her need to pee.
Feeding her meals in the crate 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.
In general, the more you can create a crate schedule for your puppy, the happier you both will be. Feed and water your puppy about 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 in her crate, and hopefully she’ll nod off in due course.
Puppy Crating Extras
The Right Puppy Crate Size
The right crate size is important. Your puppy’s crate should allow her to stand, stretch, and turn around—and that’s about all. 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. Purchase either a puppy-sized crate or a larger wire crate that comes with an adjustable divider.
The Right Room Temperature for Your Puppy
Remember that puppies and smaller dog breeds can chill easily. Adjust the temperature of the room to keep your puppy comfortably warm.
Whether to Cover Your Puppy’s Crate
You can cover her crate, but take your cues from her. 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 feeling of extra security she gets inside a cover. And while you could toss an old blanket or quilt over a crate to achieve this denlike feel, you probably shouldn’t—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. Alternatively, 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 nurturing 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.