Beginner’s Guide to Preparing Dog Crates: What to add and where to put it?

After we recently discussed our handpicked list of must-buy crates for new dogs, many of you asked about the right ways to prepare a dog crate.

To make crate training work for you and your dog, find somewhere they’ll feel warm, safe, and happy. Your adult dog or puppy may spend a lot of time in the crate, so make it as comfortable as possible.

Whether your dog is on crate-rest or you’re training your new puppy, you can’t buy your way out of crate training. But you can ensure that your pooch associates the crate with positive experiences. Introducing better bedding, toys, treats, and activities and choosing the right location can make a HUGE difference.

Here’s how to prevent “crate rest crazies.”

What is best to put in a dog crate?

Put a proper bed, food and water, puppy pads (for pee and poo), and some toys in the crate. With this, they’ll have everything they need for their time sleeping alone. This comfort and convenience will help them accept the crate as a safe, fun place.

1. How to prepare good bedding for your puppy’s crate?

Dogs need a good bed to sleep on. The bed is fundamental to the dog crate. Choosing the right bedding can make your dog’s bed much more comfortable, helping them sleep faster and better.

The one thing to know about preparing crate bedding is that it’s dependent on your dog’s age. Your instincts might tell you to go with super-soft and comfy bedding but don’t do that.

Your puppy can and will easily chew through. It’s a choking hazard that’ll certainly ruin the bedding. Even for adult dogs, only introduce luxurious and soft bedding after they’re out of the chewing phase.

If your crate is spacious enough, you can fit in a ‘normal’ dog bed inside the crate. They’re designed to be comfortable and shaped so the dog can fit in snugly.

2. Should you leave water and food in a dog crate at night?

Food and drink bowls inside a crate may not be the best option, especially for puppies. The ideal scenario is not to put a dog inside a crate who is hungry or thirsty. Giving them a reason to want to go for a wee or a poo inside the crate is a bad scenario for both you and the dog.

However, this may not be a problem if you have an adult, housebroken dog. For them, you can introduce crate-designed dog and food bowls that attach to the sides and reduce the risk of spillage.

what to put in a dog crate

3. Should you cover the crate with a blanket at night?

Covering the dog crate should be a collective decision between you and your dog, as it entirely depends on your doggo’s personality.

The dog might like a cover on a wired cage as a sense of security. At the same time, they might despise the feeling of being trapped and develop anxiety.

4. Should you put some pads in the crate?

Now, this option isn’t for all dog owners, as having toilet training aids in the dog crate won’t teach them not to soil the crate. They might end up learning that it’s ok to do so.

Luckily, dogs are den animals; soiling their den is not something they want to do. So, if, for whatever reason having a small area in the crate for their business is what you want, then you can’t go wrong with puppy pads.

5. What toys should you leave in your dog’s crate?

Like bedding, you should start with strong and durable toys that your puppy won’t be able to chew off and destroy. Also, choose an appropriately-sized toy, so they don’t break it and swallow the pieces.

  1. Stuffed Kong Toys

A kong toy is a highly durable toy used to ‘hide’ food and treats inside. The toy works as a puzzle as the dog can’t get the contents out easily. Sometimes, it could take hours for the dog to finish up.

  1. Nylabone

Nylabones are flavoured chewable bones (see also our article on cow hooves) which don’t splinter like many dog chews and come apart. They are also made to be quite tough and will take days or even weeks to make a dent in them.

  1. Snugglepuppy

A snugglepuppy is a soft, durable toy that can help young pups get used to their new home. And they’re excellent for keeping the pup warm.

Please take note that this toy is to be used with very young pups who haven’t got strong enough jaws and teeth to shred it apart. This is not an ideal purchase for an adult or a strong chewer. 

Read More: Best Dog Crates You Can Buy in the UK & How to Choose One!

How can you make your dog’s crate more comfortable?

It all comes down to the proper bedding and setup. Use these two extra amenities to make it comfier.

1. Crate Mat

A crate mat is popular as it crosses between the classic bed and blankets and towels. Often, dog mats can be measured to be the exact size of the bottom of the crate.

Just be sure not to get a soft or stuffed crate mat for excitable chewers, as it will be destroyed before you know it. You should consider a durable and washable crate mat.

2. Blankets and towels

Only consider these if you have a well-behaved dog who isn’t destructive. Dog blankets and towels can be ripped to shreds by boisterous, chew-happy dogs and puppies but are a cheap option if you don’t have one of these dogs.

One of the best features of dog blankets and towels is that they are easy to clean and can be a cost-effective choice of what to put in a dog bed.

Where should you put your dog’s crate?

Finally, you must find an ideal place to put the dog crate inside the house.

Place your dog’s crate in a quiet and accessible location. Somewhere you can monitor without startling your pooch. It should be properly ventilated and preferably have a good amount of natural light.

The ideal place depends on your home layout, the stage of training your dog is in, and generally how your dog is with being separated.

Let me explain the four tenets to keep in mind when choosing a spot:

1. The room should have good ventilation.

If you want your dog to rest and relax in their intended “haven,” place the crate in an area with good ventilation and clean air. Use a room where air can come in and out easily, such as a kitchen, bedroom, or living room. Avoid putting the crate in a sealed room such as a cellar.

2. Choose a quiet place.

Dogs are startled easily when their senses are heightened. Plus, your pooch will be uncomfortable when adjusting early on.

Keeping the crate somewhere quiet will help them sleep better, naturally. Avoiding putting the crate in the busiest room in the house can also reduce the chances of your dog being disrupted.

Whatever you do, don’t place the crate near a window towards the house’s exterior as passers-by may scare the dog.

3. Maintain your distance but keep them around.

Keep the crate close if you’re shifting to a new house or your dog has just become a new house member.

Sleeping near you will make a big difference and ease the puppy’s anxiety. This will also help the pup get used to the crate and not feel like they are being separated from you. Put the crate in the bedroom if you’re dealing with a young puppy, not an adult/adolescent dog.

Eventually, start slowly and steadily moving the crate away without them noticing. Don’t do too much or too fast; your puppy will soon notice and panic.

4. Ideally, it should have good amounts of natural light.

It’s not the most important item on the checklist that you MUST fulfil. But your dog will be pretty happy if you can.

This is especially important for dogs who stay in their crates for a prolonged period. Being away from natural light can lead to health issues the longer it goes on.

Such a place comes in handy when you cannot take the doggo for a walk outside. Without such a place, your dog wouldn’t see the sun for as long as 24-36 hours or more.

5. Safety is of utmost importance.

Speaking of natural light, don’t put the crate under direct sunlight. That’s bad too because then it becomes hard to control the temperature of the dog crate.

You wouldn’t want to overheat your dog. By extension, keep it away from fireplaces as well.

And since you won’t lock the crate at all times, ensure it’s away from power outlets, houseplants or food items poisonous to dogs, and any other household hazard.

Read More: How to get your dog to cry less in their crate?

How long can you leave a dog in a crate?

how to get a dog to stop crying in his crate

Puppies have underdeveloped brains and bowel and bladder control. This means that they can’t hold their wee and poo for long. Sadly, they need to use the toilet often or will be forced to soil themselves.

Also, most puppies have been raised by their mother and several siblings, and it suddenly changes when you take them home. If you lock them away in a crate too early, they’ll never form a bond with you.

In one stretch, dogs can stay inside a crate as per the following table:

Age of the dog/puppyMaximum crate time
Less than 10 weeks30-60 minutes
Less than 14 weeksUp to 2 hours
Less than 18 weeksUpto 3 hours
Between 1 to 7 years6-8 hours

1. Is it cruel to crate a dog during the day?

It isn’t cruel and is generally necessary to crate your dog or puppy during the day. But when you do, make sure the crate isn’t too small or restrictive. You must also let them out and play around when you’re home, or they’ll get sick.

2. Should I lock my puppy in his crate at night?

While your puppy should associate their crate with happy and relaxing times such as meals and naps, you must lock it at night to keep them safe. You can stop locking the crate after the doggo is two years, but until then, they don’t know any better.

3. Will a puppy cry all night in a crate? Should I ignore it?

As mentioned, the sudden shift in environment can make your puppy scared, anxious and sceptical. So expect some crying at night.

Your puppy will most likely cry at nighttime when locked inside a crate, but that’s not a big enough reason to stop crate training. Instead, spend more time establishing the crate as a safe place for meals and naps.

Show a bit of tough love but don’t ignore their crying for more than 10 to 15 minutes. Longer than that, go comfort them. It’s good to develop that familiar bond with your puppy. Or, if your dog is rehabbing from injury or disease, to make the experience as stress-free as possible.


  • Jonathan Spaeth

    I'm a professional business person who loves dogs. I'm motivated by a passion for dogs and a deep understanding of pet care and behavior. I have more than 10 years of experience in animal healthcare—my lifelong passion for helping dogs.

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