Crate training a puppy takes time and patience. Add in trying to help your puppy sleep through the night in their crate; the whole experience can feel much more frustrating!
Even if your puppy is doing well eating their meals or taking daytime naps in their crate, sometimes sleeping in their crate at nighttime seems like a whole new ballgame.
Read on for our tips to help make crate training at night easier for you and your puppy. We'll cover how to set up a puppy's crate to encourage nighttime rest, what to do if your puppy starts barking or whining during the night, and helpful puppy products. We've also documented the newest Preventive Vet team member, Portuguese Water Dog puppy Finnegan, as he worked through learning to sleep through the night in his new home.
As your puppy gets used to their very own nighttime "suite," you'll soon be getting that much-needed shut-eye that you've been missing. Raising a puppy can feel overwhelming — and many puppy owners experience the "puppy blues." Having a puppy is, in some ways, similar to having a human infant at home (but thankfully, puppies mature much faster than human babies).
Young puppies need lots of naps, can get cranky if they're tired, and need lots of potty breaks to succeed at house training. Your puppy is learning all the time. The following tips and video examples should help as you navigate raising a puppy. Be patient and good luck!
Why is Your Puppy Barking at Night?
Crate Practice for Nighttime Success
Your Puppy's Bedtime Routine
Helpful Items for Crate Comfort
Overnight Puppy Potty Breaks
The Most Important Thing: Patience
Where Should You Put Your Puppy's Crate at Nighttime?
Where you put your puppy's crate depends on a couple of things:
- Does your puppy become stressed or anxious when they are crated in another room at nighttime?
- Or does your puppy notice the slightest noise or movement close by and get restless during the night?
You don't want your new puppy to feel isolated and start to whine because they're in distress. Their whole world has changed in a big way — while they used to sleep in close quarters with their littermates, now they're sleeping alone in a crate. Having their crate in or near your own bedroom can help them feel more secure.
Placing a Snuggle Puppy inside the crate can also help calm a puppy getting used to sleeping on their own, as it mimics having a littermate's warmth and heartbeat close by. Having them closer to where you sleep also makes soothing them during the night easier.
The flip side is that your puppy's sleep might be disturbed by lots of movement or activity in the room. Try placing their crate in a quiet corner or a separate, less active room. You can also keep their crate near where you sleep at night, but set up a fan or sound machine to help muffle any noises that might interrupt your puppy's rest.
To learn more about where to put your puppy's crate, as well as what should (and shouldn't) go inside the crate, read our article "Everything You Need to Know About Crate Training Your Puppy."
Get complimentary access to my Puppy Essentials: Crate Training Virtual Workshop by filling out the form below. This online course includes a self-paced training curriculum and a LIVE virtual one-on-one coaching session with me. Get your questions answered by a certified dog trainer and help personalizing each training step for your puppy.
What Should You Do If Your Puppy Whines Or Barks In Their Crate?
What you do if your puppy starts to whine or bark in the crate depends on the reason they are making noise.
PRO TIP: Setting up a camera to monitor your puppy at nighttime (and during the day) can be incredibly helpful for crate training. You can even set up notifications on your phone when the camera senses movement, giving you a heads up that your puppy is stirring in their crate. A popular camera option is the Furbo, which has night vision, barking alert, and treat tossing capabilities.
This kind of whining, barking, and howling is common with puppies still new to the home. The adjustment period for new puppies takes some time, and it's not abnormal for them to be stressed with the new environment and routine. Going from sleeping in close quarters with their mother and littermates to sleeping on their own is a big change and inherently stressful. Distress barking is often characterized by high-pitched, non-stop barking or howling, or extended periods of whining. You might also see it paired with your puppy pacing in the crate, attempts to escape the crate, panting, or excessive licking of themselves.
Finnegan, Preventive Vet's most recent puppy addition to the office, shows some distress barking during his first night in his new home in this video. This was just after being put in his crate for bedtime around 10 pm. Shortly after, he was taken out for another potty break:
You can — and should — give your puppy some comfort if they are distress barking. The important thing with this is that you are comforting, but not coddling your puppy. Speak to them in a soothing way and praise them for showing any calmer behavior. If you need to, sit next to the crate to show them that you're close by to encourage a sense of safety and security. If possible, avoid taking them out of the crate completely, as you don't want to inadvertently teach them that barking means they get to come out of the crate. However, in some cases, opening the crate door and petting them while they're inside can help your puppy settle down to sleep. You might also want to consider moving their crate closer to where you are to help them feel more secure.
Watch how Finnegan settles down when his owner sits with him during his first night in the crate. They had recently taken him for a potty break, so they concluded that that's not what he needed. And even with his "big sister" Clover in a crate nearby, Finnegan just needed some human proximity to feel better. While the video is only about a minute long, the entire time she sat with him was just under ten minutes, and notice how she slowly distances herself as she leaves the living room, gauging whether he's settled down or not:
Many puppies learn that by making noise in the crate, you will come over and let them out of the crate. Demand barking is often repetitive and your puppy is intently looking towards you in anticipation of your next move. This is often simply an unintended consequence of nighttime potty training routines, where owners respond to puppy noises by taking them outside in case they need to go to the bathroom.
Puppies are always learning and are very smart — by practicing consistent and proactive nighttime potty breaks, you should be able to avoid creating this association for your pup. Read more further below in this article for nighttime house training tips or click here to skip to that section.
In your crate training practice, pay attention to your timing for when you open the door to let your puppy out of their crate. Wait for a few seconds of quiet before opening the door. This is also a great opportunity to practice your puppy's Quiet cue.
If your puppy is barking at night in their crate and they do not need a potty break, you have some options:
- Ignore the barking for a very short period of time to see if they give up. I only wait one minute at most to see if a puppy settles on their own.
- Give your puppy the "quiet" cue. Mark a few seconds of their being quiet with a "yes" and provide them with something safe and appropriate to do in their crate, like a stuffed toy or puppy-safe chew.
- Consider if they actually DO need a potty break!
- Evaluate if you need to change something about their crate setup. Are they barking to get your attention because they are too warm (or too cold) with their current bedding or surroundings (like a heat vent or drafty window)?
- Determine if they need more physical and mental exercise before going into their crate for the night. Read more about pre-bedtime routines later in this article, or click here to skip to that section.
Need for a Potty Break
Your puppy might be whining or barking because they need to go outside for a bathroom break. This is common for puppies up to four or five months old. This usually starts as restlessness or moving around the crate before your puppy begins to whine. You definitely want to respond to this type of vocalization, as you don't want your puppy to have an accident inside their crate — accidents in a puppy's crate can cause a big setback in their overall house training.
As Finnegan became more comfortable in his crate during his first week at home, he still needed potty breaks one to two times a night. You'll see how he starts to become restless when he needs to go to the bathroom. Watch how his owners wake up before he starts barking to give him a break outside and how they stay calm and matter-of-fact throughout exit and re-entry into the crate. You'll also see that Finn takes a few minutes to settle again after his potty break, needing about four minutes before he lays down again:
Wait for a second or two of quiet before opening the door and take them immediately outside. To prevent this from becoming a demand barking habit for your puppy, and to encourage longer periods of sleep between bathroom breaks, set an alarm to wake up before they do and take them outside. Proactive dog training is always better than reactive training! Over time you'll be able to extend the time between alarms until they're making it 6–7 hours overnight without a potty break.
How Your Puppy's Eating and Drinking Schedule Affects Nighttime Potty Breaks
Young puppies should have an opportunity to go outside to the bathroom about 10 minutes after each time they drink water. If they drink water right before going to bed, they're more likely to need a potty break when their little bladders get full in the middle of the night.
Think about their regular dinnertime for nighttime crating success — try to feed your puppy their last meal of the day three to four hours before bedtime. This way their body will have more time to digest and eliminate outside before settling down for the night. Remember that last chance potty break! The last person in your home to head to bed should give the puppy another quick trip outside.
Practice Consistent Crate Training
Introducing your puppy to their crate in a positive way is essential for nighttime crating success. You want your puppy to feel safe, secure, and happy when they're in the crate. And you certainly don't want them viewing it as any form of punishment or associating it with feeling isolated.
You don't only want to use a crate for your puppy at night. Introducing being crated during the day will accelerate your puppy's nighttime crate training as well. Feed your puppy their regular meals in the crate (also helpful if you have multiple dogs in the home), give them a yummy stuffed KONG in their crate for mental enrichment and quiet time and have short and sweet training sessions using their crate throughout the day.
Read these crate training steps to teach your puppy how to enjoy being in their crate. You can even teach your puppy to go into their crate on cue! As you work on building up to a longer duration inside the crate, set up and use a "Puppy Zone" playpen. A puppy zone can be helpful for using overnight if your puppy is having trouble in the more confined space of a crate. However, this can delay house training in the long run.
Helping Your Puppy Burn Pre-Bedtime Energy
Giving your puppy time before bed to run out any zoomies, as well as burn energy with mental enrichment activities, will go a long way in helping them zonk out for the night. For some puppies, high-energy activities such as fetch or playing tug-o-war can cause over-stimulation.
Choose physical exercise activities wisely and don't overdo it before bedtime. Going on a sniffari with your puppy, as long as they have received the appropriate vaccinations for exploring outdoors, is an excellent and lower-impact way to burn some energy before bed.
Mental exercise is just as important as physical exercise for puppies and providing puzzles and interactive toys before bedtime can help them settle down and decompress. Providing enrichment activities throughout their day also gives your puppy an appropriate outlet for their natural instincts and behaviors (like chewing or digging).
Read "Dog Enrichment: Toys, Games, and DIY Ideas" to see how easy it can be to set up puppy enrichment.
Establish a bedtime routine for your puppy to encourage a restful night's sleep. This should include their evening meal a few hours before bedtime, some time to chew on an appropriate toy for decompression, multiple potty breaks to make sure they are running on empty, and then a calm entrance into the crate for sleep.
Setting Up Your Puppy's Crate Area for Nighttime Rest
Calming Pheromone Diffuser
Fan or Sound Machine
Should You Cover Your Puppy's Crate?
Should You Put Water in the Crate?
Make Sure You Have the Right Size and Type of Puppy Crate
The type and size of the crate matters when it comes to nighttime crate training. A plastic "airline-style" crate can be helpful in blocking out light but doesn't have as great airflow as a metal dog crate. You don't want the crate too big, as this can result in potty accidents. On the flip side, a crate that is too small for your puppy often results in being unable to settle and whining or barking. Read our article "Choosing the Best Crate for Your Dog and Your Life" for tips on how to measure a crate and to compare the different types.
Pro Tip: If you don't want to purchase multiple sizes of crates as your puppy outgrows them, find a crate that will fit their estimated adult size. Many crates come with divider panels that you can insert and move as your puppy grows. If the crate doesn't have a divider, set up a large and sturdy cardboard box to create a temporary "wall" to block off excess space in the crate.
Here's a photo showing how Finnegan's owners blocked off his large crate to make it more puppy-sized:
What's in and around your puppy's crate can affect their sleep patterns, as well as their overall health and safety. The items below can help your puppy fall asleep and stay asleep. For a full list of crate supplies and daytime setup tips, check out our article "What to Put (and Not Put) in Your Dog's Crate."
Calming Pheromone Diffuser
The Adaptil pheromone diffuser emits synthetic versions of the same pheromone that mother dogs release when they are nursing their litter. It promotes calm and relaxation for dogs and can help your puppy feel more relaxed and secure and is one of my go-to's for introducing a puppy to a new home and helping them settle in.
Calming Snuggle Puppy
Preventive Vet staff review: Mary Berry was having a difficult time sleeping alone in her crate — our guess was that she was missing her mom and litter mates. The first night we put the Snuggle Puppy inside Mary Berry’s crate, she slept soundly, only waking up to be let out for a bathroom break. She slept so soundly with the Snuggle Puppy, we would bring it with us when visiting friends so she had a comfortable piece of home to rest with. I highly recommend the Snuggle Puppy to help your new puppy sleep through the night!
The Snuggle Puppy can last for years. Even when your dog doesn't need it at night, just take out the batteries and heating pack and your dog will still carry it around!
Safety Tip: Speaking of batteries, be sure to keep a close eye on your dog when they're first interacting and snuggling with their Snuggle Puppy! If your dog's idea of "snuggling" this toy involves mouthing, chewing, or disemboweling, be sure to take the toy away from them. Batteries are very dangerous for dogs if they are swallowed.
A Fan or Sound Machine for Noise Masking
By running a fan or playing calming music (or white noise), your puppy is less likely to hear random noises that could wake them up. Certain music is more calming than others — read our article "How to Use Music to Calm an Anxious Dog" to learn more about what music promotes relaxation in dogs. You can set up a phone app to play white noise or other relaxing sounds on a sleep timer so both you and the puppy are lulled to sleep. Or, if your puppy is in a different room, a white noise machine can do the trick.
I personally use the Snooz sound machine for myself and my dogs — being able to change the pitch allowed me to find a white noise I could tolerate while also masking traffic noise outside our home (plus, I love not having to get out of bed to turn it on if I forgot before getting comfy – you can control everything from the app).
Should You Cover Your Puppy's Crate?
By covering your puppy's crate, you'll remove any excess light and also help muffle sounds that could wake them up. Some puppies do well with their entire crate covered, while others need at least the door of their crate uncovered so they don't feel isolated or too confined.
Be aware of the airflow in your puppy's crate if using a blanket — you don't want them waking up because they're too hot. In warm weather, a dark-colored bed sheet is a good alternative option.
However, if your dog does have a habit of pulling their crate covers, towels, or sheets through the bars, I recommend against covering their crate. Ingesting these items can cause dangerous obstructions and some puppies can put themselves in very dangerous situations if they get entangled in hanging strips of fabric.
Your Puppy's Preferred Bedding: Warm and Cozy or Minimal and Cool?
Some puppies love sleeping on a cool surface, while others like to nest in a pile of blankets. Often this depends on their type of coat or how warm it is in your home. If you notice that your puppy spends a lot of time kicking the blankets out of the way, they might sleep better with less bedding in their crate. Pay attention to where they like to lay down and rest when not in their crate — is it the cool wood floor or a plush dog bed?
If you're worried about potty accidents during the night in your puppy's crate, you might want to invest in a waterproof or machine washable mat. If your puppy is prone to chewing, choose a crate mat that's more durable or consider an elevated cot that's less fun to chew on, like the K9 Ballistics Dog Cot listed below. You may also be thinking about putting down potty pads in your puppy's crate.
This is the mat featured in Finnegan's crate throughout this article. He loves that it's plush, but the material has a cool feel to it. While he never had any potty accidents in his crate, his bedding has been machine washed and dried many times and is still like new.
Should You Have Water in Your Puppy's Crate?
I personally recommend that puppies and dogs should be allowed access to water at all times, as water is what's considered a "primary resource" — meaning they need it to survive. However, if your puppy is having a tough time with nighttime potty training, removing water an hour or so before bedtime is something you can consider after consulting with your veterinarian.
There are certain medical conditions that require free access to fresh drinking water (such as diabetes insipidus, diabetes mellitus, kidney disease, Addison’s disease, or if they’re on medications that make them more prone to dehydration). You'll also want to rule out medical reasons for frequent potty accidents, such as a urinary tract infection. Because water bowls will inevitably be flipped over or splashed in by a puppy in their crate, I recommend using a clip-on water bottle or bowl like the two featured below.
Examples of Nighttime Puppy Crate Setups
Finnegan's owners set up his puppy playpen to include his nighttime crate with Snuggle Puppy, safe chew toys, and even plugged in an Adaptil diffuser near (but outside) the pen to create a relaxing space:
When I brought home my puppy, I had a similar setup for his crate in my bedroom. As he matured and worked up to being confined in the crate for sleep, I was able to remove the potty pads and pen area. I had also learned that he wasn't a big "nibbler" of soft blankets so I added more of those for his comfort and preferences:
Middle of the Night Puppy Potty Breaks
Crate training at night is incredibly helpful for your puppy's overall house training. However, it's crucial that your puppy is getting consistent opportunities during the night to go to the bathroom outside. A full night's sleep without a potty break is usually seen around 16–20 weeks of age, but some puppies might take longer due to their breed, size, or house training history.
The last thing you want is for your puppy to have an accident in their crate. Crate training helps with house training because dogs naturally do not want to soil where they sleep. Set your puppy up for success and take advantage of this instinct by planning for middle-of-the-night potty breaks so they aren't physically pushed past what their little bladders can handle. Try following the guidelines below:
Pay Attention to Your Puppy's Sleep Schedule
The goal with nighttime potty breaks is to give your puppy the chance to go to the bathroom before they wake up from a deep sleep having to go right away. Setting an alarm for regular nighttime potty breaks is a great way to prevent crate accidents or being woken up by your puppy barking.
Potty Break Schedules for Puppies
Each puppy is different, but a good rule of thumb for the amount of time they can "hold it" between bathroom breaks during the day is the number of months they are old plus one. For a two-month-old puppy, we can reasonably expect three hours between necessary potty breaks. For a three-month-old puppy, it would be four hours. For dogs around six months old, we can expect seven hours maximum.
Use this chart as an age-based guide for how long your pup can “hold it” and stay in their crate. Note that these are consecutive minutes/hours, not total time during the day or night.
For overnight, these lengths of time can be extended as long as the puppy is sleeping and getting needed potty breaks outside. Most puppies can handle about 6 to 7 hours of nighttime crating when they are around 16 weeks old.
For young puppies just getting started with house training, they should be given a potty break quite often throughout the day, even if they are able to physically hold it longer. Take them outside whenever there is a transition from one activity to another. For example, immediately after they wake up (whether from overnight sleep or just a nap), before and after a play session, before and after a short training session, after mealtime ... if you feel like you're always taking them outside, you're doing it right!
For nighttime potty breaks, fortunately, we can expect a little bit longer between breaks than during the day, thanks to the fact the puppy is asleep. Plan for at least two potty breaks during the night for very young puppies, and then adjust accordingly based on their house training progression.
Your Puppy's Nighttime Schedule is Unique to Them
Some puppies are able to sleep much longer at night without a potty break than others. It might take a bit of trial and error to find out what your puppy needs. If you find that your puppy regularly wakes up needing to go to the bathroom at 1:00 am, set an alarm for 12:45 am for a preemptive potty break. After a few days of this, set your alarm for thirty minutes to an hour later to see if they can hold it longer while asleep. As their bodies mature, you should see a natural increase in the length of time they go between nighttime bathroom breaks.
All Business, No Pleasure
When you take your puppy out during the night to go potty, don't engage in any play or activity that will rile them up. If you can, pick them up to bring them outside, as this helps keep them from stretching their legs too much and feeling "awake." Potty breaks should always be business before pleasure! If you take them out and they don't go to the bathroom within five minutes or less, simply take them back to their crate to go back to sleep. If this happens often, it's time to extend the amount of time between potty breaks at night.
PRO TIP: Potty training a puppy when you live in an apartment or condo building can come with some additional complicating factors (hello elevator!). Check out our "Potty Training Your Puppy When You Live in an Apartment" article for some additional tips and tricks to help you when getting outside might take a little longer.
If they get distracted by all the things outside and forget about doing their business, try practicing their Go Potty Cue. Learn how in our article "4 Easy Steps to Teach Your Puppy to Go Potty on Cue."
Keeping a Puppy Potty Log can help you keep track of the nighttime schedule and help you notice when it's time to extend the time between nighttime breaks. Click here for a free download of our Puppy Potty Log.
Have Potty Break Supplies Stocked by the Door
Keeping a flashlight, collar, or harness (as your puppy should be naked in their crate), leash, and poop bags right by the door to go outside will save you a lot of frustration in the middle of the night. You don't want to have to turn on all the lights and rustle around trying to find these things when you're tired. It also increases the chances your pup will potty inside while waiting for you.
Accidents Can (and Probably Will) Happen
Puppies have accidents sometimes, but hopefully, your puppy won't have an accident inside their crate. If your puppy does have an accident, above all do not punish them for it. Stay calm, take them outside immediately to see if they still need to go, and then thoroughly clean up the accident.
While potty training accidents can be simply a result of something breaking down in the training process, it's also possible that they could be an indication of an underlying medical problem. If simple and consistent changes in the potty training process don't resolve the issues, or if they are happening frequently, it's definitely time for an exam with your veterinarian to see if there may be a medical problem. Read about possible medical reasons your puppy might be having pee and poo accidents.
While Finnegan never had an accident in his crate at nighttime (thanks to consistent preemptive bathroom breaks), he did have an accident one early morning not long after his first pee break outside. While his owner got ready in the other room, his body language signals for having to go poo went unnoticed. Watch how he paces and spins in circles before having his accident, and see how his owner responds without showing (outward) frustration:
Crate Training Requires Lots of Patience
Training your puppy to sleep in a crate at night will require lots of patience — don't give up! It can be tough when you're short on sleep and the alarm to take the puppy outside for a potty break goes off. But think of how much worse it would be to wake up in the middle of a night to a barking puppy that's had an accident in their crate. Your crate training practice, consistency, and patience will pay off in the long run. And once your puppy is reliably house trained, you can consider whether you want to allow them to sleep outside of their crate or even on the bed with you!
Let us know what questions you have about nighttime crating in the comments below!
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