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How Long Can Your Dog Stay In A Crate?
Your dog’s age and size will determine how long he can safely spend in his crate. But just because he can spend a certain length of time in his crate doesn't necessarily mean he should.
If you’ve ever adopted a new puppy or rescued a dog, you’ve likely had at least one dog trainer recommend crate training to you. Crate training is often a good idea because it can expedite potty training and gives your pup a safe place to stay when you can’t watch them. And when trained correctly, your dog’s crate should become his den or a safe space where he enjoys chewing on treats or resting.
But the most common mistake that pet parents make when crate training their puppies or dogs is that they leave their pet in the crate for too long. This can cause dogs to hate their crates, have accidents inside their crates, and leads to pent-up energy or anxiety. The main factors that will determine how long your pet can stay in its crate are age and size.
According to the Humane Society, puppies under 6 months old and adult dogs who aren’t potty trained shouldn’t be left in their crates for more than 3-4 hours. These dogs will likely not be physically capable of controlling their bladders longer than that and will require a bathroom break and some playtime. An adult dog can typically handle a maximum of 6-8 hours a day in their crate or can sleep in their crate overnight as long as they get enough exercise and attention during the day. But if your dog will be alone in their crate for that long, it’s a good idea for them to get a walk break somewhere in there to use the bathroom and get a break from the crate. Senior dogs and big dogs in particular will appreciate the chance to stretch their legs.
That said, just because your dog can stay in the crate for 6-8 hours at a time doesn’t necessarily mean they should, and especially not all the time. Once in a while may be okay, but too much time in the crate can cause both physical and mental health issues. And if your puppy or dog is only just starting crate training, you will need to slowly ramp up the amount of time they spend in their crate. For example, start by leaving your puppy in the crate for 5 minutes while you sit nearby. Then, leave your puppy in the crate for ten minutes, and so forth. You have to go slow and be patient, while also creating a positive association with the crate by using your pup's favorite treats or toys. If you don’t create that positive association and make the crate your dog’s happy place, it won’t become his safe space or a place he enjoys.
If your lifestyle requires your dog to frequently spend an extended period of time in his crate, you might want to look at alternate solutions. For example, consider investing in a doggie daycare where your pup can play all day while you’re busy, or hire a dog walker to exercise him for you. If you feel the need to limit your dog’s access to certain areas in your home when you can’t watch him, using pet gates or a bigger playpen can accomplish that purpose while giving your dog a bit more freedom to move around than a crate (crates should only be big enough for your dog to get up and turn around).
Click here for more tips on how to crate train your puppy or new dog the right way!