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Many dog owners keep their dogs in a crate overnight, while others have their dog snuggled up next to them in bed. Is this simply a difference of preferences and dog personalities, or is it actually cruel to crate your dog overnight?

Yes or No – Is it Cruel to Crate a Dog at Night?

No, it’s not cruel to crate a dog at night. Crates can be a valuable training tool, and a way to keep dogs safe. It’s certainly possible to abuse the use of a crate, and it’s also possible to train a dog safely without the use of a crate. However, using a crate at night is not automatically a cruel activity.

Dictionary.com defines cruel as “willfully or knowingly causing pain or distress to others; enjoying the pain or distress of others.”

Most dog owners using a crate do so to assist with training their dog, to keep them safe, and to give them a cozy and comfortable place to rest. These owners are certainly not locking their puppy in a crate in order to cause them distress, or enjoying any distress their dog may exhibit!

When to Stop Crating a Puppy at Night

There’s no easy answer as to when you should stop crating your puppy at night. You’ll need to consider your home set up and the behavior of your individual puppy, to ensure that you won’t be impeding your dog’s training or putting their safety at risk by leaving them out of the crate.

Personally, my dogs are allowed to sleep outside of the crate at night once I can trust they won’t destroy and chew on most things, and once they are reliably potty trained.

I don’t want them to practice using the bathroom in the house, so it’s important they will whine and wake me up if they have to go overnight. By the time my puppies are sleeping out of a crate, they are typically able to go overnight without a bathroom break, which also helps.

When puppies are only a few months old, they will be teething and more likely to chew on things they find. Windi, one of my current dogs, loved to try and chew on furniture legs and drawer pulls at a young age.

He was also a fan of shredding paper and cardboard, so to avoid my books and notebooks being turned into a dog toy, he slept in a crate most of the time until he was around a year old.

It’s possible I could’ve stopped regularly crating him overnight sooner than his first birthday, but the setup of my home made it difficult to puppy-proof the bedroom. When he was a young puppy, I lived with roommates, so my bedroom was really the only space for my own things.

Keeping all of my things in the same room as a puppy on the loose while I’m sleeping was not an ideal setup for the puppy to remain safe!

When he was a year old, however, we moved into a multiple-bedroom apartment with just me, Windi, and my now-husband. This allowed us to puppy-proof the bedroom, because everything that was dangerous for a puppy to chew overnight could be kept in another place in the apartment.

Some dogs will sleep in their crate much longer than their first year of life, and others may never sleep in a crate. So much depends on how you are able to set up your home to keep your puppy safe and secure, as well as your puppy’s behavior.

You might also like to read Puppy Doesn’t Like Crate: (Why and What to do)

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Where to Put a Dog Crate in the House at Night

Most puppies will prefer to be in close proximity to you overnight, especially as they first adjust to being away from their litter. Placing the crate next to your bed, where you can overhang your arm and reach your puppy if they are upset, is a great way to start.

For small dogs, you may even be able to place the crate on a stable nightstand so they are more level with your bed.

When my dogs are sleeping in their crate overnight, the crate is always in a bedroom, even if they don’t need to sleep right next to me anymore. Dogs like to be a part of the family, and it lets me hear if they need something, like a bathroom break.

Now that my dogs are crated only on occasion, or when traveling, the crates stay in other places within the home. It’s certainly possible for dog crates to be kept out of a bedroom even when dogs sleep in them regularly, though.

Someone might have allergies that are aggravated by dogs sleeping in the bedroom, but otherwise well managed. Another person might just not have room in their bedroom to fit a dog crate, depending on the size of their dog.

Ideally, you will still want the crate in a place where you can hear your dog overnight – I personally much prefer being awoken to a dog with an upset stomach asking to go outside, than finding a mess in the morning!

Does your puppy pee in their crate? If so, you might like to read our post Puppy Pees in Crate: What to do…

Can a Dog be in a Crate at Night for 8 to 10 Hours?

Most adult dogs can be in a crate overnight for the usual 8-10 hours that someone may sleep. Younger puppies may need a bathroom break later at night or in the early morning, as they are still learning to control their bladder.

When dogs are in a crate overnight for extended hours, it’s important the crate has enough space for them to comfortably stretch out and stand. My dogs can comfortably fit in a 36” crate, and it’s a size I often use when traveling or when they will only be crated short-term.

However, Windi can’t lay on his side with his legs fully extended – one of his usual sleeping positions – unless he’s in a 42” crate. Because I know he will often sleep in a way that requires space to stretch out on his side, the 42” crate is the one I use if he will be sleeping in it overnight.

It’s also important to consider how much time overall your dog will spend in the crate. If your puppy is crated for 8-10 hours overnight, and also crated while you are at work during the day, that can easily become 20+ hours of time you anticipate your puppy being in the crate.

Instead, try and put your puppy in the crate last thing before bed, and take them out first thing in the morning, and try to avoid extra time in the crate during the day besides when necessary while you are at work.

Should You Put a Blanket Over the Crate?

Putting a blanket over the crate is very dog-dependent. Some puppies will quiet down and sleep when the crate is covered, and they may be less likely to stir if you get up or move about. Others, though, will simply find the blanket to be a fun toy to try and pull through the wires.

Thus, putting a blanket over the crate at night is something you will just have to trial and see if it works for your puppy or not. In general, I leave crates uncovered, unless my puppy is struggling to sleep quietly and comfortably in the crate.

What to Put in the Crate at Night

As with most parts of puppy raising, what (if anything) you should put in the crate overnight is very dependent on your individual puppy. Some puppies will do best with a blanket, chew toy, and water bowl, while others will do best with nothing extra in the kennel.

Some common items that are put in a crate at night include:

  • Chew toy/Kong
  • Blanket or dog bed
  • Water bowl
  • Stuffed animal with a fake heartbeat, such as the Snuggle Puppy

If your dog might chew up these items, or is more likely to spill their water than grab a drink overnight, it’s best to not put them in the crate. My most recent puppies preferred not to have blankets in their crate simply because they would get too warm.

It’s almost important to ensure any chew toys you leave with your puppy in the crate are not going to pose a choking (or blockage) hazard.

Are you interested in also reading our post, Why Does My Dog Bark At Night? (Answered)