How To Crate Train Your Golden Retriever Puppy (Step By Step) – Golden Hearts
how to crate train your golden retriever puppy

How To Crate Train Your Golden Retriever Puppy (Step By Step)

Want to learn how to crate train your golden retriever puppy fast?

Crate training is one of the best things you can do for your puppy.

It helps accelerate potty training, it keeps them safe, and it helps keep them from learning bad habits (like chewing up shoes).

The problem is, puppies can be scared of the crate at first and don’t know that it’s safe.

At first, they’ll whine and cry and hate it, but once they’re used to it, they’ll love it.

If your puppy is still in the hating it phase, don’t worry, it’s not your fault—it’s perfectly normal!

In this article, you’re going to learn step by step how to crate train your golden retriever puppy and teach them to love it.

Let’s dive in!

Why You Should Crate Train Your Golden Retriever

Honestly, crate training can be very hard, so it’s important to know why you’re doing it in the first place.

Here are a few of the benefits of crate training:

  • It accelerates potty training (they don’t like to go where they sleep, so they will typically hold it while in the crate)
  • It keeps your house safe from them chewing things they shouldn’t be chewing, like your shoes or furniture
  • It keeps them safe from swallowing things they shouldn’t swallow, like socks, which can get lodged in their stomachs or throats, or poisonous things like grapes or chocolate
  • If they ever need to spend the night at an animal hospital, they will be placed in a crate, so it’s best if they’re used to it already
  • The safest way for them to travel is in a crate

Some people think putting them in a crate is cruel, but in addition to all of the benefits above, dogs are naturally denning animals (this is why they like laying under beds, desks, or tables) so they’ll usually learn to love their crates.

How Potty Training & Crate Training Work Together

Dogs are very clean animals and they naturally try to avoid going potty where they sleep or relax.

We can use this to our advantage by having them sleep in a crate, and then putting them in a crate when we don’t want them to go potty, such as when we want them to take a nap or go to sleep for the night, or if we’re unable to supervise them during the day.

However, this can make crate training tough because if a puppy is in the crate and they have to go potty, they’ll usually whine or bark.

If we let them out (which we need to if they actually need to go since puppies can’t hold it that long), they may learn that whining and barking gets them out of the crate even if they don’t have to go potty, so they may start barking and crying every time they’re in the crate.

So it’s a delicate dance of knowing when your puppy will have to go potty, taking them out before they start whining, and making sure to never put them in the crate with a full bladder.

P.S. Read this article to learn more about potty training your golden retriever puppy.

Why Is It So Difficult To Crate Train Golden Retrievers?

why golden retrievers so hard to crate train

When I was a kid I hated vegetables.

I just wanted fries and chicken nuggets.

But what did my parents do?

They made me eat veggies a little at a time until I got used to them.

And then after I got used to them, I learned to love them.

Now as an adult, I would much rather prefer a pile of grilled zucchini, broccoli, and asparagus than a plateful of fries.

Crate training your golden retriever follows a similar pattern.

First, they’ll hate it, then they’ll tolerate it, then, before you know it, they’ll start going in there all by themselves.

It’s so hard at first for a few reasons:

  1. It’s new and scary. They don’t know what it is and they certainly don’t want to go inside of it.
  2. They love being with people and don’t want to be left alone. They were just with their parents and littermates 24/7 and now they’re in a new home and are put in a crate all alone!

With these points in mind, of course they don’t immediately love their crate!

But the following steps are going to teach you how to teach them to love their crate and handle being alone.

And don’t worry, because just like I learned to love vegetables, most goldens will learn to love their crate.

Step 1: Get The Right Size & Type Of Crate

Before you bring your puppy home, you need to get a crate (among other things).

Choosing the size and type of crate is critical to your success, so read this article about the best size crate for golden retrievers, but for the purpose of this post, I’m going to tell you what we got for our puppy, Oliver.

We got Oliver a 42″ wire crate with a divider.

The divider allowed us to keep it the right size for him as a growing puppy and since it’s 42″ it’s big enough for him as a 75-pound adult golden retriever.

The wire crate helped because it was open so he could always see the people around him, which lessened his anxiety of being in there alone at first.

It also easily folds up, so we could break it down, throw it in the car, and take it on vacation or to our parents’ houses for the weekend.

Step 2: Get The Crate Ready

This is another step that you will have ideally done before you bring your puppy home.

The first thing to consider when getting the crate ready for your pup is where to put it.

Here are a few options:

  1. In your bedroom
  2. In the living room or other area where people in your home hang out
  3. Get two crates and have one in your bedroom and one in the living room

Golden retrievers love being around people, so having their crate around people will usually help ease some of the pain of crate training.

At night, a good option is to put the crate by your bed so that your puppy can hear and smell you so they know they’re not alone.

This will usually help with the loneliness and crying.

The other thing to consider when getting the crate ready is what to put in it.

Most breeders will give you something like a blanket that has the comforting smell of their parents, so you’ll want to put that in there.

You also may want to put a bed in there to make it comfortable for them.

Until you start introducing your puppy to the crate, there’s nothing else that needs to go in there right now.

And here’s what you don’t want to put in the crate:

  • Plush toys (they can be easily torn apart and the pieces swallowed or choked on)
  • Small toys that can be swallowed or choked on

Now that the crate is all ready and assuming your puppy is home, it’s time to introduce them to crate.

Step 3: Introduce Your Puppy To The Crate

The name of the game with crate training your golden retriever puppy is baby steps.

Here’s what you don’t want to do: immediately throw your puppy in the crate and let them cry it out.

If you’ve already done that, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle, but by following the steps in this section and the next, it’s a battle that you can definitely win.

It’s best if they can learn that the crate is awesome and safe before they spend time in it, especially time alone.

So how do you do that?

First, they need to decide to go into the crate themselves.

You can do that by putting a favorite toy in the crate, or scattering food in there.

Expect them to walk in and right back out the first time.

If they’ve eaten all the food in there, or brought the toy back, eventually put more toys, or more treats in there.

You want to make it so that they know fun things are in the crate.

Now that they’ve been introduced to the crate, the next step is to get them to love it.

Step 4: Get Them To Love The Crate

This step is the fun step.

To get your puppy to love the crate, they’ll need to associate it with things like food, games, and toys.

Here are some tips:

  • Feed meals in the crate
  • Play games with and in the crate
  • Give them toys in the crate

As you’re getting your puppy to go in and out of the crate, make sure to give them a consistent cue like, “crate” that lets them know to go in there.

Check out the video below for a fun crate training game to help your puppy learn to love their crate.

Bait & Restrain Crate Training Game [VIDEO]

Step 5: Close The Door

As your puppy learns to love their crate, slowly start closing the door.

At first, you’ll just close the door and open it right back up.

Then, you’ll close the door and feed them through it (like in the video above).

The next step is to give them a toy that will occupy them, like a frozen kong or a chew toy with peanut butter on it, and then shut the door while they’re distracted with it.

Open the door when they’re done with the toy.

If they’re comfortable with having the door closed for a short time, you can slowly work up to having the door closed for longer periods of time, and then move on to the next step.

Step 6: Leave The Room

This step is best done at first while they’re distracted with a toy.

Walk out of the room for a second, then come back in.

Then walk out for five seconds, then ten seconds.

You’ll eventually work up to where your puppy is comfortable with being alone.

Here are some tips here:

  • Don’t make leaving them alone a big deal
  • Don’t make coming back to them a big deal
  • Try not to let them get to the barking stage because if they start barking and you let them out, they’ll see that as barking gets them what they want

Before you know it, you’ll be leaving your puppy alone in the crate and it’ll be no big deal!

So that’s how to crate train your golden retriever puppy step by step.

It’s a slow process that will likely be painful, but if you take baby steps you’ll set you and your pup up for success.

These next few sections will answer some common questions that new puppy owners have, as well as some tips to help the process go smoothly.

How To Set Your Golden Retriever Up For Success With Crate Training

Have you ever drank a lot of water right before you go to bed?

Two hours later you wake up to pee and ask yourself, “Why did I do that?”

The same thing can happen to puppies.

If they drink water and then go to sleep in the crate, chances are pretty good that they’ll wake up soon having to go!

Putting your puppy in the crate with a full bladder is one way you can set them up to fail.

Here are four (preventable) ways most puppy parents set their pups up for failure in crate training:

  1. Putting them in the crate with a full bladder
  2. Putting them in the crate when they’re full of energy
  3. Putting them in the crate when they’re hungry
  4. Putting them in the crate when they’re thirsty

Of course, if you want to set your puppy up for success, just do the opposite of these mistakes.

Make sure they’re tired, aren’t starving or parched, and have just used the restroom.

Also, frozen kongs or chew toys with peanut butter work great for easing your puppy into getting comfortable in their crate by themselves.

How To Crate Train Your Golden Retriever At Night

crate train golden retriever puppy at night

One of the most frustrating things for a new puppy parent is the whining and barking at night when they’re trying to sleep.

Oliver was an awful sleeper for the first few weeks that we had him and it drove me absolutely bonkers, so if you’re in this position right now, I know how you feel!

But don’t worry, it will soon pass, and here are some tips to help it pass.

First, it’s important to understand that puppies can only hold their bladders for about an hour per their age in months.

That means that a two-month-old puppy can only hold it for about two to three hours, so expect to have to wake up two or three times every night until they get a little older.

That being said, here are five tips to help your puppy learn to sleep through the night:

  1. Put the crate next to your bed so that they don’t get scared or lonely. If it’s really bad, you can even put the crate on a bench or table so they can see you, as well as smell and hear you.
  2. Take the water bowl away about two or three hours before bedtime so that your puppy will have time to fully empty their bladder before going to sleep for the night.
  3. Get them sufficiently tired during the day. Play games like tug, fetch or chase to physically wear them out, and train them and give them puzzle toys like frozen kongs to mentally wear them out.
  4. Set an alarm to wake yourself up before they wake up themselves. You don’t want them to get in the habit of barking to wake you up because they have to go.
  5. If they’re barking and you know they have to go, take them out to potty and bring them right back in the house (this is potty time, not playtime).

Crate Training During The Day (If You Work)

Another common problem that people have with crate training their puppy is crating them during the day when they’re at work.

This is a tough situation, but it can be done.

Remember that puppies can hold their bladders for about an hour per their age in months, so if you have a three-month-old puppy, you definitely don’t want to leave them alone for more than three of four hours at a time.

But even if you’re letting them out every three hours while you’re at work, it can still be a long time for a puppy with a ton of energy to be stuck in a small crate for 8-10 hours.

Here are some tips to make it work.

Don’t crate your puppy for more than 2-3 hours at a time during the day.

You may have to come home on your lunch break, ask friends, family, or neighbors to come over, or hire a dog walker to let your puppy out.

Golden retrievers are family dogs that want love and attention and if they’re spending the majority of their days bored and alone, they may act out when you finally do come home, so try to get them as much love and attention during the day, even if it’s not from you.

Wear them out in the mornings

Go on walks, play chase, fetch and tug, or wrestle with them in the mornings to get some of their endless energy out.

If they’re in a crate all day with pent-up energy, they will not be happy and may become destructive.

Utilize an exercise pen

You might want to consider getting an exercise pen (like this one from Amazon) and circling it around the front of the crate to give your dog some extra room.

Place lots of chew toys and frozen kongs (just make sure they can’t choke on or destroy the toys), a water bowl, and maybe even some potty pads in there.

They’ll appreciate the toys and space to romp around, plus with a designated potty area they’ll be able to go.

Check out the video below for an example of what a crate looks like with an exercise pen attached for extra space.

Crate Training With An Exercise Pen [VIDEO]

Even the pros have to take their time crate training their puppies!

What To Do If Your Puppy Is Crying In The Crate

If your puppy is crying in the crate, your first need to understand why.

Does she need to pee?

Is she full of energy?

Or does she just want to get out and get some attention?

Remember to set them up for success before you put them in crate, meaning physically and mentally tiring them out and making sure their bladder is empty.

If she just doesn’t like the crate yet, keep working on getting her to love her crate by playing games involving it and giving her things to do in there like chewing on toys and treats.

You can also leave for short periods of time (starting at 1-5 seconds), then come back and let her out.

Eventually, you’ll work up to longer periods of time leaving her alone.

This will show her that you will come back, it’s ok to be alone, and being quiet gets her what she wants.

You don’t want to positively reinforce crying in the crate by letting her out every time she cries, but you also don’t want her to cry for hours on end because it could cause some emotional damage.

If you’re really struggling with them crying in the crate, read this article about the nine reasons why puppies cry in the crate and how to help stop it.

How Long Will It Take To Crate Train My Golden Retriever?

How long it takes for your puppy to get used to the crate depends.

Did you rush them into it, or did you let them learn that the crate is awesome?

Have you been rewarding them for barking in it, or have they learned that silence is what gets them out of the crate?

If you’re taking all the right steps, crate training could take as little as a week, but if you’re making a lot of the mistakes listed later in this article, it could take several weeks.

It also depends on the dog.

Some dogs take to crates much better than others.

I’m sorry this isn’t the answer you were hoping for, but no matter what, if you keep trying, keep setting them up for success, and keep making the crate fun, they’ll learn to love (or at least tolerate) their crate.

You can do it!

Is Crate Training Ever Over?

After reading all of this you might be wondering, “When do I stop crate training my puppy?”

I’ll be honest, it was a lot easier when we stopped putting Oliver in his crate every night and every time we left the house.

We started leaving him alone in the house somewhere around six months old, and then a few months after that we started letting him sleep outside of his crate (he decided to sleep under the toilet… weird dude).

Two big questions to ask yourself when considering taking this next step are:

When was the last time my puppy had an accident in the house?

When was the last time my puppy chewed something up in the house?

If it’s been a few weeks since either of those incidents have happened, you might want to consider letting them be in the house for a few minutes by themselves and then working your way up.

Just like with crate training, you want to take baby steps and set them up for success.

Now although your dog might not sleep in the crate anymore in your home, it’s still a valuable tool and skill for them to have in case you’re traveling and they need to stay somewhere they’re not used to staying in, or they have to spend the night at the vet’s office.

Crate Training Mistakes

While all of the tips above will help make crate training go smoothly, the mistakes below can ruin your efforts, or at least make it very hard to get them to relax in their crate.

Mistake #1: Using the crate as punishment

When it comes to your puppy’s crate, everything needs to be positive.

The moment they associate their crate with punishment is the moment they’ll start really disliking going in there.

Mistake #2: Rushing crate training

Crate training takes time.

Would you want to go in an unfamiliar box in an unfamiliar house?

They need to learn that the crate is fun, safe, and relaxing, and that takes time.

If they’re rushed into it, they may learn that the crate is scary or that whenever they go in it they’re left alone for a long time.

Mistake #3: Letting them out every time they start barking or whining

If your puppy is barking because they need to potty, then you need to let them out to potty, but if they’re just doing it for attention, then you need to ignore them.

This leads us to the next mistake…

Mistake #4: Punishing them for crying in the crate

If a puppy is crying in the crate because they want attention, they might perceive you yelling at them as attention.

To them, anything is better than being alone, so you yelling at them is actually rewarding them, so they’ll continue to bark or cry.

Mistake #5: Setting them up for failure

This has already been covered here, but you can’t possibly expect your puppy to relax in the crate if they’re full of energy, have a full bladder, or they’re starving or really thirsty.

Mistake #6: Using the crate too much

Golden retrievers are lovers.

They have tons of energy and just want to be around people so if you keep them alone in the crate all day while you’re working, and then all night when you’re sleeping, they might start acting out, or develop other emotional issues.

Conclusion

crate training golden retriever puppy

Crate training is one of the best things you can do for your puppy.

It helps keep them safe, it’ll help accelerate potty training, most dogs learn to love their crates, and it can keep your house from getting chewed up and peed in!

If you let your puppy learn that the crate is safe and fun, take baby steps towards leaving them alone in there, and set them up for success by making sure they’re tired and have an empty bladder, your puppy can learn to love their crate in just a few short weeks.

Have any questions about crate training?

Or have any other tips for new puppy owners?

Let me know in the comments below!

And if you know someone who’s trying to crate train their golden retriever puppy, please share this with them!

P.S. If you liked this article, you’ll love our article on how to potty train your golden retriever.

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