Crates are essential items that every dog owner must have at home. A crate serves as a dog’s personal “den”, which is often useful when the pup needs to be transported, trained, or left unsupervised. Crate training is also one of the most important tasks that pups and their pet parents must go through, and the success of such efforts largely depends on how well the crate has been set up.

dog crate on skateboard

Generally, setting up your first dog crate requires paying attention to your fur baby’s temperament, body, favorite items, and most comfortable spots in the house. That said, putting together a crate is not always easy, and it can even become overwhelming if you don’t know the right steps. To help you out, here’s what you should do to set up a well-arranged crate—one that your pooch is sure to love.

Step One: Ensure That the Crate Is Right for Your Dog

First, you need to make sure that the crate is comfortable, durable, and adequately sized for your pup. This means that it must not be so cramped that your dog will be uncomfortable nor so spacious that it encourages your pup to create “accidents” in some areas of the crate. Put simply, your pup must be able to stand, move around, and lie down comfortably inside their crate. If you’re unsure about the crate dimensions that best suit your dog, you can ask your local pet store or vet to help you. Regardless of the size, your pup’s crate should ideally have enough room for you to put in other items such as customizable dog beds that can make your fur baby feel more comfortable in their den. In addition to the crate size, you also need to pay attention to the kind of crate that you buy. Wire crates work best for most dogs. If your pup likes sleeping in the dark, you can check out enclosed options like kennels and airline crates. Such alternatives allow your dog to feel less exposed to the elements and have a more cave-like space of their own.

Step Two: Know Where to Put the Crate

The best place to put a crate usually depends on factors such as your dog’s preferred house spots, your home’s free areas, and your pup’s temperament (i.e., whether they’re more shy or sociable). As a rule of thumb, crates are best placed where your pup can relax while being near familiar people and human activity. Dogs are social by nature, so they need to feel as though they belong in the bustle of their favorite people. Keeping them isolated in a corner makes them think that they are being excluded and punished, which may lead to distress and other behavioral issues such as separation anxiety.

The ideal place for a dog crate would be amid all the activity but within a safe distance away from the bustle to give the pup enough peace and quiet. Consider placing the crate in areas with low traffic such as a corner of your family room or kitchen, your bedroom, or near your desk if you have a home office. If you have a puppy to potty train, it may be ideal to place the crate near your bed. Some experts believe that this allows you to monitor behaviors that indicate your pup’s urgency to do their business, alerting you that they need to be carried outside. This, of course, simplifies and quickens the potty training process for very young pups. To keep your pup comfortable temperature-wise, make sure that the crate is situated away from drafty areas, including uninsulated windows or doors that lead outdoors. You should also avoid placing the crate near fireplaces and vents, which can leave your pooch feeling unbearably hot.

dog in crate

Step Three: Remove Potential Safety Hazards

Once you have an idea of where to place your pup’s crate, you need to check for potential safety hazards in the crate’s immediate vicinity to prevent accidents and emergencies. For example, having power cords and electrical wiring nearby is dangerous because dogs might chew or spill water on them and get electrocuted. In addition, toxic house plants such as lilies and aloe vera are poisonous to dogs and might cause vomiting and diarrhea when ingested. As another safety precaution, it’s best to keep your pooch collarless whenever they’re inside the crate. This is because dog collars are likely to get entangled with the bars of a mesh crate or travel carrier, which could cause strangulation. If your pup needs to wear a collar or tag, make sure that it’s a breakaway type to ensure their safety.

Step Four: Place the Bedding and Other Items Inside the Crate

In addition to keeping your fur baby comfy, placing bedding inside the crate can help your dog associate the space with positive experiences. Given this, try to make the crate as cozy and “den-like” as possible so that your pup enjoys spending time inside it. That said, it’s important to note that the type of bedding you place inside the crate depends on your pup’s temperament, age, and health needs. If your fur baby tends to burrow or chew aggressively, for example, you may want to get chew-proof beds or high-durability beds that can withstand mild clawing. Dogs that are older or have joint problems, on the other hand, may be better suited for orthopedic beds. Regardless of the types of beds that you choose, they must be neither too small nor too large to prevent drafts, hot spots, and pressure points. Other items worth placing inside the crate are interactive toys to prevent boredom and old clothing with your scent to induce comfort and familiarity. For pooches with incontinence or bladder weakness, consider placing washable and waterproof pee mats inside the crate.

Step Five: Provide Food and Water in an Optimal Way

Making water constantly available in the crate prevents instances of dehydration, which is naturally detrimental to your dog’s health. To prevent messes due to spilled water, you may want to look at options such as clip-on bowls and dog water bottles. In addition to providing water, it’s also recommended to give your pup treats in the crate to strengthen their association of the space with fun and pleasure. For instance, you can hide the treats in various parts of the crate for your pup to find. It may also help to give your fur baby a treat after they get inside the crate for further positive reinforcement. That said, it’s best to avoid placing food bowls inside the crate to prevent your pup from leaving messes while they’re in there, such as when they tip over their bowls and spread bits and pieces of food all over the crate. With this, it might be a good idea to feed your pooch outside of the crate and briefly let them out of the house for a potty break before bedtime. Doing so prevents the need to bring food inside the crate while crate-training your pup, plus it ensures that their next potty break will be in the morning, meaning you won’t be interrupted while sleeping.

A Final Tip: Crate Training Takes Time and Patience

Training dogs to get used to their crates can take days or weeks, depending on your pup’s unique needs and personality. In the end, though, it all boils down to having patience and minding how your dog feels inside the crate. If you notice your pup exhibiting strange behavior such as drinking excessively, you may want to consult your vet on any changes you might need to make to stop the said behavior. Crate training can look slightly different for each pet parent, but what matters is being able to give your pup a sanctuary—a place of refuge where they can feel the safest. With this, be sure to follow the steps above to pick an optimal location for your pet’s crate and to keep your pooch safe and comfortable. Ultimately, proper crate placement and set-up is crucial to making training procedures a lot smoother—both for you and your fur baby.