How to Crate Train a Labrador Retriever Puppy

How to Crate Train a Labrador Retriever Puppy
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon3-6 Weeks
General training category iconGeneral

Introduction

For years, using a crate has been perceived by some as a cruel way to treat a dog. Many are under the impression that everyone who uses a crate for their dog simply leaves them in a cage for untold hours. Nothing could be further from the truth! In fact, when used properly, your pup will come to see his crate more along the lines of his den and be happy to spend time there. Bear in mind, not all labs respond to a crate in the same way. Some might walk right in and make themselves at home, while it's going to take a little extra work for some to be comfortable.

The big thing is to take your time and to give your dog plenty of time to become comfortable with his new "den". This way you should not have a problem leaving your pup in his crate during the day while you are at work or at night while you are sleeping as needed. 

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Defining Tasks

For a dog in the wild, his den is his safe place, somewhere he goes to be secure and comfortable. He will raise his family in his den, rest in it, and bring his pack into it for safety when needed. Your pup will draw on this natural instinct and come to see the crate in much the same way if you take your time and follow through on his training. The most important part of the training process is to do your best to help your pup to see his new crate as his den. The more comfortable you make it for him, the more likely he will be to enjoy going in it. 

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Getting Started

Crate training starts out with buying the right size crate. Since your pup is going to eventually grow into a full-size Lab, you might be tempted to buy an adult-size crate for him. This might work if you are able to put a partition or temporary wall in it to make it smaller to start out. If not, you should start out with a crate that fits your pup. This will help make things go easier. Along with this, you need a few things:

  • Carpet
  • Bed
  • Treats
  • Toy
  • Blankets
  • A good spot

Since you are training your dog to stay in a crate with the door locked, which is something he may not like at first, be ready to take your time. All good things come to those who are patient. 

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The Open Door Method

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1

Set the crate up

Set up his crate in a busy place in your home, one where everyone can see it and your pup can still feel like he is part of the family. Leave the door open and tie it back.

2

Take up your position

Take up a sitting position next to the crate with some of your pup's favorite treats in your hand. Let your pup see and smell his treats, but don’t let him take them. Instead, toss a treat into the crate. At the same time, use your choice of cue words such as "kennel" or "crate."

3

When he goes in

When he finally goes in the crate, give him lots of praise and another tasty treat.

4

Give him room

Take a few steps away from the crate and give your pup room to come out on his own. When he does, give him your cue word to come out, something easy like "out" works. When comes out and over to you, give him a treat.

5

I like to work it...

Start closing the door and extending the time between when he goes in the kennel and you open the door. Be sure to praise your pup heavily and treat him for his successes. In to time, he will love spending time in his den.

The What Noise? Method

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Place the den

Place your pup's new den in a nice busy spot in the house. You don’t want him feeling isolated when he is in the crate.

2

Insert one pooch

Pick your lab up and gently set him down in his crate. As you are doing so, give him your cue word, such as "crate" or "kennel". This will help him associate the action with the cue word, making it much easier to get him in his crate in the future.

3

Let him talk

It might happen immediately, it might take a few seconds, but your pup is going to let you know in no uncertain terms he is not happy. That's okay, let him. Just go on about your usual routine and ignore him and the noise he is making.

4

The sound of silence

There is nothing quite like the sound of silence, so wait until your pup has stopped making noise and has calmed down. Then open the door, let him out and immediately take him out to go potty.

5

Keep adding time

Now that he knows he must spend time in the crate, go ahead and start extending the time between when he stops complaining and when you open the door. By the time you are done, and your pup grows up, he will be able to spend several hours in his kennel as long as you make sure he has water.

The Slow and Steady Method

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It's all about location

Find a nice spot for your pup's kennel, one where he can be in his den and still feel as though he is part of what is going on. If the activity levels make him fuss, go ahead and create a cave for him by draping a blanket over the kennel.

2

Add the chow

While you are at it, this is a good time to relocate your pup's food and water dishes. Move them to a convenient spot just outside the crate door. At the same time, tie the door open and walk away. Give your pup a few days to get used the kennel, the new location of his food, and to let him wander in and out of it at will.

3

Lock the door

With your pup on the inside of the kennel, go ahead and close the door and latch it. Now your pup may not be happy about this and may, in fact, make a lot of noise for a bit. But, eventually, he will get tired of the noise himself. When he finally does, be sure to praise him and give him a treat.

4

Time to come out

After your pup finishes his treat, open the door and let him out. Take him straight outside to go potty. You can work this into your potty training routine as well.

5

Increase the time

Slowly start to increase the amount of time your pup spends in the crate. Bear in mind, young pups should not be left in the crate for more than 30 minutes at a time, as they may not be able to hold themselves for much longer. Once your pup has learned to enjoy spending time in his kennel, you may even find him napping in there.

By PB Getz

Published: 01/31/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Bjørn

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Labrador Retriever

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Two Months

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Question

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Hi. I have a 9 week old Labrador.. He sleep in his crate... How long do you recommend he stays there before he can start to sleep in his designated bed outside the crate?

Aug. 29, 2022

Bjørn's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello, Generally, I recommend between 12-18 months of age. There will be a few chewing phases during the first year of life and Retrievers are heavy chewers. You want to get past the natural chewing phases before giving too much freedom when you aren't watching pup to prevent unwanted destructive chewing habits. Another rule is when pup is over six months of age and has also gone at least four months without chewing anything they shouldn't be chewing. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Aug. 29, 2022

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Navy

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Labrador Retriever

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8 Weeks

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Question

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Hi there, We just got Navy a few days ago and she seems to really like her crate! Every time we go outside in the backyard and she goes to the bathroom, I give her a treat and she is quickly catching on. The struggle is the night time ... she starts whinning every 2-3 hours and we let her out to pee but sometimes, she doesn't even have to, she just wants us to hold her while she sleeps lol. We want to establish a routine with her but also want to make sure we aren't attending her neediness all the time in case this becomes an issue when she is older. Does the below schedule seem okay? If we start enforcing it and ignoring her when she cries? Thank you!!! - 5:30/6:00 am - wake up, water, outside - 6:30 - crate - 8:30 - outside, food and water - 9:30 - 12:30- crate - 12:30-1:30- water, food, outside - 1:30-4:30 - crate - 4:30 -5:30 - water, outside - 6:00 - water, food - 6:30 - 9:30 - play and bathroom breaks ever hour - no water past 7pm - 10pm - bedtime - 1/2 am - bathroom break

April 8, 2020

Navy's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Hillary, I do recommend something very similar to what you mentioned - sticking to a schedule, ignoring crying at night at non-potty times, and crating pup after a bit of freedom right after going potty, until it's time to go potty outside again; the main difference is that a puppy can generally only hold their bladder during the day for the number of months they are in age plus one - and that is a maximum time, not ideal training time. With that said I would adjust the schedule to provide more frequent potty breaks during the day. If pup stays asleep for longer at night, they will be able to hold it for longer (but not all night yet) but once they are awake, daytime maximum times apply. - 5:30/6:00 am - wake up, water, outside - 6:30 - crate - 7:30 - outside, food and water - 8:30 - 9:30- crate - 9:30 - water, outside, free time - 10:30 - 11:30 - crate - 11:30 - water, outside, free time - 12:00 - 12:30 - food, water - 12:30 - 1:00- outside again to poop (wait 15-30 minutes after eating for poop potty break but keep careful eye on pup during that time) - 1:30 - 2:30 - crate - 2:30 - water, outside, free time - 3:30 - 4:30 - crate - 4:30 - 5:30 - water, outside, free time - 6:00 - water, food - 6:30 - 7:00 - outside - 7:00 - 10:00 - play and bathroom breaks ever hour - no water past 7pm - 10pm - bedtime - 1am - bathroom break - if pup wakes and cries then or after that point. Don't wake them unless they are having accidents when you don't. Ignore crying before it's been 3 hours since the last potty trip. Keep potty trips boring and calm - no treats, play, and minimize talk. Take pup on a leash, keep it focused, then straight back to bed. Potty trips at night should be boring so pup begins to sleep through them when their bladder capacity increases. After the potty trip, crate pup and ignore any crying that takes places before it has been 3 hours since the last potty trip. Also, free time simply means time they don't have to be crated. What that looks like will depend on your schedule. You can play, train pup, let them play alone but keep an eye on them nearby, have pup play by themself in an exercise pen, or tether pup to yourself with a hands free leash. It's simply the time when their bladder is empty and they can be out of the crate. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

April 8, 2020


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