With countless responsibilities like family, work, and school, pet owners rightly ponder over how long dogs can stay in a crate. After all, you risk returning to your home in a mess if your pooch is left to roam and is anxious or bored. But you also don’t want your dog cooped up so long it becomes cruel.
While some strongly oppose dog crating because they wouldn’t want to be confined themselves, dogs aren’t people. Most canines feel much safer in their crates with their cozy beds, snuffle mats, and peace of mind.
The most vital part of crate training a dog is doing it correctly, such as never using a crate as a punishment. This article covers the essentials of crate training your dog to help you make the most out of it.
How Long Can Dogs Stay in a Crate?
How long a dog can safely stay in a crate depends on their age and energy levels. Puppies below six months should stay in a crate for 3 to 4 hours max because their bowels aren’t fully developed yet. Most adult dogs can handle 4 to 6 hours in a crate during the day.
Dogs can theoretically handle more than eight hours in a crate, but that comes with a slew of behavioral problems like aggression and anxiety. Adult lower-energy dogs like Basset Hounds can handle slightly more than six hours. However, their crate time should never exceed eight hours.
Keep in mind, if dogs are crated for roughly 8 to 10 hours overnight, and another 6 to 8 hours during the day, they may be spending as much as 18 hours per day in a crate. This simply is not healthy. So we need to be careful with how long we expect our dogs to stay crated.
Daily exercise is the only condition for leaving dogs in a crate when you go about your business. While you can crate your high-energy dog for six hours, we don’t recommend going that long every day.
How Long Can Puppies Stay in a Crate?
Puppies below six months old shouldn’t stay in a crate longer than four hours. Before then, their organs, like bowels, are still developing and should not be put in stressful conditions. Here we look at puppies and their age and how long they can stay in their crates.
A general rule of thumb for placing puppies in crates is one hour for one month of age. This table gives a rough estimate of crate hours by age.
|Puppy Age||Appropriate time in the crate|
|0-8 weeks||It’s best not to leave puppies this young alone in a crate. If you have to, let it be for an hour at most. Breeders typically place puppies below 8 weeks in a pen as it has more room.|
|8 to 10 weeks||2 hours|
|10 to 12 weeks||2 ½ to 3 ½ hours|
|12 to 16 weeks||3 – 4 hours|
|Above 6 months to 12 months||4– 5 hours|
What Happens When Dogs Stay in Crates for Too Long?
Crates provide a safe space for your dog to relax and retreat when stressed. However, since dogs are social animals, isolating them for too long can make them susceptible to various mental illnesses. Excessive use of dog crates also impedes your budding relationship with your dog.
Here are some of the damages your pup is prone to when you isolate them for too long:
Unusual situations can cause anxiety in dogs when they’re unsure of what will happen to them. Anxiety skyrockets if you use a crate as a punishment for your dog due to the negative associations they make.
Dogs with anxiety tend to bark excessively, howl, chase their tail, dig, tremble, pace, whine, tail tuck, and hide. You may also return to an anxious dog having destroyed their crate as they try to cope with the negative feelings.
Pups have emotions and are social animals, so when isolated for too long, they can be devastated. This persistent sadness leads to depression in your pup, affecting all aspects of their life.
When dogs start viewing their crate as a cage more than a haven, they’re highly likely to get depressed. Studies also show that behavioral problems in dogs, including depression, are associated with their owner’s personality traits.
When dogs are not involved in enough activity to burn excess fats after a meal, the chances of obesity are high. Obesity in dogs reduces their longevity and makes them vulnerable to more serious health issues like heart disease and diabetes.
4. Obsessive-compulsive disorder
Pooches left alone in a crate for too long get bored and will come up with something to distract themselves. Canine Compulsive Disorder (CCD) occurs when a dog is observed to repeat an action severely, so much so that it affects their life.
While this condition can occur later in life due to boredom, it’s sometimes genetic. A study on Dobermans found that those with CCD had different brain structures than normal dogs.
5. Developing Severe Confinement Distress
Some dogs develop a severe anxiety disorder due to being confined in a small space. Dogs naturally like small, dark areas, as we can observe in their world counterparts, the wolves. However, some dogs can grow to resent these small spaces because they feel trapped. The best way to combat this disorder is to learn how to crate train your dog properly.
Should I crate my dog at night?
You should crate your dog at night, particularly if they misbehave when nobody is watching or are likely to mess in the house. Dogs love their space clean and are unlikely to pee or poop in their crates, so crating is a precious potty training tool.
Allowing your dog to sleep in your bed can result in waking up to a mess if the dog isn’t house-trained yet. Crating your dog at night benefits light sleepers who would have their sleep interrupted by their kicking, readjusting, and getting off and back on the bed.
Once your dog is older, potty trained, and well behaved, you can let them out of the crate at night. Many people benefit from having dogs sleep beside them, so long as the dog doesn’t have any behavioral problems.
Ultimately, the final decision of whether or not to close the crate rests on you since you know your dog best.
How Long Should I Crate a Dog at Night?
Crating a dog at night depends on age, with most adult dogs being able to spend the whole night in a crate. Since puppies cannot control their bladder and bowel, they shouldn’t be crated for more than 4 hours, or you risk an accident.
Puppies may find it a bit hard to sleep alone in their crate, especially if you got them used to sleeping with you.
They may get anxious at first and will whine, breath fast, and even chew the crate. Eventually, most of them get the hang of it. Senior dogs also need more attention if they sleep in the crate due to incontinence and increased emotional needs.
Should I Crate My Dog When I Leave the House?
It’s best to crate your dog if you’re leaving the house to avoid returning to your home torn into a mess. Crating confines your dog in one place and gives them comfort, especially as they grapple with missing you.
If you are leaving for long periods, consider other alternatives which include:
- Doggie daycare – ensure the doggy day care has a proper employee-to-dog ratio to ensure all dogs are well looked after.
- Employing a dog sitter to take care of your pup
- Getting a dog walker to give your dog some exercise
- Consider securing a yard if it’s possible to move to such a place
- Use playpens and dog gates to leave your dog in an area with more room
Leaving your dog in a crate has more merits than demerits but only when done properly. Sometimes, the number of hours you’re away is out of control when duty calls. If that’s the case, you might want to consider some options we’ve listed.
Avoid creating your dog if they haven’t been crate trained since this will only make things worse and can affect the dog mentally.
Leaving a Dog in a Crate for More Than 10 Hours
Leaving your dog in a crate for more than 10 hours during the day is inhumane and shouldn’t be done intentionally. However, adult dogs can stay 10 hours in a crate at night, especially when they don’t drink water for about two hours prior.
How Long Can a One-year Dog Be in a Crate?
Most one-year-old dogs have developed bladders and can stay in a crate for about 4 to 6 hours during the day. Depending on the breed’s energy requirements, physical exercise is essential to ensure the dogs are emotionally stable while in the crate.
At night, they can stay overnight in the crate, but you may need to take them out at night if they’re not fully potty trained yet.
Crates are great for dogs and dog owners. They give a dog somewhere to retreat to and relax. However, dogs shouldn’t be forced to stay in their crates for long periods. They should also be crate trained before they are put into one using treats and praise.
Tamsin De La HarpeAuthor
Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions.
Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.