How Long Can a Dog Be in a Crate? How Long is Too Long?

Last Updated on July, 2024

Crate training comes with many benefits to both the dog and the dog parent. But crate training and leaving the dog in the crate for as long as it suits you isn’t gonna cut it.

There are things you need to be aware of and precautions you need to take when using a crate to keep your dog confined. 

For example the time period you leave your dog in the crate has to be given significant consideration because the needs of a dog differ based on their age, just like for humans.

On that note this informational article will cover a common concern among dog parents: How long can a dog stay in a crate?

Quick Summary

The time a dog can stay in a crate should be taken into consideration based on its age and energy levels, and any period longer than 8 hours can put a dog at risk of developing anxiety, depression, obesity, obsessive compulsive disorder, and confinement distress.

Proper crate training offers many benefits for both the dog and the dog parent, such as potty training, behavioral modification, and travel safety.

Alternatives such as taking the dog to work, hiring a dog sitter or walker, using a doggy daycare, using playpens and fence gates, and keeping things fun can be utilized if one will be away from home for a long period of time.

Why Crate Train a Dog?

a crate trained puppy in a cage looking at the camera

The primary and popular reason for crate training is to restrict your dog to minimize destruction of the house/ household items and potty training to help regulate your dog’s bladder and bowel movements.

Crate training on these aspects helps pet parents confidently keep their pet dog inside the house without having to fret about handling unnecessary cleaning a mess.

But the benefits of crate training continue beyond there. Crate training comes with many more positives that are beneficial to you as well as your dog. 

The ultimate goal of the crate training process should be to help your dog associate its crate as a safe space of its own. It gives the dog a sense of security that helps it stay calm and relaxed even when you are not around.

When your dog starts feeling like that, potty training becomes quicker and easier because it wouldn’t soil its favorite place. 

Pro Tip: Keep your dog entertained and elevate its experience inside the crate, including a blanket, a pillow, a favorite toy, and a treat or two.

Apart from that, crate training is helpful in the behavior modification of aggressive and stubborn dogs. Also, dog crates are the safest place for a dog to travel, no matter how far the journey is.

You can also house sick dogs to restrict movement and improve their recovery.

A properly crate-trained dog means well potty trained too. It is a major positive because you can eventually get to the point where you don’t have to close the crate door.

Your dog will get used to a routine, and you don’t have to worry about destructive behaviors leaving your house in ruins. 

How Long Can a Dog Stay in a Crate?

A puppy is locked inside a dog crate

Although crate training has many benefits, the time a dog spends in a crate is a major concern that all dog parents should be aware of to ensure their pet’s welfare. And this applies to both adult dogs and young puppies.

The time a dog can stay in the crate changes based on your dog’s energy levels and age.

Most adult dogs can stay in a crate for 4- 6 hours and a maximum of 8 hours during the day if you are at work.

Leaving an adult dog for an extended period can result in the development of behavioral problems due to a sense of ‘left out feeling’ and lack of attention. 

Many adult dogs can stay in the crate for up to half a day ONLY if it is healthy, potty and crate trained correctly, AND gets plenty of physical exercise and walks when out of their crate.

Since this is rare, it’s always best to be safe and go by the maximum allowed eight hours.

When handling senior dogs, you have to be more careful and alert because there is always some sense of fragility involved. 

Similarly, as I explained above, this fragility also comes into play when handling a puppy.

Puppies require much attention during their rapid growth phases.

Since puppies are still growing, their digestive system is still underway, meaning they still have smaller bladders, so they can’t control their bowel/ bladder movements. 

Based on this, many recommendations from various sources suggest you can’t leave puppies in a crate longer than 3-4 hours.

But a standard rule that many dog owners follow is that you can leave a puppy in a crate for an hour for every month of age. Going by that rule, the time you can leave a puppy in a crate depends.

The following table summarizes the healthy times to crate a dog;

Dog’s AgeCrate time
0-8 weeksNot recommended to crate. Instead use a playpen
8-10 weeks30- 60 minutes
11-14 weeks1-3 hours
15- 16 weeks3- 4 hours
17+ weeks4-5 hours
Adult dogsMax 8 hours

What to Consider When Crate Training Your Dog?

A pug dog in a crate

The above table is only to be used as referral guidance to lay the foundation and give you an idea of how this works. But as a whole, you need to know your dog’s nature: how it behaves, its likes, dislikes, triggers, and overall energy levels. 

For example, an active and playful young puppy will require your affection and continuous attention.

So I recommend starting crate training in short periods of 30 minutes. Spending time between these 30-minute periods, like walking and playing, will help properly progress through the potty training.

Knowing you are around will help your puppy be calmer and rest peacefully in the crate. And this will prevent the puppy from feeling trapped.

After setting the tone and progressing, you can gradually start increasing the crate time.

If you are away from home for long periods, you must turn to a solution to ensure your dog is cared for. 

Just remember! Continuously crating your dog for long periods is not healthy for them. Iit can lead to emotional and health issues due to stress. Besides, dogs are social animals who crave the love and affection of their owners.

So make time to spend quality time with your dog. They deserve it. 

What Happens if You Overuse a Crate?

a sad dog inside a dog crate

Anxiety 

In extreme situations, dogs tend to develop separation anxiety when left alone for longer because they start worrying about the uncertainty of what will happen next.

This can get worse if you crate the dog after a negative behavior, as it considers it to be a punishment. In an attempt to cope with these negative feelings, these dogs may become destructive.

Some signs of anxiety in dogs are excessive barking/ howling/ whining, tail chasing/tucking/hiding, digging, trembling, and pacing. (1)

Here’s our complete guide on crate training a dog with separation anxiety.

Depression

Dogs who are isolated for longer periods develop depression due to constant sadness, lack of attention, interaction with their owner or caretaker, etc.. This worsens when in a crate because the dog associates the crate with a cage for punishment. (2)

Obesity

Just like in humans, in dogs, lack of activity can lead to obesity due to excess accumulation of fats after food consumption. Obesity can open them up to other health issues like heart disease and diabetes. (3)

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Dogs also can develop canine-compulsive disorder (CCD) due to boredom when left alone. CCD is where a dog develops a habit and repeats it severely to keep itself distracted. It can affect the dog’s well-being. (4)

Confinement Distress

Although dogs love a den-like safe place, being confined in a small space for a long time without the freedom to move as it wants when it wants can make them feel trapped. 

Turn to Other Alternatives if You’ll Be Away From Home for Long Periods

a human walking in the garden with a dog

Take Your Dog to Work

Many workplaces are becoming more and more pet-friendly. If your dog is well-behaved and house-trained, taking your dog to work with you, given that your workplace is pet-friendly, is a great way to ensure your dog is safe and taken care of. 

Checkout our guide on “Crating a dog when leaving the house for work.”

Get a Dog Sitter or Walker

Similarly, don’t leave your dog cooped up in the crate if you know you will be out for over 8 hours. Hire a dog walker to take it on a walk to stretch its legs and breathe in fresh air while interacting with the dog walker. 

You can also ask your friends, family, or neighbors to help. Or hire a sitter to let your dog out of the crate and give it some roaming time, even for short periods.

Use a Doggy DayCare

Using doggie daycare services is another good alternative to ensuring that your dog is continuously taken care of. In a dog daycare, your dog can socialize and make friends with other dogs. 

Use Playpens and Fence Gates

Occasionally, instead of using a crate, you can use a playpen or fence in a particular area to allow your dog more free space while keeping it safe. But be aware that dogs bypass the fence if they realize they can jump over. 

From this case, it’s better to invest on an invisible fence.

Keep Things Fun

To keep your dog occupied and ensure it doesn’t get lonely or bored, you can use a Kong toy stuffed with treats, a self-fetching toy, or a safe shuffle bone to keep your dog occupied for hours. 

I recommend alternating between the options to keep the maintenance of your dog’s safety and entertainment affordable to you while ensuring a healthy and interactive environment for your dog. 

You can also play one of the best mind games for dogs that actually help with boredom.

Should I Crate My Dog At Night?

A black and white dog is sitting in a crate at night

If your dog is still in the process of house training, you should crate it at night to prevent the risk of accidents inside the house, where it can freely roam around.

Having plenty of space to move affects house training because your dog may relieve itself in a corner or consume something harmful. 

You should ideally stick to the eight hour period and create a crate routine for your dog.

Typically the night crating time should align with your sleep time because after crating your dog, there should be minimal disturbances form the surrounding and the dog has to be let out in time. 

If you are a pet parent who prefers having your dogs sleep with you and since you can’t supervise your dog while sleeping, ensure that they are successfully potty and house-trained to eliminate potential accidents.

When to Avoid Using a Dog Crate?

Avoid using your dog’s crate under the below circumstances;

  • If the crate is too big or too small
  • If you know your dog is sensitive and can easily develop anxiety
  • If your it is sick (vomiting or diarrhea)
  • If you are going to be away from home for more than the recommended crate time
  • If you have not taken it for a walk or if it has not had proper physical activity before crating
  • If the temperature is too hot (unless with a fan) or too cold
  • If it howls and barks continuously

Relevant contents:

Frequently Asked Questions?

Yes, you can crate your dog at night, however, it is important to ensure your dog is comfortable and had the chance to stretch its muscles and relieve itself prior to entering the crate. Crating small puppies overnight should be avoided.

It is recommended to leave an adult dog in the crate for a maximum of 8 hours, but puppies should not be left in the crate for more than 4 hours due to their inability to control their bladder/bowel movements.

The best place for the dog crate at night is in a dark corner away from noise and activity. Doing so will allow your dog to relax more easily.

No, it is not recommended to ignore your dog when it is whining inside the crate. It is important to ensure your dog is comfortable and has been provided with basic requirements such as food, water and toys. If the whining persists, a slower transition to the crate might be necessary.

Leaving a dog in a crate for more than 8 hours is considered to be too long.

Yes, dogs can get bored in their crate. To help prevent this, provide it with toys and chewable items to keep it amused.

No, you do not need to stop using a crate for your dog; instead, transition to the stage where you do not need to close the crate door as your dog has developed good behavior and follows all the house rules.

Once your dog has gone over two months without any accidents or signs of anxiety, start by slowly leaving the crate door open for 10 minutes. If things appear to go well during this time, you can gradually lengthen the open door time until it is no longer necessary to close it.

In Conclusion

Crate training is a reliable solution with many benefits to the dog and the owner. But only when it’s done the correct way. Don’t force your dog into a crate. Instead, use treats and toys to help it associate the crate with positive vibes. 

Don’t crate longer than the recommended times. The physical and emotional well-being of the dog is equally important as training and keeping the dog safe inside the crate. 

A gradual introduction to the crate paired with effective tips will set the right tone for your dog to start loving its crate. Talking about loving the crate, check out our article on best dog crates to get the best crate for your dog.

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Stefano Giachetti
Stefano Giachetti is always excited to share his knowledge and love of animals with you through our blog, IPetGuides. And he has always loved animals and has been blessed to have many pets throughout his life. Currently has a Pomeranian Dog Breed.

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