Nothing quite stirs us from our sleep like the plaintive cry of a puppy in the night. She’s in the crate. You’re in the bed. Why can’t you be together?
It’s a question many puppy owners have grappled with — and many have surrendered to — since puppies were invented.
The answer? In a word, resist.
Letting your puppy forgo the crate for your bed too early in life deprives her of one of the most underrated teachers in life: space.
"When I talk to my clients about it I always tell them, if your bed was set up in the middle of an empty Walmart, you wouldn’t feel comfortable," Jackie Cameron, a professional trainer and executive director at
No-Kill Kern Dog Rescue
in California, tells The Dodo. "There’s too much room. You’re always going to feel insecure about how big the space is.
"When you have the four walls of your room, it gives you security and you can sleep comfortably at night. It’s the same way for dogs."
Of course, a crate isn’t a magical box where you can keep your puppy indefinitely. During the day,
the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) recommends
stints of no longer than three to four hours for puppies under 6 months old, with plenty of exercise and socialization in between.
At night, puppies can hold in their pee a little longer, but HSUS recommends keeping the crate close to your bed because you will likely have to make a pee run at least once in the night.
At just a few months old, they can’t control their bodily functions for much longer than that. Besides, as beneficial as crates can be, they shouldn’t be associated with exile. Crates should be seen as positive places — a resting pad between romps.
And a place to develop their own sense of self.
If a puppy grows up without his own personal space, like a kennel, he may grow up fused to his owner — as in waking up the second you wake up, not knowing what to do with himself when you’re not there and with a general neediness that may become downright exhausting.
"We want to teach our dogs to make good choices in life and using the kennel can help them," Cameron explains. "When we wake up in the morning, if our dogs are in bed with us, they have a tendency to get excited. They’re up and they’re immediately in motion.
"If they’re in a kennel, they might wake up, but because they’re in a kennel, they have to wait calmly until we go and let them out. It changes the way that a dog begins the day."
But the crying at night. Sad puppy. MUST … RELEASE … puppy.
Every puppy is going to cry in a crate. At least for a little while. But prolonged crying may be a sign that you didn’t deck out your puppy’s crate — with
blankets, teddies, you know, the good things in puppy life
And even more importantly, you may not have put your puppy in the right state of mind before you put her in there — as in tire her out, comfort her and make the crate seem like a welcome respite. The crate should be a positive experience. A puppy-only clubhouse. A time to relax.
If they don’t get that time alone, puppies can quickly develop destructive tendencies, Cameron says. Or their energy levels may skyrocket at all the wrong times.
"It’s because they’re waking up in the wrong state of mind. If we take away the space for them to build up that energy, they have no choice but to stay at a lower energy level," Cameron adds.
And self-regulating their energy levels — knowing the right time to turn it on and off — is crucial to raising a balanced dog.
Kover agrees with most of us though: Resistance can be torture.
"People will try to crate train a puppy," she tells The Dodo. "But the puppy’s crying. People feel bad for the puppy. They bring the puppy in the bed with them."
And yes, it feels good. Really good.
But without their own space, puppies lose their sense of self. Everything becomes about you. And woe to you and your home if you happen to leave your dog alone.
There is, however, a way you can bend the rules a little — to at least get in your cuddle time, which is vital to puppy and human alike.
"What I would do is I’d have the puppy in the crate overnight and then wake up early in the morning and then take the puppy out to go potty," Kover says. "And then snuggle with the puppy in the bed. So you still have that snuggle time. Because that’s important, too."
There are a few other reasons why puppies should get used to a crate early on. For one thing, there’s safety.
"You need to use caution that you don’t roll over and squish them because they are so tiny," Sonja Olson, an emergency clinician at
BluePearl Veterinary Partners
, tells The Dodo.
That goes mainly for small dog breeds. But bigger breeds have their own issues with human beds.
"Be forewarned," Olson says. "Once you have opened that door, they will assume that for the rest of their lives, the bed will be their space, too."
The crate door doesn’t have to stay locked.
"Once the dog understands that they can be in their own space, that they don’t have to be right next to you all the time, you can invite them into your bed," Cameron says.And sharing your bed with a dog or three — while leaving the crate door open — becomes more a question of how much you enjoy it.
"If you’re not squeamish about a few germs and you don’t mind a little dog hair on your pillow, it’s really a personal preference," Olson says.
And there are a lot of solid reasons why you should let a dog into your bed —
including potential health benefits
, like improving your sleep.
There is just one more thing worth considering. Potty training. Under no circumstances should you share a bed, or even spring a puppy from her crate at night, if she has yet to learn that peeing all over the place isn’t cool.
"Puppies are more likely to eliminate in your room overnight if they have free reign, but they will restrain themselves if crated," Erika Loftin, a critical care specialist at
DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital
, tells The Dodo. "Crate training is an efficient and effective way to house-train a puppy, as dogs will resist eliminating in their own space."
In this case, the threat of being peed on may just be a good motivator for you to do the right thing. And give your puppy her own space at night.
For more information on crate training, click here
. And if you’re ready to bring a new dog into your family, check out