Kenneling your puppy at night doesn't have to make you a prison warden. In fact, pups can grow to love a crate. It takes training but, once you get him used to it, he'll sleep through the night without making a peep -- or a "woof."
Starting Too Young
Starting crate-training early makes it easier to build good habits, but there is such a thing as "too young." Puppies simply don't have the bowel and bladder control to hold it in over long periods until they're between 12 and 16 weeks old. Starting too soon can give a puppy an aversion to the crate because he might associate the crate with waste. Dogs don't like to inhabit the area where they eliminate. The specific age that your pup is ready depends partially on his size and breed. Seek your vet's input. While you can kennel him overnight before he's old enough to hold it in until morning, you'll need to take him for at least one overnight potty break until he's old enough to control his bodily functions.
If you kennel your pup while he's feeling full of energy, he'll let you know how displeased he is. To avoid turning your puppy into a perpetual alarm clock, get him plenty of exercise before kenneling him for the night. Thirty to 60 minutes of exercise should tucker him out, making him more inclined to crawl inside his crate for some much-needed beauty rest.
Because puppies have limited bowel and bladder control, it's critical that yours gets a bathroom break immediately before kennel time -- taking him for a nice, long walk right before bed gives him a bit of exercise and a chance to eliminate outdoors. When you let him out in the morning, take him outside before you do anything else. After he wakes up, he's liable to go to the bathroom very soon, whether it's out in the grass or on your shag bathmat.
Keeping Puppy Close
Puppies and dogs are den animals; after they get used to being kenneled, they usually take to being put away for hours at a time without protest. What your puppy won't necessarily understand, though, is why he's being isolated -- so take isolation out of the equation. Keep your kennel close to where you sleep. Over time, you can experiment with moving the kennel farther from your bed until he doesn't mind sleeping in another room altogether.
Puppies can be fussy. They generally grow to appreciate a crate, but they may resist at first. Be slow, positive and patient. Train him to associate the crate with positive rewards by giving him a special treat he gets only when he's going to the kennel. Practice crate-training during the day, leaving him in for incrementally longer periods of time until he grows used to it -- start with just a few minutes. You may need to experiment with sitting in the same room as the crate and leaving him alone until he realizes that he doesn't have to fear being kenneled. Once he tolerates it for 30 minutes or longer at a time, you're ready to let him try an overnight stay in the crate.
Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.