Should you cover your dog’s crate? Owners are constantly trying to find new ways to make the crate more appealing, cozy, and welcoming for their dogs. After all, the crate can be such a useful tool when our dog actually enjoys being in there.
This article contains everything you need to know, and includes 9 useful tips on making the crate your dog’s favorite place.
The short answer is that it depends on your dog. Although covering your dog’s crate with a blanket has it’s positives, not all dogs like it. Covering the crate might help a nervous dog feel more calm and safe, while for others it could cause them to fear the crate even more.
Why Do We Use Dog Crates?
This isn’t an article about how to crate train, but it’s still a good idea to cover what it is, and especially why we use dog crates in the first place.
Dog crates are used inside your house to keep your dog/puppy confined in one place. Initially, this sounds cruel, but it’s only to keep him here at certain times.
Dog crates should not be viewed as some sort of prison for your dog, and that’s the first mistake a lot of new dog owners make. The idea of the crate is actually to mimic that of a den, as dogs would have used to have in the wild.
The benefits of your puppy having his own little “den” or safe zone are very important. You’re going to need to leave the house regularly, so putting your puppy in his safe zone will help him feel calm and secure while nobody is home. His crate should also be used at nighttime while he’s still potty training.
Your life will be so much easier if your puppy enjoys and finds comfort in his crate, rather than fears it. Keep reading to find out exactly how to achieve this.
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Should You Cover a Dog Crate With a Blanket?
This is perhaps the single most asked question regarding crate training. So I will cover this separately just below. Then I’ll go through 9 more things you can do to help your puppy enjoy his crate.
Why Cover a Dog Crate?
By putting a cover or blanket over the top of the crate, you’re essentially making it more “den-like”. Sometimes this works well, but other times it does not.
By covering the top, back and sides, or just the top, it’s thought to be more calming for your pup. The environment will be slightly darker, warmer, quieter, and there’ll be fewer distractions.
If there’s less stimulation, it may make it easier for your puppy to relax and be calm while inside his crate.
Should You Cover Your Dog’s Crate?
Ultimately, this depends on your puppy/dog. Some puppies will react differently to this than others and it depends on what stage you are at with crate training.
If you have a puppy that is not yet 100% comfortable with his crate, you may find that he’ll dislike having a cover over it. If you have a mature dog who has been using his crate for years, a cover may be a great addition for him.
With your puppy, you can always try it and then gauge his response. If he backs up and seems to fear it, you’ll have to try again another time. He will need to become more comfortable with his crate before you pimp it out with a blanket.
9 Essential Crate Tips That Will Benefit Your Puppy
Let’s go over 9 tips that will help your puppy feel more safe, comfortable and secure when it’s time to go in his crate.
Some of these ideas will work better with certain breeds, and some won’t. But, out of the 9 tips, there will surely be at least one thing that will help your puppy today.
1) Put an old unwashed t-shirt in his crate
One thing you can do is take an old, unwashed t-shirt of yours, and place it in his cate. Your puppy will be able to smell you at all times and this will be extremely reassuring for him. It will help him think that you are nearby at all times.
Only use an old t-shirt for when you’re going to bed or leaving the house. This way, it will still act as a comforter, but he won’t become completely reliant upon it. It’s good for your puppy to learn that sometimes it will be there, and sometimes it won’t. This will prove more effective when you need to leave him for longer durations.
After 4 months of age, the chances of him ripping it increases, so you may consider stopping it after 16 weeks.
One less t-shirt you’ll have to wash 😉
2) Reserve his favorite toy, only for the crate
Time to go out and buy your puppy a brand new toy he’ll love. Instead of giving it to him to chew at all times, you can use it in a clever way to make him feel more comfortable with this crate.
While I don’t suggest leaving plush toys inside his crate at all times, you can use it for short periods while you are there to supervise. This is a clever way to help him build positive associations with his crate. To try it out, get him a new toy he hasn’t seen before and get him as excited as possible for it, then give it to him inside of his crate. Leave him inside with his toy for 10 minutes or so then bring him out, and remove the toy.
For you, it may not seem very significant, but for your puppy, a little association technique like this could be the difference between him loving his crate or fearing it.
3) Suitable dog mat/bed (not a fluffy blanket!)
I know how tempting it can be to get a super soft fluffy blanket for your puppy. While it seems like the right thing to do, it’s actually encouraging him to chew and shred which is a bad habit you want to avoid.
It may appear to make the crate “cozy” but it’s doing more bad than good. Instead, you should opt for a proper crate mat that is still very comfortable but just made out of a more suitable, tougher material. I have a recommended option below 🙂
4) Keep his water bowl outside
By having water in the crate, it’s encouraging him to make a potty accident as puppies cannot hold their bladders for very long.
As part of your bedtime routine, your puppy’s last meal and drink should be at least 2 hours before he’s ready to sleep. This way you significantly reduce the chances of him making a potty mistake.
Making accidents inside the crate isn’t nice for your puppy and he will know that he has done something wrong. These kinds of negative situations will only create a bad association between your puppy and the crate.
5) Use a snuggle puppy toy (under 2 months old)
There are a lot of opinions about whether or not toys should be in the crate with puppies. It is always best to supervise your puppy with toys, as you don’t want him ripping bits off, creating a choking hazard.
However, when your puppy comes home for the first few nights, he’s going to be very stressed. A comforting toy inside his crate, especially when he arrives home, could help him significantly. The point is to only do this while he’s still very young, and incapable of actually ripping anything. Before 3 months, it’s unlikely your puppy’s teeth or mouth will have enough power to rip a toy. So this is the perfect time to use a snuggle puppy.
A snuggle puppy is a soft “teddy bear” like toy, where you can insert a heating pad. This helps keep your puppy warm, and for him, it can resemble sleeping next to his mom. I really recommend this one, you can view it on Amazon.
6) Don’t’ force your puppy to go in his crate
Again, this is like number 2. It’s more of a training-style tip. In order for your puppy to become familiar with his crate, he needs a little time. Don’t force him inside.
It’s a great idea to be in the room with him, on the floor by the crate with its door open. Play around with your puppy and have an enjoyable time. For the first few times, you don’t even need to involve the crate. Its presence is enough. After a couple of days, start throwing the dog toy inside the crate. Let your puppy go in and out freely.
As your puppy becomes completely familiar, it will be normal for him to start laying down in his crate with his toy. When this happens, back away and let him be. Eventually, your puppy will see his crate as something completely normal.
7) Meal times in the crate
Food is one of the top priorities in your puppy’s life, so having him eat his meals by the side of the crate or inside, will quickly build a positive association.
If your puppy is comfortable enough to venture inside, then place the bowl right at the entrance, with the door open. Let him eat his food how he likes, but keep the bowl next to the crate.
As they become comfortable, start putting his bowl physically inside, but don’t close the door! You aren’t trying to trick him so keep the door open.
8) Always practice positive reinforcement
Throughout the crate training stages, it counts to be very aware of how your puppy starts interacting with his crate. When your puppy becomes familiar with his crate and takes an interest, encourage him, and always praise him heavily.
Positive reinforcement-based training works so well because you’re building positive associations and encouraging behavior that gets rewarded. All puppies are much more inclined to repeat something that they know gets a positive response from their owner. Always remember this!
9) Cover the crate with a blanket!
Why not save the best to last! This is the question that brought you here in the first place anyway!
Yes, putting a blanket or covering the crate does work well and makes his crate more “den-like” The trick is to introduce it to him slowly.
After your puppy is comfortable with his crate, try adding a blanket over the top, but only covering the single top panel. This way it won’t make it too dark or different. As your puppy progresses, try covering the sides too, and gauge how he reacts.
Recommended Items Discussed Above
Throughout the 9 essential crate training tips above, I covered a few items that you may not already have. You can check them out below 🙂
Snuggle Puppy Toy This is a great toy that will be extra helpful for puppies that have just left their mother and siblings. It’s soft and comes with a heat pack that gives off warmth while they cuddle up next to it. It’s highly recommended and has been shown to improve puppy sleep dramatically.
Gorilla Grip Waterproof Crate Mat It’s a good idea to get a crate mat that your puppy won’t be inclined to chew. These mats are hard wearing and are made with waterproof material for easy cleaning. Despite their durability, they’re still comfortable enough for your puppy!
Kong Classic Chew Toy It won’t be long before your puppy enters their teething stage, and having a pacifying chew toy like the Kong will help keep your puppy from chewing things they shouldn’t be! An inexpensive, highly recommended option.
Crate Training Tips: Recommended Youtube Video
This is an awesome video that goes over the best approach for crate training. Using the tips above, with the advice given in this video will make crate training your puppy, pretty easy. This video is by Rachel Fusaro on Youtube: https://youtu.be/N5oaxUWesJk?t=16
So now you know that yes you can cover your dog crate with a blanket, and this may help your puppy feel more safe and secure in their crate. Always observe your puppy around the crate and you’ll get a feel for things they do like and don’t like, which will all go towards an easy crate training experience.