How Long is Too Long? The Ultimate Guide to Dog Crate Time

As a dog owner, you want to ensure that your pet is safe and comfortable at all times. One question that many pet owners have is how long their dog should be in a crate. While crates can be a useful tool for training and keeping your dog safe, it’s important to know the appropriate amount of time to keep your dog in one.

The general rule of thumb is that puppies should not be left in a crate for longer than their age in months plus one hour. For example, if your puppy is three months old, it should not be crated for longer than four hours at a time. For adult dogs, the maximum amount of time they should be crated is generally around six to eight hours, depending on their age, health, and individual needs.

However, it’s important to remember that every dog is different and may have different needs when it comes to crate time. In this article, we will explore the factors to consider when determining how long your dog should be in a crate, as well as tips for making crate time as comfortable and safe as possible for your pet.

Recommended Time in a Crate

When it comes to crate training your dog, it’s important to know how long your pet can stay in the crate. The amount of time a dog can spend in a crate depends on their age, temperament, and health status. Here’s a breakdown of recommended crate times for puppies, adult dogs, and senior dogs:


If you have a puppy, it’s important to remember that they have smaller bladders and need to go out to use the bathroom more frequently. As a general rule, puppies should not be crated for more than a few hours at a time. At 8-10 weeks old, puppies can stay in a crate for up to 30-60 minutes. By 6 months old, they can stay in a crate for up to 3-4 hours at a time.

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Adult Dogs

Adult dogs can typically stay in a crate for longer periods than puppies. The recommended crate time for adult dogs is between 4-6 hours. However, it’s important to remember that each dog is different and some may need to go out more frequently than others. If you’re going to be away from home for longer than 6 hours, it’s best to have someone come and let your dog out to use the bathroom.

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Beagle Dog lying in a crate under stairs

Senior Dogs

Senior dogs may have different needs when it comes to crate time. If your senior dog has health issues or mobility problems, it may need to go out more frequently. As a general rule, senior dogs should not be crated for more than 4-6 hours at a time.

Remember, the amount of time your dog can spend in a crate depends on their individual needs and circumstances. Always monitor your dog’s behavior and adjust their crate time accordingly. By following these guidelines, you can help ensure your pet stays happy and healthy.


Factors to Consider

Age of the Dog

The age of your dog is an important factor to consider when deciding how long it should be in a crate. Puppies have smaller bladders and higher energy levels, so they need to be let out more frequently than adult dogs.

Puppies can be crated for up to 2 hours at a time for every month of age, up to a maximum of 8 hours for puppies over 4 months old. Adult dogs, on the other hand, can stay in a crate for up to 8 hours at a time.

Size of the Crate

The size of the crate is another important factor to consider. According to Hill’s Pet, the crate should be big enough for your dog to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably. However, it should not be so big that your dog can use one end as a bathroom and the other end as a sleeping area. The size of the crate should also be appropriate for the size of your dog. See the table below for some guidelines on crate size based on your dog’s weight and length.

Dog Weight Crate Size
Up to 30 lbs (13.5 kg) 24-inch-long (61 cm) crate, or small size
Up to 40 lbs (18 kg) 30-inch-long (76 cm) crate, or medium size
Up to 70 lbs (32 kg) 36-inch-long (91 cm) crate, or large size
Up to 90 lbs (41 kg) 42-inch-long (107 cm) crate, or extra-large size
Over 90 lbs (41 kg) 48-inch-long (122 cm) crate, or extra-extra-large size

Length of Time

The length of time your dog should be in a crate depends on their age and energy level, as well as your schedule. According to Anxiety In Dogs, a good rule of thumb is to never leave your dog in its crate for more than 8 hours. Even 8 hours is stretching it, since they may need to go to the bathroom during that time. If you have to leave your dog for longer than 8 hours, consider hiring a dog walker or pet sitter to let them out and give them some exercise.

Benefits of Crate Training

Preventing Destructive Behavior

Crate training your dog can help prevent destructive behavior when you’re not home. Dogs have an instinct to chew, and they may chew on furniture, shoes, or other items in your home when left alone. By providing a crate as a safe space for your dog, you can prevent this destructive behavior and keep your belongings safe.

Providing a Safe Space

A crate can also provide a safe space for your dog to retreat to when they feel overwhelmed or anxious. Dogs are den animals and they naturally seek out small, enclosed spaces to feel secure. By providing a crate as a safe space, you can help your dog feel more comfortable and reduce their stress levels.

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Assisting with House Training

Crate training can also assist with house training your dog. Dogs naturally try to avoid soiling their sleeping area, so by keeping your dog in a crate when you’re not able to supervise them, you can help teach them to hold their bladder and bowel movements until they’re outside. It’s important to note that you should never leave your dog in a crate for too long, as this can lead to accidents and discomfort.

According to the American Kennel Club, “crate training can be an effective way to house train a puppy or new dog.” By using positive reinforcement and gradually increasing the amount of time your dog spends in the crate, you can help them feel comfortable and secure in their safe space.

Tips for Crate Training Success

Crate training can be an effective way to help your dog feel safe and secure, but it requires patience and consistency. Follow these tips to ensure success:

Making the Crate Comfortable

Choose a crate that is the appropriate size for your dog, allowing them to stand up, turn around, and lay down comfortably. Add a comfortable bed or blanket to make the crate a cozy and inviting space. Make sure the crate is in a quiet, low-traffic area of your home to minimize distractions and stress.

Gradual Introduction

Introduce your dog to the crate gradually, allowing them to explore it on their terms. Start by leaving the crate door open and placing treats and toys inside to encourage your dog to investigate. Once your dog is comfortable going in and out of the crate, start closing the door for short periods while you are home.

Positive Reinforcement

Use positive reinforcement to encourage your dog to enjoy spending time in the crate. Offer treats and praise when your dog voluntarily goes into the crate, and avoid using the crate as punishment. Gradually increase the amount of time your dog spends in the crate, always keeping a positive and supportive attitude.

Remember, every dog is different, and crate training may take longer for some dogs than others. Be patient, and consistent, and always keep your dog’s comfort and well-being in mind.

Sources: The Humane Society of the United States, American Kennel Club


Is it cruel to crate a dog while at work?

Crating your dog while at work is not recommended. At the most, it should only be for 8 hours, and only then for emergency cases and with assistance. Get a family friend or neighbor to help you so that your dog can get a little time outside of the crate until you can get home.

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A local pet sitter is also a good option to reduce the time your dog must be confined to the crate if you will be stuck at work.

Can I crate my dog for 12 hours?

12 hours is too much time isolation. Aside from hygienic concerns, this much time in a confined space can lead to depression, acting out, and many other health issues for your pet. At the most, you should only crate for 8 hours at a time and this should only be for emergencies.

When should I stop crating my dog at night?

Generally, it will take approximately 2 years for the crate training to do its work so that your dog will be mature enough to behave on their own. While it’s sometimes a much faster process, it will vary from dog to dog, with larger dogs often taking more time.

Can I have a dog if I work 9-5?

Most people have to work full-time, so don’t worry – with a little preparation you can still have a dog. Pet sitters can help and you can also enlist the aid of family members to help to ensure that your pets get enough exercise and attention. It just takes a bit of dedication and careful scheduling.

Should I leave water in the dog crate at night?

With a healthy dog, hydration overnight should be an issue. They will be getting plenty of food and water during the day and if you put more in the cage, then your dog might drink it up and need to go outside much sooner than expected! This also gets your dog used to thinking of the crate as more of a ‘den’ and area for simply resting.

Can a dog sleep in a crate without a bed?

Many dogs like sleeping on the floor, but most would much rather sleep on a comfortable bed at night. A bed makes the crate warm and cozy and along with toys inside, creates an environment that your dog will eventually look forward to and speeds up the crate training.  

Should dog crates be covered?

 A dog crate should not be completely covered. While a partial covering can simulate the look and feel of a den, you must be extremely careful that it cannot be pulled in and that it is not large enough to become a potentially dangerous obstruction.

Make sure to use breathable fabrics only and keep a watch on the temperature so that your dog doesn’t get hot and with careful consideration, a partial covering should be fine.

Where should I leave my dog when I go to work?

A crate is an option, provided that it’s durable and that your dog will not be in there for extended periods – and that it’s an adult dog.

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Puppies cannot be left alone for long periods, so if you have a pup then you’ll want to get the assistance of a friend, family member, or professional pet sitter until they mature enough for longer periods in the crate.