How to crate train your border collie puppy

How To Crate Train a Border Collie (Owner’s Experience)

The decision as to whether or not to crate train your Border Collie puppy is one that all new owners have to consider. We are big advocates for crate training and used a crate with our Collie Mila when she was a puppy and still use it now when visiting family and friends. We found it made navigating the puppy stage much more manageable. Learning how to crate train your Border Collie helps with everything from toilet training to dealing with separation anxiety. 

In this article we will discuss the benefits of crate training for your Border Collie, which crate to buy and what to put in it. We also have written our own “how to” guide to crate training based upon our experience of introducing and using a crate with Mila.

What are the benefits of crate training a border Collie?

There are so many benefits to learning how to crate train your Border Collie, but below we’ve listed some of our top reasons.

They create a safe space 

Crate training is a fantastic way of creating a space in your home that your Collie can call their own. When your puppy first arrives at your home it can be a very overwhelming experience for them. The new environment, new people and new smells can be very overstimulating and scary for your new pup. A crate can be the perfect way to create a small ‘safe space’ for your puppy to retreat to when they feel they need to. This enables your Collie to explore their new home and family in their own time.

We used crate training when we got our puppy Mila to help her settle in. We also used crate training with our adult rescue Collie Izzy when she joined our home. So if you are wondering how to crate train your adult border Collie, we used the same principles we lay out in this article and it worked a treat!

When leaving your puppy alone during the day, crates are also a great tool for helping keep your Collie calm and relaxed. When left alone dogs can become protective of their surroundings and ‘keep guard’ of the home until your back. It can be distressing for dogs if they feel this responsibility to protect the home and if they have a large space to monitor. When in the crate, border Collies will feel much more relaxed as they will only have to protect this space rather than the whole house. It again acts as a ‘safe space’ for your puppy.

They help you get a good night’s sleep 

How to crate train a border collie benefits

Crate training is also very beneficial at night time. Crates can provide a comfortable and calm space for your Collie puppy to sleep in and can encourage them to sleep through the night. if your puppy gets a good night’s sleep so do you! It also eliminates the chances that your new Collie can cause any damage during the night. You won’t wake up to chewed furniture or ripped up rugs as your puppy won’t be able to access these items whilst you’re not around to stop them. Read our article on how to stop your Border Collie puppy biting for tips on this.

Crates are brilliant for toilet training your Border Collie

Crates can be used as a tool to help with toilet training your border Collie. Dogs are clean animals and will avoid toileting in the same areas where they sleep. So during the night a crate can encourage your puppy to learn how to hold their bladder. You can then reinforce the toileting space for your puppy in the morning by taking your puppy straight outside to do their business. It also stops you coming down in the morning to little accidents littered around your home – if any accidents do happen they will be contained in one area and so much easier to clean up!

They help when you need to stay overnight at a friend’s house!

Another benefit of crate training is that it makes taking our Collies with us when we stay with family and friends an easy experience. We take the crates with us and not only does it provide a familiar space for our Collies to go to when in new environments, but it also provides reassurance for our hosts that our dogs can’t get up to any midnight mischief!

We found crate training to be a hugely positive experience with our Collie Mila. It made managing the puppy stage much easier and alleviated a lot of our stresses about introducing a puppy into our home. And Mila still loves her crate today!

What size crate is appropriate for Border Collies?

We did a lot of research when deciding on what crate to buy for the arrival of Mila. It’s important to remember that your Collie will grow. Buy a smaller crate and you run the risk of having to buy multiple crates as they outgrow the smaller ones. Buy a crate that’s too big and the crate wont work for the purpose intended as it will be too big to provide a safe space for your pup. We took into consideration the expected full size that Collies grow to and brought a crate that could be used throughout Mila’s life. 

The average border Collie will grow to an overall height of between 56-69cm and an average body length of between 71-86cm.  Knowing that a border Collie would reach its full size in 13 months, this information can help you make an informed choice on what crate to buy. We decided on a 42 inch crate that although was a little large for Mila as a puppy, it was still usable for her when she was fully grown. We bought this crate from Elli-bo.

We liked the fact that it could be folded flat and easily transported for when we travelled to visit family and friends. And, it’s definitely stood up to the test of time!

What should you put into a dog crate?

It is important to make the crate as comfortable as possible for your little Collie pup. It should be a warm cosy space that your puppy can use to relax. So, it is crucial to provide lots of warm, soft furnishings for your dog to snuggle up in. We used a small crate mattress at one end, like this one from Amazon to provide a comfortable base for sleeping, and it’s easily washable if any accidents do happen.

We also added a couple of fleece blankets for warmth and comfort; again these are easily washed if accidents do occur and your dog will love curling up in them.

It is also important to provide a soft toy for your pup. When they are young they will cuddle up with them like they would with their litter mates and it will help them to relax and feel settled at night. Mila still has her snuggle toy and it is one of her most prized possessions! This soft toy from Amazon would be a great option for your new Collie – it even has a heartbeat to mimic sleeping next to another puppy!

We also looked at some crates that had water and food bowls in for your dog and discussed the idea of putting these into the crate with Mila. Ultimately, we decided against it. We felt that our Collie would be more likely to have toileting accidents during the night if food and water were available to her during the night. We also thought it could cause a mess from the water being knocked over and ending in our puppy sleeping in wet bedding and being cold and uncomfortable all night. 

We were also not going to be leaving our puppy unattended in their crate for long periods of time during the day so felt it would be best to avoid this. But if this is something to consider if you are planning on leaving your pup in their crate for longer periods of time and bowls that clip on to the side of the crate are available that could minimize this issue.

How to Introduce your Border Collie to the Crate?

When introducing your border Collie to their new crate it is really important to use positive reinforcement throughout the training. Your border Collie needs to understand that it is a safe and happy space that they can call their own and feel secure when in their crate. 

A good way to do this is to hide a couple of their favourite treats under the blankets and encourage them to spend a small amount of time in their crates snuffling through their blankets and exploring to find the treats. The first couple of times you do this with your Border Collie, leave the crate door open. this way your Collie is free to leave the crate whenever they want. 

Once you are assured that your Collie feels calm and happy inside the crate, repeat this activity but this time close the crate door once they are inside. Make sure to stay by the crate so your dog knows they are safe and provide verbal encouragement if required. Once they have found the treats open the crate door and let them leave of their own accord. Then provide your pup with lots of praise and strokes. 

Again once you are happy that your Collie can do this without becoming distressed. Repeat the activity again but once your Collie is inside the crate, close the door and leave them alone to find the treats. 

Return after a short amount of time and again once they have found the treats. Open the door, let them exit the crate and reinforce the positive experience by providing your pup with lots of fuss and praise. 

You can then gradually increase the length of time you leave your border Collie before opening the crate door until they are comfortable to be left for as long as required.

This should give your Collie a very positive connection with their crate. Collies are very intelligent animals and are keen to please their owners and both of ours picked this up in no time!

Rewarding good behaviour while crate training your border collie

Creating a Night-Time Crate Routine with your Border Collie

This is an important stage of learning how to crate train your Border Collie, and it’s easy to do. 

There are just a few things to remember:

Firstly, make sure to feed your border Collie for the last time a couple of hours before its time for bed. This will allow time for your Border Collie to go to the toilet before going into their crate for the night and will reduce the likelihood of a nighttime toileting accident.

Secondly, always give your Collie a final chance to go to the bathroom right before its time to go into their crate at the end of the day. 

Again this will reduce the chances of an accident during the night and it reinforces that the garden or outdoors is the correct place to go to the toilet. 

You should also let them out for toileting first thing in the morning. We do this with our Collies and don’t offer any praise or strokes until they have been outside and done their business. This again reinforces that toileting comes before praise, and it will be a huge reward when they finally greet you for cuddles after their morning wee.

Thirdly, be consistent. Border Collies are fast learners and will learn what their owners are expecting of them quickly if the routine is consistent. Changes to feeding and toileting times at the end of the day can cause confusion and it can be hard for your Collie to understand what is expected of them. Consistency and routine is probably the key thing to stick to when understanding how to crate train your Border Collie.

Border collie crate training using routine to reinforce a successful night's sleep

If your puppy is becoming distressed and really struggling to be left alone at night in their crate, you can house the crate in your bedroom so that your Collie can see you. This helps them feel safer being in there at night. You can then gradually relocate the crate to a more convenient location in the home once they are comfortable with the situation. 

If this doesn’t work, consider whether you’re providing enough mental stimulation for your Border Collie – it could be that they’re just bored!

We have never done this with our Collies and the crate has always been housed in the dining room; our Collies have been comfortable and engaged well with this routine. But friends have used this technique when their dogs have struggled during the night and have told us that it alleviates their dogs distress at night.

Another trick we have used when crate training our Border Collies, especially in the summer months is to use a blanket to cover three sides of their crate. This helps to stop your Border Collie rising at the crack of dawn and trying their best impression of a cockerel to wake up the entire house!

A blanket can look quite messy, and custom covers can be purchased that are a more elegant solution for the same issue.

So this might be a much better option if you are thinking about keeping the crate as a longer term space for your border Collie. Just remember to order the right size for your crate! As they come in various sizes.

How Long Should You leave Your Border Collie Alone in Their Crate?

This is important information to know and can help you to plan your days, especially when your lovely Collie is in their puppy stages. A rule of thumb for how long a Border Collie can be left alone in their crate is for one hour for every month old they are, up until a maximum of 4-5 hours (excluding night time). 

For example: if your border Collie is two months old, they can be left for a maximum of two hours in their crate. 

We wouldn’t recommend leaving your Border Collie in their crate for longer than this amount of time during the day. Personally, we don’t leave our two for longer than four hours at a time. 

Leaving your Border Collie alone in its crate for too long can cause mental and physical health issues. 

They can become depressed and anxious and separation anxiety can occur along with all of the behavioural issues that that brings with it. 

Too long lengths of time in their crate can also cause toileting accidents to occur in their crate and once this toileting behaviour becomes a habit it can be very hard to break. 

So we would recommend that for an adult Border Collie, four hours is the maximum length of time for them to be left alone in their crates, and for a puppy we use the one hour to one month rule as mentioned previously.

When should You Stop Crate Training Your Border Collie?

There is no hard and fast rule for this and some owners choose to continue crate training with their Border Collies throughout their lives. It really is an individual decision based upon the behaviour of your Border Collie and the reasons you chose to start crate training with your Border in the first place. 

We continue to crate train our Border Collie’s until we are satisfied that they are fully toilet trained and we are not worried that they will cause any damage when left alone at night or during the day. This usually coincides with the stage at which they leave the puppy phase and are fully grown. This happens at around 13 months. 

How To Phase Out The Crate?

We believe that the best way to phase out the crate is to use a gradual and consistent approach. This is the last step in understanding how to crate train your Border Collie, but it is an important one!

Begin by completing your evening routine as usual and then when your Collie is in their crate, provide praise and reassurance and leave the crate door a jar when you go to bed. This might encourage your Border Collie to do some exploring of the room during the night but they know they have the safety of returning to their crate if they want to. 

Repeat this for a couple of nights until your Collie is comfortable with the door being left slightly open during the night.

The next step is to do the same again but this time leave the crate door fully open when you go to bed. 

Again this should further encourage your border Collie to explore during the night and allows the opportunity for them to return to their crate if they want to. Repeat this for a couple of nights until again your Collie is comfortable with this.

The next step is to remove the crate but place the items from their crate in the same spot but on the floor. Complete your routine as normal and encourage your dog to lie on their mattress on the floor and provide lots of praise and encouragement. This is the hardest stage and will take the most commitment as it is the most challenging for your dog.

If it is too much for your border Collie, don’t be afraid to go back and repeat the previous stage. Positive reinforcement is the best approach to dog training.

Once they are calm and comfortable in the final stage, you can introduce your border Collie’s new bed and remove the crate completely.

Concluding thoughts

We hope you’ve found this article and our experiences of crate training a useful guide to how to crate train your Border Collie. We are firm believers in crate training and the benefits it brings for Border Collie ownerships. For more training and lifestyle tips why not check out our article on Border Collie Separation Anxiety. There’s lots of hints and tricks to help support your border Collie when you are leaving them alone.

Best of luck to you and your lovely Collie!