Labrador Retrievers are physically active and energetic dogs, and they don’t like to feel confined in one place for too long. When you leave your Labrador in his crate while you go out, it’s essential to know how long you can leave him there.
Labradors should not be left in a crate for more than 4 hours as they are prone to separation anxiety, and leaving a dog home alone in a crate all day can harm their mental and physical health. Puppies are different, too – you should not leave pups in a crate for more than 1 hour for each month of age.
In this article, you’ll learn,
- How long to leave your Lab in a crate, according to age.
- Health issues of over-crating your Lab.
- How long you can crate your Lab at night.
- Alternatives to crating your Labrador.
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So, let’s dive into the myths versus reality in how long you can leave your Labrador in a crate.
- Can You Leave a Lab in a Crate for 8 Hours?
- Benefits of Crate Training
- How to Crate Train a Labrador Puppy
- How Long Can Labrador Puppies Hold Their Bladder?
- Health Issues of Over-crating a Dog
- What Size Crate Do Labs Need?
- How Long Can You Leave a Lab in a Crate at Night?
- Crate Alternatives
- Guilt-Free Solutions to Leaving Your Lab Alone
- Final Thoughts
Can You Leave a Lab in a Crate for 8 Hours?
So, you’ve just brought your new puppy home and spent your first few fun days together. But now reality sets in, and you need to go back to work! You start to wonder if you can leave your Lab in a crate for 8 hours while you’re gone.
You can not leave a Labrador in a crate for 8 hours. They need lots of attention and won’t be able to hold their bladder that long. They also need lots of exercise and stimulation, and crating them for extended periods is detrimental to their health.
Dogs are highly social animals, and it’s irresponsible and ruthless to leave a Lab in a crate for 8 hours, except overnight as an adult. Here’s a handy table showing the maximum recommended time to leave a Labrador in a crate according to age:
|Age of Labrador||Maximum Crate Time|
|8-10 weeks||Up to 1 hour|
|11-14 weeks||1 – 3 hours|
|15-16 weeks||3 – 4 hours|
|17 weeks +||4 hours|
It’s never acceptable to regularly crate a dog all day long. Unfortunately, this can make it somewhat challenging for owners and families who don’t have anyone at home during the working day. However, don’t worry, as I’ll tell you about plenty of alternative solutions later.
Benefits of Crate Training
There are many benefits to crate training. My 8-week-old puppy was crate trained as soon as we brought her home, as recommended by her breeder. Once she had reached four months of age, she was never left during the day for more than three hours in her crate.
Here are some of the many benefits of crate training:
- Helps your puppy immediately settle into his new home.
- Accelerates toilet training as puppies naturally try to avoid making a mess where they sleep. Check out my ultimate guide on Lab potty training here.
- Provides a safe place for your Lab pup to go when he is alone or when you can’t supervise him.
- Allows your pup to have his own special place where he can go to rest, sleep, or chew his favorite toys.
- Makes traveling much easier if your dog is crate-trained.
Dogs that have been crate-trained love their crates and perceive them as their own special “den” where no one else is permitted. My dog would go crazy when I reached inside to clean her crate and to change her bedding as if to say, “Hey! Get out! This is my crate!
Never use a crate as a punishment tool for your Labrador. It should be a happy place where your dog associates positive experiences. To learn how to discipline your Lab, check out this article, How to Discipline a Labrador: What Not to Do!
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How to Crate Train a Labrador Puppy
So, you decided to take your breeder’s advice and had a lovely new crate waiting for your pup when you arrived home. Although Labradors are intelligent dogs, training should start early, including crate training, as it’s easier the younger they are. But how do you crate-train a Labrador?
To crate train a Labrador puppy, slowly introduce him by tossing a treat inside and letting him investigate the crate voluntarily. Only do it for a few seconds when you first close the door. Make this a fun game during the first few days and gradually increase to a few minutes.
The idea is that the puppy learns to associate the crate with a positive experience, such as a treat. To learn tons more on crate training, check out my step-by-step guide, Easy Labrador Puppy Crate Training.
How Long Can Labrador Puppies Hold Their Bladder?
One of the reasons why puppies shouldn’t be left for more than 4 hours in a crate is because of their little bladders, as they can’t control them for that length of time!
A Labrador puppy can generally hold its bladder for 1 hour for every month of age, up to a maximum of 3 hours at 6 months old, and increasing to 6-8 hours as a fully grown adult. However, young puppies should be allowed to relieve themselves every hour for fewer accidents.
Exactly how long a Lab can hold its pee as they grow up depends on many factors such as age, health, diet, and size of the dog. However, the basic principle still applies to house-trained adult dogs, who should be allowed outside to pee at least 3-4 times during the day.
Remember, always exercise your Labrador and allow him to go to the toilet before leaving him in his crate.
Health Issues of Over-crating a Dog
Being crated for extended periods can lead to mental and physical health issues for your dog. Here are a few significant consequences of leaving your Labrador in a crate for too long:
- Separation anxiety is a miserable condition that some dogs have to deal with. Labradors are extremely friendly and social, and when left unattended for several hours, especially in a crate, they begin to get anxious and distressed. They worry if you’ll return and may also suffer from depression without sufficient human interaction.
- Hip and elbow dysplasia is a disease prevalent in Labradors. If your adult dog is crated for hours during the day, it cannot stretch out and move around sufficiently. The lack of space without exercise for hours can cause additional pain and discomfort in your Lab’s joints.
- Restlessness during the evening is a common issue when owners over-crate their dogs. Excessive amounts of pent-up energy might occur when your Lab is supposed to be tired or winding down for the night; even if you have taken him for his evening walk, this may not be adequate.
- Labradors left in their cage for too long can develop obesity. Without enough exercise and mental stimulation throughout the day, Labradors can quickly become unhealthy. Don’t forget that they were initially bred as working dogs due to their strength and stamina. Labs need open running space and at least two 45-60 minutes of exercise per day, including lots of playtimes.
According to a recent study, keeping dogs kennelled and isolated from humans can cause extreme stress. Despite being adequately stimulated during the day, these police dogs showed signs of mental illness after being kennelled after work.
What Size Crate Do Labs Need?
Labradors are a medium-large dog breed so it should be no surprise that they need a large crate.
Labradors need a size 42-inch crate which provides enough space for your Lab to comfortably move around and lie on his side with paws outstretched. A 42″ crate will allow him to grow into, but use a divider panel while he is still a puppy.
Choose a metal crate and preferably a heavy-duty one with safe and secure slide-bolt latches. Most metal crates will fold flat, making them easily transportable. You can opt for either a single or double door or both, providing options depending on how you wish to position the crate in your home.
I like the Midwest Homes for Pets icrate from Amazon as it has everything you need, including a divider panel and a wipe-clean removable tray. It’s easy to set up, and you don’t need any tools! But if you want some other excellent alternatives, check out this article, The 8 Best Dog Crates for Labradors (and Playpens).
Nonetheless, a crate on its own will not just turn into a haven for your dog and keep him entertained. Here’s a list of the items that you should have inside your Labrador’s crate:
- A crate pad or mattress. A suitable crate pad is essential to keep your Lab cozy and comfortable. All dogs love to be pampered, especially when they’re home alone. I love the Big Barker crate pad. It’s 4 inches deep and perfect for big dogs prone to joint issues, such as the Labrador.
- Plenty of toys. Provide your Lab with various exciting chew and interactive toys to keep him busy and entertained. KONG toys are ideal for Labs and will relieve boredom, and you can even stuff treats inside them to keep your dog happy. Something like the KONG Classic Toy from Amazon is perfect.
- Food and water. It can be difficult to prevent your Lab from messing with their food and water bowls in a crate, but there is a solution! Purchase clip-on bowls that hang onto the side of the crate. These hold firmly in place, preventing anything from being knocked over.
- A blanket to cover the crate. This makes the crate feel more like a den and can help your Labrador feel more secure. I used to cover at least half of my dog’s crate with a blanket. It also prevented her from being distracted by outside noises, such as children playing.
How Long Can You Leave a Lab in a Crate at Night?
Crates can help your puppy settle on his first night in his new environment, but how long can you leave a dog in a crate at night?
Labradors can be left in a crate at night for 7-8 hours once they fully control their bladder and bowels, generally after 6-7 months. Before this, they may need a potty break overnight. Owners of young puppies like to place the crate near their bedroom for this very reason.
Some puppy owners will also have a second crate as it can be a pain having to move it around at night. Plus, you don’t want your Labrador to associate crating with feeling isolated, so his main crate should be placed in a popular room in the home, preferably in a quiet draftproof corner.
If you really don’t like the idea of crating your Labrador, there are a few options you can consider. Let’s take a look at the alternatives:
- Dog gates. These gates allow you to decide how much space your puppy can have to move around in your home by sectioning off various off-limit areas. You can find a large selection of dog gates on Amazon, and there are many different styles to match your decor. Choose something like the Carlson Extra Tall Gate, as you’ll benefit from the extra height.
- Dog playpens. Puppy playpens are perfect for young Labradors who need more room. Some of these can even be connected to a crate to make a cool combination of a cozy resting space and room to roam. You can even use some outside. If you have a higher budget, take a look at this BestPet Dog Pen from Amazon. It’s perfect for both indoors and outdoors, you can configure it into multiple shapes without having to use any tools, and it’s easy to move around.
- Train your Lab to stay outside. Some owners prefer to leave their Labradors outside. This is okay as long as they have been trained to stay out from an early age. You need to provide food, water, and shelter, such as a dog house, especially in colder climates. If I ever had an outside dog, I would buy the Midwest Homes For Pets Wood Dog House from Amazon! A bit pricey, but it’s pretty cool, nonetheless.
You can slowly train your Labrador to roam free throughout the house no matter which method you choose. However, this process takes time. You can start by initially leaving the crate door open when you go out or gradually increasing the size of their gated area until it fits the size of a room.
Once your Lab is used to the freedom, you can open the house up for them. My dog was 12 months old before I started leaving her crate door open and two years old before she was allowed free reign of the house.
You can also invest in a pet camera, such as the Furbo from Amazon, which allows you to check on your Lab to make sure he’s okay. You can get cheaper dog cameras, but I love how you can toss treats out to your dog, all controlled remotely from your smartphone! They’re crazy!
Guilt-Free Solutions to Leaving Your Lab Alone
It’s never a good idea to leave your Labrador alone for a long time, or whether you use a crate. If you are out at work all day, here are some other solutions you can consider. These can be mixed and matched throughout the week:
- Take your pet to doggy daycare
- Hire a dog walker or dog sitter
- Call home at lunchtime to exercise your Lab
- Arrange for someone to call and let your dog out and interact with him
- Work from home where possible
- Take your Labrador to work
Labradors are prone to feeling anxious if they’re left alone for too long. Remember that you shouldn’t leave them in a crate for longer than four hours per day and even less for growing puppies up to four months.
The crate should be at least a size 42 inches. Labs grow into big dogs! They require plenty of room to stretch out and turn around. In the meantime, use a crate divider.
My dog adored her crate. She loved to go and chill out if she wanted to rest or needed some peace away from me! In fact, some dogs love their crate so much they never outgrow them!
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