How To Stop Your Puppy Or Dog From Crying In Their Crate
So you’ve started crate training. Many experts, including your vet, have endorsed and supported the practice so you buy the best dog crate you can find. You follow instructions and place your puppy in the crate overnight or during the day when you are not able to supervise them...and it starts.
Your puppy starts to cry bloody murder, yelping as if they are being strangled. You panic because your neighbours surely think you are abusing the dog. You also feel that rush of guilt that you are caging your dog.
But then you take to online advice and they assure you that crating isn’t cruel at all and is part of the housetraining process. So… what to do?
What can you do about your puppy crying in the crate? Is there anything you can do?
Must you grin and bear the loud shrieks?
Don’t worry. We’re going to put your mind at ease today with the full low down of crate training.
The Case For Crating Your Dog
First, let’s be honest. The yelping and crying have probably spooked you out of crate training your puppy at all at the moment, right?
I completely understand! It’s tough to hear your puppy yelping in the middle of the night and how stressful that is. It sounds like torture… but is it torture?
In a word, no. When used correctly, crates are a place of solace for your dog.
“Crates benefit both ends of the leash: your dog and you. They aren’t just relaxing and protective for your pup, they also provide you with peace of mind and precious moments of relaxation!” - Jason Nicholas, BVetMed, Preventative Vet (1)
Crates are meant to be a place of rest and calm for your puppy, as well as helping you instil good house etiquette.
As long as you are using the crate correctly and ease them into everyday use, I can assure you, it is not a torture device for them.
Is My Puppy Whining In Their Crate Normal?
At first, do a degree, yes. Particularly if you haven’t really prepped them fully for the crating experience.
Don’t blame yourself here! It is natural to a degree to make mistakes and just throw your puppy into a crate overnight for the first-time expecting things to be fine. It is a new experience for you and them. So do bear in mind it is quite a shock to them to be left alone in a crate for any period, let alone overnight.
The main reasons your puppy is whining in their crate are:
It is quite common for young puppies to suffer from separation anxiety. If you aren’t careful, this feeling can continue into adulthood which is best avoided. You’ll know if your dog has separation anxiety if they struggle to be left alone in any environment, in or out of the crate. You can use positive reinforcement to train away separation anxiety in puppies. (2)
Without a proper introduction to crating, your puppy may be quite frightened in the first instance. This can also correlate to what their life was like before you bought or adopted them (depending on the circumstances). If the crate environment isn’t particularly enriching, this will add to a sense of feeling “caged” rather than being at peace.
It is never a good idea to crate train a puppy while they still have tons of energy. If they are feeling playful and rambunctious, putting them in a crate will make them feel stifled. They will (sometimes literally) be bouncing off the walls.
Because of these reasons, in the first few tries of using a crate, your puppy is likely to whine. It takes a bit of a learning curve to get things right.
PRO TIP: Please don’t panic if your puppy isn’t an instant ocean of calm when you first introduce them to crate training.
As with everything, it is a process.
What You Shouldn't Do When Your Dog Is Crying In Their Crate
A common problem that arises is how long to let your puppy cry in their crate before intervening.
Do you just let them cry themselves to sleep until they are exhausted?
This practice is called “crying it out” and is to be avoided. It’s an outdated concept that just heightens your puppy’s anxiety.
The best thing to do in the beginning is to commit to small intervals in the crate at a time. We’ll dive into this technique in more detail in the tips below.
How To Stop Your Dog From Crying in the Crate: 4 Tips
So now we know that whining to a degree is natural in the beginning, and we know what not to do to solve it, here are our tips for humane, positive training techniques that will help your puppy feel more at ease in their crate.
1. Introduce them to crate training slowly
The most common mistake of first-time puppy owners is putting them in a crate for a long time straight away. If it’s not a cruel practice then what’s the problem?
Well, your puppy is like a toddler that needs guidance, patience and support at every new juncture. Crate training is a new challenge for them. Become the sensei that guides your prodigy to success.
The best course of action is a slow implementation over a while.
- The Open Invitation
Keep the crate open and make it the most exciting place to be (which we will discuss in tip 2). Allow your pup to explore on their own time. Have a sniff around. Interact with the toys and treats they may find there. You can use encouraging language to further enforce how pleased you are to see them use it.
- Crate Games
Now add in an element of instruction to the exploration. Essentially, you want to add a common like “in your crate” accompanied by lots of treats to encourage your puppy to go into the crate on cue. Again, all the doors should be open still. No confinement just yet
- First Lockdowns
The first few times you close the door, it should be for extremely short periods of time and whilst you are still in the room. Use your voice and treats to reward your pup for remaining calm when the door is closed.
- The Short Session
You can move onto the short session once you are confident that your puppy is not screaming the house down when the door has first been closed with you in the room. Now step out of the room. The smallest increment can be for just 90seconds. See how they react and reward massively when you come back into the room and let them out.
Slowly increase the short sessions from 90seconds to 10minutes.
If your puppy is super distressed around the 7 minute mark, go make a step until they are comfortable at 7 minutes, before progressing to 10 minutes.
- The Long Session
When you feel confident, you can start training longer sessions in the crate while you are in the house, but in a different room. Then try sessions when you are out of the house. A dog camera may be helpful if you want to monitor them while you are away.
PRO TIP: If you have a puppy that is younger than 6 months, they should only be left in their crate for max 3 hours. They can’t hold their bladder for much longer than that and accidents set back your progress!
- The Overnight Session
Overnight sessions are tricky with puppies because they can only hold their bladder for so long. If they are over 6 months old and you are diligently taking them out to pee before they go into their crate, you can leave them for up to 6 hours. However, lie-ins are a no-no! Your puppy will be crying first thing in the morning because they need to pee.
2. Make the crate an enriching environment
"In a nutshell, your job is to make every interaction the new puppy has with her crate a positive one. So go slow and try not to stress the puppy or yourself over the process.” - Dan Scott, Dogs Naturally Magazine (3)
The perfect crate entices your puppy to use it even when they are not told to. It is a place of calm for them.
One of my dogs habitually uses his crate as his quiet place whenever he is overwhelmed or overstimulated by houseguests (he is a bit of a loner). He gracefully takes himself to his den where comfy crate beds, blankets, and toys surround him.
3. Exercise your dog before putting them in their crate
Remember I said that boredom is a key factor as to why your puppy may be complaining? Well, no matter how fun and relaxing an atmosphere the crate may be, it won’t solve an energetic puppy’s need to play.
It’s like telling a child to go to bed when they have bundles of energy to burn off still.
(And every parent knows how hard that is!)
So set your puppy up for success by thoroughly exercising with them before they go into their crate. A vigorous walk or active play and training session normally does the trick!
4. Take them out to pee whenever they cry
My final tip is around association. The reason why the “crying it out” method of ignoring your puppy when they cry stuck around for so long is the science of association.
The logic goes that if you tend to your puppy when they cry, you are reinforcing that crying = attention. This creates a positive feedback loop that can be hard to break.
But I would argue, the way to solve this is not to ignore them but to create a new association.
What if every time your puppy cries, you take them outside to pee?
Your puppy will soon learn that the association with crying is the need for the toilet. This feedback loop is helpful for both of you, as they will learn a very clear communicative way of letting you know they need to go.
My Final Thoughts
My final thoughts are to say please have patience and grace with yourself and your dog. Crate training takes some getting used to for both of you. It is perfectly natural not to get it completely right in the beginning and we hope this article helped steer you in the right direction.
The best alternative to crate training is dog sitting or puppy boarding whilst you are unable to supervise. Of course, this comes at a certain expense that is not available to everyone, but it may work better for you and your dog. Speak to your vet about trusted local dog sitters that can help you.
Crating a puppy is not a linear process I’m afraid! It can take days or weeks depending on your dog’s personality. (4) Some dog breeds are even notoriously more difficult to housetrain (Daschunds, I’m looking at you!). The average is around 3 weeks but some clever pups grasp the concept much sooner than that.
- Nicholas, J. May 2, 2017. “Everything You Need to Know About Crate Training Your Puppy or Adult Dog”. Preventive Vet. Retrieved on April 18, 2021. https://www.preventivevet.com/dogs/everything-you-need-to-know-about-crate-training-your-puppy-or-adult-dog
- Horwitz, D & Landsberg, G. “Separation Anxiety in Dogs”. VCA Animal Hospitals. Retrieved on April 18, 2021. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/separation-anxiety-in-dogs
- Scott, D. September 8, 2020. “6 Steps To Successfully Crate Train Your Puppy”. Dog Naturally Magazine. Retrieved on April 18, 2021. https://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/crate-training-a-puppy/
- “Crate Training 101”. Humane Society. Retrieved on April 18, 2021. https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/crate-training-101