How To Stop Your Puppy From Crying In The Crate
All you need is patience and a lot of treats.
You recently brought home a new puppy, and you’re currently trying to get him used to his new routine. But for some reason, your puppy isn’t getting the hang of being in his crate, which is resulting in a lot of crying, whining, barking and overall stress.
What does it mean when your crated puppy is crying, and how can you stop your puppy from whining in his crate? With the right tools, it’s actually possible to train your pup to love being in there when you’re sleeping or not at home. All you need is a bit of patience and a lot of treats and chew toys.
The Dodo got advice from Dr. Whitney Miller, chief veterinarian at Petco, and Shelby Semel, head trainer at Animal Haven rescue in New York City, to find out more about how you can train your puppy to stop crying and love his crate — and yes, it can be done.
Should I crate train my puppy?
If your goal is to keep your puppy safe and your home mess-free, then you should definitely crate train your new puppy. Crate training is beneficial for you, your home and your puppy when done correctly.
“A crate is an ideal way to keep your pet safe and [is] the type of hideaway your dog instinctively craves,” Dr. Miller told The Dodo. “By providing a crate, you're giving your dog a special spot of his/her very own for safety and rest. As a den animal, your puppy likely feels safe and secure in a small, confined area, and a crate can act as an artificial den.”
And because this den-like space taps into your puppy’s natural instincts, house training becomes a lot easier. When you’ve crate trained successfully, your dog won’t mind hanging out in his crate when you’re not at home, which keeps him out of trouble.
“[And] you will even find your puppy retreating to the ‘den’ for a nap if they are exposed to crate training from a young age as they will find comfort in having a place of their very own,” Dr. Miller said.
Why is my puppy crying in his crate?
When you first begin crate training, your puppy may not understand why he’s being put into a crate and unable to go with you when you leave the house, hence the crying. But whining and crying doesn’t always mean your dog is sad.
“When dogs are new to crate training, the unfamiliarity and new surroundings might cause a puppy to cry or whine,” Dr. Miller explained. “By making their crate a positive experience and slowly transitioning them with crate training methods, you can avoid any crying or whining that may be associated with stress or anxiety.”
How to train your puppy to stop crying
Getting used to a new crate will take time, and whining, pawing and crying is normal at the beginning. Here’s what you can do to make crate training a more positive experience and get your puppy to the stage where his crate is his safe space.
Make sure your pup’s mental and physical needs are met.
According to Semel, you need to make sure, first and foremost, that your puppy’s fully prepared to be put into his crate.
“Your puppy will have a hard time enjoying his crate if he really needs to go to the bathroom, if he is full of crazy puppy energy, or he is bored, so make sure you’ve addressed these issues prior to starting,” Semel told The Dodo.
An easy way to do this is to take your pup on a nice, long walk (or have a long play session) to tire him out before training.
Put all your puppy’s favorite things in the crate.
Prep the crate with his favorite puzzle toys, blankets and chewies so your puppy will have plenty to do while in there. However, make sure you’re not putting anything in there that could be a choking hazard for him, like rope toys, rawhide chews or anything else that could be easily shredded and ingested.
Semel said that you should do the prepping while your dog is watching you.
“Let him explore outside around the crate and look in and see all the amazing things that are inside the crate that he currently cannot reach,” Semel said. “This helps build your puppy’s desire to go in the crate!”
Introduce your puppy to the crate via treats.
Once the crate’s ready for guests, start letting your dog explore inside.
“Place a treat into the crate and allow them to go in, eat it and come back out if they want to,” Dr. Miller said. “Praise your dog each time they enter their crate.”
She also said you can feed your dog in the crate so he associates it with something he enjoys.
“It’s important that you don’t force him in the crate,” Semel told The Dodo. “Let him explore at his own pace! If your pup leaves the crate, close the door behind him and reload with more treats. Wait for him to really want to go back in again, and open the door. Repeat, repeat, repeat!”
Practice opening and closing the door while your puppy is inside.
When your puppy gets comfortable with the idea of going into his crate and being rewarded for doing so, start introducing him to the idea of having the door closed.
“Don't close the door until your puppy seems very comfortable,” Dr. Miller said. “Then, open it immediately. Gradually increase the length of time the door is closed until your puppy is comfortable staying inside.”
Semel said it’s fine if your puppy wants to come back out. “Just close the door behind him and reload the crate with your tasty yummies,” she said. “We want your puppy to realize being inside the crate is more exciting than being outside it.”
Then practice locking the door.
When your puppy’s comfortable with being in the crate with the door closed, it’s time to test out locking it. Semel suggests giving him longer-lasting chew toys at this stage to teach him that he will be spending longer periods of time in the crate.
“Allow them to spend longer periods of time in it while you stay nearby,” Dr. Miller said. “Try to avoid opening the door of the crate while your dog is whining, barking, scratching or doing anything you don't want to encourage.”
Leave your puppy alone in the crate.
When it seems like your puppy’s getting used to the idea of being in his crate for a few minutes at a time, try leaving him in there while you do small chores around the house.
“Choose tasks that will only take you a couple minutes,” Semel said. “We’ll be teaching the pup that when he’s crated, sometimes you leave, but you always come back and it is not a big deal!”
Don’t reward your puppy when it’s time to be let out of the crate.
“When you let your puppy out of the crate, do so nonchalantly so it’s not perceived as a reward to get out,” Dr. Miller said.
Consult a dog trainer or veterinary behaviorist if these steps aren’t working out.
If your puppy’s having trouble warming up to his crate, even after you’ve taken care to go through these steps slowly and patiently, a larger separation anxiety issue could be at play and may need professional attention.
Reach out to a certified dog trainer or veterinary behaviorist to help your pup get through his anxiety.
How long should I let my puppy cry in the crate before I take action?
The key to preventing your pup from crying in the crate is to take the right steps to get him used to being in there in the first place. However, if you’ve begun the crate training process and your puppy is not improving, then you may need to seek the help of a professional.
“If the barking continues for over 15 minutes and escalates, and you know your dog has had all of its needs met, it would be good to enlist the help of a certified trainer,” Semel said. “The trainer will help … determine the cause of the issue and take slow steps to help desensitize and/or counter-condition them to being left alone or confined.”
If you have a larger dog who needs more space, or if your dog ends up not loving the idea of being in a super enclosed area, then there are alternatives to the standard crate that you can try.
Dr. Miller suggested checking out dog gates, which “safely contain your dog without the confinement of a crate.” Gates can be used to block off doorways and keep your dog in a single area of the home.
Similarly, exercise pens are less confining than crates but keep your dog in a single area. “If you want your pup to be in the same room as you without confining them, [pens] offer them the ability to roam around a slightly larger confined space,” Dr. Miller said.
Crate training takes time and patience, so don’t give up. After the hard work is said and done, your puppy should stop crying during the day and whining at night, and actually enjoy the cozy comfort of his very own safe space.
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