Why Is My Puppy Crying In Crate? 8 Steps to Stop It
Almost every puppy parent has been there: the heartbreaking sound of their new fur baby crying or whining from inside a crate. It's a challenge for both the puppy and the owner. And the big question you want answered is, “Why is my puppy crying in the crate?” Before you throw in the towel and let your puppy have free rein in the house or bring your puppy into your bed, let's delve into why this might be happening and how you can make crate time a peaceful, relaxing experience for your pup.
7 Common Reasons Why Puppies Cry in Crates
Whining and crying are a puppy's most common forms of communication. But they don't always mean what you might think! So, understanding why your puppy is crying is a big part of making the crate a happy space and finding the right solution. The most common reasons puppies cry when inside the crate include:
- Fear of the Unknown: For a young puppy, everything is new, including the crate. The unfamiliar environment can be unsettling.
- Separation Anxiety: Puppies are social animals. Being separated from their littermates or their new family can be stressful.
- Physical Discomfort: Just like babies, if puppies are hungry, thirsty, or need to relieve themselves, they'll let you know.
- Boredom: Puppies are energetic and curious. A lack of stimulation can lead to whining.
- The Crate is Uncomfortable: An ill-sized crate can make resting difficult.
- The Environment is Too Cold or Too Hot: Temperature changes can make a puppy uncomfortable and contribute to their distress.
- Past Traumatic Experiences: Negative associations can lead to fear and anxiety about the crate.
Understanding Puppy Behavior
Remember, puppies are essentially baby dogs. They're learning about the world, and their reactions are based on their limited experiences. Patience, love, and understanding are vital during this phase.
8 Steps to Stop Your Puppy from Crying in the Crate
Crate training is beneficial to a puppy's development and overall behavior. But it's important to understand that a puppy may not immediately love the crate. So, implementing effective strategies can help reduce your puppy's distress and make crate training a positive experience for both of you.
1. Proper Crate Size
A crate should be large enough for your puppy to stand, turn around, and lie down comfortably.
2. Create A Positive Association
Your puppy needs to go in their crate periodically throughout the day; otherwise, they will learn the only time you put them in there is when you leave or it’s bedtime. They quickly pick up on this and will throw a tantrum when it’s time to go in.
Make it fun for your puppy to go inside the crate during the day by offering a Kong toy filled with peanut butter when your pup's in the crate during the day.
To prevent separation anxiety, initially, leave the room for short periods of time and then come back. Gradually increase the time, always praising your puppy when they're calm.
Also, feed meals in their crate (only leave food down for 10-15 minutes, then take it out). Don’t leave water in the crate, as it will only backfire if you’re working on potty training or if your pup gets bored and wants to play in it.
3. Excess Energy Expended
Your puppy must be well exercised before entering their crate. A revved-up pup will not be able to settle and will bark and cry in their crate.
4. Essential Needs Met
A puppy that's hungry, thirsty, or needs to potty will not be able to settle in their crate. Ensuring these essential needs are met will reduce puppy crying when placed in the crate. Puppies should go potty right before going in their crate to prevent accidents and so they don’t bark for attention and demand you let them out.
5. Consistent Schedule
Puppies thrive on routine. Set fixed times for meals, play, and potty breaks. This reduces anxiety and anticipatory crying.
6. Limit Environmental Stimulation
Too much noise, light, or the ability to see all the activities going on around them will just keep a puppy overstimulated, revved up, and unable to settle inside the crate.
7. Introduce Soothing Solutions
Tools like the Adaptil dog-appeasing pheromone plugin, Snuggle Puppy heartbeat training toy, white noise, a ticking clock, or calming music played near the crate help to settle and soothe an anxious pup.
8. Reinforce Quiet Behavior
If you do have to open the crate to let your puppy out, make sure you wait a moment or so until they are quiet to let puppy out. This teaches your puppy that quiet behavior gets you to open the door, but whining, crying, barking, and hopping around in the crate doesn’t get them any attention.
What Not To Do
- Ignoring: It's crucial to differentiate between attention-seeking behavior and genuine distress. Continual distress shouldn't be ignored.
- Letting Them Out Immediately: If you rush to the crate every time your puppy cries, they'll learn that crying equals freedom.
- Punishing the Puppy: The crate should be a haven, not a prison. Never use it to scold or punish your puppy. Yelling or being aggressive will only increase their anxiety and distrust.
- Giving Treats to Stop Puppy Whining and Barking: Puppy owners tell me all the time they toss in a tasty treat or a couple of pieces of kibble when their pup is barking in the crate, and that seems to keep them quiet for a few minutes. But doing so only reinforces the behavior you're trying to prevent! Instead, the better thing to do is tire out your pup, take them out to potty, tuck them in their crate, cover it, and walk away.
- Neglecting Potty Breaks: Regular toilet breaks are essential, even during the night. As a general rule, puppies should be taken out every hour for each month of their age while in confinement, but more frequently if roaming around a room or the rest of the home. So, a two-month-old puppy should go out every couple hours.
By implementing these strategies, you can help reduce your puppy's crying in the crate and create a positive association with the crate. Remember, patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement are key to successful crate training.
Signs That You May Need Professional Help
If your puppy's distress continues even after consistent training, or if they exhibit signs of extreme anxiety, it might be time to consult with a veterinarian or dog behaviorist. Experts such as those on my team and myself can offer solutions tailored to your puppy's specific needs.
The Importance of Persistence and Patience
Proper crate training is a journey, not a destination. You'll have both successful days and challenging ones. Celebrate the milestones and remember: with the right guidance, every puppy can grow to love their crate.
The crate training process is as much about learning to understand your puppy as it is about the training itself. By recognizing their needs and concerns and addressing them with patience and care, you can create a comfortable and safe space for your furry friend.
If you’re struggling with crate training or trying to get your puppy to love their crate, our Crate Training Mini Course is the perfect next step.
We'd love to hear about your crate training journey! Share your experiences, challenges, and success stories with us on Facebook.
Check out these additional articles for more on puppy behavior and crate training.
3 Tips to Choose The Ideal Puppy Crate for Safety and Comfort
How To Set Up A Puppy Playpen and Crate
8 Must-Have Crate Training Tools for Puppy Crate Training Success
11 Common Crate Training Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
About the trainer
After spending 20 years helping families with their dogs face to face as a professional dog trainer, Michele realized that so much of what she knows could be shared with families everywhere - in a way that actually works. People sometimes think their dog is just SUPER difficult because the advice they’ve gotten was incomplete, confusing or just wrong. So she set out to help. Michele loves training dogs because of the impact that it has on the families she gets to help. The peace and joy they get from being able to enjoy their dog LISTENING. Besides teaching classes, helping private clients and running seminars, Michele is also a foodie and fantasizes about being a food critic or secret shopper for restaurants. Talk to her about food and your instant best friends.