How to Stop Your Dog Crying in it’s Crate
A puppy crying in a crate can be frustrating on many levels. For the owner, roommates, and neighbors, the endless whining and barking can cause a wide number of problems that you ultimately feel responsible for. Is it wrong to lock them in an escape proof dog cage? A dog crate is a great tool to help with potty training and reduce damage caused by your dog when he is left alone. However, being held in a crate can lead to undesired anxiety in your pet causing lots of crying and/or barking. What can you do to stop the undesired behavior?
When you begin to crate train a puppy, just like with a new baby, you should expect some long nights. Dogs that are whining, crying, and barking in a crate can be a very real issue, especially if you live in an apartment or are a light sleeper. Try to remember though, just as with our comparison to a baby, your dog is not actively trying to make you lose sleep or get you evicted. Consider the reasons your dog is crying in his crate.
Motivators for Bad Behavior in Puppies
There are a variety of reasons that dogs will bark or cry in a crate. Fortunately, the treatment for most of these underlying reasons is the same.
Crates are by default a dull place. They don’t come with an entertainment center. If your puppy gives steady barks during his confinement, he is likely suffering from boredom.
Even though your dog may not have a problem being apart from you, he may react negatively to being in a crate. If he does not like being confined, then he may have learned that every time he is in the crate, it means you are about to leave, triggering a reaction out of fear.
If your dog is at your side whenever you are home, but gets locked in a crate any time you leave the house or go to bed, it is likely he is crying because he misses you. These dogs will usually settle down eventually, but if you start to move around, they will probably start crying again.
There are times that your pup needs to get out of the crate. Almost all dogs that cry in the crate want to get out, but there are times when they have a physical need to get out. For example, if a dog that is normally quiet while in a crate starts whining, she may be sick to her stomach or might need to urgently relieve herself. Her crying is a plea for help. If your dog is normally quiet in the crate but suddenly starts to cry, look for a reason why.
The reasons above are perfectly normal crate-training problems that can be fairly easily corrected with a bit of training. Note that these are very different from true dog separation anxiety. Dogs with separation anxiety are thrown into a full-on panic when left alone. A dog with these issues will need longer-term management, training, and perhaps even medication to help with their condition.
Signs of severe separation anxiety are digging in the crate, biting the crate, and taking great measures to escape the crate. They won’t eat, drink, or relax and may even hurt themselves trying to escape. To handle these kinds of issues, you should consider an especially durable crate in order to keep them safe. Talk to a trainer or veterinary behaviorist if you think your dog has separation anxiety.
Punishing Your Puppy Won’t Stop the Crying
Even though your first reaction is to reprimand your dog when he whines, barks, or howls in the crate, consider these reasons to find another way to respond:
Your dog may be starving for attention. If you come over to the crate and scold them, you’ve just given them the attention they crave, in essence rewarding them. They may stop barking momentarily, but he is guaranteed to continue barking in the future.
If your puppy is bored, you might actually be entertaining him by scolding him! He might briefly quiet down just because he is interested in the racket you are making.
Your dog may already be anxious. If your dog is crying because he is scared, yelling at him will only make it worse. Your pet trusts you. You are his guardian. Yelling at him when he is scared can damage that trust. He might stop crying simply because he is even more scared now which will lead to more problems down the road.
Even though it’s hard, what you must do with a dog that is crying in the crate is to ignore them. Any sort of attention, positive or negative, could be rewarding them for crying. It is tough, but it is for the best. That is why they call it “tough love.”
Preventative Measures to Stop the Crying
You might be thinking, “How do I prevent my dog’s behavior without yelling at him in the crate?” Don’t give up hope! There are a lot of things to work on to help stop your dog from crying in the crate. Many of these are small things that can make a big difference for your crying, crated, furry baby. The main goal is to make the crate an awesome place to be.
Keep your dog’s favorite squeaky or fluffy toy in the crate. He can be made to feel like he is being rewarded when going into the crate for some playtime.
Good Fit. Make sure the crate is the right size for your dog. He needs to be able to stand up and turn around in the crate, but not much more than that.
Instead of putting their bowl of food on the kitchen floor, place it in their crate instead. You don’t even need to close the door of the crate when you do this. This is an easy way to start building a good association between your dog and the crate!
Make sure the crate is super comfortable for your dog. A thick blanket, a soft mat, a safe chew toy, and perhaps even some clothing that smells like you! These things can really make your four-legged friend feel like he has his own man-cave!
Give your dog a stuffed Kong to play with. Better yet, try freezing the Kong first. Your dog might spend an hour or more gnawing on it. This distraction allows your dog to enjoy his time in the crate and become used to having time to himself.
There are many games that involve the use of the crate. These games will build your dog’s confidence with his crate and show him that the crate is a great place to be! Dogs that are comfortable in the crate are less likely to cry in the crate.
Remember that if a dog is already in his crate and begins to cry, you must ignore his behavior. It is not an easy thing to do, but you are rewarding him if you give him any attention. Dogs will learn that if he cries long enough or loud enough, he will get what he wants. If you have already giving up and have been letting the dog out after an hour of crying, you may have a long road ahead of you. Odds are, the crying will get worse before it gets better.
You need to be patient, persistent, and remember to regularly do some crate games. In this way, you can make the crate an awesome place to be. If all of the other suggestions have not helped, you can also try moving the crate to a different room. Perhaps having the crate in your bedroom at night can help alleviate a dog’s nervousness.
Think Outside the Crate
Many of the above methods require time. You may need a quick fix now because of a sensitive neighbor or lack of sleep. If so, there are some other things to do that can save your sanity. Think about why you are using the crate. Is there anything you could be doing instead to accomplish the same goal?
For bored pups who like to chew or are not yet potty-trained, crates are a good place to start. Later with training and maybe some puppy-proofing, you should be able to use the crate less and implement other tools. A bathroom or exercise pen can also protect your stuff from your dog’s jaws and bladder.
For dogs that cry during the day and aren’t completely crate-trained, you can use a dog walker or doggie daycare. This won’t help with the night time crying issues, but getting your dog out of the crate for short spells will help him grow to seek out the crate during training as a place where he can rest undisturbed.
Before putting your puppy in the crate, especially at night, it is crucial that you allow her time to exercise. Go for a good walk or run, or play a game of fetch. Allow some time to calm down afterward and don’t forget to give him a chance to relieve himself. Once this is done, she is more likely to stop crying in the crate. A tired dog is a quiet one.