So, you have a new puppy and are all set up with toys, treats, collars, leashes, and a crate, but crate training turns out to be a nightmare? Well, you’re not alone! Many puppy pawrents experience difficulties during the crate training process. This leads to frustration and some give up on crate training altogether. Fear not, for it is possible to crate train your puppy without excessive crying. Check out these common reasons why puppies cry in a crate as well as how to resolve them!
There is not much a puppy can do in a crate. Contrary to a puppy pen where your pup can walk around or play with some toys, they are only able to lie down and rest while in their crate. If you put a wide-awake puppy into a crate, they will be bored and let you know it! Do not negatively reinforce the crate by making your puppy go in it when they are not in the mood to rest at all.
Pro Tip: A puppy who just woke up in the morning and is ready to roll will likely cry if put straight into the crate. A good rule of thumb is to crate your dog after exercise, a potty break, and some play time. The more tired your pup is, the faster they will relax and begin to correlate the crate with naptime.
Make your pup’s crate as comfortable as possible. When a puppy first joins your family, it is likely they are predominantly familiar with sleeping while snuggled up to their littermates. A crate with only a thin blanket or a bare plastic floor will not be inviting for your puppy. Many puppies enjoy snuggling up into the corners of the crate (again, this reminds them of their littermates). You can either put a dog bed with walls in the crate or use thick blankets to make the corners comfortable for your puppy.
Pro Tip: If your breeder or rescue organization sent the puppy home with a blanket or toy, this should go into the crate as well. The familiar scent will remind your dog of their mom and littermates, making it easier to relax and go to sleep.
Again, resting alone is typically not something your puppy has ever done before coming to your home. With other pups nearby, your puppy would hear them breathe, bark in their sleep, whine, etc. Crating will be a lot easier for your puppy if you provide some sound in the background. This can be the radio, a white noise machine, a podcast, some music etc. It doesn't really matter what your puppy listens to, so long as there is some sound to provide a distraction.
Pro Tip: Refer to this guide to using music to calm anxious dogs for some helpful hints on using sounds to sooth your pup.
Puppies have intense chewing desires. They always seem to have something in their mouth, and as they start teething, they need to have plenty of chew toys to ease the associated discomfort. If your puppy’s gums are aching from teething and have nothing to chew on, they will likely cry in the crate. Provide plenty of chew-friendly items for your puppy so they are always able to satisfy their chewing needs.
Young puppies need to use the bathroom a lot! If your puppy is crated and feels the need to go potty, you can expect some excessive crying. Even if you took your puppy out recently, always be sure to take them out directly before putting them in the crate. At 2-3 months old, some puppies need to go potty as often as every 15-20 minutes, especially small breeds with tiny bladders.
Pro Tip: It takes about 6 hours for a meal to pass through your puppy’s digestive system. If you feed your puppy a late dinner at 8pm, expect them to be up at 2am to go to the bathroom (and crying in the crate to let you know). Feeding your puppy earlier in the afternoon will eliminate nighttime potty trips and allow you to get some good night’s sleep!
Puppies will cry in their crates for a variety of reasons. In general, a puppy’s crying can be avoided if their crate is comfortable, they have ample distractions, and all their needs are met before being crated. Always be sure your puppy does not have any physical discomfort or needs to be tended to. Make their time in the crate as pleasant as possible to build a lasting, positive association with being crated.
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Steffi Trott is the owner and founder of SpiritDog Training. Originally training dogs in-person, she added online training to her business in 2018. Steffi strives to provide game-based, positive training solutions for owners and their dogs. When she is not training other owners' dogs, she competes in dog agility or hikes in the New Mexico and Colorado wilderness with her own 4 dogs.