So Your Puppy Whines in the Crate - Here’s How to Fix It
If your puppy whines in the crate, we are here to help. This guide will help you learn how to stop a puppy from whining while crate training.
Crate training has a range of benefits for your puppy, so investing time on this now will pay off later in their life. But there’s nothing like your puppy in a crate whining to make you feel like giving up.
You might feel frustrated, guilty, hopeless - but we promise you are doing great. Just by being here reading this article, you are doing the best for your pup. So let’s discuss how to tackle crate training and crying, to help your pup feel happy and safe in their special den, and give you some peace of mind.
Let’s start with a central question — some puppy diagnostics if you will!
Is It Ok to Let My Puppy Cry in the Crate?
The answer to this lies in what we like to call the ‘golden rules of crate training.’ Run through this checklist and answer each question with a ‘yes/no’:
Is the puppy in there for a nap? As opposed to a ‘timeout’?
We want our puppies not to see the crate as a place of punishment or discomfort - so it goes without saying that the crate should never be used as a timeout zone or as a reprimand. But even without any negative associations, whining in crates can be a natural response for many puppies.
Has your puppy had attention, exercise, and stimulation?
Many puppies operate well on variations of the 1 hour up, 2 hour down rule. So have they had a good chunk of time playing, training, and engaging with you? If not - then it’s not fair to expect them to enjoy crate time!
Has your puppy had a potty break just before entering the crate?
Tiny pups can’t hold their bladder for long, so it’s wise to have a potty break before every crating.
Has your puppy had their food and water needs met?
Make sure that crating doesn’t happen on an empty stomach, or when your pup might be feeling a little thirsty.
Has your puppy had a slow, gentle introduction to the crate?
Expecting a puppy to understand the concept of a crate right off the bat is a recipe for disaster. If your puppy is confused, frightened, and in need of a little reassurance - that’s ok! They are a baby, so take a step back and follow the tips below.
Do they seem like themselves? Are they physically well?
A sick puppy could be trying to let you know they don’t feel well by whining. So if your puppy is crying uncharacteristically or doesn’t seem themselves, speak to your vet.
Has your puppy been crying for less than 10 minutes?
A timer is a puppy parent’s best friend. The 10-minute rule is usually a good marker for knowing if your puppy is simply grumbling, or if they might have a serious need to go potty. There is also a difference between a complaining puppy and a truly stressed puppy - whose vocalizations will increase as opposed to dropping off.
Is your puppy older than 12 weeks?
When a puppy first meets you they need to feel safe and secure, and they need a chance to bond with you before being left alone for long periods. So it’s best to focus on being there for them in those first crucial weeks.
If your answer to all the above questions is a resounding yes - give yourself a timer for 10 minutes and see if your puppy is simply grumbling a little at naptime.
But if they carry on, or any of the above answers was a no, then it’s best to remove them. Try to remove your puppy in a moment of relative quiet or calm, even if it’s just for a few seconds.
Why Puppy Whining Shouldn’t Be Ignored
The cry it out method has been popular for many years, but many behaviorists are now countering this with a more proactive approach to crate training.
That’s because leaving a pup to cry it out increases stress hormone activity. Which could affect their brain chemistry long-term, priming them to be more alert and reactive. This has been found in studies with human babies, and many believe it applies to puppies too.
So if you find your puppy whining and crying in the crate, you might want to either adjust your approach or take a step back. Whining is your puppy’s way of telling you things have moved too fast, and ignoring it could work - but is it worth taking the risk?
Don’t be disheartened if taking a step back feels deflating. These skills are transferable to so many areas of your young dog’s life and will help them feel more secure, confident, and calm in a bunch of scenarios.
Your pup is most likely frustrated and anxious that they can’t get to you on their terms. Right now it’s just the crate, but down the road, this could turn into issues with separation anxiety, destructive tendencies, and excessive attention-seeking. So the hard work is absolutely worth it to help your pup grow into a confident canine.
So let’s run through your action plan to turn crate whining into crate winning!
How to Stop a Puppy From Whining While Crate Training
Step 1 - Make the Space Inviting
The first thing to address is the crate itself. Is it appealing to your puppy?
Some furrier pups really enjoy a cold hard floor, while other short-haired doggos seek out blankets and burrowing. So furnish your crate accordingly. Turn it into THE best place for sleeping in the entire space, so that they are naturally inclined to slope off there whenever the mood strikes. Just be vigilant of any blanket chewers!
One of the easiest ways to create a cozy crate while still staying practical, especially if you’ve got a landshark on your hands, is to add in a Potty Buddy Reusable Pad. Soft and fleecy, but thin enough for cool seeking breeds to still enjoy, it’s ultra-absorbent so any of those accidents can be easily dealt with. Keep your pup dry and happy, and your cleaning routine simple with our machine-washable fabrics.
Another top tip is to cover the crate with a blanket at nap time, as this can help to calm, soothe and regulate your puppy. Stopping them from getting over-excited with every footstep!
Step 2 - Build Crate Confidence with Crate Games
If you want to know how to crate train a whining puppy, then you need to understand what’s causing the whining. It’s usually a mixture of barrier frustration, fear of being alone, and the wish to interact with you.
To tackle these, play the following games with your puppy:
Relaxation Protocol - Teach your dog that staying in their bed (in their crate) is a really rewarding behavior, using Dr. Karen L. Overall’s Relaxation Protocol.
Separation Training - Once they start to grow in confidence, use KIkopup’s great guide to separation training to teach your dog that being alone in their crate or pen is a pretty cool thing.
Step 3 - Start A Routine
It’s no secret that dogs love routine. So use that to your advantage and begin a crate routine for your puppy. As we mentioned above, most puppies do well with a 1 hour up 2 hours down schedule. This can help them get the huge amounts of sleep they need, while also reducing any ‘crazy puppy’ moments where they begin exhibiting overtired behaviors like excessive nipping.
After around an hour of playtime, potty breaks, training and interaction, encourage your puppy into their crate with a tasty treat. It could be their breakfast, dinner, or snack. The perfect crate snack is a little frozen puppy kong! Filled with something like yogurt, peanut butter, or banana - the licking motion is fantastic at creating a sleepy mood for your pup.
This routine of fun time, potty, crate snack, and nap is a great rhythm for your puppy to follow and should mean they start to understand the benefits of the crate for comfy snoozing.
Top Tip - Anticipate the end of nap time, if you hear your puppy rustling about or waking up, open the door. By intercepting the whining before it starts you can keep those positive associations flowing.
Top Top Tip - Something that worked for our pup was setting an alarm for the end of nap time, with a simple ringtone on our phone. This helped the little guy to understand that crate time ends when the phone goes, not just when he decides it's time to come out. This helped us gradually increase crate time with him happily waiting quietly.
How to Make a Puppy Stop Crying at Night
Will my puppy ever stop whining at night? If you are asking yourself this, we hear you! A puppy whining in the crate overnight is so hard — whether you are worried about neighbors, work the next day, or simply getting enough sleep.
Why is the puppy whining in the crate at night? Most likely it’s similar to the reasons above, but most often it’s that your puppy is struggling with a tiny bladder and also with feeling alone.
Nighttime alarms, or allowing your puppy to wake you up whining to pee, are simply part of the puppy potty training phase. Take comfort that these will fade as their bladder grows. Be sure that these potty trips are quiet, uneventful, and not exciting in any way — that way your pup won’t cry to get out for playtime!
If they are still crying after a potty break, be sure to comfort them in a soft voice, place a hand inside the bars or purchase a snuggly warming toy to help remind them of their littermates.
You can do this!
Puppy Crate Whining - The Wrap Up
Whilst crate training can feel like a mountain to climb, breaking it down into daily steps is a great way to make incremental progress. There’s nothing wrong with putting all your training focus on this for now, and why not create your own crate training puppy schedule with each of the above steps tackled a little each day.
If you still find your dog is struggling, you could consider adding a pen to their crate, to see if more room helps them feel a little calmer, or can help them gradually acclimatize.
Take comfort in knowing that often age can make these problems melt away. There’s often a significant switch in puppies around 4 to 5 months of age, where things start to click and they become much more confident.
And remember to always be kind in your crate use. Don’t keep them in longer than their bladder can manage, or for excessive amounts of time every day. Use them responsibly and you’ll reap the rewards of safety, security, and comfort for your dog.
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