How to stop your puppy crying in the crate is likely to be high on your priority list if you have a little bundle of fluff who just won’t settle. As you’ve probably already discovered, investing in the best dog crate is only half of the battle - getting your puppy to stop whining is another challenge entirely.
While it can be distressing for both you and your canine companion, it’s worth remembering that crying when crated is a normal puppy behavior. Any dog that’s new to being confined or who has been recently separated from its littermates is likely to feel confused and lonely.
Puppies are very social creatures and aren’t fond of being separated from their pack, and of course, once they’re a part of your family, that pack becomes you. Vocalizing is their way of getting your attention when they’re feeling isolated, but the good news is, there are ways to minimize it.
From choosing the right size crate to making sure it feels cozy inside, the tips below will help your furry friend learn that their crate is a safe space for them to rest and recharge in and not a place to fear. Check out our guide to how to crate train a dog but for now, keep reading to help your puppy sleep soundly through the night.
Why do puppies cry in their crate?
While you may be worrying that something is seriously wrong with your little one, crying in the crate is normal puppy behavior. Quite often, crying in the crate is a sign of separation anxiety in dogs as they're having to get used to being away from you and your other family members. It's especially hard on puppies, who may be sleeping alone for the first time since leaving their mother and siblings.
It's important to remember that puppies and dogs are highly social creatures and they hate being separated from the members of their pack - which includes you! "It's normal for puppies to cry when they go into their crate, but if you ignore it, it will stop and they will relax," explains professional dog trainer Adam Spivey (opens in new tab).
Rest assured, with a few weeks of patience and perseverance when it comes to training, your puppy will soon learn that you always come back and this will help them to settle down.
How to stop your puppy from crying in their crate
Even with the best training practices, you may still find your puppy cries or whines to begin with during crate training. But the most important thing during this process is consistency.
Start the training early on to avoid your puppy picking up any bad habits or behaviors that will be difficult to curb when they get older, and try and remain patient as you continue training. Here are a few tips to help you get your puppy to stay quiet while they’re in their crate.
1. Pick the right size crate
We know, it seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how much crying comes from pet parents choosing a crate that’s too small. While they may be small, your puppy still needs enough room to stand up, turn around comfortably, and play with their toys (but not too big that they can use one end as a personal bathroom).
Many of the best dog crates come with dividers that allow you to expand the size of the crate as your puppy grows. This can be a great way of both saving you money in the long run by ensuring you don’t have to purchase a new crate when your pup gets older, while also letting you create a space that feels both cozy and roomy.
2. Consider the location
Just like with your own home or apartment, when it comes to your puppy’s crate it’s all about location, location, location! It's really important that you don't put your puppy's crate too far away from where you and any other family members spend the bulk of your time. So, avoid the garage and basement and any other spaces that have a cold feel to them as this may cause your furbaby to feel especially isolated.
Instead, choose an area where you tend to spend a lot of time, like a living area as this will help your pup feel more secure. You might even want to consider investing in two crates and keeping one near the end of your bed at night so your puppy is still in the same room as you. Not only can this help your furkid feel less lonely, you’ll also be able to hear when they need to be let out to go to the toilet.
3. Get your puppy comfortable
According to dog trainer Heidi Atwood (opens in new tab), you want to make the crate a wonderful place to be. "You can feed them some meals in the crate, hide pieces of kibble for them to discover or favorite toys, get them interested in going in on their own and checking it out," she says.
Make your pup's crate feel cozy and inviting so that your fur friend feels safe and secure. We recommend investing in one of the best dog beds and furnishing it with a nice, soft blanket. Donut-style options are great as they have higher sides than other designs and because they're often self-warming, they can help mimic the warmth of your pup's mother, which can bring them a lot of comfort.
After you've chosen a bed, consider popping in a few puppy toys so that your little furball has something to play with. "I have a freezer full of stuffed Kongs when I have a young puppy in my house, so that I can easily grab one and give them something very mentally stimulating, rewarding and fun. By the time they're done with the stuffed Kong, they're tired, and they will most likely have a nap," Atwood explains.
Make sure your puppy sees their crate as a happy and comfortable space to hang out. With that in mind, never use the crate as a form of punishment - you want every experience to be a positive one so that your puppy associates good things with being in their crate.
4. Give them plenty of exercise before crate time
A tired puppy is most definitely a sleepy puppy, so one of the most powerful weapons you have in your arsenal when it comes to getting your puppy to stop crying in their crate is playtime! The more energy your puppy burns before you pop them into their crate, the more likely they are to go straight into snooze land.
Once it’s time for them to be crated, give them a toy that can be filled with treats so that even when they’re settling down, they still have something to amuse themselves with until they fall asleep. We love the Kong puppy toy which is great for smearing with peanut butter or dog paste, and it's rubber, so it's a great teething toy too.
5. Factor in potty breaks
Just like a toddler, puppies can’t ‘hold it’ for anywhere near as long as adult humans and dogs can and crying is often a sign they need to go to the toilet, so you’ll want to factor in potty breaks.
So, how often should you get up during the night to let your puppy out for a toilet break? Well, a good way to think of things is to take the age of your puppy and add one. That means that a three-month-old puppy will be able to wait around four hours before they need to go to the toilet again, which means in an eight hour period, you'll be wanting to let them out twice.
However, when you’re learning how to potty train a puppy, there’s no such thing as too many breaks, so feel free to take them outside more until you get a sense of how often they need to go.
6. Ignore their whining
There's nothing more heartbreaking than having to stand in another room and listen to your puppy crying with no end in sight. It's incredibly hard as a pet parent to not want to rush in and soothe your stressed out little bundle of fur or let them out, but it's really important that you do resist the urge to do that, as it will only make things worse in the long run.
According to expert dog trainer Cesar Millan (opens in new tab), you want to avoid giving your puppy any attention until they've gone quiet. "He has to calm surrender before he comes out of the crate," explains Millan. "Don't look at the puppy, just wait for the calm surrender. We want the crate to represent the highest level of relaxation....and we want the crate to represent a resting state."
What if your puppy still won’t stop crying?
Sometimes you can read and implement all the tips and tricks in the world and it still won't be enough to get your puppy to stop crying. If you're really having a hard time putting an end to this behavior, there are a couple of other things you can try.
First up, place a blanket over the crate. While this sounds simple, it can actually be really effective. A blanket will help make the inside of the crate that much darker, which can be very comforting for puppies.
There are also a range of puppy sleep aids on the market that can also be useful in helping your young one to settle. And remember, the most important thing is that your puppy knows that you’re in charge - if you don’t respond to every cry, they’ll soon get the message that whining isn’t an effective way to get what they want.
If you find that your puppy's crying continues weeks or months after you've exhausted all of the above suggestions, have a chat with your vet, who will be able to rule out any underlying health issues and offer advice and guidance on how best to proceed.
Enjoyed this piece and looking for more helpful training tips? Then be sure to check out our guide to how to stop a puppy biting, mouthing or nipping.
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Kathryn is a freelance writer who has spent the past two years dividing her writing time between her two great loves - pets and health and wellness. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with one very mischievous Cocker Spaniel, drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and attempting to set numerous world records for the longest ever FaceTime calls with her family back home in NZ.
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