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Why Your Puppy Is Crying in Its Crate and 7 Ways to Stop It

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Puppies crying in their crate is normal. They either have a need, want, or are uncomfortable. To stop your puppy from crying, you need to crate train it.

What do you do if your new puppy hates spending time in a crate? And how do you handle a puppy crying for hours at night? 

There’s no doubt about it, puppy training requires patience. But it doesn’t have to cause you and your puppy distress. 

To help you stop your puppy from crying, read on to find out why puppies cry in a crate, if crate training is the best option, and what the alternatives are.  

Why Puppies Cry 

Puppies cry to express pain, anxiety, loneliness, to ask for something, express excitement, or to say sorry. Before trying to train your puppy not to cry, you need to determine the cause. 

The first thing you need to determine is if the whining is caused by a painful injury or illness. 

Here are common reasons why puppies cry: 

  1. Pain.
  2. Fear and isolation.
  3. Discomfort. 
  4. A need or want. 
  5. Excitement.
  6. Submission.

Get your puppy to a vet as soon as possible if it is vomiting or has diarrhea. Puppies are small and can quickly get dangerously dehydrated. 

Vomiting and diarrhea can also be a sign of a potentially fatal illness like gastroenteritis, gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) complex, or pancreatitis. 

Why Puppies Cry

Why Is Your Puppy Whining in a Crate?  

Puppies whine in crates because they are not used to spending time in them. Whining can escalate if a puppy is locked in a crate for long periods, is not getting enough exercise, if the crate is too small, or if it’s feeling lonely. 

Puppies easily get bored. They also suffer from separation anxiety. Whining indicates discomfort or a need to get out of the crate.

Here are six causes why your puppy is crying in its crate: 

  1. The puppy is locked in a crate for long periods. 
  2. The puppy is not getting enough exercise. 
  3. The crate is too small. 
  4. There is no reward for the puppy. 
  5. The crate is used as a form of punishment. 
  6. The puppy is lonely. 

1. The Puppy Is Locked in a Crate for Long Periods

The Puppy Is Locked in a Crate for Long Periods

If you want your puppy to rest in a crate, use it for that purpose only.

Avoid locking your puppy in a crate for hours. They need to get out to urinate. They are also social and active creatures that need attention and space to move. Puppies are bound to cry if locked in a crate for too long. 

2. The Puppy Is Not Getting Enough Exercise

Puppies locked in a crate for long periods don’t get enough exercise. They need play time to burn energy. 

Before putting your puppy in a crate to rest, take it for a walk. If you expect your puppy to sleep soundly in a crate at night, make sure your puppy has had enough exercise and time out of the crate during the day. 

3. The Crate Is Too Small for the Puppy

If a puppy can’t stand up and turn around comfortably, the crate is too small. Highly active puppies find crates too small when they can’t move around. Like humans, some dogs like to pace when they have some nervous energy to burn. 

4. There Is No Reward for the Puppy

There Is No Reward for the Puppy

Does your puppy act like going into the crate is a punishment? If you don’t want the puppy to feel imprisoned, create a positive association with the crate. Give your pup a treat in its crate, a chew toy, and make sure the crate is as comfortable as possible.  

5. A Crate Is a Form of Punishment 

You can’t expect puppies to see their crate as a ‘safe den’ if you banish your pup to the crate for wrongdoings.[1] 

Puppies are known to whine to apologize when punished. The next time you lead it to the crate, it recalls the crate being used as punishment. This results in whining before you have even closed the crate door. 

6. The Puppy Is Lonely

The Puppy Is Lonely

Having recently been separated from the warmth and company of its mother and siblings, a puppy can feel cold and be suffering from separation anxiety. 

Here are ways to help it feel settled: 

  • Give your puppy lots of love and affection 
  • Let your pup sleep in your room. 
  • Place a hot water bottle or a heated beanbag under a blanket in your puppy’s bed to mimic the warmth of its mother. 
  • Put a ticking clock near a pup’s bed to sound like the mother dog’s heartbeat. 

When to Worry About a Puppy That Won’t Stop Crying in Its Crate 

Puppies in distress in a crate, including crying and scratching at the bars of the crate, needs help. Do not persevere with crate training if it is causing your puppy physical and emotional harm. 

While some pups accept crate training more readily, it can cause others a great deal of anxiety. Particularly if they suffer from separation anxiety. 

The good news is that you can turn to tried-and-tested training practices that do not include  a crate. There are ways to train a puppy without the crying associated with crating. These training methods have been used to train dogs for decades around the world. 

If your dog constantly whines and bites or scratches desperately at the crate to escape, consider crate alternatives.[2] 

Related: Why Is My Dog Whining In Its Crate All of a Sudden?

When to Worry About a Puppy That Won’t Stop Crying in Its Crate

Crate Training is Not The Only Way to Train a Puppy 

Training a puppy is hard work, but it shouldn’t cause you and your puppy distress. There are alternatives to crate training and most puppies outside of the States are trained without the use of a crate. 

Crate training is a controversial topic. Some veterinarians and animal organizations promote it while organizations like PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) openly criticize it. They believe it is a cruel way to ignore and ‘warehouse’’ dogs.[3] 

Crate Training Is Not Common Outside of the U.S

Crating dogs as a way of keeping them safe is the norm in the U.S, but it is almost unheard of in most other parts of the world. It’s considered cruel in many countries. It is even illegal in Sweden and Finland. [5] [6] 

How Crating Dogs Started

Crating started with dog shows, as a way for owners to keep their dogs contained and clean before parading them for the judges. 

It was picked up as a way to housetrain a puppy in the 80s. The logic behind this is that puppies would not want to urinate or defecate in their crate beds, so they would learn to hold it in until it was time to be let out. 

There is a problem with this idea, as PETA points out. Puppies do not develop full bladder control until at least 6 months old.[3]

Nevertheless, crate training continued to grow in popularity. The idea of ‘crating’ a dog extended to a way to keep a dog of any age in the home while an owner went out – even if that was for an eight-hour shift at work. 

Crate Training

The Concept of a Crate as a Dog ‘Den’ 

The use of a crate for housing dogs for hours is often justified by the idea that it recreates a dog’s natural den. This is based on a theory that dogs are ‘den’ animals, like wolves, and that small spaces make dogs feel safe. 

According to University of Pennsylvania veterinarian and behaviorist Carlo Siracusa, the idea that dogs have a denning instinct like wolves is wrong. It is based on flawed science from the 70s that studied stressed dogs and wolves in captivity.[6] 

What is also unclear about the den theory is how a metal crate with a lockable door recreates a natural den. 

Room to Move

Whether or not dogs feel safe and happy in a small enclosed space for hours is also questionable.

Siracusa says that Italian animal welfare law dictates that dogs must have a minimum of 20 square meters (215 square feet) of space.[6]

Dog trainers who promote dog crates say that dogs feel safe in the den-like confines of a standing-room-only dog crate. 

PETA’s animal rights activists disagree with the use of crates. They believe that keeping a dog in a crate for extended periods prevents dogs from fulfilling their basic needs to walk, relieve themselves, and stretch.[8] 

Alternatives to Crate Training a Puppy 

The decision to crate train is personal. It’s worth considering alternatives to crate training, especially if your puppy is distressed in its crate. Crate training alternatives include an outdoor kennel, an indoor playpen, puppy-proofing your home, and getting a dog walker. 

Does this mean you have to toss the dog crate? 

Not necessarily. Even those that oppose the practice of regularly ‘crating’ a dog say that crates can serve a purpose. For example, you can use it if required to confine your dog for transportation or medical reasons. 

What you don’t need to do is listen to your puppy cry for hours while locked in a crate at night.

Here are seven dog crate alternatives:

  1. An enclosed garden and an outdoor kennel.
  2. Pick a room or set up a playpen.
  3. Install a doggie door. 
  4. Puppy-proofing your home.
  5. Get a dog walker or pet sitter.  
  6. Take your pup to dog daycare. 
  7. Get another dog. 

1. An Enclosed Garden and Kennel

An Enclosed Garden and Kennel

Make use of an enclosed garden when the weather is warm enough and your puppy is old enough to be left outside.

Give your pup a water bowl, a cozy kennel with blankets where it can rest, and a chewy toy or two to make hanging out in the garden fun.

2. Pick a Room or Set up a Playpen

Choosing a room for your puppy or setting up a playpen is a great option. Especially if you need your dog to stay indoors, but don’t want your dog to access all the rooms in your home. 

To help meet all your puppy’s needs and keep it entertained, add water, chew toys, and a bed. 

A playpen provides a safe space for a puppy to walk around, stretch, play, and relax indoors when you are busy. You still need to take your puppy out for potty breaks. You can also train your puppy to use a corner of the playpen or a room laid with paper.

Related: How to Stop Your Puppy Crying in a Playpen

3. Install a Doggie Door

Install a Doggie Door

Give your pup a run of the house (or one room) and the garden by installing a doggie door. 

4. Puppy-Proof Your Home

Puppy-proof your home and you won’t need to restrict your puppy’s access to it. 

This means looking out for potential dangers, like poisonous plants, and moving them out of harm’s way. It’s also a good idea to get everyone in your household to get into the habit of putting shoes away and hiding TV remotes when they are not in use. 

5. Find a Dog Walker or Pet Sitter

Hiring a dog walker is a great idea if you work long hours and aren’t able to walk your dog daily. 

A daily walk or even having someone throw the ball for your dog reduces the chance of your pup getting so bored that it starts digging up your garden or chewing up your shoes. 

If you can’t afford to hire a dog walker or pet sitter, ask a friend, family member, or neighbor to walk, visit and play with your dog in exchange for something you can do for them. 

A single retired neighbor may love your dog’s company and be more than happy to petsit, especially if it’s followed with an invite for a home-cooked meal. 

6. Take Your Pup to Doggie Daycare

Take Your Pup to Doggie Daycare

Once your puppy is old enough to be socialized with other dogs, taking it to a doggie daycare is a great way to ensure your dog has a good day while you are at work. 

Speak to your vet about when to safely start daycare for your puppy. A vet may recommend waiting until your puppy has had its core vaccinations or is a certain age before taking it out to socialize with other dogs. 

7. Adopt Another Dog  

A solution for a lonely dog is another dog. Two dogs that enjoy each other’s company will keep each other entertained while you’re not home.[9]

Related: How to Get a Puppy to Stop Whining: The 3 Best Tips

About Monique Warner

Monique is an avid dog lover who grew up with dogs, cats, and budgies as pets. She has worked as a pet sitter and dog walker. With her passion for dogs and pets alike, she writes articles with the intention of helping pet owners solve their biggest struggles.

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