It is common for a puppy to cry in the crate when left alone. But ignoring it can make the problem worse in the long run. Puppies that experience trauma (including a traumatic experience with crate training) are more likely to develop separation anxiety.
Does your puppy cry when you leave it? There are many reasons why this can happen, but the most common is separation anxiety.
So what should you do if your puppy cries in a crate? And when should you worry about it?
In this article, we look at why puppies cry in a crate, when you should worry, what you can do to help your puppy stop crying, and alternatives to crate training.
Why Is Your Puppy Crying in Crate When Left Alone?
Separation anxiety, illness, the need to urinate or defecate, boredom, lack of exercise, a need for positive training, and incorrect crate size can all cause puppies to cry when left alone.
Puppies cry for many reasons, but here are some of the most common:
- The need to urinate
- Crate size
- Lack of exercise
- Lack of crate training
The only way to stop your puppy from crying when left alone is to find the cause.
The very first thing to rule out (and the easiest) is the need to urinate or defecate and illness.
The next thing to consider is crate size. If the crate is too small, and your puppy is not able to stand up and turn around comfortably in it, it will cry.
Before putting your puppy in a crate, make sure it gets enough exercise. A pup with excess energy to burn won’t be a happy camper in a crate.
If your puppy is healthy, the crate is the right size and you take your puppy for a walk before putting it in a crate.
Proper positive training, treating separation anxiety, or considering alternatives to a crate are also possible ways to prevent your puppy from crying when left alone.
But before we look at these, when should you worry about a puppy that is crying in a crate?
When To Worry About A Puppy Crying in A Crate
You should be worried about a crying puppy if they’re showing signs of illness. Signs of serious illness can include weakness, a sudden loss of appetite, a swollen belly, diarrhea, vomiting, a hunched back, drooling, and fever.
Puppies cry when ill and in pain. The following serious illnesses can affect young dogs and require immediate attention:
- Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV) Complex
What Is Gastroenteritis?
Gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the stomach and intestines. It can be caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites, or allergic reactions to medications or new food.
It is a severe condition in puppies because they can quickly become dangerously dehydrated. Look out for these symptoms:
What Is Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV) Complex?
GVD is a condition in which the stomach fills with air and pressure builds and blocks the blood from returning to the heart. As a result, blood pools and sends the dog’s body into shock. It’s a serious condition and needs to be treated immediately.
What Is Pancreatitis?
Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas. If inflammation spreads to other organs, it can kill a puppy.
Symptoms To Watch Out For
If you notice any of these symptoms in combination with crying, get your pup to the vet immediately:
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Increased heart rate
- Pain and whining if it feels pressure on the abdomen
- Swollen abdomen
- Retching and excess salivation
- Weak pulse
How to Help A Puppy With Separation Anxiety
While separation anxiety is common in puppies, it’s not to be taken lightly. Create a routine to ensure your puppy gets enough exercise during the day. This can help ease your pup’s anxiety.
According to animal behaviorist and zoologist Patricia McConnell, Ph.D., separation anxiety in dogs is comparable to panic attacks in humans.
Several factors can cause separation anxiety, like trauma, lack of socialization, and poor maternal care. It is not due to poor training.
Symptoms of separation anxiety
- Trembling and clinginess
- Excessive barking, howling, crying, or whining
- Urinating or defecating indoors
- Desperate attempts to escape that can cause injury
1. Set a Daily Routine
Routine creates stability and ensures a pup gets enough exercise, time outdoors, and attention. It means that meals, walks, potty breaks, and crate time all occur around the same time of day.
When a puppy has a routine, they learn that even when you leave, you always come back. It’s part of the routine.
2. Socialize your Pup
Make sure your pup gets a chance to socialize with other dogs. You can do this in a dog park or by joining a puppy training class.
A Finnish study found that dogs that had fewer socialization experiences during puppyhood grew to be more fearful. 
3. Daily Exercise
Walk your pup daily.
Researchers studying fearfulness in dogs found that dogs with separation anxiety didn’t get as much daily exercise as other less fearful dogs.
4. Ask For Help
Separation anxiety can be hard to solve alone.
An animal behaviorist can help you implement counterconditioning and desensitization procedures to help an anxious dog.
5. Think Outside The Crate
Since dogs with separation anxiety are prone to trying to escape confinement to the point of hurting themselves, consider crate training alternatives.
Related: Why Is My Newborn Puppy Crying?
5 Alternatives To Dog Crates For Your Puppy
Instead of using a dog crate, you can use a playpen, outdoor kennel, puppy-proof your home, hire a dog walker or consider dog daycare.
Dog crating is a relatively new practice that is not common beyond the U.S. In some countries, it’s not allowed.
In Finland for example, animals can only legally be put in a crate for transportation, illness, or a temporary reason.
It’s believed that crating started in dog shows to keep the dogs clean and somehow found its way into house training puppies and then ‘storing’ adult dogs. Even when they are house trained.
According to PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), crating took off because it’s convenient for dog owners and is not good for dogs.
They say that there are many dangers of keeping dogs in crates for long periods:
- Eating disorders. 
PETA believes that crating prevents dogs from fulfilling basic needs to relieve themselves, stretch and walk.
Dogs can start associating crates with social isolation, boredom, and the inability to urinate or defecate, which can increase anxiety.
The good news is that there are alternatives.
Many of these are used instead of dog crates beyond the U.S. and were used in America before crating became common:
- Enclosed garden.
- Puppy playpen.
- Puppy-proof home
- Dog walker.
- Dog Daycare.
1. Enclosed Garden
Put your puppy outside in the garden when the weather allows.
The garden should be fenced so that the puppy can’t wander off, and your puppy should have access to water and a dog bed or kennel.
If you’re scared that your puppy will dig up your flower beds, fence off a section for your pup that you aren’t precious about.
2. Puppy Playpen
A playpen is a great option when the weather is cold and you need to keep your puppy indoors. It’s also a possible solution for people who live in apartments and don’t have access to a garden.
A puppy or toddler playpen is a temporary structure that gives puppies room to move around. But, it keeps them out of mischief (like chewing your shoes).
Make sure your pup has access to a water bowl, and a bed. Throw in a chew toy or two to keep them busy while you are busy.
Your dog may cry in the playpen at first. Take time to practice leaving it there.
3. Puppy-Proof Home
Puppy-proofing your home gives your pup the run of the house (or a section of it) but ensures that they can’t get hurt or damage your valuables.
To start, close off rooms in your home you don’t want your puppy to access (like bedrooms, for example).
Some people will close off most of their homes and limit their young puppies to tiled areas, like the kitchen.
Look for and remove potential dangers and chewing temptations in the area your puppy will be staying in.
Make sure your puppy has a water bowl, a bed, and some chew toys. If you will be gone for long periods, access to a dog door leading out into an enclosed garden is a good idea.
4. A Dog Walker
If no one is home most of the day, hiring a dog walker helps. This makes sure your pup doesn’t get lonely and helps it burn off some energy.
This is a good idea for busy families who are hardly at home or professionals who work long hours.
Even if you work from home, a dog walker can take some pressure off you and go a long way in helping keep you and your puppy happy.
5. Dog Daycare
The increasing demand for dog daycares is understandable – many people work long hours and want to come home to a loving pet, but don’t want their dogs to be lonely during the day.
Dog daycare is a good option if you have one dog, work long hours away from home and your dog is lonely.
How to Stop Puppy Crying In a Crate When Left Alone
To stop a puppy from crying in a crate, create a positive association with crates by rewarding your pup with a treat for spending short periods in the crate. Take your pup for a walk and a potty break before crating and don’t leave your pup in a crate for a long time.
Here are tips to get your puppy to stop crying when in a crate:
- Keep crate time short
- Create positive associations with the crate.
- Never use a crate as punishment.
- Take your puppy for a walk first.
1. Keep Crate Time Short
Puppies shouldn’t stay in a crate longer than three hours as they can’t control their bladders or bowels for that long.
Putting a pup in a crate for long periods can make them anxious and depressed. 
2. Create Positive Associations With the Crate
Drop a treat in the crate to encourage your puppy to explore the space. You can also feed your puppy in the crate to help them get accustomed to the space.
Use treats to help train your puppy to go in and stay in the crate and put a chew toy in the crate to keep your pup busy.
3. Never Use a Crate as Punishment
Never put your puppy in a crate when they have done something wrong and you are angry. If you use the crate to punish your pup, it will not be a space they want to relax in.
4. Take Your Puppy for a Walk First
Help your pup burn off energy and get that potty break before expecting them to relax in their crate.
There are pros and cons to crate-training a puppy. Long periods in a crate can deprive puppies of the opportunity to exercise, relieve themselves and socialize. It can cause anxiety or make separation anxiety worse.
A benefit of crate training is that your pup will not mind being put in a crate if it needs to be confined for medical reasons (like recovering from surgery) or traveling.
Crate training is a personal choice, but it’s not the only way to house train your puppy or keep your home safe from your puppy while you are busy.
A playpen, a kennel in an enclosed garden, puppy-proofing your home, hiring a dog walker, or taking your pup to dog daycare are all options to ensure your dog is safe, has the opportunity to exercise, move and relieve itself while you are out.