When I first began crate training my pooch, he whined like a newborn pup every time we would slide the latch shut! Even if he was just kept in the crate for a couple of hours, he would immediately start crying & whimpering to be let out.
However, I soon figured out that crying is usually a typical response to crate training, as your pup is pushed out of his comfort zone. This can happen to dogs of any age, from a 3-year-old pooch to a 7-month-old puppy!
Here are a few reasons why your dog might be crying in his crate and what you can do to fix it!
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Should I Be Worried if My Dog Is Crying in His Crate?
The first question pet owners have is if it’s normal for their pooch to be crying in his crate. It seems cruel to leave an animal whimpering in there, and it can often leave you feeling like a cold-hearted owner.
However, it’s completely normal for your pooch to shed a few tears within the first three weeks of his crate training process, especially if he is younger than a 5-month-old puppy.
Consider how much time your pooch is spending in the crate. It’s possible that you might be keeping your dog in the crate for too long, and your dog needs to relieve himself, which is why he is crying.
Should I Stop Crate Training if My Puppy Is Crying?
It’s important to remember that a crying puppy should never be a reason for you to stop kennel training. Teaching your dog to stay in his crate at night is an invaluable step in his training process.
I often crate my dog to keep him safe & away from danger, especially if I can’t watch him. For example, while my kitchen was being renovated, my pup was incredibly curious about all the weird smells & sounds coming from the construction.
So, I would often have to crate him in my room when I couldn’t watch him. This would also calm him down if he got scared by the loud sounds of the jackhammer or the saws.
Why Is My Dog Crying in His Crate?
1. Needs to relieve himself
The most common reason why your pooch is whimpering in his crate is that he needs to go to the bathroom. Dogs are den animals, which means they love small, enclosed spaces. They also have a natural tendency to keep their “den” clean.
So, if your dog is able to control their bladder, he will try his hardest to keep his urine contained until he can leave the kennel. So, when he has the urge for a bathroom break, he will begin to whine & whimper to be let out.
Consider the last time you took your pup out for a walk & the last time he relieved himself.
Puppy age vs. potty break waiting time
Age in months
Puppies under 6 months
1 to 3 hours
Puppies over 6 months
2 to 6 hours
Adult dogs under 7 years
6 to 8 hours
Senior dogs aged over 7 years
4 to 6 hours
Senior dogs aged over 12 years
2 to 4 hours
So, you can see from the table above that a puppy aged over six months should be able to wait for up to six hours with proper crate training before he needs to take a bathroom break. However, very small puppies only have very small bladders and might need to go more frequently than that.
Some dogs actually don’t like to be enclosed in a crate. Rather than being a safe space, they may consider the kennel to be overwhelming and terrifying.
If your dog was ever locked in the crate for too long, far away from the rest of the family, he might have developed a long-lasting fear of entering a crate.
This may lead to crate aggression. Crate aggression is a unique behavior where your puppy is perfectly well-behaved out in the open but turns super hostile & destructive behind a barrier.
Some dogs struggle with separation anxiety, which means that they experience feelings of sadness & agitation when their owner leaves them, even for short periods of time. This could lead to several destructive behaviors, such as chewing in the crate, digging on the floor, and peeing in the crate.
A telltale sign of separation anxiety is when your dog only urinates small amounts in his kennel as soon as you leave him. This is known as submissive urination, and it is often displayed by timid dogs who have been punished for having accidents before.
To deal with submissive urination, ensure that you never rub your dog’s nose in the mess he made and immediately clean up any odors.
Another clear indication of separation anxiety is if your dog is constantly licking the walls of his crate. For pups, licking is a self-soothing behavior, and it can be done to alleviate anxiety.
Crying due to boredom might be more pronounced when your dog can hear the rest of the family playing & interacting but is stuck in his cage, which is far away from the main attractions. This can lead to a huge case of canine FOMO.
A bored dog will have no trouble entertaining himself – in the most destructive ways possible! You may find that your pup has completely chewed up his bed or continuously gnaws on the bars of the kennel.
Try adding a couple of toys & treats in the kennel to make it more enticing to enter. Your pup won’t notice how much time has gone by if he constantly has a bone to chew on!
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try with training, your dog just doesn’t like his crate. This may be because it’s not the right size, there isn’t enough visibility, or he finds it limiting. No matter the cause, you should try out different crate sizes & models before settling on one.
Think about the size of the ventilation holes, the preferred materials, and if your dog has enough space to stretch, turn around, and lay down.
What Should I Do if My Dog Is Crying?
Don’t give in!
Although it sounds cruel, sometimes the best thing to do is to ignore your pup’s whining. The most common reason behind kennel crying is boredom & feelings of loneliness. Your pup knows that if he sheds a few tears, he’s bound to get ample attention from his loving owner.
However, if you notice that your dog is crying non-stop for 10-15 minutes, this may be due to deep-rooted anxiety, fear, or the need to go to the bathroom. In this case, you should probably take him out of the crate & try to put him back inside after he has calmed down.
Your pooch can get bored really easily when they are all alone in their crate. The best way to combat this is to provide them with tons of boredom-busting activities & toys in their crate.
If your dog is very food-motivated, consider a puzzle game that rewards your pooch with tasty treats when he solves it.
A complex, stimulating game will keep your puppy busy through the night and less likely to cry.
Take them to the bathroom
The most important aspect of housebreaking puppies is ensuring that they are getting many potty breaks dispersed throughout the day.
In this way, your dog won’t have to hold on to their pee for too long, and he will also develop better urinary control over time.
Make sure you don’t force your dog to hold his pee in for too long. This may cause health issues like urinary stones or a urinary tract infection.
Tire your pooch out
A hyperactive dog is not the kind of dog you want in a crate. Some of the most annoying behaviors, like whining, barking, and digging, all come from boredom & an excess of energy.
An active dog will have improved sleep quality, better joint health, and reduced anxiety. The benefits are endless!
Don’t use the crate as punishment
The most important thing to remember is to never use your canine’s kennel as a time-out or as punishment for bad behavior. A kennel should be your pup’s refuge. It should be a quiet place for him to go to escape all the noise & overstimulation he might find in today’s modern world.
If you use the crate as a tool for punishment, this will create a negative association & may cause crate training regression. He will connect being in the crate with bad feelings of regret, sadness, guilt, and loneliness.
Make being in the kennel a positive experience. Spend time playing & talking to your dog through the grate. Just make sure that he isn’t whining or crying before you do this, as this could solidify whimpering as an attention-seeking activity.
Upgrade the crate
It’s likely that your dog is just uncomfortable in his crate, which is why he is whining. Make sure that your dog has enough space to turn around, lie down, and stretch out.
Furthermore, your dog may not like the crate because it does not have enough visibility. Ensure that the kennel allows your dog to look around & outside. If your pup feels secluded from the world, he is definitely going to feel uncomfortable in the crate.
Make the kennel more enticing
To make the kennel more welcoming, consider adding your pup’s favorite blanket, his most-used toy, and a couple of treats. Softening the inside of the crate makes it seem less scary for a young pup.
If your pooch is young, you can try rubbing a blanket or towel on the rest of the litter and putting it in the crate. This familiar scent means your pup will naturally gravitate toward the kennel!
The night can be a scary time for a young puppy, so it may not be a good idea to start crate training as soon as the sun sets. Take advantage of the fact that puppies sleep for a whopping 18-20 hours daily & test out new crate training tactics in the daytime!
If you notice that your pooch looks a little bleary-eyed, move his bed close to the crate. Get your dog used to sleeping right next to the open crate. Slowly, transition to moving the bed inside the crate & eventually locking the gate.
Why won’t my dog enter his crate anymore?
If your dog used to be super comfortable with sleeping in the crate with the door locked, and now he won’t even enter, you might be pretty confused by this sudden change. This is known as crate training regression, and it is a pretty common occurrence.
It’s crucial to keep your training schedule consistent & don’t give up. Eventually, going into the crate will become second nature for your pup.
Is it okay to let my puppy cry in his crate?
Yes, it’s okay to let your puppy cry in his crate as long as you understand why he is crying.
Consider the last time your dog went for a bathroom break. If it was over a couple of hours ago, he might be crying because he needs to be taken out.
If you notice that your dog is urinating tiny amounts in his crate, that may be a sign that he is anxious. In this case, you can take him out & comfort him.
How long should I ignore my puppy crying in his kennel?
If your dog is crying non-stop for more than 15-20 minutes, this is indicative of fear, anxiety, or the need for a bathroom break. You should take him out for a walk, give him tons of head pats, and use a soft, soothing voice.
After 10-15 minutes, you can try putting him back in his crate.
In conclusion, don’t be alarmed if your dog starts crying as soon as you place them in the kennel. This is a totally normal response to crate training because your dog has been pushed out of his comfort zone & is having a hard time adjusting.
You can make this process easier by tiring out your pup beforehand, furnishing the crate with tons of soothing blankets & toys, and giving them enough bathroom breaks.
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Thanks for reading!