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What to do when your puppy whines in his crate

The essentials

  • Puppies whine in their crate for a variety of reasons — Your pup may have a full bladder, too much energy, or is feeling lonely, among other factors.
  • Ignoring a puppy’s crying isn’t the only way to stop it — Sufficient exercise, proper crate training, and scheduling bathroom breaks can also curb this behavior.
  • Consult your veterinarian if you’re concerned — In some cases, puppies cry in their crates because of medical issues, and your vet will be able to help.

It starts with a soft whimper. It progresses into a persistent whine. It may even escalate into a bark. A puppy whining in their crate is one of the more challenging aspects of crate training. It can disrupt your work, chores, or sleep — plus, it can be pretty heartbreaking to listen to your new friend crying as they adjust to their new sleeping arrangement. 

That said, owners can rest assured that whining is perfectly normal behavior for a puppy that’s being crated, and there are steps you can take to stop it.

👉 Having trouble introducing your best friend to their crate? Follow our crate training guides for both puppies and adult dogs.

Why do puppies whine in their crate?

To curb your puppy’s whining, you first need to understand why they’re doing it. There are several factors to consider when trying to get to the root of your pup’s issue with their crate.

  • They’ve never been crated before. If your new fur baby is inexperienced with crates, they may be having a hard time with this sudden restriction of their movement.
  • They need to go out. One of the biggest benefits of a crate is that dogs instinctively won’t relieve themselves where they sleep, so their cry may be a sign they have business to tend to.
  • They are bored. If your dog hasn’t been properly exercised – both mentally and physically – they may have too much energy to be confined to their crate.
  • They are hungry. Your puppy may resort to whines or barks to communicate their hunger to you. This will likely happen when you’re close to mealtime, like in the morning before breakfast, or if they aren’t being satiated by their current diet.
  • They had a bad experience with crates. Maybe they were left in one for a long time with a previous owner or shelter, or maybe they’ve been crated as a form of punishment. Dogs can also injure themselves in crates if not trained properly or because of faulty installation.
  • They crave companionship. Your puppy’s recent separation from their mother and littermates and mother may be contributing to their whining. Without that warmth and protection, they may be feeling lonely and crave the companionship of their family members or other pets in the home.
  • They have a medical issue. If your puppy’s needs are taken care of and you’ve tried other methods of calming them to no avail, they may be whining due to a medical condition. Have them seen by a vet to determine if there’s an underlying medical cause.

How to stop a puppy from whining in their crate

Once you’ve figured out the reasoning behind your puppy’s cry sessions, you can start to address the problem head-on. As mentioned above, the solution is often dependent on the problem, but here are general tips for curbing whining in a crate:

Develop a positive association with the crate

Help your puppy associate their crate with happy feelings by feeding them meals in it or tossing their favorite chew toys inside while you’re playing. Start with short sessions, like 10-20 minutes while you run a quick errand, and then gradually increase the length of time. 

The crate should serve as a source of comfort and security, so it also helps to keep it cozy with blankets or a dog bed and to cover it with a sheet to block out light. This should go without saying but never use the crate for punishment.

Ignore the crying

Doing nothing is simultaneously the easiest and hardest way to put a stop to your dog’s whining in their crate. Listening to your pooch cry can be gut-wrenching and, in the case of overnight crating, isn’t exactly the best ambiance to drift off to sleep to. But giving crying puppies attention or letting them out of the crate only teaches them that they need to cry every time they want out. 

If the crying persists after 10-15 minutes, they may need bladder relief or more training. Try to wait for a pause in the cries before comforting or releasing them so they see they’re being rewarded for silence, not whining.

Schedule sufficient bathroom breaks

New puppy owners know all too well that their little friends have small bladders. This is especially evident while housebreaking your pup. 

In general, puppies need a potty break one hour for every month of age (so a 2-month-old puppy needs to go every two hours, a 3-month-old puppy needs to go every four hours, etc.). They also need to do their business after mealtimes and before bed. 

“With many puppies having normal gastro-colic reflex – the distended stomach sets off reflex of the colon for defecating – after eating, they may need to relieve themselves 20-40 minutes after a meal,” says veterinarian Dr. Bruce Armstrong. Make sure your puppy has had enough opportunities to relieve themself and set expectations for trips outside in the middle of the night.

Tire them out

If your dog has a lot of pent-up energy, a restrictive crate is probably the last place they want to be. Most pups have a ton of energy, especially high-energy breeds like Siberian huskies or border collies

When they’re young puppies, you’ll want to be careful not to over-exert them and cause joint issues later in life, but making sure they’ve received the proper amount of exercise in conjunction with their age, weight, and size is crucial for preventing crying in their crate. 

Mental exercises and games like treat puzzles or slow-feed bowls can also tucker your puppy out in addition to improving their brain health.

Reposition the crate

Sometimes the location or position of your puppy’s crate can play a role in their whining. Maybe too much light is getting in, or they are alone in the living room instead of in the bedroom with you. 

It’s a good idea to have the crate near an exit so your puppy can quickly relieve themself when you let them out without going on the floor. Finding the perfect spot in your home may take some trial and error, but keep experimenting as you train your pup to see which area they respond best to.

Troubleshooting tips

If all else fails, you may need to start your crate training over from the beginning to help your puppy get used to the confined space. You may also need to accept that your dog isn’t cut out for crating, in which case there are alternative options available. 

Here are some tips on troubleshooting your pup’s crying if it persists:

Try a new crate — It’s possible the crate you’re using doesn’t jive with your furry friend. There are three types of crates – soft-sided, wired, and hard plastic – that each offer different benefits.

Soothe them — Dogs have several self-soothing techniques such as grooming or drooling for their basic needs, but in some cases rely on people or fellow pets for emotional support. Start by coming closer to the crate so they can see you and know they’re not alone. If that doesn’t work, you can also try placing your hand along the door so they smell your scent. “A low-volume radio or TV for white noise may be calming to many puppies,” says Dr. Armstrong.

Use a crate alternative — You can also consider ditching the crate for another confined area. This could be a playpen, a gated-off room, or a fenced-in yard if your house has one.

Consult your vet — If you are concerned your dog is crying in their crate due to a medical condition, your veterinarian should be the one to address it. In the case of separation anxiety, they may recommend giving your pup medication or calming supplements.

Crates provide a safe space for your pooch and keep them out of mischief when you’re unable to tend to them. But for all their benefits, they can still be stressful for dogs and pet parents alike as you work on getting your canine pal used to them. Be patient and pay attention to your pup’s body language to ensure you’re setting them up for a positive experience in their doggie bedroom.

Frequently asked questions

How do I get my puppy to stop crying in their crate?

How you get a puppy to stop crying in their crate depends largely on the reason they are crying, but generally speaking, crate-training, ignoring the cry, and scheduling sufficient bathroom breaks are all good things in preventing a crying puppy.

Why is my puppy crying in their crate?

Boredom, hunger, full bladder, and inexperience with crating are all possible reasons your puppy may be crying in their crate. They may also be experiencing separation anxiety or dementia.

How do you crate train a puppy?

To crate train a puppy, start by getting them used to the crate on a loose leash, and then help them develop a positive association with it by giving them treats inside or adding in their favorite toys. When you leave them alone, start in short time intervals and gradually work your way up to longer periods. It can be hard work but is ultimately beneficial in creating a safe space for your pooch.

How often do dogs need to go out at night?

Every dog is unique, but a general rule of thumb is to take your puppy out every hour for every month of age. So a three-month-old puppy needs to go out every three hours. Taking your dog out right before bed can help curb crying throughout the night.

How long should I let my puppy cry in their crate?

Try to ignore your puppy for about 10-15 minutes to see if they stop crying. If they don’t, wait for a break in the crying before taking them out to relieve themself or giving them attention so that they don’t think they’re being rewarded for crying.