Welcoming a new puppy into your home is an exciting and heartwarming experience. Amidst the joy and playfulness, it’s essential to train your furry friend and establish a sense of order and routine. One crucial aspect of this process is crate training – a tool that helps with housebreaking, safety, and transitioning your pup to their new environment. While crate training has its benefits, it also comes with an inevitable challenge – your puppy’s cries. As a caring pet owner, it’s natural to worry about how long you should let your puppy cry in their crate before intervening.
In this comprehensive guide, I’ll walk you through the reasons behind your puppy’s cries and help you understand the ideal time to let them cry in their crate. We’ll delve into the impacts of letting them cry, tips for crate training, and best practices for responding to their cries. My goal, as always, is to equip you with the essential knowledge and my personal insights as a professional trainer to make the crate training experience smoother for both you and your gorgeous new pup.
So, let’s jump right in and get started on our journey to supporting well-adjusted and happy puppies.
Remember: We use positive reinforcement methods, because all other methods have been shown to have negative consequence – but we’ll talk about that too!
Why Do Puppies Cry In Their Crate?
Puppies, much like human babies, use crying as their primary form of communication. There are several potential reasons why your puppy may be crying in their crate:
- Isolation: Puppies can feel scared or uncomfortable when left alone, particularly if they are new to your home and may be missing their littermates and mother, and particularly if your puppy’s crate is new to them and wasn’t introduced by a breeder
- Basic Needs: Hunger or a need to go to the bathroom could be another reason why your puppy is crying in the crate. If it’s close to mealtime or if your puppy has been in the crate for a long time, they might simply need a bathroom break! And the fact they’re telling you is a good thing.
- Boredom: Lack of exercise or mental stimulation can lead to a bored puppy. If your puppy hasn’t had enough physical activity or playtime before being crated, they might start crying out of boredom, this is usually a good time to take pup out, give them a break and play with them.
- Physical Discomfort: It’s also important to ensure that the crate is comfortable. If the crate is too small and your puppy can’t stand, turn around comfortably, or play with toys, they may start to feel stressed and begin to cry.
- Separation Anxiety: Puppies that form strong bonds with their caregivers can experience separation anxiety. This can cause them to cry when they’re crated and separated from you.
- Health Issues: Although it’s less common, health issues could also be a cause of crying. If your puppy isn’t feeling well or has a condition that increases their need to urinate, they may cry to signal their discomfort.
- Fear Of Missing Out: In one of those instances where pup doesn’t want to settle, knows they should, but is similar to a toddler denying they’re tired, or because they want to do what you’re doing and be with you — that one is common too.
By understanding these reasons, you can more effectively address your puppy’s crying and help them adjust to their crate. Remember, all puppies are unique, and it may take some time for you to learn your puppy’s specific signals and needs.
How Long Should You Let Puppy Cry In Their Crate?
If you don’t understand the meaning of the crying – take puppy out and begin to learn what each noise makes.
There’s no universal answer to how long you should let your puppy cry in their crate, as it largely depends on the specific circumstances and individual puppy needs.
Generally speaking it’s not a good idea to let puppy cry in their crate, because experts now believe that the consequences of doing so can actually accumulate and contribute towards separation anxiety later in life.
There are 3 things you can do to know how to respond when your pup is crying in their crate…
1 – Learn How Pup Communicates
The key here is to learn the noises they make, and learn how your pup is trying to communicate. Your pup has a range of noises and they all mean something, and beginning to understand those and mentally catalogue them is the path to success here.
For example, my hounds seem to have such a diverse group of noises that I’m beyond certain that they have a certain howl for “Snake” – whilst that’s not relevant to crate training – its said to give you an idea of just how diverse our dog’s linguistics can be. So your pup might be crying, or a frustrated whimper, or a lonely howl, or similar.
What is important after that is that we must remember that every time you act, puppy learns. Training in this instance goes both ways! Puppy will also learn equally fast that every time they make X noise, you respond with Y.
2 – Balance Pup’s Day
However, there are times where it is the fear of missing out. Young puppies want to be with us in their new home (that’s usually kind of weird to them!), and they’ll tell you.
The important thing here is to learn their noises. Initially this means you will take them out every time they make a noise, assuming it’s a need for a bathroom break. Then, as you refine your process, you’ll be fine tuning that understanding – such that you’ll go “oh, that was a high pitched whine, and that means you want to play, but you’ve done a lot of playing right now and you need for sleep is more important than your need for play”
So what I’m trying to convey is that you need to act to balance out your pup, and give building blocks for learning how to be in future life, i.e. I’m tired, I should sleep, I need to play, let’s play! etc.
If you’re unsure on how to do this, ensure you start with adequate puppy sleep, and build from there. If you want help doing that, then it’s a great time to check out our schedule builder.
3 – Play it safe
If you don’t know the noise, try leaving them for a very short periods of time, then if it doesn’t stop, take them out of the crate and take them for a bathroom break, and try and settle them down again. This may feel like overkill, but it’s a really great way to ensure that new puppies don’t feel isolated and alone. In some instances, this may also mean going back some steps in their crate training, adding in another break in the middle of the night, or bringing pup’s crate from the family room to the bedroom, to help foster proper crate training.
Crying is really frustrating, but ignoring them entirely is rarely the solution.
What Happens When We Let Our Pups Cry In The Crate?
When we let puppies cry in their crate, several things can occur:
- Learning to Self-soothe: Allowing your puppy to cry for a short period in their crate can help them learn to self-soothe and adjust to their crate. This is an important skill for their growth and independence.
- Learning To Be Alone: Extended periods of crying in the crate might be a sign that your puppy is experiencing being alone for the first time, and that they need support with that. This can occur when they’re unaccustomed to being separated from you or other members of the household. (Note: Some may refer to this as Seperation Anxiety, I however will not!
- Continued Distress: Prolonged and ignored crying might lead to a state of constant distress for your puppy, leading to a buildup of stress, anxiety, and discomfort. If not addressed, this could potentially result in longer-term behavioral or emotional problems.
- Negative Association with the Crate: If a puppy’s crying in the crate is repeatedly ignored, they might begin to associate the crate with negative experiences, making crate training more difficult and causing them to be less likely to use the crate willingly in the future.
- Inadequate Training: If a puppy’s crying is perpetually ignored or inadvertently reinforced, it may lead to improper crate training. The puppy may learn to associate crying in the crate with getting attention or being let out, which could lead to this becoming a habit.
- Loss in toilet training progress: if we miss a cue and miss the toilet break pup needs because we are trying to sleep for longer periods of time (or similar) it means you will jeopardize a lot of your hard work in toilet training and have to clean up a mess too…
Do you see how many problems can occur if we allow pup to simply cry it out…? There’s so much going on for your young puppy, try and make moving into your home a positive experience from the start. There are so many more negative associations or consequences that can happen if we ignore our pup than if we tend to them. And sure, some may call this coddling, some may call this too soft – but I’d rather be a little soft than too hard when it comes to a puppy.
How Should You React When Puppy Cries?
If your puppy cries in their crate, here’s what you could potentially do:
Ensure Your Puppy’s Basic Needs Are Met: Before you crate your puppy at night or for extended periods, always make sure they’ve had a chance to exercise, eat, and relieve themselves. Many times, a puppy cries in their crate because they need something essential.
Comfort Your Puppy: If your puppy is new to the crate, they might feel anxious or scared. You can comfort them by placing a soft blanket or a piece of clothing with your scent in the crate. Hearing your voice or seeing you can also help to soothe them.
Use a Calming Aid: There are various puppy-approved calming aids available, such as wraps that imitate the feeling of a hug, calming pet sounds or music, and dog pheromone diffusers. These aids can help ease your puppy’s anxiety and promote a better crate experience.
This crate is what we use here in the rebarkable household, it's really durable, and offers everything you might need, sure it's not as slick as some other crates, but ideally, you need this for early ages of pup's life and for future veterinary prescribed bed rest - and not much else.
This little thing can help pups loneliness if they're missing the warmth of their brothers and sisters. It doesn't work for all dogs, but it absolutely can help them feel comforted in their new space.
Made in the USA for our bigger pups - the Big Barker is the beds we use in this home, and they're really durable and will absolutely make for a comfy base for your pup's crate. Toss a low cost fleecy blanket in there? And you'll create a really wonderful environment for pup to relax in.
Learn Your Pup’s Cries: Your pup actually has different types of cries. Some are just cries for attention, while others are cries of pain or fear. If you know when your pup cries, it will be easier to figure out what they need from you. If you’re not sure, it’s best to err on the side of caution and take your puppy out. Many puppies are afraid of being left alone in a crate or carrier and will cry if they feel left out. It’s important to let them know that they will not be left alone for long periods of time.
Consult a Trainer: If your puppy continues to cry excessively in their crate despite your best attempts, consider seeking advice from a professional trainer!
7 Quick Tips For Crate Training
When it comes to crate training your puppy, it should start with gentle introductions. Set up the crate in a comfy area with the door securely open, allowing your puppy to explore it without fear. Make it a comfortable space with bedding and favorite toys. This ensures the crate is viewed as a positive and safe place by your puppy.
Encouragement is crucial during this process. Utilize treats, toys, or their meal to entice your puppy into the crate. Remember to offer praise when they voluntarily step in. The goal is to create positive associations with the crate.
Once your puppy is comfortable going in the crate, begin crating them for short periods while you’re present and gradually increase the time they spend in the crate. The goal is to make your puppy comfortable when left alone inside.
Incorporating the crate into your puppy’s routine can reinforce it as a safe, regular part of their day. Suitable times for crate usage include meal times, naptimes, and bedtime. This path leads your puppy to know that the crate provides a safe place to rest.
Bear in mind, puppies need regular potty breaks. For young ones, make sure to let them out every couple of hours. This helps prevent accidents from happening inside the crate.
It’s crucial to keep the crate as a positive space. Avoid using it as a punishment tool. Negative feelings towards it may create resistance from your puppy towards being in the crate. Likewise, avoid leaving your puppy in the crate for extended periods. Puppies need a balance of crate time, playtime, and interaction with you for wholesome development.
Lastly, maintaining patience and consistency is vital. Crate training doesn’t happen overnight and every puppy will respond at its own pace. Remember to be patient and keep the process consistent for a successful crate training.
There are so many questions around puppy’s crying in their crate.
1 – Should I let puppy “cry it out” in their crate?
The topic of letting a puppy “cry it out” in their crate can be quite polarizing. Some experts believe that leaving a puppy to cry for a short while can help them learn to self-soothe and adapt to being in their crate. This stems from the idea that if puppies receive immediate attention each time they cry, they may learn to associate crying with getting what they want.
However, others emphasize that a crying puppy often signals distress or a need that requires addressing. This could be due to various factors ranging from separation anxiety to the need for a bathroom break. Prolonged crying can cause the puppy to associate the crate with negative experiences. Moreover, excessive crying might also indicate other issues that might need a more involved solution, such as consulting with a veterinarian or a professional trainer.
So, should you let your puppy “cry it out”? It’s really about learning what your puppy’s cries might mean.
2 – Should I Let Puppy Cry In Their Crate On The First Night?
Whether it’s the first week, or second night, when bringing a new puppy home letting them cry in their crate on the first night depends on understanding your pup’s needs. In general, short durations of crying can help puppies adjust to their crate and environment but prolonged periods may cause distress and anxiety. It’s essential to understand the reason behind your pup’s cries, as they might need a potty break or comfort. Consistent training should eventually teach them you’ll always come back. Never ignore excessive crying; attend to your puppy’s needs to ensure their wellbeing.
3 – Will Tending To Them Create Bad Habits?
Some trainers will tell pet parents that this is just going to create more problems for you in the future, and … I’d respectfully disagree. Strongly.
The risk of separation anxiety is huge currently, especially if we don’t know how well bred our pup is, and remedying separation anxiety is a life altering training plan – so sure, it might create a little neediness and be more work up front – but as we progress to adult dogs who we can understand and are less likely to struggle with separation anxiety? I’d argue a little more work up front is so much more beneficial in the long run – even if it does mean compromising your good night’s sleep for a while.
Positive Reinforcement is a process
A lot of this actually comes down to the recent change in training methodology and the abandonment of the idea that our dogs are “pack animals”, and it’s a hard change to make, there’s no doubt about that – but this training process simply means we’re removing any form of punishment, and, technically, allowing our dog to “cry it out” amounts to negative punishment – which is to say we shouldn’t be deliberately using this as a training method.
And that mindset switch is significant and hard to process for us and our family members, particularly if we’ve done it one way for a long time. But change is doable! Keep learning and let’s strive to do the best by our pups.
Crying Happens, But We Don’t Abandon Pup
Dealing with a puppy crying in their crate during the night can be distressing for both you and your puppy.
It’s important to understand that patience and consistency are needed during this adjustment phase. By attending to their basic needs, making their crate a comfortable and welcoming space, establishing a set routine, and gradually getting them used to the crate, you can help comfort your puppy. If this behavior persists or if you’re just uncertain (which you should feel no shame about!), it’s always wise to reach out to a professional dog trainer to help guide you in how to approach the issues your facing.
And do remember, it takes all pups an adjustment period moving from their breeder (or rescue) to their new home! All we can do is try our best to make it a smooth, happy transition.
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Author, Ali Smith
Ali Smith is the Positive Puppy Expert, dog trainer and is the founder of Rebarkable. She is passionate about helping puppy parents get things right, right from the start. To help create a puppy capable of being a confident and adaptable family member and keep puppies out of shelters.
Ali has won multiple awards for her dog training, and has had her blog (this blog!) rated as 2021 & 2022 worlds’ best pet blog!
Thanks to depositphotos.com for the images!