Crating dogs helps in house training since they will rarely soil where they sleep. Dogs are naturally den creatures, so staying in a crate for several hours just answers to their natural instinct. The main problem with crating is when your dog, especially young puppies, starts whining for hours to be let out. It can be a confusing and traumatizing experience for new dog owners who have just brought home a new family member from a rescue center. You’ll wonder whether your new pooch wants to be let out to relieve himself or whether she is just missing his previous home.
Moreover, whining happens mostly during the night, which can interfere with your regular sleeping patterns, not mention trouble with your neighbors. If you even find yourself in this unpleasant situation, this guide is meant just for you. We’ve researched far and wide and spoken to industry’s trusted vets and dog trainers to bring you tried and tested tips on how to get a dog to stop whining in the crate.
Why do dogs whine in the crate?
First and foremost, whining in a crate is a common dog problem, especially for new puppies, so you have no reason to freak out. There are many reasons why your dog could be crying in his, but trying to get you evicted or causing to lose sleep every night aren’t one of them. Instead of freaking out or yelling and pounding on the crate, you should try to understand what your pup is trying to communicate. Barking, howling, and crying are the vocal methods of communication for canines.
Dogs cry in the crate because of the following reasons:
- Lonely or scared
- Not tired (excessive energy levels)
- Need to potty
- Sick or hurt
- Needs attention
Some dogs, especially newly adopted pups, do not like the idea of being confined in a place they’re not familiar with. So, out of fear, they cry out to get your attention. Dogs who have suffered from separation anxiety may also panic when left alone. They start whining and crying non-stop until you let them out of the crate. If you take long before letting them out, they may start chewing on the crate and digging into the walls and floors as they look for a way to escape. If you don’t put them in an extra-strong, heavy-duty dog crate, they can easily ruin it. Others bark constantly when the crate becomes boring with no dog toys to keep them busy. At times, your dog simply wants to be let out to go and answer the call of nature. Lastly, your dog could be whining because she genuinely misses you.
Other than pups suffering from separation anxiety, all these other problems can be easily controlled through proper training and management. Dogs with separation anxiety will, however, require long-term training and management, or even medication in severe cases. During crate training, one of the stern warnings that professional vets and dog trainers give is to never forcefully keep a dog suffering from separation anxiety in a crate. It is unkind to put your dog in a traumatizing situation day in day out. It only makes the situation worse instead of improving it.
Should a dog be punished for whining in the crate?
Your dog must be whining in the crate for a reason, so you should never punish him for it. From my experience as a seasoned dog owner, I know it could be tempting to scold him or pound on the crate after he wakes you up in the middle of the night. But the truth is, this will not solve anything.
For example, if your dog is whining because she is anxious or scared, punishment will just worsen the situation. She needs you to be her guardian and protect her. Choosing to yell at her will make her scared of you and you will definitely lose her trust – something you don’t want as a dog lover. She might stop making noise simply because you have scared her to death, which is even worse if you want to build a lasting relationship!
In case your naughty dog is whining to get your attention, you will simply be entertaining him by scolding him. Negative attention gradually becomes somewhat a reward to your dog. He will settle down temporarily because you have made the situation a bit interesting and fun. However, he will get bored again and start seeking your attention, and the cycle begins all over again. If you keep rewarding him with your attention for whining, you will encourage the behavior and he will keep whining for many more nights.
How to Get a Dog to Stop Whining in the Crate: Tips from the Vet!
Now that you’ve understood that dogs whine as a way of communicating something, try not to get frustrated with your dog when he cries in the crate. It is absolutely inhuman to shock, spray, or hit your dog for simply trying to tell you something. In this section, you’ll learn better options for dealing with whining. Training and taking care of a dog requires a lot of patience and consistency. Note that the success of one approach over the other will basically depend on the reason your dog whines – what is he communicating. So, one tip can work for one dog but fail on another dog. So, let’s delve into them already!
1- Ignore the whining
One of the most effective ways of stopping bad behavior in dogs who are primarily seeking attention is by ignoring them. It has been proven to be effective at stopping dogs from jumping, and it’s also quite effective in stopping them from whining in the crate. Rewarding the dog with your attention is the biggest mistake you could ever make if you want the situation to improve. This will just reinforce the behavior since your dog simply desires your undivided attention.
As long as your dog is whining to seek your attention, any response from you will just endorse the behavior. This includes taking him out of the crate until he calms down. What will make him not whine again if the reward is to be let out? Every reaction from you counts; even glaring at him. After all, any attention is better than none. Therefore, don’t look at him, don’t touch him, and don’t talk to him. After ignoring him for a while, he will whine even louder, but not freak out – he will surely quiet down if he notices you aren’t bothered. Remember to reward him afterward with some delicious treats every time he doesn’t whine. This encourages positive behavior.
However, it is important to learn your dog’s language and know why he whines, especially if you’ve been together for quite some time. Otherwise, you’ll be ignoring a pressed pet who is about to mess his crate. If that happens, he may feel embarrassed and not love the crate. If you have a new pup who is scared, don’t ignore him but give a reassurance that he is safe in the crate. When you have lived with your pup for some time, you will learn to differentiate when he is whining for attention and when something is genuinely wrong.
2- Set Aside Plenty of Exercise Time
Exercise is very important if you want your pooch to stop whining in the crate later in the night. If you put your dog in a crate while he is full of energy, it will be difficult for him to be calm. This is especially true for dogs aged between 8 and 18 months. Make sure the amount of exercise you give him is right for his age, size, and breed type. Young pups will run up and down the yard every minute you let them loose while older dogs often require an hour or so of supervised exercise.
A 20-30 minute walk is also appropriate for crate training adult dogs. If you have limited time, you can use slightly vigorous exercises to tire your dog faster. Whether young or old, dogs will always be ready for a nap or rest after exercise. This means they will not have the vigor to whine in the crate afterward, allowing you to enjoy the peaceful night sleep you truly deserve.
3- Make the Crate a Comfortable and Safe Space
The first step in crate training is getting your dog to like the crate. Once the dog familiarizes with the crate, chances of whining and anxiety will reduce. You have to make the crate likable by placing soft beddings and a warm blanket. If you have a young puppy, waterproof and chew-proof materials are more ideal. For adult dogs, the waterproof feature is not important since they don’t wet themselves. Make sure the beddings are washable and are of the correct size.
Secondly, place your dog’s favorite toys in the crate to alleviated boredom and destructive behaviors. Make sure the toys are safe for your dog. Some dogs may harm themselves with toys, and not all toys are safe. Some dogs like stuffed toys while others will probably chew and destroy them. There are so many toys in the market that suit your dog whether he likes inhaling or nibbling. Just leave enough toys in the crate to keep him busy while you are away or when you sleep.
Lastly, let your dog learn that the crate is his safe haven. Never use crating as punishment for your pup. You do not want him to associate it with negative things. The crate is supposed to be your dog’s escape in times of danger or when he needs to rest – not a prison. For this reason, you also should never force him to go inside. You can only use treats to lure him into the crate but let him enter on his own. Once his time in the crate is up, leave the door open so that he can explore it later in his free time. Once he has grown to like it, there will be no reason to freak out or get anxious and start whining when locked inside.
4- Allow your Dog to Excrete Before Crating
Dogs need to go out to potty frequently just like humans. If you fail to allow your pup to go out before crating, he will start whining in the crate and even soil it when he can’t hold it any longer. Some of the time, he will also need to go out at night too, especially if he is still young. You can simply use your puppy’s age to determine how many times he needs to go out. You just take your puppy’s age (in months) and add one to know the number of hours he can hold it in. For example, a 3-month old puppy can hold it in for 4 hours while a 2-month old can hold it just for 3 hours. You also need to get the right poop bags and potty train your dog if you haven’t already!
You can set up an alarm to wake you in the night (owning a pup requires this much dedication). Since he could be sound asleep by the time you are ready for bed, it is okay to wake him gently and take him out. You should also ensure he doesn’t eat or drink just before bed. If he eats a couple of hours before, chances are he will have gone to potty once or twice during that period.
5- Correct Crate Placement
Correct crate placement is very important if you don’t want your pup to start whining. Place it in the living room or family room where his human friends spend most of their time. Don’t make him feel like he is in a dog slammer by placing the crate in rarely accessed rooms. Dogs like watching their owners from their crates as they move around the house. Therefore, stores, basements, and the garage are not places you want to keep them. They will start crying loudly due to loneliness and missing out on what’s happening around them.
To stop your dog from whining during both day and night, you can purchase two crates. Place one crate in the living room for daytime use and the other in the bedroom for night use. Alternatively, you can purchase a single portable crate and carry it to the different rooms as the situation demands. Also, you do not have to place the crate in your bedroom if your dog does not go out at night. Something else to note is that older dogs prefer quiet places since they sleep a lot.
Additionally, avoid placing the crate near radiators, fireplace, direct sunlight, or next to the A/C to ensure your dog is not exposed to extreme temperatures. Lastly, keep it away from drafty areas that lead outside such as doors and windows with no insulation. Your dog will keep whining as long as he is feeling uncomfortable from excessive heat or cold.
6- Get the Right Crate
Imagine squeezing a massive Great Dane in a tiny crate. If you find yourself in the same situation, you’ll probably whine too! The crate has to be the correct size, with enough space to stand, stretch, and lay down. The size of the crate will depend on the size and breed of your dog and the potential of getting bigger with age. It is better to get an adult-size crate for your puppy than buying a bigger one later. Don’t worry if your pup is still very small. You can regulate the size of the space using a cardboard box as your puppy grows.
If the crate is too small, your dog will feel like he is confined and not there to cozy up. However, a very huge crate will not feel like a den since it is not a sizeable, enclosed space. It will also encourage the dog to relieve himself on one corner of the crate and sleep on the other.
Secondly, don’t get a crate that is all covered like a kennel. Your pooch should be able to watch his surroundings from there. If he is unable to see his surroundings, he will become anxious since he is unaware of whatever is happening. Close up to a maximum of 2 sides if you have to. Crates meant for traveling or making a trip to the vet should be well ventilated and soft-sided. If your dog likes sleeping under tables or beds, a crate with a covered top will be comfortable for him.
7- Correct Training
Most dog owners would wish to stop their pups from whining in the crate; they just don’t know how to. The most guaranteed and permanent solution is correct training. If you made a slight mistake while crate training, you will need to start all over again and do it correctly this time around. Each step is very important in ensuring your dog gets comfortable in the crate. Avoid moving on to the next step before the previous one is successful. Also, avoid any activities that will reverse the gains achieved.
It is very important for your dog to learn that whining will not make you let him out of the crate. Unless he wants to use the bathroom, whining should not get him any reward. Of course, he will try and test you by overdoing it, but don’t get worked up. Just be patient and strive to master his signals. If he does not need to go to the toilet, then just ignore the whining as mentioned before. If he needs the toilet, let it be strictly that – no play or treats at all. After potty time, take him straight back to the crate and continue with the training.
Some of the best practices during crate training that can reduce whining include:
Feeding in the Crate
For your dog to accept the crate fully, he must have associated it with pleasant things. Associating the crate with nice food is very important and can speed up the success of the training. Initially, when introducing the dog to the crate, you can place the food at the entrance. This is meant to encourage him to get inside. Once this works, place the food inside then later at the furthest corner of the crate. This will ensure he stays inside for some time until the food is finished. After your dog gets comfortable with the crate, begin feeding him all the meals from there. To avoid spilling food all over the crate, consider investing in a functional automatic dog feeder. This will also help to avoid gluttonous dogs from gulping up the food quickly and running right back to you.
Take it Slow
No matter the age of your dog, the training process has to be gradual. It can take days, weeks, or even months depending on the pet. Once the dog is comfortable being inside the crate alone, start increasing the length of time you leave him in there. It has to be gradual; don’t just leave him for 6 hours during the first trial! Start by sitting outside for a bit then leave for a couple of minutes. Continue increasing the time gradually while rewarding him every time he does not whine for being left alone.
Allow Enough Interaction Before Crating
Some dogs whine in the crate just because they feel lonely. Dogs are very social animals just like humans. Older dogs have more independent personalities but young puppies have a greater need for social interaction. Dogs need to have enough interaction with their human families or fellow canine friends and other animals. For this reason, it’s not a good idea to leave your pup in the crate for long. It’s instinctual for him to want to be freed and associate with you and the rest of your family.
Spend quality time with your dog by going for walks or playing games around the house. Some dog owners make the mistake of freeing their dogs to play on their own and fail to pay any attention to them. If you are too busy, you can take your dog to a training class, to a friend, or just get another pet to offer companionship. If there are other family members, then it is well and good. Just ensure the dog has enough interaction time before crating him. In a natural setting, dogs live in packs. Therefore, it is equally important to let him visit some canine friends every now and then or take him to a dog park. Otherwise, get one or more dogs for him to play with.
Thanks to advancements in technology, some of these problems can be solved remotely. Nowadays, you can be at work but able to speak and even see your dog while at home. You can achieve that by installing a pet monitoring camera with audio and video capabilities. Your dog will be able to hear your voice through the device even if you’re away from home. This is quite beneficial since dogs usually get very calm when they hear their owners’ voice. With this device, the dog will not feel lonely and whine anymore. It also helps reduce the anxiety of longing for your return.
When should you get worried?
Although dog whining is very common to pet parents, you need to look out for any unusual behavior or excessive whining. It is strange for a dog that has previously handled crating well to begin whining. If the crying does not go down at all, you should be worried. Seek help from a professional dog trainer or take your pup to the vet.
Additionally, if your neighbors complain that your dog is barking or whining all day, something is definitely wrong. This could be a symptom of separation anxiety. It could be accompanied by pacing, elimination, destruction, or depression. Such a situation requires professional help from a vet. Be quick to take your dog to the vet especially if he injures himself trying to escape from the crate. This is a sign of severe separation anxiety and should be addressed by the professionals.
The endgame of crate training is to have an obedient, well-behaved dog that does not ruin your sleep or cause trouble with your neighbors. Pay attention to the reason why your dog is whining and what he/she needs. As long as your dog feels full, safe, secure, and comfortable in the crate, then the problem of whining should go away with little training. But if the problem persists, seek help from your vet or get a second opinion from a professional dog trainer. You can also watch some useful YouTube videos to get some real-life approaches on how to get a dog to stop whining in the crate.