Got a Crate Squawker?
Recently I have had a few questions about those of you that have crate whiners!
I HATE whining! I can almost tolerate full out barking before I can tolerate the sound of whining. I guess it is the pitch and my tendency toward migraines but whining is one of my biggest pet peeves, so I completely understand!
That’s why I ALWAYS train my dog’s these 7 Brain RE-training Games for dogs to teach him how to keep this impulse under control.
But, it is important to understand crate training from your dog’s stand point before we go much further!
What it’s Like for Your Dog
Most whining and crying comes from our puppies when we try to crate train them. Understand that they come from a world where they lived with their mom and their littermates in a fairly confined space. They have never really experienced being all ALONE and it can be kind of scary, at first.
Dogs are den animals, that is true, so acclimating to a crate is somewhat natural for dogs, however they are never “locked” in their dens. This inability to get our takes some acclimation and the understanding that nothing bad is going to happen to them in this new environment.
Most of our pets are spoiled. We take our dogs with us and spend lots of time with them, catering to their every need; so they can be taken aback when we lock them up and leave them alone.
Crates are CRITICAL
But, crates are essential to the safety of your dog and your “stuff”. Read more about why to use a crate and crate games here in my article The Joys of Crate Training.
I will always crate train my dogs. It makes them easier to travel with, because their home can travel with them, and it helps them with separation anxiety and anxiety at the groomer and the vet hospital. At some point almost ALL dogs will have to be crated or caged somewhere. Just last week I had to drop my dog off for x-rays and I know she was put in a kennel to await her turn!
So it is crucial not to give up! Remember it is normal for your dog to protest and how you deal with these protests will set you up for a lifetime of loud protests if you are not careful!
What Do You Do?
First and foremost is to acclimate your puppy or dog to the crate to the best of your ability.
Also play crate games! The more you can make the crate a fun place the less stress and screaming you are going to get when you leave your or puppy in it!
Good training and the important things in your dog’s life take time! Don’t just shove your dog in and lock the door and hope he will be okay. Chances are this would be traumatic for him.
Find an extra great treat, like a sterile cow bone or Kong stuffed with peanut butter or chicken flavor; freeze it and make it a special crate treat. It must be safe enough to leave with your puppy or dog alone. So, make sure he can’t get large pieces off of it or shred it.
I never leave a blanket with a dog that is not crate trained. He could consume it and need abdominal surgery to have it removed.
These special crate treats should ONLY come out when he is in his crate NEVER when he is with you or just around the house. This makes his crate exciting and him happy to see you leave. If he has access to the same treat all of the time or at other frequent times it doesn’t make the crate special.
Leave a radio on and make it LOUD. We live in a world of constant noise and media. Many of us live in an environment full of noise, the TV, computer, kids screaming, people talking, music playing…but when we leave our dogs alone we leave them in a quiet and sterile environment. This is not something they are use to and it can be scary alone! Help them feel like they are in their normal environment by leaving the radio or TV on for them.
Loud background sounds also block the sound of the mailman, delivery man, or other strange noises. It can also help to calm a puppy in his while you putter around the house and get things done. But if you leave that puppy alone in his crate and proceed to make noises he can hear, he is more likely to resist vocally!
At night I believe in keeping the crate next to my bed. I think it is crucial for my dogs to hear that I am right next to them breathing and moving around. Remember your puppy is use to hearing his littermates, he needs to hear some familiar sounds. If he stirs in the middle of the night I can hear him and take him outside. But if he cries, whimpers, or whines when I put him in there I can tap on the side of the crate and tell him to be quiet. This stops the whimper from escalating to a howl.
Never ever break the cardinal rule!
The cardinal rule, you ask?
Don’t Let a Screaming Dog or Puppy Win!
You must teach your dog that in order to get out of his crate he must be quiet! This is essential!
Dogs are much more strong willed than we are, so if he screams for 2 hours straight and you go to let him out he will object even more adamantly the next time you put him in and 3 or 4 hours will be nothing.
By letting out a dog that is throwing a fit, you are basically saying “YES! Please throw a fit when you want something”. And you are much more likely to see this behavior anytime he doesn’t want to do something. He will begin to scream when you leave him alone in the car, or alone in your home, or if he doesn’t want his nails trimmed. You have taught him that fit throwing and screaming to gets him what he wants.
Instead, you must teach him that being quiet is what you want. If he wants out of his crate he must be quiet, this teaches him impulse control and that he doesn’t get everything that he wants when he wants it. Impulse control is fundamental to good dog training.
Exhausted dogs and puppies are too tired to scream. If I have a dog that is a screamer or likely to throw a fit, I will wear him out prior to his crate stay! Play ball, run him next to your bike, or take him for a hike and as he begins to drift off slip him into his crate.
I have had screaming puppies! I had a 6 week old puppy that screamed for nearly 4 hours one night but I didn’t let him win. I lost a night’s sleep, but it was better than losing several nights sleep or worrying about squishing a puppy in my bed!
Shorter sessions are better. This makes sense but if you leave a dog for 8 hours that can be hard to adjust. If however you do 10 minutes when he is exhausted, with a safe chew bone, and end on a happy note you will ease into crate training much easier! Make sure he is tired before bedtime!
If rapping on the crate doesn’t work to quiet my puppies or being by the bed doesn’t seem to help them feel better, I try moving the crate as far away from my bedroom as possible so they can scream without bothering me. I can later bring the crate back into my room, but this allows me to get some sleep.
I have even moved crates to my air conditioned office that was located in my garage. I have let quite a few dogs scream it out. Once I know they aren’t going to hurt themselves, I let them throw a fit. This is like a child throwing a tantrum, if you give in it only gets worse. As long as they are safe, let them learn that fit throwing will get them nowhere.
At some point you may have to let a screaming puppy out to potty and we know you can’t break the cardinal rule…so how do you win?
You make a distracting noise and get ready to praise a quiet puppy. If you can’t wait for them to fall asleep and then surprise them, then make a strange noise and when they pause run down and reinforce quietness.
But overall make it as positive and fun as you possibly can! There are going to be some fits, that is normal but how you deal with them is the most important! Remember you are the stronger smarter animal 😉