Puppies scratch at the floor of their crates for many reasons. It could be fear, loneliness or confusion. You can train them to get used to it.
Sometimes they’re scratching at the floor of a crate because they are playing, getting comfortable, or are bored. Make them warm with blankets and toys.
Have you put your puppy in a crate only to have them scratch at the floor of it? If you have, don’t worry, you’re not alone.
This behavior can be both confusing and concerning to you as a dog owner, especially if your puppy has been settled in the crate previously.
Many owners have faced this problem and worked out what the cause was. Others have had to seek advice, but either way, this is something you can stop and prevent. In this article, I’ll explain why this sometimes happens, and what you can do to help your puppy to stop.
There are so many reasons why scratching at the floor is occurring. Some of them are:
- Separation anxiety – Your puppy is used to being with others. When you lock them in their crate, they feel as though they are separated from everyone.
- Boredom – A bored puppy can show their boredom in many ways. Scratching at the crate may be their way of trying to entertain themselves.
- Fear–Puppies are like children. Some puppies are scared to be left alone.
- Crate nervousness – The size of the crate, the fact it’s locked or your puppy is just nervous at the thought of being put in there.
- No crate training – Sometimes your puppy needs to be trained just to get used to the crate.
- Wrong size crate – If the crate is too big, it may feel like a cave to your puppy. If it’s too small, your puppy may feel cramped.
Your Puppy May Need Crate Training
Although some puppies will adapt to a crate without any problems, there are a large number that have issues. Those issues often end up with your puppy scratching at the walls or floor of their crate.
Crate training varies, so the best thing you can do as an owner is look at a number of techniques. The technique I explain below is what worked for me.
1. Feed your dog in the crate
This may be unappealing to some people because you might want to have a dedicated area in the house where you feed your puppy. Just remember that this is temporary while you acclimatize your puppy to their crate.
You should also have the water bowl in the crate as well.
TIP: While you are in this phase of training, don’t close the door of the crate.
2. Make the crate comfortable
A crate shouldn’t be like a prison cell. Place a nice mattress with soft, comfy blankets inside. You want your puppy to know that the crate is a place for nice things to happen, not a place for punishment.
TIP: Give your puppy the odd treat in the crate too. This way you heighten their expectations of the crate being a good place to be. Consider a snuffle mat where you can hide treats or food in different parts of the mat. This excites puppies and makes them think of the crate as a great place to get into.
3. Move to a schedule.
When your puppy is comfortable getting in and out of the crate, you need to move to the next phase of training.
Feed them in the crate, but this time close the door. When they have finished eating, open it up again.
Next, put their favorite toy or snuffle mat inside and while they are engaged in the activity, close the door. Stay within eyesight and after five to ten minutes, open the door again.
TIP: Don’t try to extend this playtime too long, or it may cause your puppy to be wary of getting in again.
4. Close the door for longer, random times.
When your puppy is comfortable with the previous two steps, it’s time to take it further. Leave your puppy for longer times, before reducing it to a short time.
Here’s what I mean.
Close the door and walk away for five minutes, before returning to let your puppy out. Try not to let them out if they are crying or scratching at the crate. This may lead them to think they are getting out because they did that.
Next, leave them in the closed crate for 7 minutes, before letting them out.
Then, leave them for 12 minutes.
Finally, leave them for 1 to 2 minutes. Let them out and have a play with them.
Do this over two days, rather than locking your puppy in four times in a day. Do it as long as you need to. Your goal is to leave your puppy for an hour without any scratching or any other problems.
Once you reach an hour, you can increase to the times you need to be able to leave them alone in their locked crate while at work or away.
The purpose of this method is your puppy will keep guessing when they will be let out, knowing full well you will be back soon.
Other Ways to Stop Your Puppy From Scratching the Crate
On many occasions, stopping your puppy from scratching may be quite an easy fix. Try any of the following ideas and you may find the problem ceases.
- Comfortable bedding. Place a really comfortable puppy mattress in the crate. One that is especially designed for crates like this one are ideal.
- Extra exercise. If your puppy isn’t getting enough exercise, it may result in unsettled behavior like scratching at the crate. Try giving them a little more exercise and see if that helps.
- Careful use of rewards. When your puppy lies down and is settled, try giving them a reward. When they stay quiet and behave, give them a little treat. See if that helps, but be wary that they don’t rely on treats to behave in the crate.
Other Reasons for Puppies Scratching at the Crate
Puppies can scratch at the crate for other reasons than described above. This behavior can result from:
- Your puppy is doing what their ancestors did. Many experts agree that dogs continue to have hardwired behavior inherited from their ancestors.
When dogs were in the wild, they would create a soft bed by scratching at the ground. When they wanted to cool off, they dug down a little deeper. When they wanted heat, they scratched around to build sides.
Your puppy may be replicating this behavior when you put them in their crate.
- Claiming Territory. Another reason suggested for scratching at the floor of their crate is your puppy is marking their territory by scratching because they sweat through the pads on their paws. Scratching is marking the ground, effectively with their sweat.
- Entertainment. Some puppies are happy to entertain themselves. When they are outside, they love to dig. When you put them in their crate, they start to dig because it makes them, happy.
Don’t Give Up, Crates Can be Good For Your Puppy
Crates are a very useful tool in your puppy’s life. They can even calm them down in the right circumstances.
- Dens – Puppies are the relatives of den creatures. A crate can make them feel safe in their own little den.
- Personal Space – A crate gives your puppy their own personal space, just like a human child loves their own space.
- Travel – A crate gives your dog something safe to travel in, especially in motor vehicles.
- Helps with separation anxiety – Sometimes a crate will be a safe haven for a puppy that is stressed you are not there.
Mistakes Puppy Owners Make With a Crate
Sometimes your puppy may have a minor issue with their crate, but you may make it worse by making a few mistakes.
I’ll touch on these mistakesbecause it makes sense when discussing issues around puppies and crates.
- Forcing your puppy to go in when they don’t want to. This can make matters worse and set your puppy’s training back. If you find yourself getting frustrated or angry, take a break and try again later when you’re calm.
- Crate Size. If the crate is too small, your puppy may feel restricted. Also, if the crate is too big, your puppy may feel unsafe. Seek advice from your vet.
- No comfort. Your puppy won’t make themselves at home if there are no blankets, mattress, or toys in the crate.
- Forced time.Leaving your puppy in the crate too long, too fast will be bad for both your puppy and their training.
- Punishment. Don’t use the crate as punishment. Your puppy will identify it as a place it goes when you’re angry at them
If your puppy is scratching at the floor of their crate, don’t worry. It may be something small, or it could be natural behavior.
Even if it’s a behavioral problem, there are ways to gently train your puppy to get used to, and eventually love their little den.
Writer: Craig Taylor