If your puppy is crying in their crate during the day, you should ensure they’re not being kept inside for too long and that they’re getting enough attention and play throughout the day.
Puppies shouldn’t be locked in crates night and day, and the crate should never be used to punish your pup.
Crate training is very beneficial to puppies and humans alike, but only when used properly. When a person uses a crate to lock their puppy up for most of the day, that’s abuse.
A puppy crying in their crate is trying to tell you something, and as the person responsible for their wellbeing it’s up to you to listen and adjust their care as needed.
In this article, I’ll discuss how to get your puppy to love their crate, crate training mistakes to avoid, and how to crate train your dog effectively.
Don’t Crate Pups for Many Hours During Day
While it’s okay to leave your puppy in a crate for short amounts of time, such as when a guest visits briefly, they shouldn’t be inside during your entire work day or for many hours while you’re home.
Even if the crate is an appropriate size for your puppy, it’s still a small, confined area that doesn’t give them room to run, pounce, and play.
Puppies are meant to do these things, to be active. They’re not built to sit in a kennel for the majority of their lives.
Even if you only kept your pup in their crate at bedtime and during the work day, that would be over 16 hours spent confined.
I think we can all see how unreasonable an expectation this is.
Crates aren’t for Punishing Your Puppy
When some people think of crate training, they think of punishing your puppy by sticking them in their crate whenever they’ve done wrong, or using it for “time outs.”
This is ineffective and only hurts your puppy, alongside giving them negative associations with their crate.
The goal of crate training shouldn’t be punishment, but to give your puppy a place where you both know they are safe and secure.
If you need help training your dog, I suggest looking into positive reinforcement training. This will work for any behavioral problem you’re having, including potty training and destructive chewing.
This article gives a good explanation as to why the dominance theory of dog training is inaccurate, outdated, and harmful to dogs.
Below, I’ll discuss how to crate train your puppy so that you can begin to use their crate as a helpful, positive tool.
Reasons a Puppy Cries for Short Periods in Crate
Of course, a puppy crying in their crate during the day might not have been there for hours. What do you do if your dog cries when kept in a crate for even a few minutes?
This typically happens due to lack of training, because your puppy is unused to the crate or even associates it with negative things.
Reasons a puppy might cry for short periods in their crate includes them:
- Not getting enough exercise throughout the day or before they are crated. This means your puppy has energy they want to exert and you should meet their physical needs for exercise before you put them in the crate.
- Hungry and begging for food. This is especially common around mealtime, or if your puppy isn’t being fed enough. Puppies might also beg if they see you with food that they want.
- Needs to go to the bathroom, and can’t hold it anymore. Try taking your puppy out to go potty before putting them in their crate. Also, remember that puppies can’t hold their bladders as long as grown dogs. Being forced to hold it can lead to accidents that are detrimental to potty training or even health problems.
- Bored or has been in the crate too long. Even if it doesn’t seem like a long time to you, puppy’s attention spans are short! They also need to be slowly trained and conditioned to their crate, so in the beginning they will likely tolerate shorter timespans locked inside.
- Your puppy sees you and is crying for attention, hoping you’ll allow them out of their crate to see you.
- The crate is uncomfortable. Maybe it’s too small for your dog, or they want more or less cushioning inside.
- Negative associations with their crate, or is used to being punished with the crate.
- Haven’t been trained properly in order to get used to their crate.
How to Crate Train a Puppy
The first thing to know about crate training your puppy is that it won’t be a quick and simple process. Crate training takes at least six months to complete.
1. Buy and Set up a Good Crate
If you’re reading this article, you likely already have a crate for your puppy. Before you begin crate training, ensure it’s the best size for them and that you’ve made it comfortable.
A crate should be large enough for your puppy to stand and turn around in. If it’s not, you need to purchase a new one before continuing.
Some dogs like bedding or blankets in their crates, while others prefer a harder surface. If the crate has a grid on the bottom, cover it so it’s not digging into your puppy’s feet.
2. Take off Collar and Harness
Collars and harnesses can get caught on the crate and hurt your dog, so never leave them on while they’re inside.
3. Encourage your Puppy to go into the Crate
The first step of crate training is to get your puppy used to their crate. You aren’t closing the door or forcing them inside yet, just getting them to interact with it.
There are three ways to encourage your puppy to go inside their crate:
Try placing treats inside the crate and letting your puppy retrieve them. Give them praise as they eat the treats.
They might back out right after grabbing the treat. This is okay, and you should still tell them how great they’re doing!
When your puppy is staying in the crate for longer stretches, try a Kong toy filled with treats to keep them busy.
Feeding your puppy their meals inside the crate is a great way for them to associate it with positivity.
You might not be able to place it all the way back at first. If your puppy won’t go get it, try putting the dish toward the front and moving it backward over time until you get there.
If your puppy absolutely refuses to eat in their crate, feed them elsewhere. This isn’t important enough for a growing puppy to be missing meals over!
You might think if they get hungry enough, that’ll force them into the crate, but this is unlikely to work. It can also cause negative associations with both food and the crate, which is the opposite of what you want your puppy to feel!
Lastly, play games with your puppy using the crate. Hide treats in the folds of their blanket or bed, or toss a tennis ball inside for them to fetch.
Make the crate as fun and normal in their day-to-day life as possible, and it won’t be a problem at all for them to stay inside when necessary.
Remember, if your puppy is extra hesitant, treat them just for interacting with their crate at all. This might mean sniffing the outside or just craning their neck inside.
Be patient and allow them to go at their own pace.
4. Close the Door for Short Amounts of Time
Once your puppy is used to going inside the crate, close the door for short periods of time. Try to time it so that you’re letting your puppy out before they’re upset to have been locked in.
For example, close the door while your puppy is busy eating dinner. Then when they finish eating, let them back out.
You can do the same with a puzzle toy, like a stuffed Kong toy, or even a chew toy if they’re inside and focused on gnawing it!
5. Extend their Time Spent Inside the Crate
Now your puppy loves their crate and can even spend small amounts of time inside with the door shut.
The next step is to extend the amount of time they’re left inside. Maybe leave them for a few extra minutes after they finish their meal, or walk away and complete a short, simple chore around the house like washing a few dishes.
As they get used to being crated for five, ten, fifteen minutes, continue increasing that time. You can also increase your distance away from the crate.
For example, you may begin by staying in the same room for ten minutes, then progress to a walk outside or quick run to the store for twenty minutes, and eventually a couple of hours while you grocery shop.
Just make sure not to go too far with this. Like we’ve discussed, being in a crate all day and night isn’t good for a dog and should not be the goal.
6. Extra Crate Training Tips
- Choose the right place to keep the crate. If you’re crating your puppy at night while you sleep, for example, consider keeping the crate in the bedroom where your puppy can see you. It’s important to choose someplace where they will feel secure.
Depending on your puppy’s personality and preferences, this may be a wide open space where they can see all around them, or it might mean the corner of a quiet room with a blanket covering the sides of the kennel.
- Switch it up. By varying your routine when you crate your puppy, they don’t learn to associate it with you leaving home. This way, they never fear or avoid the crate. Try putting them inside a few minutes before you leave sometimes, or crating them for short periods throughout the day when you aren’t leaving home at all.
- Become a spy. A pet camera can help you look in on your puppy while you’re away to see how they are doing. This way, you can see how they feel about the crate when you’re not around and address any signs of discomfort or anxiety.
Alternatives to Crate Training
Find a Dog Sitter
The biggest reason people crate their puppies for too long is that they have to work during the day, and don’t want their puppy causing chaos while they’re away.
This is hard on a puppy when you don’t have family around to take care of them while you’re gone. They need attention, exercise, training, and potty breaks throughout the day.
A great alternative to leaving your puppy crated for 8 hours or more while you work is to find someone to watch them for you while you’re gone. Even an hour or two can make an impact.
Try to time this to the middle of your work day so that your puppy’s time crated in one go is as little as possible, and take your puppy’s age into consideration.
If they’re 2 months old, for example, you’ll need someone letting them out for potty breaks every two hours. One short visit won’t be enough for this.
Of course, this isn’t an option for everybody. If you have family or friends who have the time to stop by and play with your puppy for a while, that’s the best choice.
Not only are their services likely less costly than a professional’s, but your puppy likely already knows them and you trust them in your home.
Otherwise, hiring a dog sitter or dog walker to stop by in the middle of your work day will help. Your puppy can go potty, get some exercise, and then spend only a couple of hours in their crate again before you return home.
Use a Room, not a Crate
If you’re having a lot of trouble with crate training or are keeping your puppy in their crate for way too long, try using a room instead of their crate.
This won’t solve every problem, and the extra space a room provides doesn’t make up for the time you have to spend with your puppy. Young puppies still can’t tolerate being alone through an entire work day.
Try keeping your puppy’s crate in the room left open. This way, they can go in and out of it throughout the day.
The best thing about having a designated room for your puppy while you’re gone is that you can puppy-proof this small area and know that they’ll be completely safe. This is especially great if you were crate training because of destructive chewing habits.
Rehome Your Puppy Responsibly
If you find that you don’t have enough time to care for your puppy, please rehome them responsibly.
It’s sad to rehome a pet who you love dearly, but it’s much better for your puppy in the long run to have their needs met—and you can’t do that if you’re keeping them crated for the majority of their lives.
I recommend finding a reputable rescue that can get your pup into a foster home, or rehoming them directly by yourself.
If you don’t know the person you’re rehoming your puppy to, always charge a rehoming fee and do your research into the potential adopter.
Not everyone has good intentions when taking in a dog, unfortunately, and it’s important that your dog goes into a good home and isn’t used for dog fighting or put into an abusive situation.
Sometimes, people with bad intentions take advantage of the lack of applications and fees to get easy access to animals.
Check with people in your circle of family, friends, and neighbors rather than adopting out to a stranger, and you’ll be more likely to find someone who will care for your puppy well.
If no one you know can take in the dog, they might know someone else who is willing.
Responsible breeders will also take puppies back if things don’t work out. They will then rehome them for you.
Shelters should be used as a last resort, especially if the ones in your area are crowded. While shelters do their best for the dogs in their care, you do run the risk of your puppy being euthanized in an overcrowded environment.
There is also the risk of your puppy having a long stay at the shelter if they have a difficult time finding a new home. It’s not uncommon for dogs to be stuck in shelters for months or even years at a time.
However, surrendering your puppy to a shelter is better than giving them to someone you don’t trust. Always utilize a shelter before selling a pup to a stranger online or offering them free to people you don’t know.
Never discard an animal outdoors. You may think this gives them freedom, but puppies are domesticated and cannot fend for themselves on the streets or in the wild.
You’ve taken on this responsibility, so please see it through to the end. Take your time and make sure your puppy finds a new forever home with someone who will care for them right.
Writer: Katelynn Sobus