A puppy who won’t come out of their crate may be stressed, injured, or ill. See a veterinarian if your puppy is suddenly acting different than normal or their behavior persists. Otherwise, try to give your puppy some time or coax them out using treats and positive reinforcement.
Your goal with a puppy who won’t leave their crate is to teach them that being outside the crate is safe. You shouldn’t remove your puppy from the crate forcefully, scold, or punish them for not leaving it.
However, you may need to gently lift your puppy from the crate and bring them to a new location.
In this article, I’ll discuss why a puppy may stay in their crate and how to get your puppy to come out of their crate.
Your Puppy Might be Sick
The most worrying reason your puppy isn’t leaving their crate is that they are ill. You should consider this if the behavior is new for your puppy and nothing seems to have caused it.
Injuries can also make a puppy act strange. Sometimes these are related to illness, while other times they’re caused by an accident like your puppy falling or being hit by a car.
Any time a puppy or dog’s behavior changes suddenly, it’s important to take them to the veterinarian to rule out sickness or injury as a cause.
Sometimes changed behavior is the first symptom we notice in our furry friends, and acting on it leads to treating a health problem early.
If you have noticed other symptoms or changes in behavior, remember to tell your veterinarian about those as well—write them down if you need to!
Your veterinarian will likely rule out physical conditions first. If that’s not the problem, they might diagnose your puppy with anxiety or suggest training, desensitization to their fears, or socialization to get your puppy used to new situations.
They May Also be Stressed
Stress can also cause your puppy to stay in their crate.
The goal of crate training is to establish the crate as a safe space. Pups who were properly trained will retreat to their crate when they’re anxious.
Some stressors your puppy may be facing include:
- A change in environment, such as just being adopted, a recent move, or home renovations.
- New additions to the household such as a new partner, pet, or baby.
- Other big life changes for your puppy that may seem small to you, such as a change in routine.
- Short-term stressors such as loud noises, guests, or fireworks.
Of course, stress can vary from very short-term fear to prolonged clinical anxiety. The latter can be treated by a veterinarian if it’s severe, and this is why I recommend seeing your veterinarian first if you’re having this problem.
In addition, your veterinarian will rule out physical conditions first—ensuring you aren’t missing something by self-diagnosing your puppy with anxiety.
Short-Term Stress Will Pass
It’s likely best for your puppy to stay where they feel safe. This is their way of coping with their fear and anxiety.
If you can, take steps to make the environment more peaceful for your puppy by keeping the crate in a quiet place.
You may choose to close the door to the room they’re in, for instance, to muffle the sounds they’re hearing inside the house. Or close windows to lessen the sound of fireworks outside.
Of course, you don’t want your puppy to always avoid things like strangers. This is where socialization comes into play—slowly introducing your puppy to new things in a way that makes them feel safe and secure.
Long-term stressors are more difficult to deal with, as your puppy will have to get used to things like a new home, routine, or family member.
It’s important to give your puppy time and space, but to still slowly introduce them to the new experience through counter-conditioning.
Personally, I would leave a puppy to settle in for the first few days—removing them from the crate as needed for potty breaks or other care. Some puppies will begin to emerge from their crate on their own.
If they don’t, of course you’ll need to interfere with counter-conditioning and desensitization.
It’s important to be gentle and patient with your puppy to earn their trust.
Teach Your Puppy Outside of the Crate is Safe
If you want your puppy to leave their crate, it’s important that they learn the outside of the crate is safe. One way to do this is to check your interactions with them.
Always treat your puppy well and use positive reinforcement to train them and teach them the rules of the house.
Never use harsh training methods or punishments when your puppy misbehaves. These methods are proven not to work, and may even promote fear and aggression.
The last thing you want if your puppy isn’t leaving their crate due to stress is to make them afraid of you!
If you crate trained your puppy, this is very similar—just like they had to learn inside the crate was safe, now they need to learn the same for outside the crate.
Lure them out with treats, and give them lots of praise when they leave the crate. If you need to, gently remove your puppy from the crate and speak softly to them, giving them praise for being brave.
Ensure They Don’t Get Overwhelmed When Outside It
Lastly, allow your puppy to feel safe by not overwhelming them when they’re outside of the crate.
Sometimes with a new puppy, the whole family wants to gather around and love on them! If your family, especially children, crowd your puppy too much, they might feel scared and overwhelmed.
Make sure that your puppy has space and quiet time. Try interacting one-on-one, or allowing just one child to interact with the puppy while supervised by an adult, rather than having the whole family crowd around.
Once your puppy gets to know the family, they will be better able to handle everyone at once and will probably even enjoy the attention!
Eliminate Stressors where Possible
While puppies need to learn to deal with some stressors, it’s sometimes best to eliminate them when possible—especially if your they’re overwhelmed enough to hide in their crate.
When you need your puppy to grow used to a stressor, it’s best to do so in a slow, controlled way. This allows them to get used to it without becoming too overwhelmed.
Here are some examples of eliminating stressors:
1. Your big family is making a lot of noise in the same room as the puppy.
Try keeping the family quiet out of respect for the puppy. Place their crate in a less trafficked area, such as a bedroom, where they can have quiet time when they need it.
Teach everyone not to disturb the puppy while they’re in their crate, so the crate remains a safe space.
You can then condition your puppy into accepting your family and the noise by slowly introducing yourselves to them and showing them you aren’t scary.
Once they’re more familiar, they might end up enjoying and even adding to the noise!
2. Your puppy is terrified of your cat, who hisses and scratches when the puppy tries to play.
Separate your puppy and cat. Reintroduce them slowly, teaching them how to interact with one another.
The cat should never be allowed to scratch your puppy. On the other hand, your puppy can’t chase your cat or invade their space.
Introductions like this usually work best with your puppy leashed, so that your cat can have space when they need, and interact with the puppy on their terms. It also gives you better control over both animals.
3. There are fireworks outside, and your puppy is anxious.
While you can’t stop your neighbors from setting off fireworks, you can eliminate some of the noise by closing windows or playing other sounds to drown out the big booms!
You can also try moving your puppy to the quietest place in your home. For example, I put my dog Charlie in the basement during fireworks or thunderstorms.
Let Your Puppy Stay Where they Feel Safe
Like I discussed above, sometimes the best thing you can do is let your puppy stay where they feel safe.
I recommend this to deal with short-term stressors and during the initial days of a long-term stressor.
Gently remove them from the crate when needed so that they can go potty, you can clean their crate, or when other care is needed.
If it’s been a few days and your puppy still won’t leave their crate, it’s time to get more proactive and force them to come out for short periods.
Sometimes facing their fear is the way to get over it—just make sure you’re using the right methods such as counterconditioning and desensitization, and avoiding punishments.
Writer: Katelynn Sobus