Puppy Crying in His Crate? Here’s What To Do

Updated May 10, 2024
brown and white pit bull puppy lying in a crate with a stuffed animal

The first few days of bringing home a new puppy are exciting—but they can also be stressful for both new pet parents and the puppy. And in those first few days, there’s nothing more important than acclimating the new puppy to his crate.

Crate training, when done correctly, teaches a puppy independence and provides him a safe place to retreat to when he needs a break or is feeling overwhelmed.

But what if your puppy’s crying in the crate? What should you do?

Is It Normal for a Puppy to Cry in His Crate?

In our society, it’s normal for puppies to be adopted or sold to pet parents when they are 8 weeks old. Puppies may go from sleeping every night with their mother and littermates to sleeping alone, which can be frightening.

Puppies that have not been crate trained before a pet parent brings them home can show signs of distress by crying, whining, barking, or howling when left alone in the crate. This is normal behavior for a puppy separated from their litter.

Why Do Puppies Cry in Their Crate?

There are many reasons and situations why puppies cry in their crate, including:

  • A puppy that has never been introduced to a crate may cry because he’s in an unfamiliar location. He may be scared or frustrated that he can’t leave and that his movement is restricted.

  • A puppy that was just brought home and placed in a crate for bedtime may cry because he’s alone now and missing the company and warm bodies of littermates.

  • A puppy placed in a crate when his pet parent runs errands may be distressed that he was left home alone.

  • A puppy placed in the crate while other family members are home and moving around may be frustrated that he cannot interact with them. He may be calling out to family members to let him out of the crate.

  • A puppy that was placed in a crate for long period of time may bark, cry, or whine when they need to go to the bathroom.

How To Get a Puppy to Stop Crying in Their Crate

There are a few methods you can try to stop your puppy from crying in his crate.

Ignore the Puppy Crying

When placing your puppy in the crate and walking away, you can choose to ignore their initial cries. The puppy may be contact calling to see if you’re nearby. If you don’t respond right away and the puppy settles within a few minutes, you don’t need to go back into the room.

But if the puppy’s crying continues longer for more than about two minutes, you can make a brief verbal response to the puppy’s cry. This step can be repeated two or three times.

Give Your Pup Comfort

If the vocalizations continue and are escalating in frequency and duration, go back into the room. Many pet parents are concerned that their appearance may reinforce the crying, but it’s important to comfort a puppy if he’s in distress.

Traumatic and stressful events learned early in a puppy’s life can have a negative effect on his ability to cope with stressors and build up resiliency.

Pet parents who are opposed to entering a room while the puppy is crying can wait for a brief break in between the cries before entering. You can also make a novel sound, such as a light knock on the wall, to temporarily distract and disrupt the puppy’s crying before you enter the room.

It’s important to comfort a puppy if he’s in distress. Traumatic and stressful events early in a puppy’s life can have a negative effect on his ability to cope with stressors and build up resiliency.

Reduce Your Puppy’s Alone Time

If the puppy still doesn’t stop crying in the crate, this indicates that you need to spend more time working on gradually leaving the puppy alone. Crate training needs to be done slowly and at a pace your puppy is comfortable with. You may be leaving your pup alone for lengths of time he isn’t ready for yet.

Make the Crate a Positive Place

Make sure the puppy has positive experiences being in the crate. Place the crate in the room where the family spends the majority of their time. Ideally, offer one crate the puppy can spend time in during the day, and another crate for him to sleep in at night that’s placed in your bedroom.

Make the crate a cozy place for the puppy. The crate should contain a comfortable bed and plush toys. You can even use a dog-appeasing pheromone to send a chemical message of safety and security to the crying puppy and play calming music next to the crate.

Provide Enough Bathroom Breaks

Puppies often cry when they need to urinate or defecate. They can only hold their bladder for a short period of time, and pet parents must provide enough potty breaks.

To figure out how many hours your pup can go between bathroom breaks, take your puppy’s age in months and add one. For example, a 2-month-old puppy can hold his bladder for three hours at most. A 4-month-old puppy can hold his bladder for up to five hours.

Give Your Puppy Enough Exercise

Sometimes, tiring the puppy out can help him fall asleep faster when confined. It takes a fairly lengthy play session to really tire out a puppy.

However, if the puppy has formed a negative association with being left in the crate, then no matter how tired he is, he may still cry and protest at being left alone in the crate. He also may escalate to screaming, pawing, and biting at the door and sides of the crate.

Should I Be Worried When My Puppy Cries in His Crate?

It’s normal for puppies to cry in their crate if they’re left completely alone without being properly acclimated to crating. But if your puppy appears overly scared and distressed and you’re not making progress with crate training, seek professional help with a board-certified veterinary behaviorist or a certified applied animal behaviorist.

Featured Image: Adobe/Petra Richli


Wailani Sung, MS, PhD, DVM, DACVB

WRITTEN BY

Wailani Sung, MS, PhD, DVM, DACVB

Veterinarian

Dr. Wailani Sung has a passion for helping owners prevent or effectively manage behavior problems in companion animals, enabling them to...


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