If you have decided to use a crate for your dog and are experiencing difficulties, you have come to the right place.
Crates aren’t for every owner, nor are they suited to every dog. Some dogs just don’t like being in a crate; others require some training and encouragement. And, some just take to them like a duck to water. If your puppy, or adult dog, is finding the crate and upsetting place to be, we need to understand why in order to find a resolution.
If your dog is crying in the crate, there could be many reasons as to why, and I will look at these in this post, as well as how to overcome them. Some may be incredibly simple, such as where the crate is positioned, and be a quick fix to solve. Others may be more deep-set and be due to the dog suffering from separation anxiety.
Whatever the reason for your dog’s upset in the crate, there will be a way around this. Even if it means getting rid of the crate altogether and looking at product alternatives.
Possible Reasons Why a Dog is Crying in the Crate
There are some factors that can significantly impact how a dog feels about his crate, and these are as follows.
Putting the time and effort into crate training a puppy from the beginning is the best way to ensure he has a good relationship with his crate and knows what is expected of him. Dogs thrive with a routine and knowing what will happen at what time.
Structure is also important to our lives, so having a daily schedule should eradicate any issues that can arise when surprises happen to a dog. If you leave your dog in the crate while you go to work, then it is important to gradually get him used to being alone in the crate while cementing the concept to him that you will return.
Crate training is a step-by-step, day-by-day process in the beginning. Breed depending, it can take a dog some time to get to grips with alone time and believing that his owner will come back and that the world will all be ok again!
The American Kennel Club states that this process should take around six months, so proper crate training is not a quick fix, but it is the best way of guaranteeing a settled dog in a crate.
Time in the Crate
The time a dog can be left alone is very much age-dependent – and breed-dependent! A general rule is to not leave a puppy alone in a crate for more than five hours; for an adult dog, this can be extended to eight hours. Leaving puppies and dogs confined for any longer than this can significantly damage their mental and physical health.
If you have no option but to leave your dog for longer than this, I would strongly suggest considering a doggy daycare, hiring a dog walker, or even considering whether dog ownership is fair for you to be doing at this time.
A crate should be a safe space for your dog. This means comfortable and enjoyable. By placing your dog’s blanket into the crate, he will be drawn by his familiar scent, some owners even opt to put in an item of clothing they have worn so that the dog has the smell of his human in his crate to disassociate any negative feelings.
As well as the bedding, the crate needs to also offer some mental stimulation for the dog – but not be too overstimulating that it promotes hyperactivity. I use a simple Kong toy in my dog crates and find this is sufficient for the short periods my dogs are confined. For breeds prone to obesity, it would be wise to fill a kong with healthy treats or even some veggies such as squash or zucchini.
Covering the crate with a sheet or blanket will make it more of a den-like environment and promote relaxation and decrease anxiety. You can purchase specialized crate covers for a more exact fitting. I have previously written a guide to the best crate covers for large crates here.
Where the crate is positioned is key to how the dog will feel inside the crate. If he can see out of the window or be able to watch the door, he may be on constant alert, which can lead to great emotional upset and distress. If the crate is in a noisy environment, for example, by a tumble dryer, this could induce the same levels of distress.
Contradictory, a crate shouldn’t be placed in a garage, outhouse, or corner of an unused family room where the dog will feel excluded, punished, or isolated. A crate needs to feel like a positive experience.
Ideally, it will be positioned where the family is, so the dog feels a part of things, I place mine in the kitchen, but other owners who report positive dog-crate partnerships have theirs in living rooms and family areas.
It is important that the crate isn’t placed in a drafty area or near to a heat source such as a radiator, as a dog is basically imprisoned and unable to do anything about the temperature around him.
The type and size of crate you get will dramatically impact the dog’s association with the crate.
Choosing the right size for the breed is essential, and what one manufacturer claims as large may only be so by their own standards. I have found a sizing guide that may be useful when selecting a crate for your dog here.
It is crucial to get the right size for your breed, too small a crate and your dog will feel uneasy, but too large and he may feel insecure. Ideally, the dog should be able to sit up, stand up and turn entirely around, with room to sprawl out when lying down.
If you’re using the crate as a behavior corrector, when the dog has misbehaved, then the dog will associate the crate as a bad place to be. A crate used for time out is not a crate that can be used for chill out.
It is widely known that dogs respond much better to positive praise and encouragement than punishment, and a crate should not be used as a place for a dog to sit and reflect – dogs are not capable of doing this, so it is very much a pointless exercise.
It is true that a dog can look guilty, but this is simply a response to knowing that his owner is sad, though he will not put two-and-two together and realize the chewed-up slippers cause the sadness!
Lifestyle Surrounding the Crate
A well-raised dog is a well-rounded dog, but a dog who is not fed the proper nutrition or given an adequate amount of exercise before being confined is a dog with a lower tolerance to a crate.
Imagine being sent to bed first thing in the morning, with the stipulation being you cannot leave that bed for five hours. You’re not tired, you’re already well-rested, and you want to be doing other things. Now consider how your dog is treated before being expected to be ok with being in the crate.
The amount of exercise a dog needs varies between breeds, with other factors such as age, health, and stamina needing to be taken into account. Every dog should be walked for a minimum of 30-minutes per day; this should be increased to 2-hours or more for larger, more high-energy breeds.
Exercise isn’t just a physical requirement for a dog; it is also massively important for their mental health too. Make sure that your dog receives a sufficient amount of exercise before and after he goes into the crate, ideally, and he should be more relaxed and settled for it.
Alternatives to Dog Crates
Dog crates are not every owner’s product of choice, and even some animal charities can see them in a negative light. However, when used correctly, they can be a safe way to contain a dog while the owner is out of the house. If you are looking for a solution when supervision can’t be given but don’t want to use a crate, you may want to look further into the following.
Dog Play Pens
Dog playpens are a perfect alternative for owners who want to give their dogs more space than is offered with a crate. A dog playpen should be tall enough so a dog can’t escape and well-equipped with a blanket, toys, and a water bowl. Some playpens have their own washable floors for accident-prone pups and can be used inside or outside of the home.
Dog gates are a great way of confining a dog to a room or specific area within the home or garden. Much like baby gates, they come in various sizes, materials, and colors with different features like extra tall and extra-large.
Carlson Pet Products is a brand to consider, as their range of dog gates are all highly-rated and with a product for every owner, need and breed.
If you have a safe, confined yard or garden, you may want to consider adding a dog house to provide shelter for the dog when he is left alone for more extended periods. The add-on of a heat lamp for the dog house will ensure that the dog stays warm and dry and that you’re meeting the expectations of the law in providing adequate provisions for a dog outside.
When to Seek Outside Help
If you follow all of the above steps and your dog is still crying in his crate, it may be time to seek professional advice. I would always suggest seeing your veterinarian before anyone else. It could well be that the dog has an injury that is aggravated by being in a cramped condition, or it may be a psychological issue due to hormone imbalances that your vet can treat.
If the vet rules out medical issues, the next port of call should be a dog behaviorist. Always check the credentials of the behaviorist before seeking their advice, and it is ok to seek quotes as this is not the most affordable service out there. This is also an unregulated field, and unfortunately, anyone can claim to be a dog behaviorist, so research is essential.