MY PUPPY WON’T STOP CRYING – WHAT CAN I DO?
Getting a puppy and integrating them into your family should be an enjoyable process. But all too often, owners are struggling with their infant dogs’ crying, howling and barking. This usually happens whenever they place their puppy into a crate, or into a separate room. It also occurs when they leave them at home alone. In this article, we will explain the causes of puppy crying. After that, we will outline simple methods to help your new family member remain calm.
WHY IS MY PUPPY CRYING AND BARKING?
It is completely normal for young puppies to react with crying, howling and barking to being left alone. (Even if they are not really alone in the home, but merely confined to a crate or play pen.) After all, this is how infant canines call their mothers towards them in the wild: Whenever a puppy gets lost outside of the den, these vocalisations act as a locator beacon for their mother and littermates. They serve to reunite the family, and to prevent puppies from getting separated from the group. In the unforgiving world of nature, being left behind, isolated from the pack, means certain death.
So, puppy crying is a completely natural behaviour. In our civilised world, young dogs are no longer at risk of dying from exposure or starvation when left alone in the home. But there are other factors at play that can contribute to excessive puppy crying: Bringing home a puppy is a joyful occasion for us, but not necessarily for the dog. After all, they have just been taken away from everything they knew - their mother, littermates, den, and even the familiar presence of the breeder. Instead, these puppies now have to adjust to a completely different set of scents, sights and sounds. Essentially, they are moving in with complete strangers. This is a drastic change for an infant dog. And we cannot expect them to “sail through” this process of separation without showing signs of stress, anxiety and fear. As our dogs do not speak our language, we cannot explain to them that everything is going to be just fine.
However, dogs are very adaptable beings. And most puppies quickly attach themselves to their new owners. This helps them to overcome the shock of being separated from their birth family. But at the same time, it makes them feeling dependent on their human family. Such dependency can cause separation anxiety. Oftentimes, excessive whining, crying and barking are symptoms of this emotional state of distress. If the owners then comfort the puppy, they involuntarily reinforce the behaviour – and the anxiety that causes it. Therefore, it will happen more often in the future. But as loving canine leaders, we want to help our puppies to overcome their anxiety, and to remain calm. To do this, we must allow them to build confidence. A confident dog knows from experience that they are safe - no matter whether their favourite human is present or not.
HOW TO STOP PUPPY CRYING
HOW TO STOP PUPPY CRYING IN YOUR PRESENCE
There is two ways to address puppy crying. The first one is to train our dogs that being calm and polite is in their best interest. And the second one is conditioning them to be calm in our absence.
So, how do we train whining, crying or barking puppies to be quiet whilst we are at home? The first step is to ensure that our puppies’ physical needs are met. So, take them to their toilet area, play with them, let them run around and burn off any excess energy. Make sure they are not hungry, but do not feed them so much that they are completely full. Keep some of their food back to reinforce any breaks in the whining. However short these breaks may be initially - immediately mark them with an enthusiastic “Yes!”. Then, feed them the treat and give them affection.
Whenever they resume their crying, completely ignore the dog. In withdrawing your attention whenever they are crying, you teach your puppy that whining will not get them what they want. As a result, your dog will decrease the frequency of their undesirable behaviour. Instead, they will be calm and quiet more often in the future. This method not only works for puppies, but also for adult dogs.
HOW TO STOP PUPPY CRYING IN YOUR ABSENCE
When it comes to loud puppy crying and barking in our absence, we highly recommend crate training. This is one of the best methods to help puppies (and adult dogs) settle down. Of course, we do not advocate leaving young dogs in their crate for many hours at a time: If you do are working all day, enroll your canine companion in a doggy day-care, or ask family members, friends and neighbours for assistance.
DEALING WITH SEPARATION ANXIETY
If your puppy is crying whenever you leave the house, there is one simple method you can apply right away. And this is to redirect their attention. This method greatly facilitates crate training, but it also works without a crate. All you need is a fillable chew toy that is safe and suitable for puppies – such as our Fenrir Hammer. Fill the toy with wet puppy food, meat paste, or peanut butter for dogs. Then, put it into the freezer for a few hours. If you have a crate, place the toy in there and close the door. Let your puppy watch this entire process. Allow the dog into their crate just before you go out. If you do not have a crate, ask the puppy to sit and stay, and then give them access to the frozen Fenrir Hammer chew toy.
Typically, it is the first 2 – 5 minutes after their owners leave the home that trigger the most upset in dogs. High-value treats such as frozen toys and dog-friendly meat bones can help your puppy to bridge this crucial time span. Most puppies will eagerly work on their toys or their bone once they have received it – especially if they are hungry and tired. As we like to say: “Tired dogs are good dogs”. If your puppy has gotten plenty of exercise (and been to the bathroom) before you leave them alone, they will chew on their treats for a while. After that, they usually doze off, and sleep until you have returned.
For cases of severe separation anxiety, we recommend hiring a local behaviourist or trainer. Consulting a professional is also indicated if the methods suggested here (or in our training courses) are not working for your dog.
Puppy crying, whining and barking can be challenging to witness. But with good leadership, patience and perseverance, you can help your dog gain confidence. And before too long, your dog will have learned that being alone is not a bad thing. On the contrary, they know that “Mom” or “Dad” getting ready to go out means they will get their favourite treats. With every successful repetition of the simple routine of connecting your absence with high-value rewards, your dog learns to trust you more. Essentially, they learn that every decision you make ultimately works out to their benefit. And now, we wish you all the best with your new canine companion. Keep honing your dog training skills, keep improving your leadership, and most importantly: Enjoy the journey!