Puppy Whining: Driving Owners Crazy

17 | Posted:

Dr.Sophia Yin, DVM, CAAB, M.S. Animal Science (1966-2014)



HELP!! My 9 and half week old lab puppy is pretty good at night in her crate, but during the day, she barks, digs, salivates for the entire time. When I let her out she comes out crying and follows me everywhere crying. I find this extremely upsetting and I’m ready to give her back. Will she get used to it eventually by continuing to put her in her crate? When the crate is open she goes in on her own to sleep and play but the second you close the door, all hell breaks loose. I have tried everything but I’m really worried that this is going to be a lifetime problem. After speaking with two trainers, I decided to use herbal anxiety drops, but they don’t make a difference, really. At this time I’m wondering if she truly has separation anxiety or if she is just very persistent. If I knew that this was going to go away soon, I would be in it for the long haul, but frankly I am absolutely exhausted and at the end of my rope. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

Jeanine Comartin from Ontario, Canada


Jeanine, it’s a good thing that you’re asking now rather than waiting several more months when the behavior is even worse. And while some people might think that just nixing the crate expectations will solve the problem—you’re right in pursuing the issue. Your pup gets frustrated and anxious when she can’t get to you on her own terms. Right now it’s just the crate but down the road you’d probably find the same results if you separate her from you by putting her in another room, on the other side of a babygate or just tethering her by leash on the other side of your backyard.

So far, you’ve done a great job teaching your pup to enjoy the crate, at least when the door’s open and she can choose when she has access to you. Now it’s time to teach her that the only way she gets your attention is when she sits or lies down away from you. This is part of what is called the Learn to Earn Program where dogs learn to say please by sitting to get whatever they want.

First Teach Her To Say Please By Sitting

This starts first by teaching her to sit automatically to get treats from you. Just hold the bite-sized treats in your hand and stand completely still. When she sits, immediately get the treat to her while she’s still sitting. Then give her a few more treats sequentially for remaining seated. For fast training, it’s best to have her earn her entire meal for automatically sitting but spread it out a kibble at a time, throughout the day. If she’s earning 100-200 kibble for sitting and remaining seated, she’ll learn to sit when she wants things from you virtually overnight.

[Refer to Chapter 15 in How to Behave So Your Dog Behaves, Treat&Train®, view YouTube video.

Next Apply the Automatic Sit to Other Situations

Next it’s time to apply the sit to other things she wants. One exercise is called the “leave-it game.” Have her on leash and toss a treat out of her range. When she gets to the end of the leash, she’ll pull for a few seconds, then when she figures out she can’t get the treat she’ll come back and sit and look at you. When she does, give her a treat for the polite “say please” behavior and then a few more for continuing to look at you. When she’s stable with looking at you then reward the eye contact by letting her get the treat on the floor. The goal of this exercise is to teach her self control. That instead of impulsively demanding what she wants, she controls her excitement and asks you by politely sitting and looking at you.

[Refer to Chapter 20 in How to Behave So Your Dog Behaves, Treat&Train®, view YouTube video. 

Now Train Her That Sitting or Lying Down Calmly Get Her Your Attention

Ok, now for the real work. She knows to automatically sit for treats and to get an item that’s out of her reach. Now we are going to make you the item out of her reach that she must sit or lie down calmly for in order to gain access. Tether her 5-10 feet away from you while you watch T.V. or are engaged in some other activity. Ignore her pulling, whining, pacing to get to you. When she sits politely, give her several treats in a row and/or pet her for 5 seconds if she’ll remain seated when you do so. Then toss a treat on the floor so she’ll get up and you can repeat the exercise. You may need to wait 20-30 minute for the first sit. But if your timing is good and you pair the reward with her sitting, then next sit will take probably ½ the time. And shortly thereafter she’ll be sitting every 30 seconds.

The goal is that the lightbulb goes on and she understands that sitting or lying down quietly is what makes you give her your attention. From now on the only way she gets your attention is for sitting and you continue to practice tethering her away from you so you have many opportunities to make it clear that calming sitting or lying down gets her what she wants. Once she’s making the association you can walk away and then come back while she’s still sitting or lying down. Now you’re working on a sit or down-stay.

[Refer to Chapter 22 in How to Behave So Your Dog Behaves .

First come back frequently and then wait longer and longer in between. Also practice walking out of the room. She must sit or lie down before you approach her.

Now Transfer the Training to the Crate

Now have her go in her crate and block her from coming right out. You can do this by shoving your hand with a treat right in her face to block her path out. Once she’s stopped, guide her into a sit with an additional treat. Or better yet have her lie down.

[Refer to Chapter 21 in How to Behave So Your Dog Behaves, Treat&Train®.

Once she’s sitting or lying down continue with a few more treats every few seconds or short petting bouts, then stand back. Go back and reward her again for remaining in place. Then let her out of the crate. Now she’s getting treats and petting rewards for going into her crate and lying down, and she gets the added reward of coming out. Repeat this until she acts like she’s clearly having fun running into the crate because it predicts that she will earn your attention and get to run out. Now, with the door still open, add a down or sit stay. That is, work on being able to be far away or in the other room. I find the easiest way to do this is to practice when I’m watching T.V. or working on menial tasks around the house. And, actually, I’m really lazy, so rather than my going back and forth, I prefer to use a Treat&Train®, a remote controlled food-reward dispenser, to automatically dispense food at set intervals or to dispense using the remote control.

Also download the handout Training Dogs to Love Their Crate

Switch to Closing the Crate Door

Now for that all-important final phase. Have the pup go into the crate and lie down.Close the door, feed her treats, then open the door while she’s still lying down and let her out. So the door should just be closed for a short amount of time. Short enough so she’s just thinking about treats and rewards and not how she’s locked inside. Then systematically increase the time she’s in the crate.

Again, at this stage, I prefer to use the Treat&Train® so that I can walk away and reward her with food rewards while I’m far away. The goal is that the treats are coming frequently enough so that she is focused on the food and that I get back before she has a chance to get anxious. So I can increase the interval between treats sequentially from 5 to 7, 10, 15 or more seconds as long as the puppy remains relaxed, lying down, and focused on the food rather than looking like she wants out.

By the beginning of this stage, your problem pup should already be relaxed in the crate because she’s learned overall that remaining calm is what gives her access to you. And this final stage should go really fast.

The End Results

For me it would probably just take a day or two to get through this program, but it may take you a bit longer since you aren’t being coached through each stage. In any case, if you can get her to understand that being calm and control her emotions is what gives her access to you, you’ll have a puppy who can quietly sleep in her closed crate whenever you want!


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17 responses to “Puppy Whining: Driving Owners Crazy

  1. I had to do this with my puppy several years ago. She was always very vocal when crated, but she soon learned that everything was fine and she would live through it. She ended up realizing that the crate was hers and she was proud of it. It does take time and patients, but it pays off in the long run.

  2. My puppy start Whining at 4:00 am until I let him out of the crate.

    I have bought your ebook and realized that the crate was too big.

    So I modified it… Can you please tell me if it’s still too big…(I made you a video clip)


    Even if I don’t want to let him out of the crate when he barks, I have to… cause he wont stop.

    As you can see on the video, he has been barking like this from 4:00 to 7:00 am.

    He has so much more energy then me…

  3. I have an adult yorkie, she has always been in a crate for sleep and when we leave. We recently moved into an apartment with my mother in law, who was her original owner, and now no matter what time we put her to bed she will cry incessantly until we go in the room. We have tried the ignore and reward thing, and it is still going on, it has been 2 months and she had yet to stop. PLEASE HELP.

  4. When I take my kid to the park I tie him at the bench beside me. He is a pitbull so I feel better doing this. He is friendly to everyone and other dogs. We go dog park often. My problem is if I walk away to get water he starts bark crying. I tried bringing a Kong with peanut butter but it didn’t matter. As soon as I sit down next to him he stops. It is so annoying and if course idiots think he is aggressive cause they hear his cry bark. Please help

    1. Maybe they aren’t idiots, just people that read the statistics that Pits make up a little over 6% of the entire dog population in the US yet are responsible for 67% of all dog attacks in the US…and are concerned as a result? Just sayin. 🤔

  5. I took my puppy from a dog foster home about a year ago. I love him to bits; he has a great personality, and I feel that he loves our family so much. BUT he barks A LOT. . So, leaving home is always a challenge for us.
    My husband and I were thinking about taking him to ‘doggy school’, but then again, it’s extremely expensive, and the nearest ‘doggy school’ is far away from us. Maybe you have some advice? THANK YOU!!!!

  6. My 2 month old Pyrenees acts totally crazy in his crate. He is perfectly fine when he is out, however as soon as it’s crate time, He goes bananas. He whines all night NO matter what strategies we use. I believe we have exhausted all of our options. We need help! We are up night after night. He wakes up scrambling around in the crate, gnawing and chewing. He cries, and cries and never settles down. He will wake up at all times of the night while in the crate. Please, Please if you could give us some advice? Thank you!

  7. My black lab just had 11puppies and 3 of these puppies cry, whine , and scream always even in their sleep!! I have gotten maybe 4 hour of sleep since they were born on the 15th and I’m exhausted I need help when mom leaves the kennel space they settle down after a bit but when she is in with them they cry and whine constantly all day and night they are seldom quiet. Need some help

  8. my 10 week old pup who we’ve had for a week was going in the crate to eat and nap during the day when the door was open but now after being closed in it a couple of times on car rides and at night he is afraid to go in and bolts for the door as soon as I try to close it. i have just got your perfect puppy in 7 days and will try the repetitive sitting for everything. also, i’m the trainer in the family and sleeping and getting up with him at night. i feel like i’m taking the fun out of it for my husband and kids by constantly telling them exactly how to interact with him but i’m afraid of him getting mixed messages from me and them. i’m exhausted and starting to have the “oh god what have we done?” feeling. looks like your handout “getting your dog to love the crate” is gone. could you send me please? thanks!

    1. Thank you for letting us know that this link is not working. We will get on it and get it fixed! — CDP Staff

      1. I bought the book for crate training and see that I need the handout. I found it on your website and clicked on the link but it isn’t there. That is a problem. Three sleepless nights and I need advice.

        1. Hi, I am very sorry. The person you are replying to hasn’t been with use for some time. What book are you referring tow? I will try and help you find it.

  9. Hi, we’ve got an 8 week old puppy. Mom is pitbull mix (saw her) and dad is elkhound mix (what the owners told us) and we’ve had him for 2 weeks now. Kennel training him has been truly exhausting. Since day one we have been putting him in a kennel when we go to sleep and when we leave. He whines, barks, salivates excessively, and it is NON STOP throughout the night and when we leave. (Neighbors told us) We have tried treats and praising him when he goes in the kennel by himself, but as soon as the door closes, its a no-go. I’ve researched how to kennel train and what to do if it is not working and we have tried everything. My wife is ready to give up, but I still want him. He’s my baby and he is perfect except for this behavior. Please please please help me!!

  10. I have an 8 week old lab cross German sheppard he is beautiful, we are crate training him and I have done everything to try and get him to stop whinging I have done so much research but it’s not working, we are getting no sleep we try to take him to the toilet outside every 2 hours out of the crate as Instructed by a vet but he hardly goes and just goes in his crate, we are at out final straw we love him but this is hard.

    1. Did it eventually work out for you? I also have a 10 week old German shepherd and lab mix and it’s day four of absolutely no sleep. I’m exhausted — I’m miserable. She doesn’t like when I even leave the room and she can’t get to me or she will whine and carry on and believe me when I say she does not eventually tire herself out

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