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Puppy Whining

 
No matter how much attention you give your new puppy, he is likely to whine and cry after you take him home.  This is because he is used to having his siblings and dam around and he will be stressed and upset by the sudden loss of his "pack".  Not only that, he will be having to adjust to numerous other changes in his life and routine - new pack members, new surroundings, eating and eliminating on a schedule, walking on a leash and staying in a crate. 

All of the changes listed above can be overwhelming for a puppy (or a dog of any age!).  When your puppy is feeling lonely, unsure or afraid, he will cry.  This is normal and to be expected.  However, if you reward this behavior it can become an annoying habit that the dog uses to control YOUR actions.   That's right, the dog will train you to react to his whining so that he receives a reward! 

To prevent this, you should try to avoid interacting with the puppy when he is whining.  In other words, try not to get the puppy out of his crate when he is whining, do not give him extra attention or treats when he is whining and do not baby him or try to reassure him if he is acting scared or whining.  If the dog receives positive reinforcement when he is exhibiting this unwanted behavior, it may encourage separation anxiety.  Separation anxiety may result in continued whining along with chewing, digging, scratching, and barking whenever the dog is crated or left alone.  If you do not reward this behavior in the beginning, it is likely that you will be able to avoid this behavioral issue. 

While you don't want to ignore a puppy that is whining because it needs to go outside to eliminate, you do not want to reward a whining puppy that is just wanting attention.  If you know your puppy has been fed, watered, exercised and that he does not need a trip outside, then you should ignore the puppy's whining and let him cry himself to sleep.  In most cases, this will only take a few moments.  If the puppy doesn't settle down relatively quickly and you really are sure he does not need to eliminate, you may need to reprimand the puppy.  This will generally involve a sharp verbal reprimand of "No!" or "Quiet!".  Sometimes this may need to be accompanied by a noise to get the dog's attention - clapping the hands, shaking a coffee can with a couple of coins inside or smacking the top of a counter. 

Remember that the goal of making noise is to get the puppy's attention, NOT to scare the dog!  Do not yell, hit the dog's kennel or take other action that would result in the dog becoming fearful.  An over-zealous reprimand while the dog is in the kennel could result in a dog that is a crate and/or fear-biter.  (A crate-biter is a dog that backs up in the kennel and snaps if someone reaches into the kennel.  A fear-biter is a dog that snaps any time it feels cornered and/or afraid.)  Most dogs feel somewhat intimidated in a crate at the best of times.  This is due to the fact that they are trapped and can not get away from something or someone they perceive as a threat.  Therefore scaring, intimidating or punishing a dog while it is in its crate can result in the dog being afraid of the crate, being afraid of someone approaching the crate and/or of someone trying to remove the dog from the crate.  

PREVENTING / RESOLVING WHINING ISSUES:

A puppy may whine if he is left alone or if he is locked in a crate.  Sometimes keeping the crate where the puppy can see you will help make him feel that he is not alone and may minimize whining.  On the other hand, being able to see you may intensify the whining in some puppies and they may not be able to settle down if they are constantly surrounded by a number of distractions.  In this instance, keeping the crate in a bedroom, the utility room or another out-the-way location may be helpful.  Determining the best location for a puppy's nap-times is often a matter of trial and error.  If one location doesn't work, just try another.

Keeping a radio playing may also help a puppy to not feel alone and may prevent whining.  Providing appropriate crate toys may be helpful as well.  For non-aggressive chewers, a stuffed toy may be a good snuggle companion while the dog is crated.  (They make a "beating heart" toy for dogs that is similar to those used for human infants.)  Other puppies may settle down with a treat when they are put in the kennel (a regular doggy biscuit or maybe a stuffed Kong or bone). 

Many dogs "learn" to make a fuss when they are crated or left alone.  This is because unwitting owners teach their dog to behave this way by making a big production of leaving the house or crating the dog.  Because an owner feels guilty about putting the dog in the crate and/or leaving the dog alone, they drag out their leave-taking;  they may baby-talk, pet and otherwise reassure the dog if it whimpers; and/or they may come back and reward the dog with treats and more attention if they walk away and the dog throws a tantrum (starts to bark, dig or howl.)   When you come back or give the dog this extra attention, he just gets more excited and it makes him miss you more the next time you walk away.  Thus, he will only try harder to get you to come back again! 

Crating the dog and leaving the house should always be done calmly and without fuss.  Be sure the dog has had ample exercise before, but not immediately preceding, your departure.  (Don't get the dog wound up by playing a vigorous game of fetch and then expect him to immediately settle into a nap!)  Be sure the dog has been fed and watered and allowed to eliminate outside.  Put the dog in the crate, quietly say good-bye and leave.  That's it.  Period.  If the dog fusses, ignore him.  Don't reward a whining, manipulative pet by returning.  

This holds true even if you are not leaving the house.  All dogs should be taught that they must stay crated if you choose to put them there and they should stay there quietly until you decide to release them.  Situations may arise where you would need to keep the dog crated while there are visitors in the house (your mother-in-law hates dogs!) or you might have workmen going in and out the doors and be afraid the dog could escape.  Teaching the dog to stay crated when you are home will help him accept being kenneled at such times.  It will also help him stay calm when he has to be kenneled at the groomer's or vet's. 

THE DO'S and DON'TS of WHINING:

DO

  • Take your puppy outside routinely.  If there is any chance your puppy is whining to go out, take him out. Do not give him special attention, petting or interaction, just give him the opportunity to relieve himself.  If he does not potty, just tell him good boy and put him back in his crate and insist he stay there.
  • Teach your dog to accept being isolated and alone.  Even when you are home.
  • Reprimand the puppy for excessive whining.  Always discipline in an appropriate fashion.
  • Make sure your puppy has been appropriately fed, watered and exercised before crating.
  •  Check to be sure the puppy is not getting too hot or cold, that he is not sick or uncomfortable (maybe the cage partition got moved or the bedding is caught on a toenail).

DON'T

  • Do not let the puppy eliminate in the crate.
  • Do not reward your puppy for whining.
  • Do not prolong good-byes.
  • Do not encourage separation anxiety by trying to reassure the dog or repeatedly returning after you have walked away.
  • Do not leave the dog in a crate for inappropriate lengths of time.  (Age in months + 1 is the number of hours a puppy can be left crated - 2 months old + 1 = 3 hours max.)

If you have any questions or would like more information about our Cocker Spaniels,
please
E-MAIL ME.    Thanks,

Cindy

Copyright Sandcastle Kennels 2004404

Last revised: January 08, 2006