Crate and Wail
September 6, 2010 10:32 AM   Subscribe

How do you stop whining and howling during crate training? If we can get the dog's to stop, I'm pretty sure ours would too.

Two weeks ago, we adopted a year old Redbone Coonhound. He's a sweet, laid back, lovable pup. We're crate training him and have him in the crate when we sleep and when we go to work. He doesn't resist going into his crate and is quiet for the first few minutes. However, once we close the front door to leave or turn out the lights for the night, he starts whining. His whining quickly escalates to howling. He will continue for 45 minutes easily. The past couple of nights has also seen repeat whining sessions at about 3am. We need our sleep.

He isn't whining to have a potty run. He isn't whining for a play session. He gets taken out for a potty run immediately before entering his crate. He also gets lots and lots of play when he's out of the crate. He's doing great on the leash and loves playing with the kids and our other dogs.

The crate is sufficiently large. He can easily stand up and turn around. We do give him a treat any time he goes into the crate.

So, how do we get the howling and whining to stop?
posted by onhazier to Pets & Animals (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Eep... I'm certainly no expert on this, but my/my parents' dog (a golden retriever) showed similar behaviour and absolutely nothing seemed to work. Finally, my parents moved the crate into their bedroom, and she stopped after that. She's never seemed especially high-strung or nervous (as a puppy or now that she's grown up), she just very much hates to be alone.
posted by torisaur at 10:39 AM on September 6, 2010

Have you tried covering it? Sometimes it works. Crate in the bedroom works too. But some people don't want their dogs in a bedroom.

If you already haven't, try putting the crate in a corner to give the dog a sense of a nesting area. Our malamute loves little enclosed areas, we kept her in a blanket covered crate at the foot of our bed and it was her home.

Our mastino couldn't stand a crate even in our bedroom, so we let him out and he moved approximately 4 feet to sleep at the side of the bed my old lady sleeps on. nary a peep after that.
posted by Max Power at 10:54 AM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Separation anxiety and/or attention-seeking behavior.

Move the crate into your bedroom. Make sure the pup has a) something to love, b) something to chew on in the crate with him. (In my dogs' case, one has a blanket that she "loves" to shreds, one has a Loofah Dog from PetCo... plus Nylabones to chew on.) We tried covering the crate and it didn't work.

The problem with positive reinforcement training in this situation is that the dog is seeking the reinforcement for the sake of the reinforcement, not because they're exhibiting a correct behavior. I'd be a bit harsh in this case -- at 3am, one of my dogs howling gets a flat hand to the top of the crate (giant crash that rattles the entire thing) ... even with the separation-anxious dog, this gets the desired result.
posted by SpecialK at 11:21 AM on September 6, 2010

I agree, move the crate in the bedroom close to you. The dog is just doing what it does when it's separated from the pack. If he whines in the bedroom and he's not having to go to the bathroom, then he might have expectations of sleeping all piled up with the pack, which means you may have to back down on all of his privileges of being up on the couches and beds so that he's more comfortable with being down on the floor near people. It should work itself out pretty quickly. I crate-trained a couple of dogs years ago and they loved their crates; it's just a matter of setting expectations and being consistent.
posted by crapmatic at 11:25 AM on September 6, 2010

Best answer: A question before giving more information - have you read about crate training and ramping up the time? Or have you basically been putting the dog in the crate and this has been happening?

Basically with proper crate training the howling won't even begin. You practice in-out with the crate many many times during the day with treats and such. You seed the crate even when you're not actively training so the dog starts to associate going into the crate himself with happy things. Then you start to close the door, even for a second, give a treat, etc. Ramp up the time with the door closed, each step of the way treating and repeating. If the dog howls or barks, ignore ignore ignore! If you let him out, console him, or talk to him, or bribe him to stop barking with treats, he will INCREASE the behavior. If he stops barking for a second, treat him to calm down for a minute, THEN you can allow him to come out. Otherwise it'll be counter-productive.

Are you clicker training? It's an EXCELLENT tool for crate training because it takes the emotion out of your voice and is a dispassionate 'click' for good behavior (followed by a treat).

Have you been reading any books on dog training or clicker training? I'd recommend the following. They are SO interesting and well-written and will be very informative for both dog training as well as your own behavior with the dog, and in life in general.
- Ian Dunbar, Before and After Getting Your Puppy
- Ian Dunbar, How to teach a new dog old tricks
- Karen Pryor, Clicking with your dog (she has another book on clicker training too)
- Karen Pryor, Don't Shoot the Dog! (super interesting!)
- Patricia McConnell The Other End of the Leash
- many others on Positive dog training that includes crate training and clicker training. Follow the links around on amazon but stay away from Cesar Milan type people.
- Dr. Sophia Yin has some great videos on dog training - look at them for good body positioning, timing and speed. Her Manners Minder is a wonderful tool for training in the crate and other situations but that might be a few steps down the road for you.

It sounds overwhelming to dive into, but I guarantee with even a weekend of clicker training in the crate (with correct responses from you) will lead to a marked improvement with your dog! I know this part of the dog adoption stage can be really stressful and exhausting. The newness has worn off a bit and now it's all this change and responsibility and noise and exhaustion. Keep yourself sane too - it'll be worth it in the end!
posted by barnone at 11:34 AM on September 6, 2010 [5 favorites]

Our dog's crate is in our bedroom (he sleeps in bed with us, but is in the crate during the day when we're gone, and generally likes chillin in there). We covered it with a black sheet so it creates a cave-like atmosphere. To get him used to the crate as a "good place" we would fill Kongs with special treats and feed them to him in the crate (he would only get these special kongs while in the crate). After about a week he would start going in there on his own.
posted by melissasaurus at 11:39 AM on September 6, 2010

I'd nth covering the crate at night, plus take one your dirty t-shirts and throw it in there with him - your scent may calm him if he's already grown close to you. That said, i've never had a dog that didn't stop whining eventually; a couple of nights of it, he'll realize no one's coming, and he'll settle down.
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 11:40 AM on September 6, 2010

If your pup is a chewer, we had great luck with a Kong, stuffed with peanut butter, then frozen. Keeps them busy for hours.
posted by dbmcd at 12:20 PM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've heard a clock wrapped in a sock or blanket or towel placed in the crate is soothing because it sounds like a heartbeat and feels soft and cuddly, like Mama dog. Using your t-shirt is also a good idea.
posted by misha at 4:54 PM on September 6, 2010

Best answer: My whiny dog generally began to quiet down in the crate after I figured out that I should cover it, and it took about a week for him to go in with no wriggling and another week for him to quiet down in the crate. You've got a howler of a breed, so it's going to take longer for yours. Try covering the crate.

Lots of above comments suggest putting the crate in your bedroom; I'd advise against that because then you're associating "sleeping near you" with his contentment. What, then, when you need to go on vacation? Or sleep over elsewhere? Or are sick or whatever. He's not always going to be able to sleep near you. My dog is fine in the living room, with the sheet. I'd start there.
posted by juniperesque at 7:17 PM on September 6, 2010

Is it possible that the crate is too big? If so then shrink the crate so that the dog gets a sense of being secure and snug, add something he is familiar with such as a toy, as well as a t-shirt with your smell on it, and move the crate into your bedroom. My husband has also had success placing a ticking clock in the crate, to mimic the sound of the mother's heartbeat.
posted by braemar at 7:20 PM on September 6, 2010

Yes, like misha said is even better, wrapping the clock in your t-shirt would give off your smell as well as mimic a heartbeat...
posted by braemar at 7:22 PM on September 6, 2010

Response by poster: We have crate trained before and understand the process and the ever increasing times. However, the reality is that we do have to go to work and get some sleep. Until we're 100% sure this dog is house trained, we'll not be giving him free run of the house unsupervised.

The dog, Rowlf, is perfectly happy to play the training game. He'll patiently sit in the crate as long as you're there talking to him or offering up treats. He'll also gladly go after the treats and into his crate. We are feeding him in the crate as well. The crate is not used as a form of punishment and every time he's gone into it since he came here he's been given a treat.

We have a couple of towels over the top of the crate and have kept some well used towels and a peanut butter stuffed kong in with him. He's the first dog we've ever seen turn his nose up to the peanut butter. The crate was in the corner of the kitchen.

While many of you have suggested that we move him to our bedroom, we've decided to move him to the living room. We do not like having dogs in our bedroom. Our other two dogs sleep in the living room already. Our hope is that by moving him into the same room as the other two that he'll settle down.

Thanks for the book suggestions, barnone. We'll definitely look into the clicker training one
posted by onhazier at 7:47 PM on September 6, 2010

Best answer: Awesome! While you're playing the training game, extend it to leaving the room. Put him in there, turn your back, walk a few steps...silence? Click and treat. Extend it to walking out of the room, silence? Click and treat. Then go do your nightly bathroom routine, click and treat... etc. Meaning the training isn't just you there talking to him and giving him treats, it's extending the time between contact. If at any time he starts howling, back up to the last good step and go from there. He'll get it eventually.

He's still a new dog and a puppy at that. It'll take a while and he might be exhibiting some separation anxiety. It just takes time and training.

The Manners Minder training thing (we call it the "dog bot") is awesome for this. It's basically a mechanical feeder that either you can control by clicking a remote, or you can set to randomized intervals (for 5-360 seconds!), building your way up to the top of that range. It's not instantaneous - i.e. you have to train the dog how to use it - but it can be awesome for dealing with separation anxiety in dogs. We love ours and use it for exercise, new training games and targeting. If you don't have the time for it, just concentrate on exercise and crate training for now!

Keep in mind that some dogs absolutely just HATE the crate. It's not that common, but there are dogs like that out there! If that's the case, consider creating a baby-gated section for to replace the at-work and nighttime confinement.

Good luck. The first few months are kind of tiring while you figure out what clicks for the dog and vice versa. Even once you've figured them out, be prepared for it to change! My dog hated PB at first and now loves it, and I'd stopped offering it to him for a long time.
posted by barnone at 9:29 PM on September 6, 2010

Response by poster: I'm not sure what clicked, but something sure has.

We moved him to the living room and started leaving the room during training sessions. The first night, he whined but settled down within 30 minutes. The second night, he whimpered but settled down is less time. Last night, he let out two little whines and that was it. We're leaving his crate door open when he doesn't have to be in there. He's now starting to go in lay down for a few minutes and then come out. We also found that pulling the towel down completely over the door of the crate seems to help him settle quickly. That leaves the back of the crate facing a blank wall and the sides open to everything.

Thank you all so much for your help. I think moving him to the living room and using barnone's suggestion are what is making the difference.
posted by onhazier at 5:25 PM on September 10, 2010

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