Could (or should) I put my puppy in a pack n play while I'm at home?
July 10, 2013 6:43 AM   Subscribe

My puppy is fine in his crate if I'm not around or if he's sleeping, but he loses his mind if I crate him while I'm at home.

We adopted an 8 week old shepherd mix puppy from the shelter on Saturday. We're crate training him and I stay home most of the day and now that it's summer, my 10 year old son is home as well. Hugo doesn't fuss at night when he's in there, and when he's awake I either keep him on his leash near me when we aren't actively playing or he'll go in his crate by himself and nap or play quietly with the door open.

The problem is when I have to crate him during the day when I'm doing something that I can't have him around-like sweeping/mopping floors or doing a craft or hobby-he really hates it. He fusses and whines and sometimes barks for up to 45 minutes (I wouldn't normally keep him in that long, but I'm trying to ignore the behavior and wait until he stops to let him out. It's when he can see or hear me and he wants to just follow me around or play and I just can't have him out right then. We ignore him, but it's difficult.

Would it be alright if I put him in a pack n play in the room with me if I'm doing something that's safe for him to be around but I just need him contained so I can get things done?
posted by hollygoheavy to Pets & Animals (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Well, yeah. You're out there doing fun things like vacuuming and crafting and he's all alone in puppy jail.

I have an x-pen for my dog, and that's what I'd put him in when he was a puppy and I needed him to not be all up in my grill. He still didn't like it, but it was better than the crate.

The good news is that he's grown out of it. Since he was about 9 months old or so he's tolerated being crated for short periods while I'm home. (He still doesn't like it, but he'll make do, knowing that it's going to be over soon.)

You can put your dog in whatever you want. It looks like the pack n play has a soft, raised floor--be aware that his little toenails might break through the bottom.

You might have better luck putting a gate up in a doorway where he can be cordoned safely off in an area while still being able to see you and move/play unhindered.
posted by phunniemee at 6:49 AM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

You've got to turn the crate into a happy place. It may be that it's too early for this to occur with your pup but doing something like a pack and play is not a good solution.

Kennel training is so important and I'm really glad you're doing it, just stick with it. Perhaps go for some positive reinforcement by encouraging the dog to go into the kennel on it's own for a treat working up to swinging the door shut a little [no whining or attempts to get out => treat] working up to the door shut but not latched [same thing? => treat] working up to the door latched/treat working up to you standing up working to you walking away to the door way to the hall to 1 min out of the room, 3 minutes, 5, 10, 20, GOAL!!!!!!!!!

So, pack and play is treating the symptoms and not the problem and will only reinforce his/her behavior. Plus, I just realized, you've only had the pup since Saturday! This will take time, not too long, but time. Keep at it and you'll have a good dog.
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:51 AM on July 10, 2013 [4 favorites]

In my experience he won't like that any better. If he can see/hear you, he'll want to be with you. That's just puppyness. My puppy is happy in the crate if other people are mucking about, showering, getting ready for work, doing laundry ... but if she hears my car, my footsteps, my voice, etc. then she wants out.

What about the crate in another part of the house? He may be fine with a TV/radio/fan on as long as he can't hear you banging about doing your thing downstairs.

Also, as someone who used to live next to two dogs who didn't like it when their people weren't home, I can tell you the fussing and whining and barking can go on FOREVER. He will surely beat you at that waiting game.
posted by headnsouth at 6:52 AM on July 10, 2013

We tried this with a slightly smaller dog. You'd be amazed how quickly they learn to jump out of it. Plus, because the pen is slightly higher than the floor level, she always misjudged the landing with a funny / not actually funny thump.
posted by Mchelly at 7:04 AM on July 10, 2013

Hit post too soon - what we did have luck with was putting up a baby gate to keep her out of the room, so she would be close and not locked up, but there was still a barrier.
posted by Mchelly at 7:05 AM on July 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

This sounds like a great opportunity to work on 'stay'. My shepherd mix was the same way as a puppy and we taught her sit and stay so I could clean floors with her near but not in the way. She got sit right away and stay took about two weeks but now she will stay until released up to about an hour*. Teaching 'stay' helps your dog with self control and he'll learn that he doesn't always have to be right next to you.

*i don't recommend having them stay for an hour, but once we forgot to release her and an hour later she was still sitting by the fridge, poor dear!
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 7:15 AM on July 10, 2013 [4 favorites]

Put up a baby gate and don't confine the pup to a crate or a pack 'n' play - he'll put up with being confined because he loves you and wants to please you, but no animal's preference is to be in a cage they cannot leave.
posted by srrh at 7:17 AM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm with Roland of Eld. Crate training your dog means that it should be able to be in its crate without carrying on. I have a big dog who's always underfoot, and the fact that he's crate trained makes it much easier to accomplish little tasks that he would otherwise disrupt.

Do you reward him for crate hangout time, and generally make the crate an awesome place to be? Try giving him a kong or something else that takes a while and will distract him from the fact that you're around but not playing with him right this minute. Definitely shower him with rewards any time you crate him. I also had luck, at first, with leaving desirable treats in the crate every once in a while, to remind him that his crate is SO AWESOME sometimes it creates a bite of flank steak out of thin air!

To avoid leaving him in there for 45 minutes out of punishment because you don't want to reward barking, wait for the tiniest break in the barks. Even if he's just catching his breath. THEN open the crate. You don't have to wait till he's 100% settled in the crate to let him out, if he's having that much trouble adjusting.
posted by Sara C. at 7:56 AM on July 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

If you are OK with dog farts, I find that sprinkling a bit of shredded cheese over [area where you want the dog to be] is amazingly effective at turning [area] into a place where the dog is happy to go.
posted by phunniemee at 8:35 AM on July 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

Sara C. nailed it. All great tips. And Kongs with peanut butter, so powerful.

You can't use the crate as a tool without first training the dog to the crate. A common mistake and really easily corrected at this point, but only for a while.

To the idea that crate training is to be avoided for some reason or the other, including the dog not being happy...

To that I say 'Preposterous!'. Both of our dogs are crate trained and both of them are happier with said training. One was a stray and is really scared of storms, when thunder booms he goes to the place he feels safest, his kennel. When traveling they both can't wait until I unfold the crate, then they go in, inspect, maybe hang out a bit then are more secure with their surroundings knowing their happy place is available. Not to mention the practical advantages of a crate if an emergency comes up or in a situation that actually requires a crate....

Keep it up, you got this.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:42 AM on July 10, 2013

Another strike against the pack-and-play idea, an 8 week old shepherd puppy sounds like it would be capable of eating a pack-and-play as a snack.

You can also try incorporating really engaging treats like a kong toy to keep puppy entertains. Also, I think this question is impossible to answer without puppy pictures.
posted by inertia at 10:17 AM on July 10, 2013

As mentioned already, you need to soldier on with the crate training. Make sure he has positive associations with the crate. Make sure it has a soft pad or blanket, and safe toy to play with. Always give him a treat when he goes in there. Also we feed our dogs in their crates. Even my little crazy terrier learned "kennel" as a command very quickly and stays in his just fine.
posted by radioamy at 10:30 AM on July 10, 2013

Nthing everyone above, I'd definitely recommend a baby gate, x-pen, or crate rather than a pack 'n' play if you just need him to get out from underfoot temporarily. I love the idea of randomly dropping an unexpected treat into the crate for him to be surprised with, as though it is a magic treat-making chamber as well as a good place to nap or play.

In addition to giving him something fun to gnaw/chew on and distract him when he is in his crate, and using the gradual "let's work our way up to closing the door" method, I would recommend starting to act like you just won the lottery every time he decides to go in there of his own accord. In my experience, this will help him connect the act of going into his crate not only to the receipt of good noms, but also to his people suddenly being in a fantastic mood.

My pup is a Boston Terrier who came to us from the street via a puppy mill at 18 months, which means he is extremely clingy, exquisitely emotionally sensitive, and generally quite terrified unless he is actively being soothed. Fortunately, I discovered early on that I could instantly assuage his anxiety by grinning like a fool, putting up some jazz hands, and being all, "Yay! Yeah! Awesome! Such a good boy, you're doing such a good job! You're so wonderful, puppy!" I started doing this the moment we first met -- he was very scared of his crate at first, probably because he'd spent his whole life locked in one until he escaped or was let loose, but he has acclimated to it beautifully.

Five years later, we're at a point where all I have to do is say, "Mama has to [go to work/go outside/vacuum], buddy, can you go to bed?" He runs right in and starts snoring within seconds, occasionally opening an eye to make sure that I am still following up with a happy sing-song voice, big smile, lots of pets, and perhaps most importantly, the almighty peanut butter-filled Kong. All is well as long as I don't try to close the door; he will happily stay put without being locked in, but if I try to close the door, the weeping and rending of fur will begin.

You might also want to get him a REALLY amazing treat (like an antler chew or bully stick) that he ONLY gets for the duration of his time in the crate. This practice has led my dog to go into his crate and stare at me beseechingly whenever he has a hankering for his crate-only chew toy, and then I have a surprise opportunity to squeeze in a bit of vacuuming/sweeping/mopping.

Dogs are the most wonderful creatures on the planet, thank you for opening your heart and home to a shelter pup! Yay Hugo!
posted by divined by radio at 11:02 AM on July 10, 2013

Thank you so much everyone-you've really helped! Right now we keep the crate in the living room, right outside our bedroom door, with the door open and his favorite blanky inside. He'll go in there on his own sometimes and play quietly with a toy, but usually he likes hanging with me. I would use baby gates, but the openings to our rooms are wide arches, so we haven't found gates big enough to fit.

He's been great today. I'm a pretty big fan of him :)

Divined by radio-that is the cutest dog! I'm glad someone else calls the crate "bed" - I thought I was being weird.
posted by hollygoheavy at 12:50 PM on July 10, 2013

At 8 weeks, he's still quite a baby, and a cute one, at that. I would put him in his crate with a toy or treat and leave him for a few minutes at a time, gradually increasing crate time.
posted by theora55 at 5:07 PM on July 10, 2013

We've been doing the 'Crate means go sit in your crate so you'll get a treat' thing so ours will go in just fine. It took a little while, but she's pretty good at it now. Once or twice she'll go sit in there when she wants a treat. That's always adorable!

One thing that we do is we put a beach towel over her crate. There's still a lot of light in there, but it makes it easier for her because she can't see us and be reminded that she can't come out.
posted by stoneegg21 at 7:57 PM on July 10, 2013

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