How to Train Your Dog to Not Cry at Night

How to Train Your Dog to Not Cry at Night
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon2-4 Weeks
Behavior training category iconBehavior

Introduction

Ever looked at a litter of puppies with their mom, sleeping in a giant pile, all together? So cute, right? Now you take your new puppy home and put him a bed or crate by himself, expecting him to sleep alone, through the night, quietly. Not going to happen!  

Sometimes having a puppy is just like bringing home a human baby--a lot of sleepless nights while everyone adjusts to the new environment. Because dogs are pack animals, their natural inclination is to sleep with others, in close contact, for safety and comfort. A young dog or puppy is especially geared to sleep closely in a group for safety, and a rescue dog or an anxious or insecure dog that has come from an abusive situation or a situation where they were deprived, may be nervous and anxious and more apt to cry when separated from their caregivers, such as at night when everyone is sleeping. 

Having a dog cry at night and keep you awake is not going to work in the long term, so owners need to find ways to train their dogs to sleep quietly at night in their own space, and for the dog to be comfortable with the arrangement, allowing dog owners to get a good night sleep.

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Defining Tasks

There are several methods you can use to help your dog learn not to cry at night and to be comfortable sleeping by himself, quietly. However, before working on stopping your dog from crying at night you will need to take some basic steps to ensure his needs are met and he is not crying for a genuine reason. 

Make sure your dog is well fed, has water, is well exercised, and has had lots of attention throughout the day, including affection and play. A dog that has had lots of activity and had his needs met is more likely to have a restful night than one that is full of energy or bored. Ensure your dog has had a chance to go outside to do his business before bed. And remember, a puppy may cry in the middle of the night when they wake because they legitimately have to go to the bathroom. Puppies do not have large bladders, and it is not uncommon to have to let a young dog out in the middle of the night for a pee break. You should work this into your plans if necessary.

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Getting Started

Most owners that want their dogs to sleep separately from them provide their dogs with a bed or crate to sleep in. The crate should be comfortable, with good, clean bedding, and a favorite blanket or toy for comfort. Your dog's bed/crate should be in a warm location so your dog does not wake up from cold. Crates or beds should be the appropriate size for the dog, too big and the dog will not feel secure, too small and they will not be comfortable. You may need to be prepared for a few sleepless nights at first, as you will need to ignore and not respond to your dog's crying. If you do, you will only reinforce the behavior. This might call for a set of ear plugs! 

There are several methods you can use to help your dog become comfortable and learn to sleep by himself without crying for attention at night. These methods may be used in combination to help your dog assimilate to their nighttime routine quicker.

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The Ignore Crying Method

Most Recommended

6 Votes

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Most Recommended

6 Votes

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1

Prepare

If you respond in any way to your dog's crying, even negatively, it will only reinforce his bid for attention. Be prepared to ignore your dog's crying at night. You may need to move your dog and his crate to another part of the house where you cannot hear him or use earplugs.

2

Meet needs

Teach your dog to be comfortable a crate. After letting your dog out for a bathroom break, have him go to his crate for bed. Do not carry him or drag him to his crate, which creates a negative association. Instead, reward him for going to his crate with a treat or a chew toy, and provide him praise and affection in his crate.

3

Ignore crying

Leave your dog in his crate and go to bed. When your dog cries, do not yell at him or respond in any way to his crying. Ensure that the entire household is on board.

4

Respond to quiet

If you need to let a puppy out in the middle of the night for a bathroom break, choose a time when he is quiet, not when he is crying, to let him out for a pee. After he has relieved himself, go back to his crate and provide another reward, attention, and praise. Return to bed.

5

Repeat

In the morning, do not let your dog out of his crate until he is quiet. If he is crying, wait until he stops for a moment before releasing him. Repeat this procedure for several nights. Eventually, your dog will learn that crying does not result in your attention or release from the crate.

The Crate Training Method

Effective

7 Votes

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Effective

7 Votes

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1

Set up crate

Set up a crate with comfortable bedding, and a toy or chew bone. You can introduce your dog to the crate at first by feeding him in the crate, to create a positive association.

2

Introduce crate

Put your dog in the crate for a short period of time, 10-15 minutes. Have the dog approach the crate himself to get a reward, do not carry or lead him there. Stay with your dog while he is in the crate, sit outside the crate or remain in the room. If he is quiet, let him out. If he starts crying, wait until there is a pause in crying, then let him out.

3

Practice quiet in crate

Repeat the procedure several times a day, until your dog happily goes into his crate for short periods of time with you present.

4

Increase time and distance

Gradually increase the length of time your dog remains in the crate, and the distance you are from the crate, moving farther away, leaving the room, then leaving the house, for short periods of time. Gradually increase to longer periods of time.

5

Reinforce quiet

Only let your dog out of the crate when he is quiet and calm. If your dog starts crying, sit near the crate and talk to him, but do not let him out until he stops crying. This teaches your dog to gradually become used to being alone, in a safe place, and that calm quiet behavior with no crying will result in the opportunity to be with you.

The Alternative Comfort Method

Least Recommended

2 Votes

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Least Recommended

2 Votes

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1

Prepare sleeping place

You can make your dog learn to accept sleeping in his crate or designated sleep area without crying by making it more attractive to him, much like when he was with his mom and litter mates.

2

Provide warmth

You can provide a heat source, like a heated water bottle, but ensure it is not too hot and that it is not something your dog can chew on and puncture.

3

Provide company

You can provide the company of another pet--another older dog or even a cat--or consider adopting two puppies at a time. Letting your dog sleep with the company of another pet may settle him and ease him into sleeping without his caregiver at night. Another option is to provide similar sized stuffed animals that resemble litter mates, but be careful they do not have loose buttons or parts that your young dog can chew off and choke on.

4

Provide sound

Use an old fashioned clock that ticks wrapped in a blanket in your puppy's bed. Some dogs are lulled to sleep by the rhythmic sound of a clock that resembles their mom's heartbeat. Be sure the dog can not chew on the clock and injure himself.

5

Provide activity

Provide a rawhide chew bone, or puzzle feeder with food to keep your dog entertained while he goes off to sleep.

6

Getting comfortable

All of these steps can help your dog to become acclimated to their sleeping place, feel safe, and teach them there is no need to cry at night.

By Laurie Haggart

Published: 11/06/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

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Training Questions and Answers

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Chase

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Pomsky

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7 Months

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How to get home to stop crying at night? How to get him to potty outside?

June 6, 2022

Chase's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Alice, For potty training, I recommend following the Crate Training method and Tethering method from the article I have linked below. Since pup is older I would adjust the times to take pup outside every 3 hours, taking pup back outside every 1-1.5 hours if pup doesn't go potty the first time. When you are away at work, at pup's age they should be able to hold it for 5-7 hours, less at first, as long as pup is in a properly set up crate and not having accidents in the crate. Crate Training method and Tethering method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-puppy-to-poop-outside For most puppies I would start by working on the Surprise method from the article I have linked below during the day, and ignore the barking at night. If pup is really persistent and not improving at all by a week (expect 2-4 weeks until no barking at all but you should see decrease after a week), then I would also correct. If corrections are needed, start by working on teaching the Quiet command during the day using the Quiet method from the article linked below. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Second, during the day practice the Surprise method from the article linked below. Whenever pup stays quiet in the crate for 5 minutes, sprinkle some treats into the crate without opening it, then leave the room again. As he improves, only give the treats every 10 minutes, then 15 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes, 1 hour, 1.5 hour, 2, hour, 3 hour. Practice crating him during the day for 1-3 hours each day that you can. If you are home during the day, have lots of 30 minute - 1 hour long sessions with breaks between to practice this, to help pup learn sooner. Whenever he cries in the crate, tell him "Quiet". If he gets quiet - Great! Sprinkle treats in after five minutes if he stays quiet. If he continues barking or stops and starts again, spray a quick puff of air from a pet convincer at his side through the crate while calmly saying "Ah Ah", then leave again. Only use unscented air canisters, DON'T use citronella! And avoid spraying in the face. Surprise method: https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate Repeat the rewards when quiet and the corrections whenever he cries. Practice for a few days until he is doing well during the day. You can either continue what you are currently doing at night during this process or go ahead and jump into what I explain below for night time training - waiting until the day is good before starting the night or starting the night and day both at the same time. When he cries at night (in the crate - where he needs to be sleeping for now) before it has been 7 hours (so you know it's not a potty issue), tell him Quiet, and correct with the pet convincer if he doesn't become quiet and stay quiet. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

June 6, 2022

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Poli

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French Mastiff

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2 Months

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Constant whining at night and has a lot of energy which is hard to calm him down

May 2, 2022

Poli's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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Hello Melissa, At 8 weeks of age I am guessing that you recently brought pup home? If that's the case, then know that what you are experiencing is completely normal. Pup is getting used to sleeping alone and that's an adjustment. Usually the first five days are the worst. It typically takes about two weeks for most pups to adjust completely; however, you can help that adjustment be as smooth as possible by doing the following. 1. When pup cries but doesn't have to go potty (like after you return them to the crate when they just went potty outside) be consistent about ignoring the crying until they go back to sleep. The more consistent you are the quicker the overall process tends to take even if it's hard to do for the first couple weeks. 2. When pup does truly need to go potty (when it's been at least 2 hours since pup last peed), take pup to go potty outside on a leash to keep pup focused and things calmer. Don't give treats, food, play, or much attention during these trips - boring and sleepy is the goal, then right back to bed after. This helps pup learn to only wake when they truly need to go potty and be able to put themselves back to sleep - helping them start sleeping longer stretches sooner and not ask to go out unless they actually need to potty. Pup will generally need 1-2 potty trips at night even after trained for a couple months though due to a small bladder. 3. Wait until pup asks to go potty by crying in the crate at night before you take them - opposed to setting an alarm clock, unless pup is having accidents in the crate and not asking to go out. This gives pup the chance to learn to start falling back to sleep when they wake in light sleep if they don't really need to go potty, instead of being woken up all the way when they could have held it a bit longer. 4. Practice the Surprise method from the article I have linked below to help pup get used to crate time during the day too - so that there is less crying at night due to pup adjusting to being alone. Surprise method - only give treats during daytime practice, not at night though: https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

May 4, 2022


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