How to Train Your Dog to Not Cry

Medium
1-2 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

When Buffy, a Cocker Spaniel mix, wants food, she cries. When she wants petting, she cries. When her owner leaves the house, she cries. This results in her owner providing her food, attention, and frequently returning to the home to try to calm Buffy down, which of course only makes the crying worse. After all, it worked, didn't it?

Dogs cry or whine to express their distress at being alone, not getting attention, or to get other needs met.Dogs are social, pack animals-- being alone is not comfortable for them, but our pets need to become comfortable with being alone sometimes, or waiting to have their needs met, such as waiting for play time, or food. The catch is, if you respond to your dog crying by providing attention and closeness, you reinforce the behavior, which creates a vicious cycle.

Defining Tasks

A dog that cries when you are unable to provide him attention, such as when you are engaged in another activity or when you leave the house, is annoying to you and others. The solution is to teach your dog to be comfortable and confident with being alone, or not being the center of attention, and that crying does not result in getting what he wants. New puppies, especially, are subject to whining and crying behavior, as they have always felt the companionship and attention of their littermates and mother. It is normal for there to be an adjustment period when a new puppy is separated from their birth family and adopted into yours, or for an older dog that has experienced a difference in living situations, such as a move or a rehoming, to start crying due to anxiety associated with the change. 

If an older dog that did not previously cry starts crying, you may want to have him checked by your veterinarian to make sure that he is not experiencing a medical condition that is causing him to experience pain or anxiety. If no medical condition or urgent need is present, there are several strategies you can use to teach your dog that being alone or waiting to have their needs met is OK, and that there is no need to become anxious and vocal due to a temporary withdrawal of attention.

Getting Started

Always make sure your dog's physical needs are met before training them not to cry.  Has your dog had the opportunity to go to the bathroom, does your dog have water, is he hungry, does he need exercise, did he get enough attention and affection today? If all your dog's needs have been met and crying is just a demand for more attention, or an objection to being alone, then training to teach your dog to wait quietly can be initiated.

You will need a lot of patience and self-discipline, as training your dog to stop crying will necessitate ignoring annoying crying and not responding to it, even with negative attention such as punishment. This will require a lot of willpower on your part, and possibly earplugs! Treats for rewarding a dog for alternative behaviors to crying may be part of your training routine. Crate training to desensitize your dog to being alone, and to provide a comfortable safe place for him to be calm and quiet, is often used to address crying behavior. You may also want to set up a schedule, to make sure your dog gets lots of exercise, play, and attention, and possibly engage other family members, or neighbors, in ensuring your dog has “no excuse” for crying, by ensuring that all his needs are met, albeit on your schedule, not his.

The Crate Training Method

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Step
1
Provide 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.
Step
2
Introduce time in crate
Put your dog in the crate for a short period of time. Do not carry or lead him to the crate, reward him for going to his crate on his own. Leave him in his crate for a short period of time, initially 10-15 minutes. 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.
Step
3
Practice crate time
Repeat the procedure several times a day until your dog happily goes into his crate for short periods of time with you present.
Step
4
Increase crate time
Gradually increase the length of time your dog remains in the crate, and change where you are in relation to the crate, moving farther away, leaving the room, leaving the house.
Step
5
Reinforce quiet in crate
Only let your dog out of the crate when he is quiet and calm. If he starts crying, you can 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.
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The Extinguish Crying Method

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Step
1
Meet needs
Set up a routine with your dog: feeding time, bathroom time, play time. You may need to be somewhat flexible with bathroom time, especially with a young dog, but the idea is to set a schedule where you determine when it is time to spend time with your dog and meet his needs and he learns to wait quietly when it is not “his” time.
Step
2
Provide distraction
Make sure your dog is not bored during down times, but has toys, a puzzle feeder, a chew bone, and a quiet, safe retreat such as a crate to meet his needs.
Step
3
Ignore crying
If your dog whines or cries for attention when it is quiet time, or off schedule, ignore the dog's demands. You can do this comfortably knowing that his needs, including needs for attention and exercise, have been or are going to be met.
Step
4
Reward quiet
When your dog is being quiet and not demanding attention, reward him by providing affection, a treat, or play.
Step
5
Be consistent
Maintain your schedule, meet your dog's needs, and reward quiet behavior over a period of several days or weeks as necessary so your dog learns that his needs will be met on your schedule and he can have confidence in that, and that quiet calm behavior is rewarded, crying is not. You may need to engage all members of the household, and include friends, or neighbors, if you have a young dog, and need to be at away from your dog for several hours, such as at work, so that a reasonable schedule is maintained.
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The Alternative Behavior Method

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Step
1
Determine alternate behavior
Teach your dog to ask for your attention with an alternate behavior to crying, by replacing crying with 'look at me', 'sit-stay' or 'down-stay' behaviors. Start by holding a treat in your hand.
Step
2
Teach alternate behavior
Ask your dog to perform the desired behavior, such as sitting and looking at you or lying down quietly, whenever he looks like he is about to ask for attention. Try to anticipate crying.
Step
3
Reward alternative behavior
Reward alternative behavior with a treat and lots of attention and praise.
Step
4
Ignore crying
Ignore crying behavior, walk away.
Step
5
Increase requirements
Gradually expand this exercise to include other locations and sitting or lying quietly for longer periods of time quietly in order to gain your attention.
Step
6
Reinforce alternative behavior
When your dog sits and looks at you or lies quietly, give him lots of attention and rewards such as treats to establish that being quiet and sitting or lying gets your attention, not crying.
Recommend training method?
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Written by Laurie Haggart

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

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Tex
Treeing Tennessee Brindle
11 Months
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Tex
Treeing Tennessee Brindle
11 Months

We adopted text this past Saturday and today is our first day at work and he is going on and off with crying. He wasn’t previously an outside dog and his owners let him go because they wanted to travel. We have given him everything he needs but we can’t have him crying when we leave our apartment. What is the best way to teach him not to cry when we leave?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
817 Dog owners recommended

Hello Pamela, When you are home follow the Surprise method from the article linked below: https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate Working on the above method is an important first step to help him understand that he is supposed to be quiet while in the crate. Since you cannot wait for him to learn to stay quiet because of neighbors, in addition to working on the Surprise method, teach him the Quiet command using the Quiet method: Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark After he understands the Quiet command, purchase a Pet Convincer - which is a small canister of unscented air. When he barks tell him Quiet. If he gets Quiet and stays quiet for at least five minutes, return to him and sprinkle treats into the crate, then leave again. If he starts barking again right away or doesn't get quiet, tell him "Ah Ah" or "No" calmly, then spray a small puff of unscented air from the Pet Convincer at his side through the crate (NOT at his face), then leave again. If he stays quiet for at least five minutes, return and reward him. Repeat correcting with the Pet Convincer when he barks and rewarding with treats calmly when he stays quiet. As he improves, space your treat rewards out further so that he has to stay quiet for longer and longer in the crate before you reward him. Be sure to give him a food stuffed hollow chew toy, such as a Kong stuffed with his own dog food that has been soaked in water and mixed with a little peanut butter or liver paste - to help him learn to sooth himself and entertain himself quietly while in the crate - this also rewards him for chewing quietly. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Folly
English Springer Spaniel
8 Weeks
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Folly
English Springer Spaniel
8 Weeks

Folly cannot stand being on her own she whines and cries every time my husband or I leave her sight. We have her currently setup with a crate (door open) attached to an exercise pen. Inside her pen is a water bowl and toys. Interactive toys such as Kong’s do not hold her attention and she doesn’t self play.
She loves being close to us at all times. We have tried rewarding quiet behavior and then leaving the room for random periods of time anywhere from 30 seconds to 10 minutes. But it seems everyday we start over.

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
219 Dog owners recommended

Hello! So believe it or not, she might have "too much" space. To us, when we are a little anxious, having space seems ideal. But to dogs, it makes them even more insecure. The crate open, attached to the play pen is wonderful for when she is a little older. I would try leaving her in the crate, with the door closed and see how it goes. Also, if you know she doesn't need to go to the bathroom. It is ok to ignore her cries for about 20 minutes. As she gets older, this behavior will start to disappear. She is still very young and figuring out what is normal in her new world. Give her a little time to become more secure with herself, while still providing everything you are doing so far.

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Lily
Chihuahua
5 Years
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Lily
Chihuahua
5 Years

I am trying to get her used to the crate for now during the day.. but what do I do for night time when she is not quite ready to stay in there all night?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
817 Dog owners recommended

Hello Tara, For the daytime, I suggest following the Surprise method from the article linked below, and practicing that during the day to help her adjust sooner. I also recommend giving her a dog food stuffed chew toy in there to keep her more preoccupied. Surprise method: https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate At night, you will need to ignore the crying in the crate - since it's nighttime most dogs will eventually go to sleep, opposed to the daytime, but it will involve a decent amount of crying at first. When pup wakes after it has been at least 5 hours since their last potty trip, take them outside to go potty on the leash, keep the trip boring, then return to the crate and ignore any crying at that point until they fall back to sleep. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Winnie
Australian Shepherd
5 Months
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Winnie
Australian Shepherd
5 Months

So we recently adopted this little one and she has the worst separation anxiety I’ve ever seen. It’s not just if you leave her alone. It’s if she can’t get to you. If she is behind a baby gate and can’t be at your heels she is not only crying but screaming. We need serious help. She won’t settle and there is never an opportunity to reward her being quite because she doesn’t stop. We are really at a lose.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
817 Dog owners recommended

Hello Brianne, I recommend working with a professional trainer in person for this. Look for someone who specializes in behavior issues. The first step is to work on building her independence and her confidence by adding a lot of structure and predictability into her routine. Things such as making her work for rewards like meals, walks, and pets. Working on "Stay" and "Place," commands while you move away or leave the room, and teaching her to remain inside a crate when the door is open. Change your routine surrounding leaving so that she does not anticipate alone time and build up her anxiety before you leave - which is hard for her to deescalate from, and be sure to continue to give her something to do in the crate during the day (such as a dog food stuffed Kong to chew on); this is the general protocol for separation anxiety. It is gentle but can take a very long time on its own for some dogs with more severe separation anxiety. Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omg5DVPWIWo Crate manners: https://thegooddog.net/training-videos/free-how-to-training-videos/learn-to-train-the-good-dog-way-the-crate/ Another protocol involves teaching the dog to cope with their own anxiety by making their current anxious go-to behaviors unpleasant, giving them an opportunity to stop those behaviors long enough to learn something new, then rewarding the correct, calmer behavior instead. This protocol can feel harsh because it involves careful correction, but it tends to work much quicker for many dogs. If you go this route, I suggest hiring a trainer who is very experienced using both positive reinforcement and fair correction. Who is extremely knowledgeable about e-collar training, and can follow the protocol listed below, to help you implement the training. Building her independence and structure in her life will still be an important part of this protocol too. First, check out this video from SolidK9Training on treating anxiety. It will give a brief over-view of treating separation anxiety more firmly. This trainer can be a bit abrupt with his teaching style with people but is very experienced working with highly aggressive, anxious, and reactive dogs. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5GqzeLzysk Make sure you are implementing what he teaches there in other areas of pup's life too. Second, purchase a remote electronic collar, e-collar, with a wide range of levels. I recommend purchasing E-Collar Technologies Mini Educator or Garmin Delta Sport or Dogtra for this. If you are not comfortable with an e-collar then you can use a vibration collar (the Mini Educator and Garmin should also have a vibration mode) or unscented air remote controlled air spray collar. DO NOT use a citronella collar, buy the additional unscented air canister if the collar comes with the citronella and make sure that you use the unscented air. (Citronella collars are actually very harsh and the smell - punisher lingers a long time so the dog continues to be corrected even after they stop the behavior). The vibration or unscented spray collars are less likely to work than stimulation e-collars though, so you may end up spending more money by not purchasing an e-collar first. I do NOT recommend citronella spray collars. The Mini Educator has very low levels of stimulation, that can be tailored specifically to your dog. It also has vibration and beep tones that you can try using first, without having to buy additional tools. Next, set up a camera to spy on her. If you have two smart devices, like tablets or smartphones, you can Skype or Facetime them to one another with your pup’s end on mute, so that you can see and hear her but she will not hear you. Video baby monitors, video security monitors with portable ways to view the video, GoPros with the phone Live App, or any other camera that will record and transmit the video to something portable that you can watch outside live will work. Next, put the e-collar on her while she is outside of the crate, standing, and relaxed. To learn how to put the collar on her, check out this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLxB6gYsliI Turn it to it's lowest level and push the stimulation button twice. See if she responds to the collar at all (if you use a collar like mini educator, most pup's can't even feel the first few levels out of the 100 levels - you are trying to find the level where she begins to feel it without going too high for her). Look for subtle signs such as turning her head, moving her ears, biting her fur, moving away from where she was, or changing her expression. If she does not respond at all, then go up one level on the collar and when she is standing and relaxed, push the stimulation button again twice. Look for a reaction again. Repeat going up one level at a time and then testing her reaction at that level until she indicates a little bit that she can feel the collar. Here is a video showing how to do this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cl3V8vYobM A modern, high quality collar will have so many levels that each level should be really subtle and she will likely respond to a low level stimulation. It's uncomfortable but not the harsh shock many people associate with such collars if done right. Once you have found the right stimulation level for her and have it correctly fitted on her, have her wear the collar around with it turned off or not being stimulated for several hours or days if you can (take it off at night to sleep though). Next, set up your camera to spy on her while she is in the crate. Put her into the crate while she is wearing the collar and leave. Spy on her from outside. Leave however you normally would. As soon as you hear her barking or see her start to try to escape or destroy the crate from the camera, push the stimulation button once. Every time she barks or tries to get out of the crate, stimulate her collar again. If her fur is long, make sure the metal contact points are both touching her skin, and be sure to order longer contact points - many come with a short and long set). If she does not decrease her barking or escape attempts at least a little bit after being stimulated seven times in a row, then increase the stimulation level by one level. She may not feel the stimulation while excited so might need it just slightly higher. Do not go higher than three more levels on the mini-educator, or two more levels on another collar with less levels right now though because she has not learned what she is supposed to be doing yet. For example, if her level is 16 out of 100 levels on the Mini Educator, don't go past level 19 right now. The level you end up using on her on the mini educator collar will probably be low to medium, within the first fifty levels of the one-hundred to one-hundred-and-twenty-five levels, depending on the model you purchase. If it is not, then have a professional evaluate whether you have the correct "working level" for her before proceeding at a higher level. If she continues to ignore the collar, then go up one more stimulation level and if that does not work, make sure that the collar is turned on, fitted correctly, and working. After five minutes to ten minutes, as soon as your dog stays quiet and is not trying to escape for five seconds straight, go back inside to the dog, sprinkle several treats into the crate without saying anything, then leave again. Practice correcting her from outside when she barks or tries to escape, going back inside and sprinkling treats when she stays quiet, for up to 30 minutes at first. After 30 minutes -1 hour of practicing this, when she is quiet, go back inside and sprinkle more treats. This time stay inside. Do not speak to her or pay attention to her for ten minutes while you walk around and get stuff done inside. When she is being calm, then you can let her out of the crate. When you let her out, do it the way Jeff does is in this video below. Opening and closing the door until your dog is not rushing out. You want her to be calm when she comes out of the crate and to stay calm when you get home. That is why you need to ignore her when you get home right away. Also, keep your good byes extremely boring and calm. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5GqzeLzysk Continue to put a food stuffed Kong into the crate with her. Once she is less anxious she will likely enjoy it even if she didn't pay any attention to it in the past, and that will help her to enjoy the crate more. First, she may need her anxious state of mind interrupted so that she is open to learning other ways to behave. Once it's interrupted, give her a food stuffed Kong in the crate for her to relieve her boredom instead of barking, since she will need something other than barking to do at that point. Practicing obedience that build self-control and calmness is not something I would overlook though. That is likely something pup will need long term, so I recommend having regular training sessions each day for 10-30 minutes to help with confidence, trust and respect, teaching things like Down-Stay, Place, Heel, ect... Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Hobbes
Labrador Retriever
3 Months
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Hobbes
Labrador Retriever
3 Months

We have had Hobbes for a month now & have gotten him on a good schedule for sleeping. He goes to bed in his kennel, after a few hours of no naps + lots of playing + a walk before before, around 10-10:30pm. He will sleep until at least 6am, but ideally we want his breakfast time to be 7am. If he wakes up to pee at 6:15am, he cries, so we take him out to do his business. After he has peed or pooped, we put him back in his crate, sometimes willfully and sometimes not (he’s still learning). He then will proceed to cry because he wants to be out of his crate or wants to eat. Thank you for this page, I found it very helpful, but also would love more individualized input!

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
219 Dog owners recommended

Hello! This is unfortunately just an age thing. Puppies at his age struggle to go longer than about 7-8 hours at night without crying or getting hungry. Their stomachs are completely empty within about 12 hours of their last meal, so if he is getting dinner between 5-7pm, he is probably very ready for his meal by 6am. And their cries for food are still instinctual at this age. Meaning, there isn't much you can do until he starts to approach 4.5 months. Continue pushing him to wait until 7, but expect those earlier wake up calls over the next few weeks until he matures a bit more.

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Nikki
Pit Bullmastiff
8 Months
0 found helpful
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Nikki
Pit Bullmastiff
8 Months

Received Nikki from a shelter at 12 weeks.
About 2-3 weeks in she chewed the door in the car and was physically disciplined. A week or so later she began screaming when she messed up outside(eating off the ground, something she knows is not okay) and I went to grab her. She immediately began screaming/crying and running away.
I was finally able to get to her but I was so startled by the sound I didn’t even know what to do so I leashed her, told her no and let her be.
I’m not sure if there was an experience prior to me having her that would facilitate this behavior or the discipline, but it was not extensive by any means. Here we are 4 months later and when ever I approach her when she is outside not on the leash she runs away. When I approach further she begins to scream. I am not touching her prior to her screaming. I feel it is a startle response but I am so lost on how to get her to stop. She does it in public and I fear someone will think the worst when I haven’t even touched her. I really want to keep her but I fear if this does not change and she does not trust me I will have to give her away. And I would rather not.
Please help !

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
817 Dog owners recommended

Hello Bri, Has she ever shown any form of aggression toward you? What does her body language look like around you in general, and when screaming? Some dogs scream due to a genuine fear that you don't want to pressure because of trauma or because of the risk of a fear bite to you. Other dogs do it because they are essentially being dramatic and when they do the behavior it gets you to back off, so it becomes a learned behavior. When it's related to a true fear, trust needs to be carefully build through things like pairing gentle touches with treats, walking pup around on a long leash - such as 30 feet and a padded back clip harness in your yard, and rewarding pup with a treat every time they choose to come over to you or walk beside you, and tossing pup a treat whenever you enter the room. The pace and distance you do these things depends on how much pressure pup can handle depending on the level of fear - those types of things are best done with a trainer's help in person, so pup's body language can be evaluated while doing the training, and avoid a fear bite also. For dogs who are doing the behavior because it seems to get the what they want, then methods like teaching Come using a long training leash, where pup is calmly reeled in when they don't come, teaching commands like Quiet, building trust through training exercises like a structured heel, place, Down-Stay, and pairing touch with treats to build some trust with being touched also. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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