How to Train Your Dog to Not Cry

How to Train Your Dog to Not Cry
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon1-2 Weeks
Behavior training category iconBehavior

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.

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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.

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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.

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The Crate Training Method

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Extinguish Crying Method

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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.

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.

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.

4

Reward quiet

When your dog is being quiet and not demanding attention, reward him by providing affection, a treat, or play.

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.

The Alternative Behavior Method

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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.

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.

3

Reward alternative behavior

Reward alternative behavior with a treat and lots of attention and praise.

4

Ignore crying

Ignore crying behavior, walk away.

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.

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.

By Laurie Haggart

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

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Brody

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Labrador Retriever

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9 Weeks

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Cant leave him alone in the day without him crying

Jan. 28, 2022

Brody's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jordan, Check out the Surprise method from the article I have linked below. Also, be aware that puppies can only hold their bladders during the day for a maximum of the number of hours they are in age plus one - meaning that a two month old puppy can't go longer than 2-3 hours between potty trips. When you are home, I would take pup outside twice that often though - so about every 1-1.5 hours to help pup become potty trained. https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Jan. 28, 2022

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Albert

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Australian Silky Terrier

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9 Weeks

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I have a varying work start time - sometimes 5am - other times 9am. How can I stop him crying in the morning and waking others up? He is very loud & very persistent! Nights he is great as we have the same schedule every night.

Dec. 4, 2021

Albert's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello, First, if it's been at least two hours since pup last went potty at this age, pup will need to be taken potty before being crated again. When you return them to the crate, you have three options at this age. 1. You can either ignore pup barking until 7/8/9 (whenever you normally want to get up) - which will probably mean an hour of barking for a few days until pup learns to just go back to sleep until breakfast, and gradually begins to sleep longer and not need that 4:30am potty trip as their bladder capacity increases. 2. Another option is to stuff 1 or 2 kongs with puppy food and freeze the night before, and give pup that in the crate for a few weeks, until they are old enough to not need to 4:30am potty trip, then you will need to ignore/correct the crying later, once pup is older and can be expected to sleep through. To stuff a kong you can either place pup's dry dog food loosely in it and cover 1/2 of the opening with a larger treat - so the dog food will dispense more slowly, or place pup's food in a bowl, cover with water, let sit out until the food turns to mush, mix the mush with a little liver paste, treat paste, or peanut butte (avoid xylitol! - it's extremely toxic to dogs and a common sweetener substitute), place a straw through the kong's holes, loosely stuff the kong with the mush, place in a baggie, and free overnight. Remove the straw before giving pup and grab the kong from the freezer as needed - for a time-released treat. 3. The third option is to correct the crying once you return pup to the crate after the potty trip. 5 months is usually the earliest I would recommend doing this, so it can be done now or once pup is a bit older if you use the Kong solution for a bit. To correct pup, first, work 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. When he cries at night or early morning, after you take pup potty and return them to the crate, or pup cries before 4-5 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. Don't give treats at night/morning though - practice during the day proactively to help pup learn that quiet is good, since you don't want to encourage pup to stay awake in the early morning, but to go back to sleep instead. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Dec. 6, 2021


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