How to Train Your Dog to Not Cry at Night

Medium
2-4 Weeks
Behavior

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.

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.

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.

The Crate Training Method

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Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
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The Ignore Crying Method

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Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Recommend training method?

The Alternative Comfort Method

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Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
5
Provide activity
Provide a rawhide chew bone, or puzzle feeder with food to keep your dog entertained while he goes off to sleep.
Step
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.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Buddy
Pug
9 Months
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Question
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Buddy
Pug
9 Months

I want to crate train my puppy at night because he has started stratching door at night and he is staying with friends soon and I dont want him to damage their house in the night. I am working up time during the day (10-15mins and I sit outside it) Hes cries a bit but isnt too bad. But can I crate him overnight now? I keep reading that I should crate him at night and ignore crying until he is used to it. At the same time, I read that you have to work up the time and not leave him longer than he can cope?! Which is it?? Please help.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
112 Dog owners recommended

Hello Gill, How long have you been practicing crate training during the day for? If you have been practicing the crate with Buddy for five to seven days at least, then you should be fine crating him overnight. If he cries, ignore it unless you believe something is truly wrong with him. All the different advice can be confusing. Essentially, you want to avoid crating your puppy for long periods of time during the day before he is used to it because he will be awake most of the time during the day and has not yet learned how to cope with being in the crate by settling down, chewing on chew toys, and relaxing. You are helping him learn those things during the day by practicing. The daytime is a great time to practice because during the day you are awake to give him feedback when he is doing well, so that he will learn what he is supposed to do in the crate. At night he should go to sleep most of the time. The only time that he will have to self-sooth and self-entertain is when you first put him in the crate and if he wakes up at night and needs to put himself back to sleep. This drastically reduces the amount of time he needs to be used to being in the crate for. If he can be calm in the crate for thirty-minutes during the day, then he will probably do well overnight in it too. Continue working up to longer periods of time in the crate during the day to develop his skills there, but you should be fine crating him overnight in the meantime. When you crate him, put a chew toy in there with him so that he can self-sooth with that if he wakes up. Reward him initially for going into the crate without getting him too excited and give him a chew toy that will not keep him up all night but will give him something to do for a few minutes while he gets settled. After he is in, then turn off lights and make sure it is quiet and stays dark where he is so that his body will feel like going to sleep and staying asleep. Either work on getting him used to you walking out of the room while he is crated during the day or put the crate into your room at first to minimize his crying. This is because he is currently used to you being next to the crate and not leaving him. You can crate him in a different room at night right from the start too but that will be a more abrupt approach, and you can expect a few days of crying that way since he will have to learn to be alone suddenly instead of gradually. In the end it should work just fine but it can be hard to stay firm when he cries, and you need to stay firm and not let him out if you choose to crate him overnight. Crate training allows you to travel with your dog, for others to keep him, for you to keep him safe, to prevent destructive chewing habits, to speed up potty training, and when used properly, to prevent many cases of separation anxiety be teaching independence, self-soothing, and self-entertaining. Try to remember the benefits when it is hard to be consistent at times. Even though many puppies protest at some point, if you persist, then he will have more freedom due to his good habits later on. The crate is to keep him safe and eventually give him more freedom and trust. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Calvin
Labrador Husky
10 Weeks
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Question
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Calvin
Labrador Husky
10 Weeks

We have had Calvin for just over two weeks and just recently found success a few nights ago with his sleep by waking him to pee every four hours and then using elimination (leaving him to whine)for early morning wakings. We were finally getting silent nights and it was wonderful. HOWEVER, two nights ago, he got horrible diarrhea and went all over his crate all night long. We took him to the vet and they found he had a mild bacteria which we are now treating with a bland diet and anti-diarrheals. Last night we wanted to avoid more mess in the crate, so every time we heard him whine we ran him outside to eliminate. Sometimes there was more diarrhea and sometimes nothing. Needless to say, after having finally getting some sleep lately, we are now once again exhausted. And due to an early morning backyard pee this morning that had previously been eliminated, he is now up and at ‘em for the day FAR too early like he was a week ago before all the training. My question is: when can we start training him again and will it take as long the 2nd time? His barks seem more insistent now than I remember them a week ago. Or will we got lucky and after two nights of horror, will he fall back into the old way we had worked so hard to Achieve?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
112 Dog owners recommended

Hello Tiffany, That can be discouraging when you finally make progress on something and have to go backwards again. As soon as his stools become firmer and more of a normal consistency during the day you can safely resume your prior night schedule and letting him cry it out without fear that you are missing something. Unfortunately the frequent potty breaks might be necessary for a bit longer if the diarrhea is still bad. If the antibiotic does not help quickly, then give your vet another call or visit. Many of those conditions take under a week to improve once antibiotics are started. If you have any questions about it ask you vet though, as I am not a licensed Veterinarian. As far as when you start back how long it will take. Since he is older and has been rewarded with potty outings for crying for the last few days he will likely protest for a long time the first couple of nights to go back to letting him cry. The training will likely involve longer protests than before but less nights doing it. Try not to get discouraged if he pitched a huge fit for the first three to five nights. Once you get over that hump it should start to improve drastically. He might surprise you and go right back to his old ways of sleeping better even sooner than three nights too, but mentally prepare for three to five just in case. Many dogs do go back to old sleeping habits just fine right away. By twelve weeks of age start taking him out less frequently during the night if he is doing well with potty training at night time. Let him sleep through the normal four hour wake ups and see when he wakes up on his own to go potty one night. When you discover how many hours he will go on his own, then let that amount of hours minus thirty minutes be his new potty break time. A couple of weeks after that try the same thing again and he may surprise you and sleep through the whole night by then. He may even surprise you at twelve weeks and sleep through the night then. Some puppies can by twelve weeks of age. Others can closer to four months. For early morning wake ups, if you think he needs to go potty, take him outside but keep him on a leash so that he cannot play, keep the whole experience calm and boring, and after he goes potty take him straight back to the crate. It will equal a lot of crying at first but you want him to learn to only wake up at that time if he needs to go potty and not habitually for the fun of getting out of the crate to play. If the trip is boring and end with going back in crate, then he is less likely to wake up and ask to go out if he does not have to. It sounds like this was your strategy before the sickness, so keep it up when he is feeling better. As hard as it is right now, with the level of consistency that it seems like you are giving him, you should start to see some major improvements in potty training and sleep within a month overall. It will get easier in those areas soon. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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