What to do When Fido Barks in his Crate
If you're going to crate train Fido, you'll need to teach him to stay quietly and comfortably in his crate. Many dogs and puppies will bark or whine in their crates or dig, scratch and bite at the crate in an attempt to get out. This isn't unusual and is fairly easy to resolve with most dogs. This article will teach you how to train most dogs to be quiet while confined to a crate.
Safety Note: Occasionally, dogs do panic in the crate to a degree that makes it impossible to crate train them. This is characterized by drooling, shaking, getting hurt trying to escape from the crate or otherwise seeming excessively stressed. If your dog is displaying any of these signs of panic, you may not be able to crate train him. Consult with an experienced, professional dog trainer and your vet about helping Fido with his anxiety or try another housetraining method, such as umbilical cord training or dog door training.
If your dog is showing a normal level of displeasure at being closed in his crate, be sure that you've introduced him to his crate properly before you try correcting him in any way. The steps to this process are outlined in our "Acclimating Fido to his Crate" article. If you've followed the proper steps to acclimate Fido to his crate, but you're still finding that he barks, whines, cries or howls in the crate, you'll need to do a bit of work to teach him to be quiet in his crate.
If Fido's barking in his crate overnight, you may want to buy our e-book, Puppy Sleep Training - The Exhausted Puppy Owner's Nighttime Survival Guide HERE, so you can learn everything you need to know to help your pup quiet and comfortable overnight.
Be Sure Fido's on a Reasonable Schedule
First, you should assess Fido's feeding schedule, potty schedule and exercise schedule. If you put him in his crate when he's just had something to eat or drink or when he hasn't relieved himself for a while, he'll understandably be on edge when closed in his crate. Feed Fido at least 90 minutes before closing him in his crate and take him out to potty just before you put him in.
If Fido isn't getting enough exercise and he's got a case of energy overload, that may also contribute to frustration and naughty behavior in the crate. Fido needs regular exercise in the form of walks, hikes, and playing with people or other dogs. It isn't fair to close him up in his crate if he hasn't had any activity, so make sure he's on a reasonable exercise schedule. It may be helpful to really wear him out with some extra exercise on the first few days you're working on crate training, since he'll be less likely to fuss if he's really tired.
Most dog owners feel sorry for Fido when he starts to bark and whine, thinking he's scared and lonely. The problem with feeling sorry for Fido when he's fussing in the crate is that your feeling will probably lead you to do all the wrong things and you'll worsen the problem instead of fixing it.
When you feel sorry for Fido you're likely to take him out of his crate or try to soothe him when he makes a fuss... or both. If you do either of these things, you reinforce Fido's naughty, noisy behavior. If you talk to him to try to soothe him, he learns that when he gets loud, he gets attention from you. If you let him out, he learns that acting crazy gets him what he wants... freedom! This will not only cause problems with your crate training, it can extend to other areas of life with Fido... the next thing you know, he'll be barking to get you to feed him, pet him, let him inside or outside, etc.
One of the most common mistakes that people make when crate training their new puppy or dog is giving in to barking or whining overnight and bringing Fido up on the bed. It's tempting to do whatever it takes to quiet him down when you're not getting any sleep, but don't think you'll just do it that first night and he'll be better in the crate tomorrow. Why would he ever be good sleeping in the crate overnight if he knows that if he barks loud enough and long enough, he'll get to come up there with you, the down pillows and the 300 thread count sheets?
Don't feel sorry for Fido. He's got a good life. You're giving him love, attention, exercise, good food and a nice place to live. All you're asking in return is that he sometimes hang out in his crate alone so you can have a life and get some sleep!
On the other end of the spectrum are the people who are TICKED OFF at Fido and ready to wring his neck. This isn't good, either, since you'll tend to over correct him, correct out of anger and hold a grudge. None of these things are going to help.
Remember, even though Fido's being a bit of a brat, he doesn't know any better. He's learning something new that may not be entirely pleasant for him, and he's doing what comes naturally to try to get the heck out of that crate. Even though correction may need to be part of your training program, you want to be in the frame of mind of educating Fido rather than punishing him. This will allow you to correct with appropriate timing and intensity, something you can only do when you're clearheaded and not seething with anger.
Yes, this part of your training can be frustrating, and it's not always fun, but anger and inappropriate corrections will only make matters worse. Keep your cool!
Try the Easy Stuff First
Be sure you give Fido something extra special and yummy to chew on that he gets only when he's in his crate. This can be a raw marrow bone, a pig ear or a hollow toy stuffed with peanut butter, cream cheese or canned dog food (if you worry this might give Fido diarrhea, mix in some kibble or white rice before stuffing the toy). If you use the hollow toy, freeze it after stuffing it... this way it'll get hard and keep Fido busy for a longer period of time.
If Fido's really not happy about being in his crate, he might ignore his yummy treat while he's in the crate, then try to pick it up and take it with him when he gets out. He must not be allowed to have it outside of the crate. When you let him out of his crate, take it and put it away, bringing it out to give to Fido only when he's in his crate. Once he realizes that crate time is his only chance to enjoy it, he'll likely settle down to chew when you put him in his crate.
Another easy fix that works with some dogs is covering the crate with a crate cover, blanket or towel. Some dogs are overly stimulated and can't settle when they can see everything going on around them. Covering the crate helps to prevent Fido from responding to outside stimulation and creates a cozy, secure environment that may calm him and quiet him down.
If Fido starts barking whining or crying when he hears noises in the house or outside, it may be helpful to play music or have a fan or white noise machine running near his crate. The sound can relax him and it will mask much of the outside noise that's causing Fido to get worked up.
If the Easy Stuff Doesn't Work, Time for the Tough Stuff
If Fido's still making all that noise, it's time to add some correction. If Fido realizes he doesn't get anything good (attention or freedom) from fussing and he also learns that something bad (correction) happens when he's loud, you'll be able to get him to settle down. Dogs (like the rest of us) tend to repeat things that get good results and tend to avoid things that get bad results. So, our plan is to first let Fido see that he doesn't get the positive results he wants from barking, and instead gets negative results when he's loud. Once he quiets down to avoid the correction, he'll learn that being quiet and calm gets positive results, since we'll only be letting him out of the crate when he's being a good boy.
Please do not just skip ahead to correcting Fido without properly acclimating him to his crate and taking the steps above to try to quiet him down. These corrections are intended to be used only after you've tried everything else. There are several corrections detailed below. If one doesn't work, move on to another. If none of them work, contact an experienced, professional dog trainer for help.
Consider Fido's temperament when deciding how strong to be with the corrections. If he's a tough guy, you'll likely need to be pretty firm. If he's the more sensitive type, start with a mild correction and gradually try stronger corrections if the mild ones don't work. You want to use only as much correction as it takes to get a response from Fido.
Fido will be more responsive to corrections if you do some obedience training with him. Working on commands will help him to understand the concept and context of correction, so you'll have a better chance of getting good results if you do some obedience training along with Fido's housebreaking program.
What if Fido's not being crate trained, but he's still noisy when confined?
If you're training Fido using another confinement method, such as a small room or an exercise pen, you can still use the methods outlined in this article to work on his barking problem, with the exception of the "earthquake" correction, which can only be done if your dog is in a crate.
We're going to teach Fido the word "quiet" as his command to stop making noise. When you do any of the corrections below, you'll begin by saying "quiet!" in a firm voice as you give the correction. In the beginning of training, the command and the correction will come at the same time to teach Fido to associate the word and the correction. Once he's responding well to the correction, if you find that he still occasionally starts making noise in his crate, you'll say "quiet" first, then follow through with a correction only if Fido doesn't stop making noise when you give the command. This way, he learns that he can avoid correction completely by responding appropriately to the word "quiet".
Earning His Freedom
Letting Fido out of his crate at the right time is a critical part of this training. You should never let him out when he's being bratty, of course. We want to reward him for being quiet for increasingly longer periods of time. At first, you'll let Fido out of his crate if he's quiet for 10 seconds, then gradually wait longer and longer until you can leave him in the crate for extended periods with no fussing.
A shake can or "penny can" is used to make a loud, unpleasant sound when Fido is doing something he shouldn't. It is very effective for most dogs, though some may not be effected by it, especially hunting breeds that have been bred to not be gun-shy. You can buy a shake can or easily make your own by emptying a soda can, rinsing it out, putting in 15 pennies and putting a piece of tape over the hole on the top of the can.
When Fido starts fussing, shake the can firmly and use the "quiet" command as detailed above. Fido should respond by quieting down, even if only for a couple of seconds at first. You'll most likely need to repeat the correction several times... just because you do it once and he resumes barking doesn't mean it isn't working.
If you don't see any response at all from Fido or if he's still being noisy in the crate after a few practice sessions, you can make the shake can correction stronger by banging the can against the crate. If you still see no results, you should try another form of correction.
A couple of things to consider if you're training Fido using the shake can. We don't want him to learn to be fearful of loud noises, so be sure that you're socializing Fido and taking him out in the world to get used to traffic noise, construction noise, etc.
If the shake can is effective for teaching Fido not to bark, it can be tempting to start shaking it at him anytime he does anything you don't like. This isn't a great idea, since the can will lose its effect if it's overused and the can isn't the right correction for all innapropriate dog behaviors. You should consult with a dog trainer before using the shake can for other behaviors.
This is a very effective correction for small dogs or puppies that are in small crates that are light enough to lift. When Fido starts fussing, lift his crate off the ground and give it a little shake, using the "quiet" command as detailed above. This works best if Fido doesn't see you doing it, so do it from the back side of the crate or with a crate cover, towel or blanket over the crate.
You'll probably need to repeat this correction several times before seeing consistent results. If you don't see results, try another correction method.
This one has some downsides, but, for some dogs, it's a very effective correction. Take a regular household spray bottle (one that hasn't had cleaning products or strong chemicals in it) and fill it with water. When Fido starts fussing, spray water in his face, using the "quiet" command as detailed above.
Some dogs love water and will think this is great... if Fido's that kind of guy, discontinue using this correction. If he seems responsive to the correction, it may take a few sessions to see consistent results, so don't get discouraged if he's not perfect after your first session.
The downside to this command is that Fido might end up a sopping wet mess, so consider whether or not that's going to be a problem for you before trying this correction.
Please do not add anything to the water to try to make the correction more effective. People often recommend adding lemon juice or peppermint or citronella oil to the water to enhance the correction, but these can get in Fido's eyes and cause him a lot of discomfort. If water alone doesn't do the trick, try another correction.
This correction is to be used only for dogs who have had some obedience training and have had experience with leash corrections. Put Fido's leash and collar on him before putting him into his crate. Thread his leash through the wire mesh panel of Fido's crate, preferably on the top of the crate if you're using a wire crate or on the front end of the side panel if you're using a plastic crate. When Fido starts fussing, give a quick, sharp pull on his leash, using the "quiet" command as outlined above.
As with the other corrections, expect to have to do multiple practice sessions before getting reliable results. If this method doesn't work, try one of the other methods.
SAFETY NOTE: DO NOT leave Fido unattended in his crate with the leash and collar for any period of time. This is not safe and could lead to serious injury or death.
Fido's Being Quiet (sort of)... What to do About Whining
Now that you've been correcting Fido, you might find yourself in a situation where he's being a lot quieter, but he's still making a little bit of noise. Many dogs go from hooting and hollering to quietly whining after they've been corrected for making all that noise. Don't correct Fido any further if he's substantially decreased his volume.
The whining lets you know that he's still stressed and wanting to make noise, but he's trying to restrain himself since he knows you don't want him to bark. We never want to correct Fido when he's trying to be good, so you'll need to put up with the squeaking for a little while. It will usually go away within a few days, once Fido's resigned himself to the fact that he can't make all that noise in his crate anymore.
If the whining turns into barking or howling, of course, you can go back to correcting him to settle him down.
Fido's Been Doing Great and Suddenly Starts Getting Loud in the Crate
If Fido's been a quiet, civilized gentleman and he suddenly starts getting freaky in the crate, there's a good chance he needs to go potty. Better safe than sorry... take him out for a quick potty trip, then put him right back into his crate. If he did have to go potty, you'll know that he's being a good boy and is only using all of that noise to let you know he needs a potty trip. If he didn't need to go potty, you might have a faker on your hands. In that case, of course, you can go back to addressing his noisy behavior using the methods outlined above.