Teach Your Dog to Be Quiet in a Crate!
One of the many grievances I hear about as a professional dog trainer that has a very simple fix is that of dogs that bark and/or whine in the crate. Dogs that have minor crate issues are very easy to work with. Puppies are also very easy to crate train. There are many times where people want to work on private lessons, which are typically an hour long, just to teach the dog to be quiet in the crate, but I am here to tell you, it is very simple. I have outlined and provided a video for you detailing how to work on this issue. I work on this with all of my Day Academy dogs using this exact same method and have a 100% success rate with it. Not many people know it, but one of my biggest pet peeves, no pun intended, is that I cannot stand dogs that bark and whine. Because of this, I work heavily on ensuring dogs in my presence know they can have fun, but should be quiet about it. I also train this without having to use any sort of aversive such as a shock or citronella collar on the dog. A word of warning, this video is for dogs that whine or bark. This is not necessarily for dogs that have anxiety in the crate, separation anxiety, or dogs with a very negative association with the crate. Anything beyond mild barking or whining, you should consult either a certified dog trainer or certified behaviorist to work through those issues.
First things first, in order to figure out how you are going to treat the issue, you need to attempt to figure out the "why" of why the dog performs the behavior. All animals perform a behavior for a reason. If a behavior is continuing to occur or increase, it is being reinforced somehow. The keys to working through a behavior like this is to then stop that reinforcement and to add your own reinforcement for behaviors you would like to see occur, i.e. the dog being quiet in the crate. There are many reasons why dogs bark and whine in the crate, but the three more common ones I see and that will be discussed here are they want out of the crate, they want to be near you and receiving attention from you or another object, or they are bored. When you know the "why", you can either use that reason they perform a behavior as a reinforcement for a more desired behavior, or you can take away that potential reinforcement. An example of this would be if a dog wants out of the crate, letting the dog out of the crate when they are quiet will be reinforced by them getting to be out of the crate once they fall silent. If they are barking or whining, they don't get to be out of the crate. Sometimes it can be tougher to figure out why the dog does what it does when it doesn't seem to fall under the "common" categories, but use your powers of observation and try to figure out what specifically is causing your dog to perform this behavior.
If you have a dog that barks just because they want to get out of the crate, the answer is simple: do NOT let them out of the crate until they are quiet. Once they are quiet and calm, wait at least 5 seconds and if they are still quiet, then let them out of the crate. The only exception I ever make to this rule is when you have a young puppy (8-10 weeks old) that is learning how to hold its bladder and starts whining in the middle of the night. If a puppy does this, yes take the out, because they may not know how to hold it yet, but give them 5 minutes to potty. If they do not potty, then they need to go back in the crate. When a dog can hold its bladder through the night, still make them wait until they are quiet before you let them out. If you have a dog that wants out to where they are displaying more than just barking or whining to get out, such as destructive habits, then seek out the help of a certified dog trainer or behaviorist to help you add more steps to make this transition easier on your dog.
If you have a dog that is whining because they want your attention and to be with you, the answer again is simple. Do NOT give them attention. This one is usual,y the hardest for most people to implement because it relies more on our will power. Keep in mind, attention isn't just petting and loving your puppy. Attention also includes looking at them and talking to them. This means if your puppy or dog is barking or whining in the crate and you look at them and tell them "quiet", you literally just gave them attention, which then reinforces the behavior you are trying to stop. Make sure they get no interaction from you in any way while they are whining.
If you have a dog that barks out of boredom, provide them something to do while they are in the crate such as a Kong with wet dog food and treats frozen inside. You also want to make sure they are getting the correct amount of exercise. If they are not receiving daily walks and mental stimulation, then that excessive energy will typically manifests itself as inappropriate or destructive behaviors. Do something to tire out your dog right before they go on their crate and then give them something to do once they are in the crate.
Some tips to create a dog that is quiet in the crate are outlined in the video below. To create the best success, don't rely too much on punishment, but also on reinforcing the behaviors you would like to see more of, such as being quiet in the crate. What I recommend for a crate is to get a wire crate so there are more openings to drop treats through. What I also recommend is to cover the crate with the box it came in in order to limit the stimuli the dog is originally exposed to. Also put a towel or blanket over the front. The rules are simple: if the dog is barking, the towel covers the front. If the dog is quiet, the towel goes up and you will drop treats in for quiet. Be consistent with this. As the dog does better where they maintain quiet with the towel up and you no longer have to lower it, then pull up parts of the cardboard box covering the other sides of the crate. Again, consistency with these steps is the easiest way to train this. In the video below, I will show you how to do this with two mastiff puppy girls. They pick it up quick and again, it was just following the steps outlined above. If you want even more tips on getting a dog to absolutely love their crate, stay tuned for our upcoming online class "Crazy About My Crate!" coming soon!