You’ve spent the day oohing and ahhing over your new puppy. But now it’s time for bed and you tuck baby sweetkins into her cozy crate along with her stuffed bear for company. You’re just pulling the blankets up to your chin and about to nod off to dreamland when you hear it.
“WHOOOO WHOOOO WOOOO!!!”
An incredibly loud wailing emanating from the regions of the kitchen where the new baby is ensconced.
“WHOOOO WHOOOO WOOOO OWWOOOO!!!”
How, you wonder, can a creature that tiny create such enormous volume!?
Welcome to The Puppy Meltdown, the dreaded PUPPY BLUES have begun!
As someone who's sent her share of puppies off to their new homes with a veritable laundry list of puppy does and don’t for the new puppy owner. My goal has always been for our puppies to have the basics well underway. Sleeping nicely through the night for example is such a wonderful skill for a puppy to have acquired. There are puppies though who in spite of having a wonderful start, can arrive in their new home and the series of events that occur can quickly undo a lot of the good start that many puppies have had, so read carefully to keep your new baby on track.
“She refuses to sleep anywhere but in our laps” Rita a new puppy owner told me innocently the other day.
I asked her what she did in response to her puppy’s crying and she assured me that she or her children would immediately take Molly out of the crate and hold her until she settled down. No wonder little Molly had quickly learned that a bit of vehement howling was the quick ticket out of her crate and into the arms of a loving human. Smart puppy!
It’s completely understandable from your puppy’s viewpoint really. Not only have you shut her up in that kennel that she just came OUT of and now you’ve gone off to bed, leaving her ALONE! Puppy horrors!
Remember, puppies bond quickly with their new families. Typically, they’ve been carried about by the entire family and now are expected to endure long hours alone when of course they’d rather be in bed with you. The meekest little morsel can begin to yelp and howl bitterly when you put her into her playpen during the day or for her bedtime at night. Poor Rita was unwittingly going to keep her puppy crying longer by not using a policy of firm refusal to give in to her puppy’s cries to be taken out of the crate. This is the time to use backbone and be firm, turn a deaf ear to Molly’s protests and implement the judicious use of a few puppy corrections as needed.
Lest you think it is cruel or mean to insist your puppy is quiet when in her crate, let me assure you that it is much easier for your puppy and for you if you correct that behaviour early on and save your puppy (and your family) the stress of days of listening to a puppy who hasn’t learned to wait quietly whether in her kennel or playpen. .
First, let’s back up a bit and make Molly’s crate as puppy friendly as possible:
Give Molly a potty break before entering (or when exiting) the crate or indoor puppy playpen, only an “empty” puppy can be expected to stay quietly in her kennel.
Give her a toy
Not just any toy puppy peraon. Be SURE to pick up what I call a puppy pacifier, before your new puppy's first night. Trust me on this one, it'll be too late at 3:00 o'clock in the morning when your new baby is wailing at the top of her lungs to suddenly wish you had an amazing toy to help her while away the nightime hours if she's wakeful. By puppy pacifier, I mean a really great toy that you save and only put in with her when she’s crated or in her playpen. For example, Kong has a hollow toy (you can find Kongs and other options in the last chapter Shop The Tools) that you can stuff with a bit of hard cheese or a half teaspoon of peanut butter which will help distract her until she falls off to sleep.
Be sure that she is tired
Be sure that she’s a tired puppy, give her by ample opportunity to play and exercise before you expect her to be happy going into her crate and ready for bedtime.
Place her kennel near a bed
Put her kennel beside someone’s bed, often this will be the only step needed to ensure pleasant dreams and peace and quiet for everyone. Your puppy is building a bond with your family and for the early days this can be such a big help for peaceful nights and a contented puppy. It’s OK to switch rooms around and let the kids take turns. It’s also OK to make this a temporary arrangement and go back to other sleeping quarters as your puppy matures.
Comfort her with your scent
It’s helpful to take a piece of your clothing, an old sweatshirt or whatnot and tuck that into the crate with your puppy to give her something to snuggle with while she’s in the exile of her crate.
Cover the crate
Cover the crate with a light sheet, no heavy blankets, puppies are warm natured and can get too hot quickly, keep the crate from being too filled up with bedding inside too, often they'll prefer to lie on the cool plastic surface if given a choice. The point being if you cover the crate and Molly can’t see the object of her devotion, she’ll nod off to dreamland.
Water Spray Bottle
Sometimes just a squirt of water from one of the kids squirt guns or a small spray bottle will discourage your puppy from being noisy in her crate. I've seen it work wonders for clients whose puppies refused to settle down in their crates. A couple of squirts and many puppies will decide that perhaps a nap is the best course of action! Some trainers say to use a few drops of white vinegar in the water (harmless to puppy) but I would try just water unless all else fails!
The moment Molly begins to yelp and cry in protest to your putting her in her kennel, you MUST correct her.
If you allow her to get really wound up crying, getting more and more excited and upset, it will be much harder to get her to settle down.
ON BENDED KNEE I ASK YOU TO READ THIS PORTION OVER CAREFULLY!
A simple wooden spoon tapped firmly on the crate can stop many a meltdown. Again, it's not unreasonalble for you to clearly show your puppy that she must be quiet when it's crate time. Use your voice and great timing and correct her BEFORE she get’s too wound up and vocal. You can use a wooden spoon or a magazine to tap the top of the crate or if she’s in her playpen, you can tap a nearby counter or the edge of the pen a couple of times firmly, telling her “NO! Quiet” Tap once again with just enough force to startle her a bit and repeat the “NO! Quiet!” to let her know that you want her to shush. You are looking for a loud enough sound to cause your puppy to look surprised and a bit uncertain. Use some energy, play act a bit, pretend you are a policeman directing traffic, be STERN! If she subsides, tell her quietly, “Good girl Molly, quiet!” And walk away, prepare to repeat the correction several times at first if needed.
What if your puppy has already been allowed to vocalize extensively and refuses to be quiet no matter how much you tap the counter?
Sometimes puppies simply have to cry it out. Again, find a soundproof portion of the house and place her kennel there. Ensure that she is safe and comfortable and turn a radio on to keep her company and head off to the grocery store for a couple of hours. You’ll probably come home to a sound asleep puppy who has finished her tantrum and reconciled herself to a long nap. Take her out of the kennel with much praise and outdoors to have a good chance to play and use the potty spot.
If possible, when you come back inside, bring your puppy back into the family space, for example, if you’re working on dinner, tether puppy close by and give her a rug and a few toys to entertain her while you work. Keep that spoon handy and if she begins to whine or cry, use it on the counter Tap Tap Tap! “No! Quiet!” She should settle because you are close by. Leave her tethered during dinner and then back outside for another playtime to balance all that confinement out with some much needed activity.
A TIRED puppy is a GOOD puppy!
Puppy Cautionary Tale
There is a popular trend in training that’s all the rage right now that discourages anything but “positive reinforcement” when training dogs or puppies. I’ll address this more deeply in another chapter, but trust me, Molly’s mother raised her with both positive AND negative reinforcement methods. When baby Molly misbehaved, her mother would growl and correct her, even as a tiny puppy.
Molly has grown up knowing and understanding that when she didn’t respect boundaries and obey the leader of the pack, her (loving) mother would (lovingly) correct her. Now it’s your turn, as her human pack leader to do the same!
I’ve observed this same behavior in our mares and their foals, even the old mother barn cat would occasionally box her kittens ears if they got too big for their britches! Nature teaches these four-footed mothers the right way to bring up baby, it behooves puppy parents to learn a few lessons from them!
The shelters are full of dogs that unfortunately, never were taught that when they misbehaved there were consequences. Their owners after finding it impossible to cope with these ill-mannered & badly behaved dogs have given up and surrendered them. I’m afraid that as this trend increases and more and more puppy owners are worried that using any kind of discipline with their puppy is somehow wrong, that they will become frustrated owners of spoiled disobedient dogs, how sad for both the dogs and the people who own them.
Puppies and the dogs they grow into, understand and need leadership to feel secure and not worried that they have to take that position of being in charge. Puppies LOVE and worship the leaders in their pack whether they be canine or human. Your puppy is not going to stop loving you if you discipline her. Quite the contrary! Your puppy needs you to show her how to be a loving and obedient member of the family, for her sake and yours.
It’s perfectly OK to use gentle but firm reprimands and corrections as needed. This is not being cruel, your puppy needs for you to set the house rules. If you don’t learn to use firm corrections not only for noisy puppies in the crate, but in all areas of life with your new puppy, you do her and your family a disservice. Great dogs are made from puppyhood on, it’s your job to use balance and love but yes, discipline to help your puppy grow into an amazing family companion that will have all the other puppy parents begging for your dog training expertise! “I had a puppy person laughingly tell me that after two days of struggling to sleep while her puppy yodeled, she tapped the crate firmly twice with the spoon and she never had another problem. Her puppy got some sleep and so did the rest of the family!
If all else fails, you are allowed to carry Molly’s crate to a soundproof area of the house, sometimes just letting a puppy cry through the puppy blues will result in a battle won and a puppy that will decide that crying isn’t the way out of her crate, that it’s a cozy place to be once she settles and finds her favorite toy and that yummy Kong with a bite of cheese or a bit of treat hidden inside.