How can I train my dog to stop whining/crying when she's left alone?

About 6 weeks ago we brought a border collie into our home. She’s a year and a half old and is great in many ways. But … when she is left alone at any new place, she barks and cries and howls and whines and will even scratch at the door. For example, last weekend I was visiting my family and we sat outside on the patio for hours … but when I went into the house to use the washroom, she cried and howled the whole time.

We took her on a road trip last weekend and couldn’t leave her in the hotel room because of this behaviour. She is quiet if she’s left alone in the car, but of course most of the time it’s much too hot to leave her in there safely, so unless we can find underground parking we’re hooped.

Any ideas?

(Mods - I wasn’t sure if this should be in GQ or IMHO - please move if you feel it’s appropriate to do so.)

She needs to have a crate to live in when you’re out; like a doghouse with a wire door. This is very important for a young dog; they feel more secure, more “cozy,” and it reduces their opportunities to learn bad habits.

Once she’s installed in the crate, pretend to leave so that she starts whining. Then stomp toward the crate, saying “No, no, no, no, no, no, NO!” and bang on the top of the crate, to startle her.

Then walk away. DO NOT praise her for stopping! If you do, then there’s a chance she’ll see the whole process as a complex way to earn praise. Your response should be unconfusingly negative. Doesn’t have to be severe, but if you mix positive and negative signals–NO then praise–it could complicate things.

I don’t really know how to do with with a dog who’s got free run of the house. A dog shouldn’t have free run until she’s well enough “educated” to behave maturely out of the crate.

(In the wild, dogs and wolves tend to keep their puppies in and around their den, so this is also a very natural way to train dogs. Dogs like little cavelike shelters; that’s why doghouses work. Without such a crate, most dogs find a favorite spot under something, or behing a couch or something; they crave that kind of privacy and shelter.)

Also very important: don’t use the crate as punishment; don’t “send her to her room.” She’ll learn to love her crate, and you shouldn’t mix those signals either.

There’s a relatively recent book out called “The Dog Listener” by Jan Fennel (sp?) that deals with situations such as this. Her idea is that the dog is pining for you not as a missing parent but as a missing “child”. She claims if you follow her method your dog will quit this behaviour. My mother has used this on her dog and claims success.


Get another dog. They’ll play with each other and keep each other occupied. Especially a border collie.

We had an energetic dog and she was driving us crazy. We got another dog and they play all the time. We crate them in separate crates at night and somtimes they’ll whine, but they’re whining because they want to be with each other. Having two dogs is easier than having one energetic dog.

Thanks for the book recommendation** Pilchard ** - I’ll definitely look for it!

Lissener - we do have a crate for her but since she’s so well-behaved in the house, and she is sometimes alone all day while we’re at work, we don’t like to leave her in it for that long. She enjoys travelling in it in the car, but it doesn’t give her a sense of security. A couple of weekends ago I tried putting her in it at my parents’ house while I went out and she cried then too.

Having company, whether it’s another dog, or other people, doesn’t make any difference. She is upset by being apart from us, especially me.

Since she doesn’t show this behaviour at home (well she did but only for the first couple of days), it’s a tough situation to re-create for training purposes.

Thanks for your responses!

Of course she’ll cry anyway; the crate has no effect on whether she’ll cry or not. It just helps you in training her. No matter how otherwise well behaved she is, she needs to go back into the crate until she unlearns this particular bad habit.

She also had a tv series. She basicly says that for 5-10 minutes before leaving the house and after returning to the house, that you completely ignore the dog. No eye contact, no speaking etc. She says this teaches the dog that you are in control and it has no need to worry.

When she demonstrated this on the show it seemed to be very successful.

It shouldn’t bother her to be crated all day. Dogs like to be in small spaces. It is like being in a den.

Not every dog, though. Mine is actually a bit claustrophobic. She will not go into small spaces, and nothing on this earth-- not even tossing in a hamburger–will induce her to do so.

When she was young, I was bound and determined that she was going to use her dog house. I had decided that while I was gone during the day, she would stay outside on a line, having food and water, and her house to go into in case of inclimate weather. It sounded like a good idea, anyway.

I was unavoidably detained and came home late in the evening. It was as cold as hell, and sleeting. Before I left, I had put warm blankets in the house, thinking that if she got cold, she’d go in and snuggle down in them. When I got home, I went to get the dog and found her sitting in front of it shivering, her fur coated with ice.

I tried bribing her with people food; I tried getting into the doghouse myself and calling to her; I tried taking the roof off so it didn’t seem so enclosed; I tried putting her favorite toys inside; I even tried putting her food bowl inside, thinking that once she got hungry enough, she’d go in to eat. She didn’t. I gave up after that. She’s more stubborn than I am.

I hope you understand, Lissa, that your dog is an extreme exception; it’s highly unlikely that Stainz’s dog will act the same way.

You’re probably right. All I was trying to say is that dogs, like people, have personality quirks that sometimes can’t be trained away. Sometimes, you have to just learn to live with them.

She doesn’t exhibit this behaviour at home, so kennelling her at home doesn’t seem to have any benefit. She isn’t particularly anxious before we leave, and she doesn’t get all wound up when we come home.

And yes, we keep our departures and arrivals very lowkey.

It’s only when she’s left alone somewhere else. What I want her to learn is that we ALWAYS come back and she’s never alone for very long. She’s figured it out at home, and I’m hoping she will figure it out no matter WHERE we leave her.

She’s such a smart dog that little tricks I’ve read like giving her a toy to chew on, or leaving the radio on, make no difference.

Honestly try the dog listener lady. Her tv programme blew me away. She had such wonderful results in very short periods for problems exactly like yours.

Our dogs won’t crate, either, so I am thinking this is more common than one might guess.

I know that places sell dog relaxants (some that you can simply plug into an outlet when you leave). Don’t know if they work, but I was thinking of doing it with my dog when he had bad separation anxiety. What worked for us, though, was to get the dog really tired before we left in the morning. That way, he was just too exhausted to bother if we were there or not.

Plus, your dog is relatively new to your household and she may just need to get used to your routine.

The crating thing just seems…well, mean. I don’t currently own a dog, because I rent and am not allowed :(, but was bought up with dogs (I still pinch my mums dog for the night when I am really hanging out for doggy love). I had never heard of crating till I came to SDMB (my ignorance was fought) all our dogs had free run of the house when everyone was at work/school, though to them free run meant “lie on the couch all day”.

If it HAS to be done because of where you live, fair enough. But there are better ways.

I agreed with you until we started doing it with our dogs and saw how they behaved. They really don’t seem to mind it. Sure, it’s better if they have a lot of space, but that doesn’t mean that crating is bad. It’s still a good solution even if it’s not the absolute best situation for the dog.

All due respect, kiwi, but this is a human response, and an inexperienced one. Crating is a theory of training based on observing dogs and wolves in the wild, and how they raise their own puppies for interaction in the pack. Humans evolved on the African savannah; the open horizon gave us a sense of security because we could see approaching lions from far away. Canines evolved a den existence; they don’t crave open spaces the way we do. You can’t project your emotional response onto your dog.

I know it was an emotional response lissener and I did say that there are obviously situations alien to me where crating is the best solution. I have been with or had dog/dogs all my life (well except for the last couple of years, and my travelling years, so maybe 30 years out of 37) so I while I don’t know about crating I do know some alternatives.

Canines do like dens/couches ( :wink: )but I believe they like the option to leave them. As most dog owners know only far to well most dogs are lazy bastards and chose to stay in the same spot for most of the day so intellectually I can see how crating is not cruel and most dogs would be happy with it.

I wasn’t trying to criticise other methods. Just offer an alternative, one I do have experience of.

Yes; it’s possible to raise a dog without a crate.

Yes; it’s possible to use a crate incorrectly.

All things considered, though, crating is better for you AND for the dog in almost every situation. The only situations in which I think a crate is NOT the preferred method is, like Lissa’s, where the individual dog as an unexplained aversion (I’ve trained over a hundred dogs; never had that problem), or if the crate was used incorrectly–as punishment, e.g.–and the dog has developed an aversion to it.

In all other cases I would recommend the crate.

As far as dogs being lazy bastards, yes; dogs will sleep 16 to 20 hours a day.

Certainly in a dog’s first year, or year and a half (depending on the training and on the dog), it should spend ALL its time in the crate unless an adult is there to supervise its behavior. THis prevents the dog from learning bad habits which it will later have to unlearn. Put it this way: how do you treat a baby human its first few years? Never, never out of your sight, for the child’s safety, and for the safety of your breakables, etc. For some reason people feel like it’s alright to leave a baby dog alone, and get upset when it makes the wrong choices because it knows no better, when they’d NEVER treat a human baby that way. A crate is like a playpen. And though playpens are out of fashion for human babies, for dogs–den animals, remember–they’re a much more natural way of helping the dog learn in a positive way.

With a correctly used crate, you would be standing over the dog whenever it begins to make a mistake, and you’ll catch him in the act. Needless to say it’s much, much easier to train a dog against bad habits with the kind of supervision you’d give a human child. Without a crate, a dog is much more likely to have to learn in a negative way; you’ll spend much more time being angry at it for making mistakes than interacting positively.

I’ve never had a dog that would go into a crate. Even the dog we got from my uncle, who was crate trained from puppyhood never liked it and would balk before going in.

We’ve also never had barking or destruction problems, so that’s good too.