Puppy crate training

This may be my first OP. I can’t remember because I’m exhausted. I usually lurk, but sleepless nights have driven me out of lurkdome to ask for help!

I am fostering a 7 week old puppy. (He was found wandering by himself at 5 weeks, no mom or owner around. Poor baby!) House training is going pretty well. Very few accidents, because I watch him like a hawk and have a good daytime feeding/potty routine. But nightime isn’t going so well. I’ve been researching this on the internet but have read conflicting advice, so maybe someone here can help.

I have him in a small enough crate that he won’t elminate in there. I don’t expect him to make it through the night at his age, but he has been waking up several times a night, whining, and I’m not sure how to deal with it. Last night he woke up 5 times!!! The literature from the rescue place we’re fostering for says to respond to his cries, take him out, do the potty routine with no fanfare, put him back in the crate, let him cry it out briefly if necessary, then go back to sleep. He goes potty like a trooper every time, so he knows the drill. But this is happening way too many times, IMO, even for such a young pup.

I have tried restricting water towards bedtime, but he still begs to go out and only pees a microscopic amount! I know he can hold it longer than he does at night. So now I’m wondering if he might be wanting attention. Logically, if he has to pee, he needs to go out. If he’s just bugging for attention, what do I do? And how do I determine which is which???

I also am wondering why he is waking up. We have been strategically giving him a good play session to tire him out, then letting him settle down on his own before putting him in the crate. He goes to sleep without objections, no problem, but wakes up after only a couple of hours. We have tried feeding him later in the evening (8 pm) in case he is getting hungry and waking up. Didn’t help.

Of course, with all the experimentation, he’s probably confused, we’re confused, and I’m getting pretty desperate. One thing we haven’t tried is putting the crate by our bed so he doesn’t get lonely, and comforting him when he whines. We may try that tonight.

Any ideas?

Ooh, 7 weeks is little. Poor thing is lonely, that’s all. (And I say this as a great proponent of crate training.) I assume you’ve done the standard - put a nice stinky worn t-shirt of yours in with him, a hot water bottle and a ticking clock (with no alarm!) under a nice fuzzy cuddly blanket? These things all make him feel like he has a good puppy pile sleeping with him.

Do NOT “comfort” him when he whines. You’re only reinforcing the idea that being alone in his crate is something bad that requires comforting from. On the contrary, you want to teach him that he’s a Lucky Dog with a warm cozy den waiting for him. If he’s a foodie dog, putting a couple bits of kibble into his crate when he returns from a potty break may help to reinforce what a Fun Place the crate is.

As for the numerous potty breaks, you’re probably stuck with them until he’s a little bigger. Not so much because he can’t hold it, but because, like a human baby, puppies have quick sleep cycles, and when he wakes, he wants to find out what you’re up to. Puppies his size just aren’t “meant” to be alone. He’s looking for his litter mates and his Mamma, which right now is you. He also just needs to urinate small amounts frequently. Make it a quick, non-fun trip outside and then right back to bed, just like a human baby waking for nursing.

You could try moving his crate into your room, but honestly, I’ve found that just usually makes it worse, because then he knows you’re near, and he wants to cuddle with you.

You know, of course, never (at this stage, anyway) to use the crate as a punishment place, right? It should always be the happy place of snuggly goodness and treats, and when he’s bigger, he’ll actually put himself in his crate when he’s feeling stressed or worried.

When I brought my pup home at 7 weeks, I had her in a box in the laundry room and had the laundry room closed off with a gate and newspaper all over the floor. We were able to get her to pee outside as much as possible, but the paper was for those times at night when we needed to let her cry and didn’t want to see if it was a “visit me” cry or a “I gotta pee” cry.

Can you leave the crate, open, in a place where the puppy can pee on paper and still be locked in the area? Just at night, that is. Other times keep up with your going outside routine.

I think what happened with me and my dog is I ended up sleeping on the couch (as to be closer to the door) with her in my arms and taking her out when she wanted to go, because I couldn’t stand the “visit me” yelps. Now we are completely co-dependent and she owns me. Not so sure this is the proper way to train a dog :slight_smile:

I have a feeling you are going to get many different opinions regarding this so I will offer mine.

Having crate trained two puppys in the last two years my advice is this; put him in the crate, put the crate out of your earshot and get some sleep. This may seem cruel but if you take him out every time he cries, he will keep crying. One or two nights of realizing that his “den” is for sleeping and he will be let out in the morning should be enough. After a while he won’t have to be locked in at all but go in when he is tired or wants down time.

Good luck. The crying is the hard part but it won’t last long if you leave him alone.

Oh, thanks for the advice. I have tried the stinky shirt along with an old toy from one of our dogs who sort of mothers him. We did have fuzzy towel in there, too, but he pushes all of it aside to sleep on the metal tray – I think he gets warm, even with the air conditioning on. I have not tried the clock, but I have one I can use tonight. He does get a small bit of kibble when he goes in, and settles down beautifully during the day. It’s only nightime that is a problem. As low key as I try to keep the potty breaks he still wakes up and wants to play. I distract him with kibble, so going in the crate is OK. Once he finishes nibbling, though, he realizes he’s in there and whines before settling down. Then 2 hours later we do the same thing. sigh

We got our other dogs at about 10 weeks old and they always loved the crates from the beginning – they would often hang out in there on their own. Mind you, we got them together (littermates) and they shared a crate for several months before each got her own. Little Fritz must be, like you said, just too young to handle this all by himself yet. Poor little guy.

We tried this too, believe it or not. He would still get upset, after peeing on the paper, and whine for quite a while.

Well I’m terrible. I just stick em in the bed with me. They usually sleep all night or get up once and that’s it. I’ve never had one have an accident in the bed.
Of course, if you really want him to sleep in the crate, then don’t listen to me! :slight_smile:
7 weeks is pretty little so you may just have to put up with it for a bit longer if he really is going everytime you take him out.

We do let him cry it out after we know he has his physical needs taken care of. And he does settle down eventually. But we were hoping to help him let us know when he has to go outside, and get him in the habit of asking.

I would love to let him cuddle with us, really! But he won’t be ours forever (he goes up for adoption in a few weeks), and we don’t want to start habits that a future owner won’t like. He will also be a big dog (shepherd mix), so we don’t want him in the habit of being on the bed either.

But I appreciate all the advice so far!!!

I second the ticking clock. We did that when raising our pup. I’ve read that it is not a good idea to let the pup pee on a paper in the house, that it sends the message to the dog that it is sometimes okay to pee in the house and just confuses the dog.

I crate-trained my Shepherd mix dog when I got her at 10 weeks. I agree with all the previous advice and would like to add that I found that she didn’t wake me up as much during the night when I put her crate in the bedroom with us. Also, never use the crate as a punishment for the pup. If you start doing that he will hate it and you will a) have difficulty getting him in it and b) he will hate every minute he is in it. We gave our dog a treat every time we put her in the crate. We still do but now now she only goes in there when we are going away. When I get the treat out she runs right into her crate and waits for her treat. Then she just curls up with her toy or takes a nap. (Good doggie!!!) At night she is locked in the room via a babygate with us so she doesn’t sneak out into the living room and either chew something up or take a dump on the rug.

I wanted to add, on the matter of house breaking, that an effective method is to limit the pup’s access in the house to just a couple of rooms. This way you can watch him closely to see if he needs to go to the bathroom. Dogs can often be shy about eliminating so they will sneak off out of your sight and do it.

With my dog, when she did find the opportunity to crap on the floor, I would scoop it up promptly, and take her and the crap outside and place the crap in the lawn. I would gently push her face toward it to let her sniff it, then tell her “good dog!”. She got the hint that poop outside was good, she got praised, poop inside bad, she got ignored. It’s still always a process but positive reinforcement was much better than yelling and screaming. We now have a very emotionally balanced, non-neurotic dog that is smart as a whip.

I’ve always put the crate next to my bed. If the puppy wakes up and whines, I put my hand down so that he can smell it and feel comforted that he’s not alone. They’re also comforted by hearing you snoring and rustling around-- they know they’re not all alone that way.

At his age, twice per night should be sufficient for out-times. It sounds like he’s learned that by crying, he can get some human companionship for a brief time.

This is a good idea. I only found one problem with it. We kept one room totally offlimits and when I started opening the door again, my dog decided that the room must not be part of the house and used it as the bathroom occasionally! :smack:
I solved that by setting up an x-pen in the room and putting him in it whenever we left the house. He never pooped in the house again.

This is my concern. But there appear to be different schools of thought on how to respond to his crying, and I’m somewhat at a loss right now. I feel pretty sure from what I’ve read here that a good part of the problem is that he is lonely. I’m definitely going to try the clock, and might consider bringing his crate into the bedroom. Maybe. I don’t know. I’m almost too exhausted to make a logical decision!

(If I ever have a baby I will be a mindless zombie in no time!)

No one method is right for every puppy. In training my dogs, I had to learn to select what worked from several methods because every dog is different. What worked for my older dog was completely wrong for my youngest because of the personality differences. All you can do is experiment and find what works for this puppy.

You’re completely correct that raising a puppy is almost as exhausting as having a new baby in the house. The upside is that the “infant” stage is much shorter with a puppy. I’ve gotta give you kudos for what you’re doing. Fostering puppies and getting them acclimated to living in a home is a hard job, but it can be very rewarding. Give yourself a pat on the back for doing a Good Thing.

Thanks for the encouragement! (I’ll chalk it up to sleepiness that I’m getting a little teary-eyed here.) He’s a cool little guy, and learning really fast. I just want him to have a shot at being a well-adjusted pup for his future family.

So, are we going to get pictures?

Here he is!

Bear in mind that when I first wrote the bio, he was actually making it mostly through the night, about 6 hours. But he wasn’t feeling well, as it turns out. So he was very subdued and sleeping a lot. Now he’s feeling great and would rather play than sleep at night.

Oh, and a quick update. Last night I stuck a ticking clock inside a fuzzy chew toy (thanks WhyNot!) and it seem to calm him down. He woke up 3 times to go outside, but settled down much faster afterward. I also let him lick a tiny bit of peanut butter off my fingers before going back to sleep, and that also seemed soothing to him.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed for tonight.