Molly, our 12-week-old puppy, is driving us mad by barking and crying in her crate at night. She can literally go on for hours. She is in the kitchen, but even with the doors shut, we can still hear her. What can we do?
Sue Williams advises…
It sounds to me as though Molly is barking and crying because she is stressed and is making a noise to get your attention. Being alone can be really hard for puppies. From birth until leaving the litter, the pups have had the company of their mother and siblings, so things can be really bewildering for a puppy when they move to their new home. It is up to us to teach them that being on their own is OK. Nights, especially, can be difficult, purely due to the length of time they’ll be left alone. It is important that you teach Molly to relax when she’s on her own, as otherwise there’s the risk of this developing into something called separation anxiety.
To get over the problem, you need to firstly teach Molly to be happy in a crate, and secondly teach her that it’s perfectly normal to be left alone there. As the problem has already developed, initially move Molly’s crate into your bedroom at night, as this will help her to relax. As time goes on, and she becomes more confident, gradually move the crate’s position, step by step, until eventually it’s back in the kitchen where you want her to sleep. Additionally, you need to start acclimatising Molly to being in her crate in the kitchen and spending short periods of time alone there. Start by teaching her to go into the crate for something pleasant – I use treats, stuffed Kongs and chews. I would also feed her in the crate.
Don’t shut the door of the crate for several days, as you don’t want her to get anxious. After a few days, you can start to close the door, initially just for one minute and then build up slowly to longer periods. Always provide something to occupy her during this time, such as a chew or a Kong. Once she has reached the stage where she is happy in the crate, progress to leaving the room. Once you start to do this, again do it in stages. Remember that Molly is a baby, so be very patient and take things at her pace.