For a puppy, their crate should be their sanctuary and their “safe space”. They will typically spend a couple of hours during the day in there and many will also sleep there. In many ways, it’s their den.
However, as much as a puppy may like their crate, it should never be an issue getting them out of it. A puppy is curious and energetic by nature: as soon as that door is open, they should be running out.
If your pup suddenly won’t leave their crate, you’ll want to know why and what to do about it. This article explains the real 8 reasons why puppies do this, and what you can do about it.
8 Reasons Your Puppy Won’t Leave Their Crate
1. Still settling in
When your pup first comes home, whether from a breeder or shelter, they will take some time to get used to things. This is completely normal.
They will be learning the ropes and may take their time when it comes to exploring the space around them. For these puppies, it is usually a case of leaving the crate door open and getting on with your day: they should soon follow, eager to know what you’re up to.
It can help to have an item that smells like their old home within the crate, as well as an Adaptil plug-in nearby. These little touches will increase confidence and give your dog the self-assurance he may need in those early days.
2. Anxiety or Stress
Many young dogs will suffer from anxiety to some degree. Contrary to popular belief, this is not something that only affects rescue dogs or those who were mistreated. Being taken from their mum and siblings and brought to a brand-new home is a naturally stressful experience.
Be patient with your bundle of fluff, never forcing them out of the crate. Talk kindly to them and stroke them gently if they tolerate it. As they come out of their shell, they should feel happier leaving their crate each time.
Positive reward-based training should start from day one. This is an excellent way to reduce stress levels and build confidence. Even an 8-week old puppy can learn a simple ‘sit’ or ‘paw’ command!
3. A change in environment
While a new plasma TV, leather armchair or a fish tank in the corner may not seem like a big deal to you, any change like this may worry your pup. If they’re unsure about the space around them, their crate may seem like the safer option.
Be sure to gradually get your dog used to anything new in the home, offering them treats in its vicinity and letting them explore it at their own pace. Don’t force them to get close to the new thing; they will go over in their own time.
4. A new pet or person
Sharing their territory is a big deal for a pup. They are just getting used to their new home life and family and may find it overwhelming if someone else has suddenly joined the gang.
If they are in their crate and the new arrival is in the room, it is to be expected that they may feel like hanging out in their crate a little longer while they ‘get the lie of the land’.
Be sure to make introductions slowly and calmly, taking things at your puppy’s pace. Keep plenty of treats on hand and make sure to give lots of verbal praise and reassurance.
5. A medical issue
Sometimes a puppy will be staying at the back of their crate because they don’t feel well or are injured. You may notice other signs such as cowering, shaking, and food refusal. Perhaps when they take a step forward, they are wobbling or walking gingerly.
If you think your pup is not themselves, gently scoop them out and try to examine them. Or, depending on logistics, you could examine them from inside the crate. Look for anything out of the ordinary such as a red ear, swollen paw, or bloated tummy.
If you are concerned about your pup’s health, do not hesitate to have them seen by a vet. Puppies are not going to ‘pull a sickie’ and if they seem poorly, they probably are.
6. A phobia
Dogs can develop phobias at any age, even during puppyhood. They may be scared of a range of things including storms and fireworks. Signs of fear include:
» Trouble settling to sleep
» Passing urine or feces
When a dog is fearful, it is only natural that they would want to stay in a place they find comforting such as their crate.
Try to determine what their trigger is and work with them on accepting it. This will usually involve desensitization techniques and positive reinforcement. If the phobia is severe, it is best you work alongside a canine behaviorist and a vet.
7. Harsh training methods
If training has not been going well and you have been reprimanding your dog by raising your voice, acting cold, rubbing their face in their stool, or even pushing them, they may decide they don’t want to interact anymore. This can result in them choosing to stay in their crate rather than coming to you when you open the door.
Punishment-based training methods are largely frowned upon now and most vets, trainers, and behaviorists recommend the use of positive reward-based training to build confidence instead.
Let your pup know you’re sorry and you’re willing to turn over a new leaf. If you feel you may need help with their training, it’s a good idea to call in a professional who can assist you as you lay the foundation.
Perhaps your pup hasn’t gotten much sleep the night before because they were too busy devouring their new chew or playing with their toy. If they need more sleep, they may stay in bed when their crate door is opened.
In this situation, your pup should be happy to come out once they’ve recharged their batteries.
Getting Your Puppy Out of Their Crate: What To Do
Mostly, we can leave the pup to come out at its own pace. However, perhaps you have something you need to do or somewhere you need to go.
Sometimes, your pup may just need a little extra encouragement to come and join you in the room. There are several things you can try including:
There is nothing wrong with offering a few tasty treats to let you pup know you want them to come out. If they choose to do so, it is a win-win! They get a tasty snack and you get them out of the crate.
Most pups find it hard to ignore a game. Whether this means a ball being bounced or a toy being shaken in front of them; they’ll find it hard to resist. Of course, reward your pup for coming by playing a quick game.
For most puppies, walk time is a real treat. Once old enough, shaking the leash in their direction is usually enough for them to jump up out of the crate and run right towards you.
Can You Just Leave Your Puppy In There?
Most of the time, a pup is in his crate because he wants to be.
When possible, we should ensure they only leave the crate by choice. Forcing them out can make the crate seem like a less safe space for them.
Unless you are concerned for them or have somewhere they need to get to, it is best to leave them be. When ready, they’ll come out.