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(early) dawn barking/waking in crate


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My four month old puppy is doing really well sleeping in his crate through the night and with the house training. He sleeps from 10.30-5 or 6 and is very sleepy in the evenings too - it's just we don't put him in his crate until 10.30 (after final wee in garden).

His crate is covered and we have radio (talking) on low overnight.

Main issue we are having is that he is waking up early (around 5 or 6) and barking for us to get up.

We have trained him in the day that if he is barking we don't go to him. But I don't think he is stupid. He barks and barks and barks and then pauses. If he hears us stir upstairs (to possibly come down), he stays quiet for a bit and as we come down the stairs and into the room he stifles his barks (quite sweet to hear his struggle!). But if we don't move upstairs he just keeps going for a long long time. If we stir and then go back to bed (e.g. going to the loo), he waits to see if we are coming downstairs for a bit and if we don't appear he starts up barking again!

Basically he knows that he needs to bark to wake us up but then be silent for us to appear....

Three issues here:

1- how early he is waking. I bough a 'blackout' fabric to cover crate which didn't make any difference, so it's not the light. It could be the birds tweeting at dawn.... He is listening to radio 4 at the moment (he's very up on current affairs don't you know!!) - maybe I should put a different sound on to block the bird noises? Does anyone have a preference for dawn-masking radio style?! It's not toilet barking waking him up as we take him out first thing and he sometimes takes quite a while to 'go'. It's more he wakes up and immediately wants to get out of his crate as doesn't want to be there solo after the night.

2- the fact he won't be in his crate without either a) sleeping or b) eating a kong. I know this from daytime crating. As soon as kong is finished he starts barking to be let out. So if he wakes in morning and is in crate without Kong, he of course wants to bark to get out.

3- barking as a means to wake us up. He is getting better at 'shush-ing' in the day if he is barking with me in the room - I have been clicking the shush-es. But I can't do that if I am not in the room...?? I really don't want barking to be the first thing I hear each morning for the next 15 years of my life, if there is anything I can do about it now.

We have tried 'getting' to him before he wakes up and therefore before the barking starts, to demonstrate he doesn't need to do it at all to get us to come. But he usually (9 times out of 10) starts up as soon as he hears us move upstairs so we don't make it! He often starts barking when we go to the toilet in the night... especially if it is nearing dawn.... We are creeping around ridiculously trying to get to him before the barking starts!! Not proving very successful.

Any thoughts very much appreciated. Thank you so much in advance.
I have responded to your other posts so I don't want you to think I am ignoring this one, I just want to have a think and reply from my iPad, not my phone. Let me think of a few things and get back to you!
JoanneF you are super-kind. Thank you so much. I realise my post has got a lot of issues in it!! I really appreciate the time / effort it must take to write the reply. Thank you very much indeed. I hope I have explained the situation clearly enough.
I have a couple of thoughts, it sounds like there may be two things. First it is possible the birds are waking him. To resolve that part, is it possible to move him into the hall so he isn't next to a window etc? I don't know your house (obviously; that would be creepy ) but anywhere he can't hear the birds might help. You could try changing the radio, or even in daytime playing birdsong to desensitise him.

Second it sounds like fear of missing out. He knows you are there and wants to get to you or get you to be with him. He has learned what to do (being quiet brings your attention) so he's a clever little guy to suppress his bark! You are doing all the right things but I think it would help if you can train a shush (or a settle down) that you can use from your bedroom. So basically you are on the right lines with the clicker but in this case it's not the right tool for the job because you are not in the room.

So - sorry I haven't read how you are clicker training the shush - but if you aren't doing so, can you use the word (shush, quiet, settle) WITH the clicker. Then when that's learned, you can use the word from your room to cue him to be quiet. I don't know if you have tried this but the best way to train a dog to be quiet is to train him first to bark! Then you can work on the quiet cue. There are YouTube videos.

Another thought is does he need to be in his crate? Would he settle in his bed, or in a pen? If he is frustrated in the crate in daytime, maybe the crate isn't helping?

If you do want to keep him in the crate let me know and I will add more - Mr F ran the iPad battery right down so I am still on my phone and don't want to type a load of stuff that won't be help!
Wow JoanneF that's great and I hope you haven't run out of charge on your phone writing it!

I have trained the shush with a clicker and holding my finger up to mouth as I say it. He does shush to that when I am in the room. But I really don't think he will hear it if I say it from my bedroom! I haven't gone down the 'trained bark' route because the shush alone seems to work more or less if i am in the room - do you think doing the bark anyway would help? I feel a bit nervous about doing that! Don't want to encourage it. It's when we are upstairs is the problem, so me saying shush doesn't really work? I need a remote 'shush' machine so I can press a button from my bed and he shushes downstairs!! It would probably need to dispense treats too!

As far as reducing the noise, it would be the same in pretty much every room in the house, hallway included, as it also has windows. So that is a bit tricky.

HOWEVER what I think is a genius idea is playing birdsong to him in the day!! What a great idea! I will definitely try and find some online....

The other thing is about the crate. He has a crate in a playpen in the (big) kitchen. He is out of the playpen most of the time now except when we are eating (he jumps up) or I am cooking meat (ditto), when I put him in the playpen (not crate). Because we want to get rid of the playpen very soon (ugly and cumbersome), I have been trying to crate him a bit more as a 'practice' run for when we no long have the playpen. So if I pop out for half an hour to an hour, I will put him in crate with kong. When the kong finishes he barks unless he is very tired. If I go for a long walk and then put him in crate and go out for longer, he is ok as he is tired and sleeps. So he doesn't HATE it and it is all he has known for night-time (he goes to bed very happily) but would just prefer to be out and be with people when he is awake and it's light. If I abandoned the crate altogether he MIGHT be ok. I just don't know. He has a dog bed in the kitchen. But it seems everyone says a crate is a life-saver and enables you to go out for a couple of hours (I am feeling a bit bound to the house/park having a puppy, so far, if I am honest!) and makes the dog feel safe etc. There seems to be a general consensus that it's the best thing to do?? He is 4 months. I don't know... I would worry about what trouble he might get up to in the kitchen when I was out. But then maybe he wouldn't?! It is not 100% puppy proofed (is that even possible?) - we have some lamps with cables and there are bottles on the sides etc.. Seems ok when I am around but if he were bored and alone I don't know...

I still feel he just thinks when he wakes up he needs to bark to get us to appear. But stop barking when he hears us coming because we don't like it when we are there. We probably reinforced it because we did appear when he barked for a while when we were toilet training him.... His stamina seems to be getting MORE - he will just bark for longer and not give up now...

JoanneF thank you very much for your help. Sorry if I am ranting! This puppy ownership business is tricky! I'm off to download some birdsong! Thanks a billion.
I would keep working on the shush so you can call it from your bedroom. If you also use the reward technique I mentioned in the other thread (not always a food reward, sometimes verbal praise) if he quietens you can tell him good boy. All from under the duvet!

Do have a look at the barking videos though. You might be surprised and of course you don't have to train a bark if you don't want to!

From what you have said, there are more things you can try with the crate. It's always a good idea to crate train anyway, in case sometime In the future he needs to be created for medical reasons or travel, or any other emergency. In the day, when he is in the crate and starts barking, wait until he stops then praise and reward. I dont recommend this for owners of new puppies (in case any read this in the future), but you will know by now the difference between a distress bark and a demanding attention bark. It's the same technique as you have been using, just in the crate. You can use your shush cue.

And you know what they say about puppies - it's just as well they are cute!
Thank you! I will take all your advice and let you know how I get on. As you say - thank god he is sweet!!
Ok so sorry to burden you with more minutiae... TERRIBLE night last night. He woke in crate barking at 4.15. We ignored. He barked continuously (literally) for an hour (I lay there thinking any minute he will pipe down). Then on and off for another e3 mins - possibly 80% barking with 20% pauses. It didn't seem to be improving much but he was obviously getting worn out! I eventually caved in at 545 in a lull in the barking. Just thought we had probably woken the WHOLE street with it. Went down and he went mental in his crate. Waited for him to shush and quiet then let him out. He was stressed. I stroked and calmed him BEFORE taking him to garden. He did wee and after 15 mins of standing around, a poo. I am exhausted. We came back into house and he is fast asleep in the kitchen floor within 5 mins.

Did I do wrong leaving him to bark so long - is that cruel and making it into a habit? Did I do wrong "giving in" in the end (possibly reinforcing persistence)? I think he had been quiet about 2 mins when I went down.

Will I be ostracised by my entire street?

He just wakes and wants out of his crate it would seem.

Played birdsong sounds quietly to him all night - this was in theory to make the dawn nothing new in the soundscape. It could have backfired and meant he woke earlier! Lordy. Any advice really gratefully received. At wits end.

(Ps saying shush from bedroom not an option as too far away. Coming down and saying shush surely gets him the attention he wants?? I.e. It gets us up....).
As useful these modern crates are and can be, our dogs and puppies are not rabbits or guinea pigs, and should not be treated as such ! If a caged house pet is required then get something different but not a puppy or dog.

I hear of too many puppies and dogs that spend so much of their lives shut away in a "cage" just because it is convenient and safe.(all night and then also during the day too)

What ever happened to the old fashioned way of using news paper on the floor and a little more cleaning up behind our puppies while this short stage of growing up and learning is in progress.

A penned area could be as safe without being "caged" and confined.

JoanneF is fantastic with her help and such great suggestions, but should our puppies really be confined to these cages so much for our convenience, this is not the only way to house train, there are happier ways !

Our lot love their crates / dens, the doors are always open (may as well take them off) they sleep in them by choice but also have the choice of a fleece on the floor to use too and a dog bed. (each prefers a different place to sleep) They have never been forced inside a crate, they are just there and they love them.
I can't remember from your previous threads but is having him in your bedroom (or even just outside) an option? I don't like leaving a dog distressed in the crate. That just reinforces the awfulness of the crate in the dog's view. If he was in your room or nearby, and could see you, it might be easier to settle him.

Has he shown any inclination to chew things? It might be too big a step and I wouldn't want to nudge you in this direction if you think there is any risk but I wonder if he would settle better without the crate.

Another thought - prompted by another post but I should have suggested this yesterday - could he be hungry? Try a bedtime biscuit.

Adaptil diffusers sometimes help to calm anxious dogs, that might be worth a shot too.

Edited to add - I was typing when Excuseme came up with her suggestion about the crate too!
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Thank you JoanneF and Excuseme. Hmmmm. After last night I am definitely considering abandoning the crate. Having him in our bedroom/upstairs is not a route we want to go down as we don't want to allow him upstairs in future (so don't want him up there ever, if you see what I mean). He will eventually have the run of 2 floors of our (3 floor) house so will have plenty of room.

Hunger could possibly be a thing. Maybe the biscuit could help. Although we don't feed him as soon as he wakes up. In fact we feed him over an hour later at 7-7.30 and he is quite relaxed before then (he is not expecting food).

HE does chew but so far usually only on his own toys or cardboard boxes! He hasn't discovered the furniture legs yet... But I understand this will happen if we don't keep him away??

Thank you for your thoughts. It is odd. HE is perfectly happy to hang out in his crate at most times except that dawn wake-up slot. So I feel he likes it generally (except maybe since last night he won't - it was horrible...). And excuseme, if anything perhaps the problem is that we have not trained him to be in it enough - mainly only at night and if I pop to the shops, which is not much. Or if he is obviously fast asleep/tired. He has never really been in it awake (at least without a Kong). So herein could lie the problem.

I think I need to establish which of these the problem is:

a) he hates being in the crate awake or

b) he wants us to get up and come and give him attention

Then I need to work out a plan for each option.... What do you think, good people of dogforum?
I have a two year old dog that I've had since he was four months old. Apparently, he was crate trained, and although i had one for him, he never took to it. At the time, i was living in a flat, so took him down for toileting probably more than people would do if they had a garden. Without a crate, i got him into a routine whereby I would take him down to toilet at about 7am, long walk - approx 2 hrs in the afternoon then take him down for last toilet at 9pm. I realise this isn't possible for everyone, but at the time i wasn't working.

I moved to a ground floor flat with a garden last August, knowing that once i was settled there, i would be in a position to have a second dog if and when i thought it would be right. I now have a second dog, 14 months old cocker spaniel, though i think she's a cocker/springer cross - that wasn't a concern of mine, i love spaniels (yes, I'm as mad as one!) I knew that she had behavioural issues - her previous owner was very honest about this - but i also knew that i had the time and patience to help bring her on. She was crate trained - apparently. She hated the crate from the minute I brought her home. It was clear to me that either she wasn't crate trained or she hadn't been taught that a crate is a safe place to go when SHE wanted to go there. She has a big problem with'switching off' so to me, a crate would be an ideal place for her to have space - nope, she has now found her own quiet space, behind the sofa, and as it's safe there I'm happy for her to go there. The first dog that i had from a puppy was a working springer, i didn't really know much about crates as at his point, I'd only ever owned an older dog. Crate training was recommended by the breeder, and he took to it from day one. I think crates are useful for toilet training a puppy and also as a safe place or 'den' but it's important to remember that every dog is different - like humans, you can't fit a square peg in a round hole. My older dog now wakes at 6am - i know when he really wants to go out, so try and leave til about 6.30. Now they both wake up at that time, aware that after going outside, myself, and them, will probably go back to bed for another hour. At first my newer dog would look at us both as if to say 'hold on a minute, i thought we were all up now!' She has now settled well into this routine. There's obviously going to be exceptions - if one is unwell for example - but in my, pretty limited experience, i believe dogs thrive on routine, maybe because it makes them feel safe, they know where they stand and also learn, however slowly, that I'm in charge.

All the advice given above is excellent. It might be worth moving the crate to somewhere your dog settles better. Does he/she have a place they like to settle when left to their own devices - like behind the sofa with mine? If so, maybe put a bed down there? Good luck and stick with it. There's lots of varying stages in the life of a dog, they may be going through a developmental stage where pushing your buttons and waking you up is fun right now?
I think you make a really good point about establishing whether his behaviour is because of hating the crate, or wanting to be with you. Since you have the crate in a pen, why not try tonight leaving the crate door open into the pen, with his bed still in the crate. Then when he wakes, he won't feel confined. If that doesn't work, tomorrow you could try having his bed in the pen, and no crate at all. Or you could even go straight to that step tonight.

That will give you a pointer as to whether the crate, or the being alone is the issue.
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Ok thank you JoanneF and spaniel mad!

I will give it a go tonight and let you know the results of the experiment. It will be the first night with crate door open since we got him at 8 weeks....
Also wishing you luck. My dogs and my ideas about dogs doesn't make me or them perfect, there really isn't any such thing. I've had my fair share of despair around dogs, but genuinely believe that putting in the time - if you have it, and i fully appreciate that not everyone does - the rewards are amazing x

But interesting. So we put him to sleep in crate with door shut but not locked, opening into playpen. My partner had to get up very early (5) this morning so it wasn't the best experiment in terms of sleep/waking barking but all the same very interesting. He came down to...... dog in his bed in playpen (which we had put there for the night for this experiment and..... not one.... but TWO huge poos on playpen floor.... one older (more dry) than the other. Dog calmly in bed. Nightmare.

It doesn't stop there. In order to let me sleep he took the dog out for a wee (no wee in playpen) and brought him back and gave him a kong to keep him quiet a little longer when he went out. I heard dog barking a bit (not as much as when in crate) - thought it was due to him leaving so left it for a bit (it wasn't frantic at all). Came down in a quieter moment and..... ANOTHER POO on playpen floor. What have we done?! He hasn't pooed indoors for at least a month. When he was FIRST home at 8 weeks, before jabs, he pooed in his playpen on pads, so he may have been reminded of those days. Either way, what a nightmare! 3 poos indoors in one night. After many weeks of being clean in house.

So our reading of the fact that he had not been barking for the loo was obviously completely wrong. I based it on the fact that he often does not rush to poo when taken out to garden first thing. Sometimes it takes 15 mins - he gets very distracted, settles down with a rock or piece of bark to chew on and just doesn't seem interested. He always wees straight off.

When he was much younger we had a problem with him pooing in his crate at night. We ended up fixing that by making his last feed of the day at 3.30. We are still doing that feeding schedule (7, 11.30, 3.30) but do give him a few treats between 3.30 and bed at 10.30. He usually poos somewhere between 6 and 9, usually earlier than later as he is so sleepy from about 8 so not much toilet action, he is sleepy. If we drag him out to the pub (!) and walk back around 10 he does poo - the walking triggers it - but if we are at home and take him to the garden he doesn't, he just wees... We have a cue for toileting which works for wees but doesn't prompt any number 2s (same word).

Any suggestions? We need to find a way to 'get the poo out' before bed - he is sleepy and uncooperative from about 8.30 onwards unless we go on a proper walk, which usually makes him go (which none of us are really inclined to do and I won't do solo due to safety - we're not in safest area).

I can't believe I am writing detailed posts about toilet habits of my puppy - what has my life come to?! Any tips or suggestions would be much appreciated - or should I start a new thread as the 'problem' has changed??

The good news is that at least our experiment with opening the crate has revealed what the real problem is and is nothing to do with our suspicions! oops... I am a bit concerned that enabling him to poo indoors this once will have set us back to him starting to do it again - as the third poo this morning was done after seeing us and being woken up for the day. Possibly if we get rid of the playpen we might remove that association? From being a puppy and having training pads in there.... Then we should keep crating him at night... ??? I am quite confused now!
Oh dear! At least there is a nice easy solution to this; you just need to go to the pub more!

But seriously, it seems he has been holding his toilet in the crate so has just taken a little step back.

On the plus side, it sounds like he was calmer last night.

On the downside here's what I would do (if you are even still reading my posts after last night)!

First I would go back to basics with toilet training. Any toilet outdoors is rewarded with huge praise and reward. And - sorry - but during the night I would set my alarm to take him out. Quietly with no fuss out, toilet, praise and reward for any toilet, and back in. Over the next few days I would also try making his last feed later in the day. If he eats at about 3.30 and is pooing in the night that's maybe 10 to 12 hours so if you can get him eating later that's less time he needs to hold it overnight. So in half hourly stages, I would make his last feed a bit later.

Lots of dogs have a little blip with housetraining, don't worry. He will get there. So will you. And I'm afraid discussing our dogs' poo is part and parcel of ownership!
JoanneF thank you for your patience and good humour! You are right about the pub! That is definitely the best conclusion to come from this. And yes, I think changing his last feed could help... I think I will go back to the the crate with the door locked again but respond (with a short pause for quiet) to the barking as a call to toilet rather than waiting for it to stop... Deep breaths! Thank you so much for your support with this.
I'd be tempted to leave the crate open if the pen is in an area that can be cleaned easily because it still sounds like it distresses him. But your call, I'm not sure at all; it's just a thought.

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