If your dog whimpers or barks and refuses to settle down in the recovery crate, then there are a few things that are worth checking.
However, try to resist the temptation of rushing to your dog’s side as soon as any crying starts. Otherwise, your dog will soon learn to make a noise to get your attention instead of resting contentedly. If you need to approach the crate to make any changes, then aim to do this during a lull in your dog’s crying if possible.
Things to check if your dog is crying in the recovery crate
First…it can be worth taking your unsettled dog outdoors on the lead for an extra toilet-break. Some dogs get quite upset and stressed if they are worried about wetting or soiling indoors. If your dog is recovering from injury or surgery, then bear in mind that their toileting routine may take time to get back to normal.
Second… do check that your dog is not sitting in a draught. Many dogs find it very difficult to rest in draughty conditions, especially if they are more used to sleeping either on the sofa or on their owner’s bed. If the crate is positioned next to an external wall of your home then it may get quite cold, especially at night. Put your hand down at dog-level to check the air temperature. If needed, try tucking folded blankets either between the crate and wall or around the inside of the crate to make your dog feel more cosy.
Your dog needs water available in the recovery crate at all times, so do check that this is topped-up.
Above: Some dogs will only settle down if the crate is cosy and draught-free, with good bedding.
Food-dispensing toys such as Kongs® are useful for bored dogs. If your dog is restless then, instead of using a food bowl, consider feeding your dog’s entire daily ration from food-dispensing toys to keep them occupied. Aim to offer the food or toys during a lull in the crying if at all possible. For more information on using food-dispensers, see “Toys”.
Recheck your dog’s routine – has he or she had a reasonable amount of attention from you already that day? If you decide to bring your dog out of the crate to sit with you for a while, then do this during a lull in the crying if at all possible.
A few dogs settle down better if the crate is partly covered with a sheet or blanket, so this can be worth a try. Leave a side uncovered to allow for some airflow and so that you can still check on your dog.
Above: If your dog keeps getting bored, then consider feeding their entire daily ration from food dispensers such as Kongs®.
Another thing to consider is whether the crate is positioned in the most appropriate part of the house. For more information on positioning the crate, please see here. Some dogs settle down better if the crate is in a quiet room, while others prefer to be surrounded by their family in a living-room or kitchen-diner area. If nothing else is working, then consider moving the crate and see how your dog gets on. If your crate-rested dog longs to be surrounded by family at all times, then it can even be worth setting up more than one crate – e.g. one in your living space and another in your bedroom, so that your dog can be moved around the house with you.
If the crying continues for no apparent reason, then do check on your dog now and again to ensure their safety. Keep your voice calm, quiet, and boring when checking on your dog, so as not to appear to “reward” them for the crying. Avoid the temptation to shout at, or scold, your crying dog, as this will cause upset and confusion and most likely make the crying worse.
If you have to check on your crying dog during the night, then keep the lights dim and your voice low. Your dog needs to learn not to expect attention at certain times of the day and night.
Some owners do resort to sleeping in the same room as their crated dog for the first night or two. This is not always a good idea, as it can be difficult to get out of this routine once started.
If you are concerned that your dog cannot settle down, then make an appointment to see your vet. They will be able to assess the whole situation, including checking that your dog is on sufficient painkiller medication. Bring along a photo of your crate set-up if possible as this gives useful information.