Did you get a new puppy during lockdown? Is everything going great until you put them in their bed or crate at night and then they cry?
A quick look on the internet or a chat with other dog owners can give lots of different advice with one very common and outdated idea: ‘‘leave them to cry’. People may say if you go to them you will reinforce the crying or they will learn they can control you.
But this is wrong, let me explain why.
Let’s look at this from your pups point of view.
They are in a brand new home with new smells, in a strange crate, after being taken from their mum and siblings and all it knows. Everything is scary and your pup feels worried. At eight weeks old they have zero interest in controlling you and dictating your life. They just want to feel safe themselves.
Leaving your puppy to cry it out has actually been shown to be neurologically damaging.
So where did this idea come from?
The idea of crying it out began in the 1880’s when the notion was that babies should rarely be touched to limit infection.
In the 1920’s John Watson, a Psychologist, spoke about too much mother love, the idea was that too much kindness would give you a whiny dependant child, so affection should be limited. However there was no evidence to back this up. But there is lots of evidence to back up the opposite!
So why is it bad?
Here is the geeky bit, when your puppy cries it gets stressed. This stress can inhibit your puppies ability to learn. Think about it if you’re stressed your daily tasks seem a lot harder? You may know how to drive perfectly but then in the stress of a driving test with an examiner sitting next to you, you forget simple things like what pedal does what!
Puppies that are allowed to cry it out will often become distressed in this setting, even if they’ve stopped being vocal about it. This will impact their attachment styles for long term and also negatively impact the brain, emotions, digestive system, and the immune system which could lead to mental and physical health implications.
If a lot of stress is experienced it can actually damage the neurons in the brain long term which has implications for the developing brain causing damage similar to PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) in humans.
Studies have shown that leaving puppies to cry can actually increase the chance of separation anxiety and seperation related problems when they are older, ironically usually the very thing people are trying to prevent from occurring.
And if your puppy is upset then it creates negative associations from the start with nighttime, bedtime and the crate which then take time to undo.
Many people believe that because their puppy stops crying after 10-20 minutes, this means that they are okay. But even If your puppy does stop, it’s likely that they have exhausted themselves and the body gone into shutdown which can lead to health implications.
What can you do then?
- Be there for your puppy, sleep downstairs with them, or bring them upstairs with you – they will not end up thinking they own your bedroom. Then you can slowly move them back downstairs when they are comfortable.
- Start introducing your puppy to separation, start going from one room to the next room and let your puppy follow you, ignore them while they do this.
- As your puppy starts to settle, go to the next room again.
- After a while of the above and when your puppy is not choosing to follow you, give them a tasty chew or kong and then go to the other room again like you did before. And repeat. If you do want your puppy to follow you then invite them to.
- Or if they are happy pop them in a playpen or behind a stair gate with a tasty kong or chew (make sure you have introduced these to your puppy before) while again you pop out the room and back in again.
If your pup is struggling and you have to pop out, ask a sitter to come and see them or a friend and get help from a professional. It’s far easier to work on this at a young age than it is to reverse the learnt behaviour at an older age.
But also remember that it is normal for a young puppy to not like being left alone – you wouldn’t either if you were them!
If you need any support with helping your new puppy settle please get in touch.