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Ask a Trainer: Puppy Whines in Playpen

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Q: Our three-month-old puppy whines whenever he is in his playpen. What do we do?

A: Young puppies are just learning to be apart from their family and to be independent. Putting puppies in a crate or playpen during the day from time to time is good practice for them; it teaches the puppies that the playpen/crate is not always a signal that you will be leaving.

While you are crate-training your puppy, consider placing a food toy or puzzle toy in the crate or playpen so he associates the area with good things and learns not to rely on you to entertain him. The toy can be anything from a Kong toy stuffed with a meal and a bit of peanut butter in the large hole to a Nina Ottosson puzzle toy like the Dog Brick.

Clicking for calm and quiet is another way to help puppies feel more relaxed in their crates and playpens. When your puppy is quiet, click and toss a tiny bit of food or a piece of kibble to him. There is no need to say the word “quiet.” The puppy will get the idea that being quiet earns a click; the behavior you want is marked and then followed by a treat. The click and treat for quiet option is used in shelter kennels and works very well to keep a calm kennel area.

To start you on the right foot clicker training your puppy, we recommend Dr. Kenneth Martin, DVM, and Debbie Martin's book Puppy Start Right.

About the author

Nancy Driver is the communications coordinator for Karen Pryor Academy. Through her business, On Cue Training and BehaviorNancyDriver, KPA CTP, provides private in-home clicker training and behavior modification for puppies and adult dogs in the Minneapolis, St. Paul, and greater Twin City areas. Nancy often answers clicker training questions for the KPCT community.