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We recently got a french bulldog/jack russel mix puppy of about 8 weeks old. She loves people and loves curling up on your lap to sleep.

3 weeks in (I know not long!) and we are slowly working our way back to normal working hours, ensuring she is let out every couple of hours for toilet and playtime.

We have started putting her in a pen but haven't crate trained her. We're doing this as she's in the "chew everything" stage and also not fully toilet trained so we can't leave her to roam around the room just yet. The issue I'm seeing is when she's put in the pen after playing or being out and is immediately left there, she howls... and howls!

I've tried rewarding her when she stops, and ignoring when she howls but the howling doesn't stop until I wait in the same room for her to get really sleepy. Then she doesn't really care if I leave because she's too tired.

Is this an ok way to get her to be alone?

Is there a better way I can teach her that as soon as she's in the pen, she should go to sleep/calm down?

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Being separated from her family is always hard for a puppy, especially right after play and cuddle time, when she feels really connected to you. Staying in the same room only makes it harder for her. She sees you right there, wants to be with you and doesn't understand why she isn't allowed to.

The worst thing you can do in the current situation is staying in the room and trying to calm her down by talking to her. She cannot understand a single word of what you say. To her it feels more like taunting... I'm right here, I see you and even call your attention to me, but I still won't allow you to be with me.

A better solution might be:

  • introduce a new command that you tell her every time you put her back into the pen. Don't make her sit and wait, use a unique command for the pen.
  • Put her into the pen and leave the room. Don't make more of a fuss than absolutely necessary. Close the door and stay out of sight.
  • Stay as still and silent as you can for a while until she calms down.
  • Don't make any exception to this unless it is absolutely clear that she is endangering herself somehow. If she learns that she can summon you back by howling long enough, she'll never stop.

This is supposed to teach her that after hearing the pen command she should expect boredom. No-one will be in the room to interact with, no-one will react to her howling. It will take a few days for her to accept this, but if you stay strict and don't make a single exception, her howling should stop soon enough.

Don't go back in to reward her. In this specific situation, rewarding her can be detrimental, because she gets excited again when you actually want to teach her to calm down.

To make being alone easier for her, you can give her a chewing stick or food toy like a food dispenser ball or Kong when putting her into the pen. That gives her a little distraction from your leaving and time to calm down.

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  • Unfortunately after I wrote this comment she figured out how to climb out of the pen! But this is really good advice for using an actual crate going forward. Time to start again. I have one question about your point "Don't make any exception to this unless it is absolutely clear that she is endangering herself somehow. If she learns that she can summon you back by howling long enough, she'll never stop." What if it doesn't stop? How long is too long? I think this is the hardest thing for people to understand with new puppies – Aimee Jones Jan 9 at 13:58
  • It is not only the hardest thing to understand, but also the hardest thing to do! Whining and howling is intended to get the attention of the parent, and we as humans react to it as well. As to "how long is too long?" I don't have a clear answer because it differs for each dog. "as long as it takes" is not a very helpful answer, but the best I have... How long does it take for her to get tired and calm down now? – Elmy Jan 9 at 14:19
  • I've only gotten to about 30 mins, (which had small breaks of quiet) and when she was quiet for a bit longer then I returned to the room, which triggered the crying/howling again. I just fear that when there is actually no one there that it won't stop, but I guess the fact that she does stop for breaks in crying at least is a good sign – Aimee Jones Jan 9 at 14:59
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    Yes, it is. When you leave her alone, she is (negatively) excited for a while, but calms down after about 30 minutes. When you go back in as soon as she's calming down, you excite her again, which prolongs the howling. You should leave her alone for a much longer time (maybe another 30 minutes) after she stopped howling. – Elmy Jan 9 at 15:10

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