It's distressing to hear your new puppy crying, and you probably want to know how to soothe them and quiet them down, particularly at night. Avoid letting your puppy cry themselves out and instead try to identify why they're crying. They might be excited, anxious, bored, hungry, or in pain, so you'll have to read the signs.
Why Do Puppies Cry?
Puppies cry as a way to communicate with you. It's the sound they make to let their mother dog know where they are and that they need something, like food or warmth. But what they're trying to express can vary based on the situation and other physical signs or behaviors. There are eight primary emotions that could prompt your puppy to cry at home.
- Excitement: Sometimes a puppy cry is a sound of joy. In these cases, your puppy will usually also wag their tail, jump about, or show other signs of happiness.
- Anxiety: Maybe your puppy is crying to express that they're anxious, stressed, or fearful. In addition to vocalizing, anxious puppies sometimes pant, drool, lick their lips, pace, cower, and have their ears back and tail tucked.
- Submission: Submissive dogs, or those who fall within the bottom position of the family pack structure, might engage in appeasement crying. Submissive whining is often accompanied by a submissive body posture, like rolling on their back, tucking their tail between their legs, or crouching close to the ground.
- Boredom: Without enough physical or mental exercise, a puppy can become incredibly bored. They'll whine, bark, dig, chew, and engage in other destructive behaviors.
- Loneliness: It's possible your puppy might cry simply because they miss you. If you're in another room, yet they can hear your voice, they might cry out to get your attention. Puppies often cry at night because they don't want to be left alone.
- Hunger: A hungry puppy will most certainly speak their mind if their tummy is rumbling. If you're not feeding your puppy enough, that could be why they're whining.
- Fatigue: Human toddlers are known for throwing tantrums when they are overtired, and puppies are no different. If your puppy is fatigued, it's possible they could become cranky or fussy.
- Discomfort: Discomfort is a common reason puppies cry. This doesn't necessarily mean they're in obvious pain, although an injury will certainly make a puppy yelp and cry out. However, general discomfort can also lead to whining and crying. A puppy will whine if their bladder or bowels feel full and they want to be let out. They'll also whimper if they have an upset belly or aren't feeling well.
Your puppy's body language can give you insight into what they're trying to tell you with their cries or whimpers.
How to Stop a Puppy From Crying
If your puppy cries continuously, try to identify the "Why" behind it. Are they hungry? Thirsty? Cold? Hot? Scared? Bored? Or do they need to urinate? Providing your puppy with whatever basic needs they're crying for should stop the whining. Unfortunately, it's usually not that easy. Use these tricks to stop your puppy from crying.
- Attend to the problem: Don't ignore your pup in the hope they'll stop on their own, or assume they'll eventually drop their crying habit as they mature. Spoiler alert: They probably won't.
- Remain calm and gentle: Your demeanor rubs off on your pup, so if you're tense and stressed, they'll probably sense it. Don't punish them or yell when they display this normal puppy behavior.
- Figure out the trigger: Once you know what is upsetting your pup, you can remove the stimulus, taking away their reason for whining. If something is actively bothering them, like a scary noise or unsettling shadows, try removing these first to see if it helps.
- Address their basic needs: Often, puppies cry because they need something. Like human babies, puppies usually yelp and complain when they want attention, so make sure they're fed, warm, safe, and taken care of.
- Show them love and affection: Don't reward negative, attention-seeking behavior like crying. Instead, when your puppy settles down, give them lots of love and attention to positively reinforce their calm state.
- Start them out crate training from the start: This is a valuable tool to help your pup learn when it's time to calm down. Just don't give in if they start complaining the moment you step away.
- Give them a way to release their energy: One of the best ways to help your puppy find calm and stop crying is to redirect their behavior through play, a quick walk, a fun toy, or other positive form of training.
Age Matters When Puppies Cry
Your puppy's age might contribute to their crying. Puppies under 6 weeks old cry anytime they need something from their mother, so never ignore the cries of these young puppies, because it means they genuinely need something, whether that's warmth, food, or help relieving themselves.
Older puppies - around 8 to 9 weeks - begin to learn to use crying just to get their way, or for social reasons. You still shouldn't ignore these cries, but you might have a more difficult time figuring out what's causing the whining.
When Do Puppies Stop Crying at Night?
Most puppies stop crying at night around 4 to 5 months old. This age can vary based on the puppy's personality, history, and how long you've had them. Once your puppy feels confident in their environment and knows what to expect when you leave them in their create overnight or for short periods during the day, their crying should subside.
Puppies rarely cry for the fun of it. There's always an underlying reason for their whines and whimpers.
Crate Training and Puppy Crying
If your puppy cries every time you leave the room, you'll need to work on training them to feel comfortable alone. Crate training your puppy is a great way to teach this. With this approach, your puppy will have a comfortable place where they feel at ease, so time apart won't feel as intimidating. Try these tips to keep your puppy from crying overnight and while you're out.
- Create a calm, safe space: Make your puppy's bed or crate as comfortable and inviting as possible. A stuffed toy with a pulsing heartbeat can also be beneficial for young puppies who were recently separated from their mother and littermates.
- Plan ahead with a potty break: Let your puppy out to pee right before bed. Then, wait five minutes, and let them out again. Trust us.
- Stick to a routine: Puppies thrive on consistency. A set evening and morning schedule lets your puppy know what to expect. If they understand you'll kiss them "Goodnight" then greet them every morning, it can help them feel more confident about being left alone.
- Get that puppy energy out: Make sure your puppy is tuckered out before bed. Schedule some play time or a long walk in the late afternoon, and try to prevent your puppy from taking too many naps in the evening so they'll sleep through the night.
- Keep them close, at least at first: If you're crate training, consider placing the crate in your room. Your pup will know you're close by, and your presence can help comfort them. You can then gradually move the crate out of the room to its desired location. Just be aware, this method can backfire, and you might end up with a permanent resident in your bedroom.
- Give them calming reminders and soothing sounds: Many dog owners swear by placing an unlaundered T-shirt or towel with their scent on it in the kennel to remind the puppy they are close by. This may or may not help, but it's worth a shot. Also, consider calming music (there are several dog-specific playlists available) or a white noise machine.
- Provide a distraction: Chewing is often a self-soothing technique. Consider giving your puppy a large, safe chew toy to help control any nighttime anxiety.
Should You Ignore Puppy Crying?
There are mixed opinions on whether it's ideal to let either a human baby or a puppy cry themselves out. Most experts agree it's best not to do this with dogs. You certainly don't want to reward their crying, but ignoring it - or worse, punishing your puppy for it - can lead to long-term behavioral problems.
What to Do if a Puppy's Crying Gets Worse
The basic rule to keep in mind when training your puppy to stop crying is to reward the good behavior you want and redirect bad behavior with positive interactions until it turns into good behavior. Punishment almost never works, and it can even make your puppy feel even more alone and afraid. If you yell at or scold your pup, you're just reinforcing their negative behavior with your negative attention. Stay positive. It really does work.