What To Do When Your Puppy Cries—and Why He's Doing It
Puppies learn to communicate with you through their actions (wagging tail, eye contact, cuddling up next to you, etc.). They also communicate through vocalization. There's a whole range of noises that your puppy may make. Sharp yips, loud barks, and—yes—whimpering and crying. For a loving puppy owner, sad sounds such as whimpering and crying can be the hardest to deal with. A puppy crying pulls at your heartstrings.
So why is your puppy crying? It depends, but often you can make an educated guess based on when the crying happens.
Reasons Puppies Might Cry
"Puppies can cry for several reasons," says Zazie Todd, PhD and author of Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy. "From the age of 3 to 6 weeks, puppies cry when they are away from the nest. Their cries make their mom come find them," Todd says. In this case, crying is a natural behavior that lets the mother know when the puppies need something.
Todd also suggests that crying may mean a trip outdoors is the answer. "Your puppy may be crying when in the crate because she may need to go to the toilet," Todd says. As part of your housetraining, it's a good idea to rush your puppy outdoors in this case.
Some pet parents interpret crying as a desire to be fed. But if you're sticking to a regular feeding schedule that you've established with the help of your veterinarian, you shouldn't need to feed your puppy in between meals.
Crying and whimpering can also be a signal that your pup is in pain. That's less common, but if you've ruled out other causes, be sure to check with your vet about this possibility.
The bottom line is that puppies sometimes cry when they are stressed. If you pay attention, you can usually figure out what is triggering that stress and find a way to help your puppy feel better.
How to Comfort a Crying Puppy
Ultimately, puppies are social animals and like to be with their people. Their first experience with loneliness happens when they are separated from their mom and littermates. So a likely cause of crying is that your puppy is looking for a connection with you.
"When your puppy first comes to live with you, she may need comforting," Todd says. "If you know your puppy does not need the toilet, comfort them by petting, talking, cuddling."
Especially during the first days in your home, you'll want to give your puppy plenty of time with you. You can start by trying out new toys and helping the puppy get used to being brushed and touched. That said, it's important to always give your puppy the option to walk away. Just like humans, while puppies sometimes want company, there are also times when they prefer to be alone or get some space. Giving your puppy space when she wants space, and company when she wants company, will help your puppy feel safe and loved in her new home. You can then work on gradually teaching her to be comfortable alone even when it's not her choice.
For crying at night, Todd suggests this solution: "You can put a crate by the bed, and reach out in the night for reassurance."
Puppies Often Grow Out of Crying
Even if all their physical needs are met, puppies may sometimes cry because they want something. Puppies can get bored (like the rest of us) and might cry because they want to play. Or they want a treat. Or they want to sit next to you on the couch. Over time, crying tends to become less frequent, since puppies usually become more independent and confident as they mature. If your puppy (or adult dog) cries a lot and you can't figure out why, consult your veterinarian or talk to a certified dog professional.