What To Do When Your Puppy Cries—and Why He's Doing It
Puppies are a joy. But there are times when they aren't filled with it, and they'll make sure you know. Here's how to soothe a crying and whimpering puppy.
Puppies learn to communicate with you through their actions (wagging tale, eye contact, plopping into your lap). They also communicate through vocalization. There’s a whole range of noises that your puppy uses to tell you what he’s thinking and feeling. Sharp yips, loud barks, and—yes—whimpering and crying. As a loving puppy owner, sad sounds such as whimpering and crying are the hardest to deal with. A puppy’s cry pulls at your heart strings.
So what is your puppy telling you when she cries? It all depends on when they are crying.
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 instinct that protects the puppy.
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 housebreaking, 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.
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 the most 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. Snuggling, trying out new toys, learning to be brushed and touched. You want your puppy to feel safe and loved in her new home before you gradually start helping her learn to be alone.
For crying at night, Todd suggests an easy comfort. “You can put a crate by the bed, and reach out in the night for reassurance.”
Puppies Will Grow Out of Crying
After all their physical needs are met, puppies may simply cry because they want something. Puppies can get bored (like the rest of us) and may indicate to you that they want to play. Or they want a treat. Or they want to sit next to you on the couch. Over time, as puppies mature, their crying will be less frequent as they become more independent and confident.