Why is My Dog Crying at Night? Causes and Solutions

Dogs, our loyal companions, have a way of communicating with us, even if it’s not with words. But what happens when that communication turns into a nightly serenade of whines and cries? If you’ve ever lain in bed wondering, “Why is my dog crying at night?”, you’re not alone. As a seasoned veterinarian, I’ve heard this question countless times. Let’s dive deep into the world of canine behavior and emotions to unravel this mystery.

INTERESTING FACTS

Fact 1: Puppies, just like human babies, have a vocalization instinct when separated from their mothers.
Fact 2: Ever watched your dog twitch or move in their sleep? They dream just like us, and sometimes their vocalizations can be related to their dream state.
Fact 3: Nighttime crying can be an early sign of certain medical conditions. Always good to keep an ear out!

Table of Contents

Common Reasons for Dog Crying at Night

Ever heard the phrase, “It’s not you, it’s me”? Sometimes, the reasons behind your dog’s nighttime vocalizations have more to do with their natural instincts and less to do with their immediate environment. Let’s uncover some of these secrets

The Root of the Behavior

Dogs, like their wild ancestors, are crepuscular. This means they’re most active during the dawn and dusk. So, when the world quiets down at night, their heightened senses pick up sounds we might not even notice. Imagine hearing a distant siren or a mouse scuttling in the attic. To your dog, these sounds are loud and clear, and they might just feel the need to respond.

Crying, Whining, or Howling: What’s the Difference?

  • Crying: Often a sign of distress or discomfort. It’s a more urgent sound, akin to a baby’s cry. If your dog is crying, it’s essential to check on them and ensure they’re not in any immediate pain or distress. It’s their way of saying, “Hey, something’s not right here!”
  • Whining: This can be due to a variety of reasons, from attention-seeking to anxiety. Whining is a softer vocalization, often used when a dog is feeling insecure or wants something, like your attention or food. Think of it as their way of gently nudging you and saying, “Hey, remember me?”
  • Howling: A more primal form of communication. It can be a call to other dogs or a response to certain high-pitched sounds, like sirens. Howling taps into a dog’s ancestral roots, connecting them with their wild cousins like wolves. It’s their way of joining a larger chorus, a call and response with the world around them.

Your Dog is Still a Puppy

Ah, puppies! Those bundles of joy can melt our hearts with a single wag of their tail. But, as any new parent will tell you, nighttime can be a challenge.  Just like human infants, puppies are adjusting to a big, new world. They’ve been separated from the warmth and comfort of their littermates and mothers. The night can be especially daunting. Every sound and every shadow can be a new experience, and crying is their way of expressing uncertainty or seeking comfort.

Let’s explore why our furry babies might be keeping us up

  • Hunger: Puppies grow rapidly and need frequent meals. Sometimes, they might be hungry in the middle of the night.
  • Loneliness: Remember, they’re used to a pile of warm siblings. The isolation can be tough.
  • Toilet Needs: Puppies have tiny bladders. They might need a midnight bathroom break.
  • Fear: New sounds, a new environment—it can all be overwhelming.

Training and Behavioral Issues

Training a dog is akin to teaching a child. It requires patience, consistency, and understanding. But sometimes, even with the best intentions, we might inadvertently encourage behaviors that disrupt our peace.

Your Dog is in the Process of Being Trained

Training is a journey, not a destination. As your dog learns the ropes of house rules, there might be some hiccups along the way.

  • Crate Training: If you’re crate training your dog, they might cry because they’re not yet comfortable in their new space. It’s essential to make the crate a positive, safe haven for them.
  • Sleep Training: Just like humans, dogs benefit from a consistent sleep schedule. If they’re used to playing at night and sleeping during the day, it might take some time to adjust.

Poor Training

It’s not always the dog; sometimes, it’s us. Inconsistencies in training or inadvertently rewarding negative behavior can lead to confusion and crying.

  • Inconsistent Rules: If you let your dog sleep with you one night and then change the rules the next, they might protest with some vocal displeasure.
  • Accidental Rewards: If your dog cries and you immediately give them attention, treats, or playtime, they learn that crying gets them what they want.

Emotional and Mental Factors

Just like us, dogs have a rich emotional life. They can feel joy, sadness, anxiety, and fear. Sometimes, the nighttime crying is a reflection of their emotional state. Let’s explore this often-overlooked aspect of our furry friends.

Your Dog Has Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is a common cause of nighttime crying in dogs, especially for puppies. Dogs are pack animals, so being separated from their family can cause them to feel anxious and distressed. Some of the signs of separation anxiety include excessive barking, howling, and crying when left alone. To address this, try leaving your dog with a toy or blanket that has your scent on it. If your dog’s separation anxiety is severe, you may need to seek help from a professional dog trainer or veterinarian.

  • Symptoms: Pacing, excessive salivation, destructive behavior, and of course, crying.
  • Causes: A change in routine, moving to a new house, or even a new family member can trigger this.

Fear and Anxiety

The world can be a big, scary place for a dog. Thunderstorms, fireworks, or even the sound of a car backfiring can send them into a panic.

  • Recognizing the Signs: Shivering, hiding, and seeking comfort are common signs.
  • Comforting Your Dog: Sometimes, all they need is your presence. Calming wraps or anxiety vests can also help.

Mental Problems

Just like humans, dogs can suffer from cognitive disorders, especially as they age.

  • Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD): Often compared to Alzheimer’s in humans, CCD can lead to confusion, disorientation, and changes in sleep patterns.
  • Signs of CCD: Changes in behavior, difficulty recognizing familiar people or places, and disrupted sleep.

Owner Separation Anxiety

Yes, you read that right! Sometimes, it’s not the dog but the owner who has separation anxiety. Dogs are incredibly attuned to our emotions. If you’re anxious about leaving them alone, they pick up on that energy.

  • Managing Your Anxiety: Trust that your dog will be okay. If needed, consider short periods of separation and gradually increase the duration.

Physical Discomfort and Health Issues

Our dogs can’t tell us when they’re in pain or discomfort. They rely on non-verbal cues, and sometimes, those cues come in the form of crying. It’s crucial to be vigilant and ensure that their nighttime vocalizations aren’t a cry for help.

Your Dog’s Stomach Is Upset

Just like that one time you regretted eating that extra slice of pizza, dogs can also suffer from digestive discomfort.

  • Causes: Overeating, consuming something toxic, or a sudden change in diet.
  • Signs: Apart from crying, look for vomiting, diarrhea, or a bloated stomach.

Bloating and Other Digestive Issues

Bloating in dogs, especially in larger breeds, can be a life-threatening emergency known as Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV).

  • Symptoms: A swollen abdomen, restlessness, drooling, and rapid breathing.
  • Immediate Action: If you suspect bloating, rush your dog to the vet immediately.

Your Dog is In Pain

Pain can stem from various sources – an injury, arthritis in older dogs, or even dental issues.

  • Recognizing Pain: Limping, reluctance to move, aggressive behavior, and changes in eating habits.
  • What to Do: Never medicate your dog without consulting a vet. Some human medications can be toxic to dogs.

Pain or Other Medical Problems

Sometimes, the cause of the pain might not be immediately evident. Internal issues, like urinary tract infections or kidney stones, can also cause discomfort.

  • Signs: Increased frequency of urination, blood in urine, or excessive licking of the genital area.
  • Consultation: Always consult a vet if you suspect an internal medical issue.

Injury

Dogs are curious creatures. They can sometimes get into scrapes, leading to minor injuries.

  • Checking for Injuries: Regularly check your dog’s paws for thorns or cuts. Look for any swelling or wounds.
  • Treatment: Clean minor wounds with antiseptic. For deeper injuries, consult a vet.
Cause Symptoms
Pain Limping or whimpering when moving
Digestive Problems Vomiting, diarrhea, or loss of appetite
Allergies Scratching, biting, or chewing on their skin

Environmental and External Factors

Imagine trying to sleep with a flickering light or a dripping tap. Annoying, right? Dogs, with their heightened senses, are even more susceptible to environmental disturbances. Let’s explore some of these external factors that might be causing those midnight serenades.

Your Dog’s Schedule Is Not Aligned With Yours

Dogs thrive on routine. If your dog is napping all day while you’re at work, they might be raring to go just when you’re winding down.

  • Setting a Routine: Regular feeding, playtime, and bedtime can help align your dog’s schedule with yours.
  • Activity: Ensure they get enough physical and mental stimulation during the day.

Disturbing Noises

That distant car alarm that barely registers to you? It might be loud and clear for your dog.

  • Common Culprits: Fireworks, thunderstorms, sirens, or even the hum of a new appliance.
  • Comforting Your Dog: Sometimes, white noise or calming music can help drown out disturbing sounds.

Anxiety or Dementia in Older Dogs

As dogs age, they can become more sensitive to changes in their environment. Cognitive decline can also lead to increased anxiety.

  • Signs: Disorientation, changes in interaction, altered sleep patterns.
  • Helping Your Senior Dog: Maintain a consistent routine and consult your vet for possible treatments or interventions.

Reasons for Dog Crying at Night

 

Seeking Attention and Social Factors

Dogs are social animals. They thrive on interaction, play, and of course, a good belly rub. Sometimes, their nighttime vocalizations are simply a way of saying, “Hey, remember me?” Let’s explore the social dynamics at play.

Seeking Attention

Just like a child tugging at your sleeve for attention, dogs have their ways of making their presence felt.

  • Why They Do It: It could be boredom, loneliness, or just the desire for some playtime or cuddles.
  • Addressing It: Regular play sessions, training routines, and interactive toys can keep them engaged.

Greetings

Have you ever been woken up by a jubilant bark when you or someone in the family comes home late? That’s just your dog’s way of saying, “Hey, I missed you!”

  • Understanding Their Behavior: Dogs are pack animals. A member returning to the “pack” is a cause for celebration.
  • Managing It: A calm greeting can help reduce the exuberance. Training commands like “quiet” or “settle” can also be beneficial.

Appeasement

In the dog world, appeasement behaviors are ways to avoid conflict. Whining or crying can be a dog’s way of showing submission or pacifying a perceived threat.

  • Recognizing It: This is often accompanied by other submissive behaviors like avoiding eye contact, licking, or tail tucking.
  • Addressing It: Ensure your dog feels safe. Avoid aggressive training methods or punishments.

Other Common Reasons

Sometimes, the reasons behind your dog’s nighttime vocalizations can be straightforward. Just like us, they have basic needs and desires. Let’s explore some of these common reasons.

Boredom

Ever found yourself aimlessly channel surfing when you’re bored? Dogs don’t have that luxury. Instead, they might vocalize their boredom.

  • Addressing Boredom: Interactive toys, puzzle feeders, or a chew toy can keep them engaged. Consider a late evening play session to tire them out.

Hunger

That midnight snack craving? Dogs get it too. Especially puppies or active breeds might feel peckish at night.

  • Feeding Schedule: Consider dividing their meals into smaller, more frequent portions. Ensure they’re getting the right amount of nutrition.

Toilet Emergency

Just like you wouldn’t want to hold it in all night, your dog doesn’t either. Puppies, in particular, have smaller bladders and might need a midnight bathroom break.

  • Routine: Establish a consistent bathroom routine. A late-night potty break can help prevent nighttime accidents or discomfort.

How to Address the Issue

Understanding the reasons behind your dog’s nighttime crying is half the battle. The next step? Addressing the issue with love, patience, and sometimes, a bit of training. Here are some tried and tested strategies.

Five steps to stop your puppy crying at night

  1. Comfortable Environment: Ensure their sleeping area is cozy, quiet, and free from disturbances.
  2. Consistent Routine: Regular feeding, playtime, and bedtime can help set their internal clock.
  3. Nightlight: Just like some kids, puppies might benefit from a soft light, especially if they’re in a new environment.
  4. Sound Therapy: Soft music or white noise can help drown out external noises.
  5. Stay Calm: Your puppy picks up on your energy. Stay calm and reassuring.
PRO TIP: Consider products designed to engage their senses and calm them. Calming sprays with pheromones, soft music designed for dogs, or even a ticking clock can mimic a heartbeat and provide comfort, especially for puppies.

Make your puppy’s bed a place it wants to be

  • Soft Bedding: Invest in a comfortable dog bed.
  • Favorite Toys: Place a toy or two to give them a sense of familiarity.
  • Warmth: Consider a warm blanket or a soft pillow, especially for breeds that love to burrow.

Crate training a puppy

  • Positive Association: Make the crate a happy place. Use treats and praises.
  • Right Size: Ensure the crate is big enough for them to stand, turn, and lie down comfortably.
  • Location: Place the crate in a quiet corner, away from heavy foot traffic but still within sight.

Crate training a puppy

DON’T let them cry it out for more than a few minutes

While some trainers advocate for the “cry it out” method, prolonged distress can lead to anxiety issues. Always ensure they’re not in pain or discomfort.

Let their bed be a safe space at any time of day

  • Accessibility: Ensure they can access their bed or crate freely during the day.
  • Quiet Time: Allow them to retreat to their space if they feel overwhelmed or tired.

Addressing Separation Anxiety in Dogs at Night

Separation anxiety is a common cause of dogs crying at night. Dogs are pack animals and often develop strong bonds with their owners. When left alone, they may become anxious and distressed, leading to crying, whining, and howling.

To address separation anxiety in dogs, it’s important to help them feel calm and secure when you’re not around. Here are some tips:

Tip Description
Gradual Departures Start by leaving your dog alone for short periods of time and gradually increasing the duration. This can help your dog get used to being alone and minimize their anxiety.
Safe Space Provide your dog with a safe and comfortable space to retreat to when you’re not around. This can be a crate or a designated area in your home.
Exercise and Stimulation Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise and mental stimulation during the day. This can help tire them out and make them more relaxed at night.
Calming Supplements Consider using natural supplements, such as CBD oil or chamomile, to help calm your dog’s anxiety.
PRO TIP: Dogs are creatures of habit. Keeping their sleeping environment consistent can help reduce anxiety. This means not moving their bed or crate frequently and ensuring the temperature and lighting remain relatively stable.

Dealing with Discomfort and Health Issues

If you suspect that your dog is uncomfortable or in pain, schedule a visit to the veterinarian. After a thorough examination and possible diagnostic tests, your vet will identify the underlying cause and recommend a course of treatment.

Signs of Pain in Dogs Signs of Digestive Problems in Dogs
  • Whimpering or crying
  • Limping or favoring a limb
  • Decreased activity levels
  • Loss of appetite
  • Excessive drooling
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Bloating or abdominal pain
  • Constipation

If your vet rules out any medical conditions, you can try different home remedies to provide relief to your dog. For example, if your dog has allergies, avoiding potential allergens, and keeping your home clean can help. If your dog is suffering from digestive problems, switch to a high-fiber diet, and avoid feeding table scraps. Additionally, providing a comfortable sleeping area and adjusting the temperature could also alleviate discomfort and help your dog sleep better at night.

Conclusion

Nighttime crying in dogs is a multifaceted issue, often a blend of physical, emotional, and environmental factors. As pet parents, our role is to be attentive, understanding, and proactive. By identifying the root causes and addressing them with love and patience, we can ensure our furry companions feel safe, understood, and comfortable. Remember, every bark, whine, or howl is a form of communication. With the right approach, we can bridge the gap, ensuring peaceful nights and a stronger bond with our beloved pets.

So, what’s the wrap-up? Dogs, with their rich emotional tapestry and keen senses, communicate in ways that sometimes require us to be a bit of a detective. But with knowledge, patience, and love, we can decode their messages and address their needs.

FAQ

Should you leave a puppy to cry at night?

It depends on the context. Always ensure they’re not in pain or distress. Consistency is key in training.

How long is it normal for a puppy to cry at night?

Puppies might cry for a few minutes as they settle down. Prolonged crying should be addressed.

Can nighttime crying be a sign of a medical issue?

Yes, especially if it’s sudden or accompanied by other symptoms.

How can I comfort my dog if they cry due to separation anxiety?

Calming wraps, pheromone diffusers, and soft music can help. Training and desensitization are also effective.

What breeds are more prone to nighttime crying?

Breeds with high energy or anxiety levels, like Border Collies or German Shepherds, might be more vocal.

How can I differentiate between attention-seeking crying and genuine distress?

Look for accompanying signs. Distress might be accompanied by pacing, drooling, or other symptoms.

Are there any products that can help soothe a crying dog?

Calming sprays, anxiety wraps, and interactive toys can be beneficial.

How do I know if my dog’s crying is due to hunger?

If it’s close to their feeding time or if they’ve had more physical activity, they might be hungry.

Can changes in the household environment lead to increased crying?

Absolutely. Dogs are sensitive to changes, be it a new member, a moved piece of furniture, or a change in routine.

How can I ensure my dog gets uninterrupted sleep?

A quiet, comfortable sleeping area and a consistent routine can help.