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Why is my puppy crying?

Golden Labrador puppy advice
© Unsplash

Is your sweet new puppy crying through the night? Puppy crying at night is a common problem and the reason for it might even surprise you. Let’s find out why your puffy is crying, how long it will last, and what you can do to help

By Alice Lang

Think about it like this; what does a newborn baby do a lot of? Crying, of course. And in a way, it’s perfectly natural. For the most part, newborn babies and puppies cry when their needs aren’t being met and they simply need a little bit of help.

And we know you love your pup. You’ve exhausted every option and tried tirelessly to find out what's making your little one whimper. So when you’ve met all your puppy’s basic needs and he still cries through the night, what could be causing it?

Causes of puppy crying

Everything is unfamiliar

Put yourself in your puppy’s shoes. You’re young, you don’t quite know what’s happening, you’ve been brought to a new place, and everything feels a little strange. Plus, when you first take your new furry friend home, they’re likely leaving their mother and/or litter mates. They’re losing their doggy family, and the change can feel a bit unsettling to them at first.

He's not used to being alone

Is your puppy crying the moment you leave them on their own at night? This is a huge trigger point and a problem that most new puppy parents have to deal with. It’s natural for puppies to whine and cry when they’re first separated from their owners. Your puppy is afraid he’d been abandoned. He’s basically crying out for you to rescue him. Yes, this feels pretty heartbreaking. But it’s also very natural, which we’ll talk about next...

He's following his instincts

Did you know that in a dog’s natural environment, crying is a signal for help from their pack? Crying is a huge part of canine communication and one of the first things your pup learns to do. In the wild, puppies would struggle to survive without this whimper alarm system. It’s the first thing they do if they’re left alone - their cry helps their mother locate them. And when you think about it like that, all your pup is doing is following his natural instincts.

He needs to go to the toilet or he is hungry

Puppies naturally make whimpering or crying sounds to show their desire for food, water or the toilet. Again, this is all to do with how a puppy would naturally act towards their mother or pack. Think of it as their way of saying “I’m hungry!” or “I need a wee!”.

Puppy crying Follow these tips and tricks to stop your puppy crying ©Hanny Naibaho on Unsplash
 

How can you stop puppy crying?

Give him the love he needs

This is the most important tip of them all! A 1977 study which looked at separation distress in 24 puppies discovered that the best way to alleviate separation distress in puppies was human company.

Quite simply, your pup needs you. Dogs are naturally sociable, loving creatures and you should aim to give them as much affection as you possibly can. It’s not fair to leave them alone for very long periods of time.

It could be a good idea to place several crates around your house. For example, if you need to focus on cooking dinner but your puppy is desperate for your company, why not have a crate in the kitchen? That way, he can see you and feel your presence - but you can still get things done.

Some owners find success in putting a leash around their waist, with their dog attached on a comfortable harness. Your pup will enjoy being near you, but you have peace of mind and don’t need to be fearful of accidents.

Greet him as soon as you're home

When you or your family have been out of the house - whether it was for half an hour or a few hours - your pup will be desperate to see you.

Dr Carolyn Lincoln, a Cleveland-based veterinarian who specializes in behavioural medicine, said to Pet MD: “They’ll cry if they can’t get to someone they want to be with like when they see a child come home from school. They want so badly to greet and spend time with them,”

“It’s important to spend even just a minute greeting your puppy when you walk in the door—that can be enough to calm him down,” she explained.

Increase his food intake and give him plenty of toilet time

While puppies are growing, their food needs may increase and decrease rather sporadically. Sometimes, the feeding guide on the back of the packet won’t be accurate - every pup is different. So if you’re clueless as to why your pup is yelping, see if giving him a little more food will do the trick. He might have just been hungry all along!

Always make sure you’re letting your pup out to go to the toilet as often as he needs to. If they’re desperate, they’ll cry, cry, and cry some more. Be aware that puppies often aren’t able to hold it in for an entire night, and they'll more than likely need a toilet break in the middle of the night.

Whatever you do, don't yell

We completely get it. As much as you love your little furball, it can become stressful and tiring when they won’t stop crying. And when it keeps you up at night, it can all feel a little too much.

But whatever you do, don’t yell at your pooch. None of it is his fault, and things will get better. In the meantime, yelling at him won’t improve the situation. It may make him stop in the short term, but ultimately, it will hurt the relationship between you and frankly, it just isn’t fair.

If you feel that it’s all becoming a bit too much, the best thing to do is take some time out. Make sure your pup is in a safe place and take a short walk outside to calm down. Alternatively, ask a friend or family member to take over puppy duties for a few hours.

Ease him into alone time

If you want to leave your puppy alone at night, you’ll need to accept that it might take him a while to adapt. But being proactive in helping your dog to accept alone-time and isolation will help and will make your relationship stronger in the long run.

Begin your training by leaving your puppy alone for very short bursts of time - for example, leaving them in their crate while you go to another room. If your pup isn’t used to being alone whatsoever, be sure to spend some time nearby the confinement area with him before you leave.

Be warned - he will probably start crying as soon as you’re out of sight. But the key is not to run back as soon as you hear him whine. If you run back to your pup every time he calls out for you, he’ll think he can control you through his cries.

Hopefully, he’ll eventually settle down. You should go back to him after he’s been quiet for a few minutes, and reward him with tons of affection. Carry out this routine multiple times and very slowly increase the time you leave him alone.  

Leaving a treat or his favourite toy inside the crate could help speed things up a little - he’ll then think the crate is a fun place to be.

Your puppy will settle in with time

If you're experiencing puppy crying, the key is to have patience, understand his needs and shower him with love. Your pup will be settled in before you know it - good luck!