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Why is my dog crying at night?

Dog howling next to shed advice
© Pixabay

A dog crying at night is never nice to experience. Not only do we lose sleep but we also feel sorry for the animal. Learn why your dog cries at night and what you can do to quieten her down.

By Nick Whittle

There are many different reasons for a dog to cry at night and like her crying during the day it is not always about being sad or in pain; sometimes it will be a cry for attention or because she is hungry. Here are the main reasons why a dog would cry at night:

  • Separation anxiety: some dogs do not like to be separated from their owners; others do not like to be separated from everyone else. To be isolated goes against the dog’s nature.
  • Young dogs and puppies may not be used to spending the night alone. Young puppies are used to sleeping alongside their mother.
  • A dog will naturally not want to soil her own bed. A dog that is not fully toilet trained will become anxious when they need to go to the toilet.
  • Noises at night will disturb a dog and make her cry. If she can hear sounds outside she may also be exhibiting her protective nature.
  • Old dogs may be in pain when they lie down but they may also be incontinent. Old dogs with dementia can become scared of the dark and of being alone.

How to treat a dog that cries at night?

There are many ways to treat a dog that is crying at night but one way you should NOT consider is admonishing your dog. Telling her off will only exacerbate the problem. She will become even more anxious and scared, and the original problem will not have gone away. As a family you should be consistent in your handling of the overnight crying and be persistent with your training.

Remember: overnight crying does not last for ever if handled carefully and with patience and love.

You should also avoid doing the following:

Do NOT cave in and offer them your arms to cuddle into. If you do this, even you have waited three hours, your dog will then know that she can eventually get a cuddle.

Do NOT let them sleep with you in the same bed, for the reason outlined above. You will also not get a good night sleep.

Do NOT get up regularly throughout the night to let her into the garden.

What to do with dogs crying overnight

How do you best treat a dog that cries overnight? When you have worked out exactly what it is that causes her to cry you will be best placed to treat the problem.

Often, the causes of the crying are self-limiting. For instance, a young pup that misses its mother will become more settled in time and be able to sleep by itself.

Here are some ways to treat the biggest causes of a dog crying overnight:

Separation anxiety

A dog that feels isolated from its pack (i.e. your family) will be anxious. A wolf isolated from its pack will not be able to share the food that the pack finds nor the warmth of the pack and will be vulnerable to attack. For the wolf this is about as bad as it gets and the dog will feel pretty much the same.

Some dogs are more prone to separation anxiety than others. Dogs that belong to breeds that are used to being around people, especially lap dogs will hate being alone. Here’s what you can do as the owner of a dog with night-time separation anxiety:

1. Don’t react
2. Don’t bring him into your bed
3. Bring the dog’s bed into your room for a few nights
4. Over the next few nights move her bed away from yours by gradual steps
5. Do this until the bed is in the place you intended it to be

 

Being alone overnight

Young dogs and puppies will be used to sleeping next to their mother. When they are left alone they will miss her warmth and the sound of her breathing and heartbeat. They no longer have her to protect them and will feel vulnerable.

1. Place something warm and familiar in your dog’s bed
2. Sleep near her on the first night (but decide whether or not to do this before she starts crying) 3. Move further away on the next night
4. Eventually move back to your own bed

Toilet training

Young puppies and older dogs will be more prone to making a mess of their surroundings. Toilet trained dogs that cry for the toilet will be doing it as a ploy to be with you. If you suspect your dog is crying because he would like to go outside, you should not attend to her at night.

Doing so will perpetuate the behaviour. Instead, you should leave plenty of newspaper or puppy pads around her bed so that if she does go she wont make a mess of your floor.

Disturbances

Some dogs will be very alert to what is going on around them. At night, when everyone is asleep and the house is quiet her sense of hearing will pick up the slightest sound. She may interpret a sound as nothing special or as an intruder and her heightened fear or protectiveness will cause her to cry. This, she will do until you come to her aid. Unless you are certain that someone is trying to get into the house (which is usually unlikely) you should adopt the following training for this circumstance:

1. Move your dog’s bed away from doorways and windows where sound travels more
2. Cover doors and windows at night
3. Make your dog feel as though the dangers of an intruder are not her concern

Dogs will want to be with you all the time. When we first got to know our dogs they slept outside the house because the house was the human domain. They are therefore capable of being without us at night. However, it is tempting when they are crying to want to cuddle them to stop what we think is upset. But dogs can be clever in this respect and will know that we like to hold them when they cry.

Bear this in mind when you dog cries during the night and your training will make her feel calmer at night.

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