If your little one is whining and has other signs, there may well be something amiss. Pay attention to what seems to be causing them to whine and their environment. If in doubt, it is never a bad idea to contact your local vet for advice.
Just like a human baby, all puppies will whine from time to time. This is how they communicate and is entirely normal. However, excessive whining may be a sign of something wrong. It is important we pay close attention to our puppies and ensure their needs are being met.
Is It Normal For Puppies To Cry?
Crying is a completely normal part of puppy life. They will cry to ‘talk’ to their mum, siblings, and even to us. Crying is their way of letting us know they are not happy and/or need something. For example, a crated puppy will whine to get out if bored or if they need to pee. Similarly, a hungry or thirst puppy will cry, letting you know they need your help. Less commonly, vocalizing is an expression of fear, stress, or pain.
Why Does My Puppy Cry For No Reason?
While it may seem like your ‘cry baby’ is constantly fussing and fretting for no good reason, the truth is that there is likely something amiss. Puppies will never cry for no reason, although the reason may not always be logical. Possible causes for crying include:
1. Hunger or thirst
Puppies, especially when young, will need to eat and drink often. For example, an 8 week old will need to eat 4 times a day as their stomach is so small. If a meal is delayed, they are likely to protest loudly. This instinct to vocalize is a sensible survival mechanism and ensures they are provided with the calories they need to develop adequately.
This is one of the most common causes of vocalization, especially if it is excessive and seems to not be caused by anything obvious. Pups are clever little critters who need constant mental and physical stimulation. When they become bored and frustrated, they will want you to know about it.
3. Pent up energy
Pups need lots of exercise to help burn off their energy. This should mean plenty of long and interesting walks. Rather than focus on the distance traveled, see how many different things you can get your pup to sniff. As well as this, play plenty of ‘brain games’ and offer interactive toys and puzzles for them to entertain themselves with.
Small puppies are used to being surrounded by their siblings at all times and can find it isolating when they move to their new home. They may pine for their old family for some time. We can aim to help them by providing lots of affection and taking their mind off their loneliness with training and games. It can also be useful to have a soft teddy nearby at bedtime. These teddies can even have little ‘heartbeats’ to mimic mum. Remember, dogs are naturally social and dislike feeling that they have been left on their own.
When a dog is fearful or nervous, they may whine as an automatic response. Something they find stressful may not be something that affects us in the same way. For example, loud noises and bright lights may worry a small dog. Similarly, if there are other pets or loud children around, a poorly socialized dog may become overwhelmed.
If your little pooch wants a cuddle or a stroke, they may ‘ask’ you. You will know that this is what they wanted as they will quieten down once you pay them attention and show them some love.
7. Frustration when left somewhere
It is not uncommon for a crated puppy, or one who is left in the garden, to become vocal. Dogs do not like being cooped up and if left confined for too long they are bound to start crying or barking. Their natural instinct is to be beside their pack.
8. Toilet breaks
While this can seem like a negative thing, this feature is actually really handy when toilet training a pup. Attentive owners will be able to determine when their pup needs to go to the toilet and bring them outside right away. Older puppies generally like to be clean and will try not to go to the toilet inside if it can be helped.
9. Motion sickness (when in a car)
Owners often ask me why their little one is constantly whining when inside the car. While there are a number of potential reasons (including anxiety), this can be a sign of motion sickness. Your dog may also salivate, tremble and vomit. Try not to feed your dog directly before a journey and consider anti-nausea medicine if needed.
A more obvious reason to cry, your puppy will let you know if they are in pain. They may have injured themself from a fall or the issue may be more subtle. A dog who has abdominal cramping and gas may moan or whine in pain.
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Why Does My Puppy Cry During The Night?
The most important thing here is where your puppy is being kept. If in a crate, we likely need to work harder on their crate training. Those who consistently whine when in a crate are not yet comfortable and we need to work on this. They may be asking to be let out. If you find that the crying stops once the crate opens, we know what is going on.
If not in a crate, your puppy may be asking for something such as affection, food, water, or a toilet break. It is possible that they are not being given frequent enough toilet breaks; never underestimate how many toilet breaks a young pup needs! This is especially true for smaller breeds who have tiny bladders.
Nighttime is generally when puppies feel the most anxious and alone. Ensure their needs are being met and don’t be afraid to offer reassurance and affection. The first few weeks can be tough as they settle into their new routine, so try to make it an easy transition. Try to establish a predictable routine so your pup what happens each night and morning.
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Should You Ignore a Whining Puppy?
Generally, the answer to this question is no. They likely need something, whether it be comfort, a trip outside to relieve their bladder, or a drink.
However, if you are 100% sure that all of their needs have been met, they may be ‘trying it on’ or being a little cheeky. Sometimes, leaving them to whine for a few minutes is sensible and they will soon settle down and sleep. They need to understand that we are not always at their beck and call. Having said this, if the crying continues or your pup seems upset, it is important to try to help them.
Ideally, we should reward your puppy for being quiet and calm. When they are settled, give them lots of vocal praise and offer a tasty reward.
Reinforce the idea that them being quiet is a very good thing. So, when they are moaning or crying, they realize that they do not get this positive attention. Over time, this should reduce the frequency of whining.
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Ways To Help Stop a Puppy From Whining
Typically, your pup is whining because there is something they need. They should stop making noise the moment that need is met. So, by being attentive owners, we can usually keep whining to a minimum.
Be objective and analyze the situation. It can be useful to have a checklist. Are they hungry, thirsty, anxious over-tired, bored, cold, in pain, nervous, or is it something else? Go through the checklist step by step, ensuring you aren’t missing anything.
You may find over a few weeks that you begin to recognize the various noises your pup makes and can predict what they want based on the tone of their voice.
Should You Be Concerned?
While most cases of whining can be easily addressed, if the whining is persistent or accompanied by other signs, we need to pay attention.
Pups who are showing other signs of being unwell should be seen promptly by a vet. Signs to watch out for include:
- Vomiting or diarrhoea
- A reduced appetite
- Skin that feels cool to the touch
- A bloated abdomen
- Fast or laboured breathing
- Head shaking
- A cough
- Wobbly walking
Though the vast majority of ‘puppy cries’ are no reason for alarm, we do need to ensure they settle down and the behavior doesn’t persist. Young puppies can become unwell quickly and it is never a bad idea to have them checked over if worried about their behavior.