Crying, or whining, can happen at any stage of your dog’s life.
In some cases, it’s pretty obvious why he or she might cry. Other times not. Equally, in some cases it’s not a cause for serious concern, at other times it is.
But the first point to remember is that crying or whining is a form of communication for your pooch. So try not to feel irritated or frustrated by it. Instead, find out what the cause of the communication is, then you’ll know how to handle it properly.
Here are the most common reasons for your dog to cry or whine:
- Attention seeking
- Needs/wants something
So let’s take a closer look….
1. Attention seeking
I’m going to break this one down into two – puppies and adolescent/adult dogs.
If your puppy is crying or whining at night, it’s perfectly normal. They’re simply missing their mum or siblings so are feeling alone and a little scared. And even if their crate is in your bedroom, crying can still happen because they want to be even closer to you.
Managing this one, however, takes patience.
You see the trick is to let them cry. Then, when they stop crying, praise them and give them a treat (if following the train and reward methodology).
It’s not easy leaving them be, but if you react each night, they’ll associate crying with getting something. Not the other way round.
(Alternatively you can just succumb and have them sleep on your bed with you at night. That’s your choice, though not recommended for either of you in the long run!)
For all other age groups of dogs, and if it’s daytime behaviour in your pup, he or she could just be looking for some attention. They want your attention. Not you being on the phone, or working, or cooking, or cleaning, or looking after the kids…
They want you to focus on them and that’s it!
Managing this is simply a case of giving him or her attention but on your terms, not when they demand it.
So, don’t focus on them while they cry. Instead wait until the crying stops then give him cuddles or play tug or fetch for 5 minutes.
Incorporating regular playtime throughout the day should minimise this type of behaviour.
2. Needs/wants something
If your pup or dog is whining whilst looking at something, it probably means he’s trying to tell you something.
For example, if he’s looking at the backdoor while whining, he may need to go for a pee. Or he may want a walk.
If he’s looking under the sofa while whining, he might have lost a toy under there and want you to retrieve it for him.
If he’s whining when it’s almost his dinner time, then that’s probably the reason!
Managing whining in these situations is a case of taking action – let him out, find that toy, take him for a walk, etc.
Unless of course, he’s just been for a walk or he’s just eaten. Then he’s probably just seeing if he can get away with it!
So it’s up to you how you handle it. But note, if you give in, he’ll remember that it worked and do it again and again and again and again…
Quick whining or crying can be expressions of excitement.
If you’ve just returned home, or someone’s come to visit, or he can see you’re getting his lead and can’t wait to go on his walk! These can all create such a sense of excitement that he can’t help but make noises.
This one doesn’t necessarily need much management unless he continually whines when guests are over. If so, some basic training should manage it relatively quickly.
We’ve all heard that ‘oh poor me’ whine that comes from your doggy when he’s laying in his bed or on the floor next to you.
This can be a sign he’s a bit bored and/or he wants some attention.
“Come oooooooonn, play ball with me/take me for a walk/feed me/stroke me/anything pleaseeeeeee”
How you handle it is up to you.
Trainers would certainly recommend not succumbing at the time of the whine, but instead take a mental note and then a while afterward, once he’s settled back down, get up and do something with him.
Again, incorporating times throughout the day to play ball, tug, go for a walk, and some enrichment activities like search or even using a snuffle mat, can massively help overcome any signs of boredom.
It’s usually pretty easy to tell if your dog is crying because he’s feeling anxious. It’ll be accompanied by perhaps some shaking, pacing, or panting.
If you’re about to leave the house each time this happens, it’s probably separation anxiety and there are techniques to help with this which I covered here.
Or it could be someone in the house he feels uncomfortable around. Or building work, or other loud noises like fireworks, yelling kids, etc.
But ultimately, if you pay attention, you should be able to discover the source of his anxiety and work to overcome it.
If you’re telling your dog off, he may whine or cry softly as way of accepting the telling off and apologising.
Your dog also knows if he’s been naughty and has upset you, even if you don’t overtly tell him off. He’ll sense it. So he may come close to you and give a little whine or cry until you forgive him and good vibes are restored.
I remember my family’s Dalmatian, Riley, killing a pheasant in their garden. It was so awful. Made even more so because, being primarily white, he was splattered in blood that stopped us from being able to get over the event itself (if you’ve ever tried washing a Dalmatian, their hair is quite oily so getting stains out is not easy at all!).
Anyway, Riley knew that we were upset with him, probably not really understanding why, so he kept trying to apologise.
The number of times that day he came up to each one of us with a little whine and putting his head on our laps, or by our thigh… well, how could you not forgive him!
He wasn’t truly happy again until each of us had forgiven him.
7. In pain
Okay so this is the one to look out for…
You may notice some limping or difficulty moving in some way, or he’s lethargic, or not eating, or wanting to go outside a lot more frequently, or something else that just feels or looks off, in which case it could be that your little friend is in pain or sick.
Always pay a trip to your vet at times like these.
It may be nothing at all, but it’s better to get it checked out by a pro than potentially prolong it or make matters worse.
Managing crying or whining is absolutely possible. The key is to figure out what the noise is for and then work on managing it through training and exercise.