Does your dog stay up at night whining and crying? When you bring a new puppy home, it will take some time to adjust to its new surroundings. Once it bonds with you and starts getting comfortable with its new home, the crying at night will eventually cease.
But it can be confusing when your adult or senior dog exhibits such behavior. You are bound to wonder why is my dog whining at night.
Whining and crying is how dogs communicate with you. It could be behavior indicating they want something from you. Now this ‘something‘ could be food, attention, cuddles, or belly rubs. It could also mean they are in distress or pain.
You need to consider the dog’s routine, any changes you made, and recent emotional experiences to understand the reason behind all the whining and crying.
Let us look at these reasons and what you can do to best help your furry friend.
Why Does Your Dog Whine?
Dogs, of course, cannot use words to communicate their needs and wants. But modes such as barking, whining, whimpering, crying, yelping, growling, and sighing, among others, can effectively convey their feelings.
Looking at the dog’s body language and considering the current situation, you can find the meaning behind these varied sounds. For example, if the dog whines when you are having a piece of dessert, it is basically begging for a bite. In such a situation ignoring the whining and crying might be the best approach.
Whining is a behavior that is more common in puppies. It may sound cute initially but can get irritating or even become a habit if you encourage it. So, it is important to figure out the meaning behind the whining and crying and address the cause.
Dog Whining and Crying at Night – 9 Reasons with Remedies
Let us look at some common reasons why your dog is whining at night and what you can do about the same.
1. Your Dog is in the Adjustment Phase
In the case of puppies, it is normal for them to whine, whimper and cry at night when you first bring them home. When you shift to a new place, you take time adjusting to your new room, new house, and surroundings. The same goes for your young furry friend.
The puppy may have spent its initial days being curled up warm against its mother and litter mates. So, the sudden change can be confusing for the puppy when it is taken away from them. Once surrounded by its own kind, the puppy may now feel alone in this strange new place.
So, it is normal for them to cry at night. This goes for adult and senior dogs as well. Dogs like routine and familiarity. They take some time to adjust.
The behavior should stop once the dog gets to know you and gets comfortable around the house.
A new environment can be a scary place for the dog. You can feed the dog during the day, take it out for walks, play, and spend quality time with it. All it is looking for is some love, assurance, and attention.
At night, you can give it a comfortable bed to sleep on. It is your personal choice if you want to let the dog sleep on the same bed as you or provide it with its own space.
Initially, you can spend time around the dog once you put it to bed. But be careful not to make it into a habit. For example, if the dog whines at night and you respond by cuddling, it will learn that whining is the way to get what it wants.
Work on building your bond with the pet during the day so it can comfortably sleep at night.
2. Your Dog Might be Hungry
Some pet parents feed their dog one big meal a day or break it down to two or three smaller meals. According to AKC, feeding the dog two meals a day is ideal. However, during their growth stage, puppies may require three to four small meals daily. Eventually, you can also shift them to the two-meal-a-day recommendation.
Along with frequency, the portion size of the meal is also important. Now portion size depends on the dog’s breed, age, metabolism, and health. For example, a large breed dog like Cane Corso will need more food than a small dog like a Poodle.
So, if the portion size is insufficient, the dog will whine or cry at night because it is hungry.
When the dog has its last meal of the day can also make a difference. For example, if the dog has its first meal in the morning and second by noon, it is bound to feel hungry by night.
You must determine what portion size and meal time work best for the dog. The two meals should have an interval of 8 to 12 hours. If you are unsure about portion size, please get in touch with the vet for a customized diet plan.
Prepare a routine and stick to it. It will help the dog know the food it will be fed; it does not have to whine or overeat.
If the dog continues to whine for food even after you have fed it well, you need to draw the line. The behavior can worsen if you feed the dog every time it whines.
3. It May Want to Poop
The pooping frequency may differ according to your dog’s diet, age, metabolism, and health. Adult dogs may poop one to three times a day. On the other hand, puppies may have to poop five times a day. Senior dogs may poop once in a day or two.
It may take 8 to 12 hours for the canine to digest its food. So, if you do not take the dog out to take care of its business before going to bed, it may whine at night or paw at the door to be let out.
Puppies who are learning to communicate and have not been potty trained may use whining to alert you they have to go. If you do not let them out, the puppies could poop inside the house. Adult dogs may be able to hold their poop, but they will also want to be let out first thing in the morning.
Just like feeding, your dog should have a pooping schedule as well. Most dogs will poop within 30 to 60 minutes of eating. So, you can accordingly let the dog out.
Go out for a night walk and give the dog a chance to empty its bowel before bed. This way, it gets a good dose of exercise, and you and your dog can sleep peacefully.
If the puppy is in the potty training stage or you have a senior dog with weak bowel control, have an area designated in the house as the pooping corner. This way, if needed, the dog can pee and poop without waking you through the night.
4. It May Want its Favorite Toy to Cuddle With
Most dogs bring their favorite toys with them while going to bed. This can be a chewing toy, a part of the puzzle toy, a plushy, or a ball. The selection of the favorite toy depends on the experience it offers the dog. For example, a chewing toy can be a relaxing activity for the dog, or a plushy can make it calm.
Dogs tend to guard their belongings. They may want to guard their toy or have it in front of them the first thing in the morning.
So, if their favorite toy is missing or stuck under a couch, the dog will whine and cry to get your attention.
Taking a toy to bed is not necessarily bad behavior. You can let the dog sleep with it if the toy brings it comfort and helps it sleep peacefully.
Toys can become a problem if your dog starts hoarding them on the bed. If the bed is becoming too crowded, so much so the dog cannot sleep properly, then you need to train the dog.
Resource guarding is another trait you should be wary of. The dog can get aggressive with you and other animals and people in the house over its toys. This behavior needs correction.
5. The Dog Wants Your Attention
All dogs require attention from their human parents to a certain degree. But some dogs require or rather want more attention. For example, dog breeds like Siberian Huskies, Jack Russell Terriers, and Labrador Retrievers are famous attention-seeking dog breeds.
These dogs may whine and cry at night solely to get your attention. They are just like kids who are bored and want to be entertained.
These attention-seeking breeds also require high stimulation throughout the day. If their physical and mental stimulation needs are not fulfilled, they will create a fuss during bedtime. They have all this pent-up energy with no outlet.
So, if you are faced with a dog whining at night dilemma, it could be because the dog wants you to play or spend time with it.
Before you bring a dog home, you must research and understand its physical and mental requirements. A breed like Siberian Husky needs enough exercise, mental stimulation, play, and quality time with the owner. Therefore, they are high-maintenance in terms of time and effort.
These dogs like being around their human family. Your dog misses you, and whining could be its way of expressing this emotion.
Spend some quality time with the dog once you are back from work. This can be something simple like cuddling on the sofa while you are watching TV or reading a book.
If the dog still continues to whine, you may need the help of a behaviorist. If you encourage this behavior, the dog learns that it simply needs to whine to get you beside them.
6. Your Dog is Stressed or Anxious
If the dog suffers from anxiety or depression, it may not like sleeping alone. It may get scared sleeping in the dark room all by itself. If there is a window in its room, lights and sounds from outside can startle it in the middle of the night or constantly disturb its sleep.
If you have brought home a rescue dog, it may show such behavior depending on past experiences. For example, if the dog has been ill-treated or abused, it may whine or cry at night when it is away from you.
Dogs that have gone through a recent traumatic experience can also show this behavior. Or if the dog has gone through a big change, for example, you have moved places; then it might be anxious about sleeping in a new setting.
Stress and anxiety are conditions that need management and treatment. The dog may feel reassured if it sleeps with you in your bed. If you do not want that, you can place the dog bed in your bedroom.
Do not feel guilty or pressured about letting the dog sleep with you. Only when you are healthy and feel well can you take better care of the dog. If you are not comfortable with the dog in your room, you can place its bed right outside your room. So, if the dog does need you through the night, you are nearby.
If the dog continues to have anxious episodes every other night, you need to discuss its condition with the vet. There could be medications, therapies, or training the vet could suggest to help improve your furry friend’s quality of life.
7. It Could be in Pain
If your dog used to sleep well through the night but suddenly started whining and crying, it could indicate it is in pain.
Several health conditions can make your dog uncomfortable while it is lying down. For example, joint pain can make it difficult for the dog to find a relaxing sleeping position. Then there are heart conditions that will make it difficult for the dog to breathe normally.
If all of the dog’s needs are being met, but it whines at night while lying dog, then a vet visit is due. In such cases, monitor your pet for any clinical signs during the day.
For example, if it is a bone or joint issue, the dog may occasionally limp or shy away from climbing stairs or slightly change its gait.
If you suspect the cause of whining and crying to be a pain, then the ideal way to deal with it is to get the dog checked by the vet.
Have information such as any changes in diet or routine, symptoms you noticed, medical history, and if the dog is on medications ready. This can help the vet determine what is wrong with the dog.
The vet may prescribe medications or suggest other treatments and lifestyle changes depending on the diagnosis. Once the health issue is addressed, the whining and crying at night should also stop.
8. It is a Reinforced Behavior
As mentioned above, whining is a behavior that puppies commonly show. So, what did you do when your puppy first whined? Did you scoop it up in your arms and cuddle with it until you both fell asleep? You reinforce such behavior if you tend to the dog every time it whimpers at night.
When the dog performs an action, your reaction to it determines if the action will continue in the future or not. So, your doting reaction means to your dog: ‘I whine, I get love and attention.’ This can quickly develop into a habit.’
It would help if you were careful how you behave around your pets. Your dog does not know what is right or wrong. It behaves according to what you appreciate, ignore or disapprove.
It is ok to reassure or give the dog attention when it gets startled at night. But if you find yourself tending to the dog every night, it becomes a problem. Find the cause behind such behavior. Is the dog hungry, has anxiety, or is it in pain?
Talk to the vet. And if the dog is perfectly healthy, you need to be strong, ignore the whining, and let the dog calm down.
9. Your Dog is Plain Bored
Your dog may whine at night simply because it is boring. There is a difference between the dog wanting your attention and getting bored.
For example, when we talk about attention, it could be specifically wanting to spend time with you, its favorite person in the world. Boredom is when its physical and mental stimulation requirements are not met. Even with you not being around, the dog still needs to exercise, play and keep itself engaged.
Whining is a normal reaction if the dog is bound with energy and you are forcing it to sleep.
There is no point in faulting the dog because it is energetic. The best way to deal with such canines is to keep them busy during the day. If you do not have the time, hire a dog sitter or enroll it in a doggy daycare.
This way, it is around people or other animals during the day. Jumping, running, and playing are good ways to spend their energy. In addition, you can invest in puzzle toys that can keep the dog engaged for longer.
When you are available, say on the weekends, change up the dog’s exercise routine. For example, you can explore different hike paths or take the dog swimming.
When Do Whining and Crying Become a Problem?
Whining is a form of canine communication. It is normal behavior. It does not always mean your dog is trying to act up.
What you need to determine is the context of the whining. You must pay attention to when the dog whines, time, and body language.
For example, if the puppy is whining and pawing at the door after it has eaten, it means it has to poop. This whining can be good because it is learning that it needs to alert you and poop outside the house.
On the other hand, if the dog’s basic needs are met but it whines and cries day and night, it is a problem that requires vet care. Also, look for physical and behavioral changes that could indicate the dog is suffering from medical issues.
Is your dog whining at night? There could be several reasons for this behavior. Some of the simple reasons could be that the dog may want food, a toy, or may have to poop.
Other reasons could be that the dog is adjusting to its new home and surroundings. It could be stressed, anxious or depressed, and sleeping alone is a prospect it does not prefer. It could be a health issue if the dog suddenly starts to whine and cry at night.
The dog may stop whining at night when its basic needs are met. However, you may need to work with a behaviorist if it is whining just for your attention. For any other reasons, please get in touch with the vet for appropriate treatment.
Elena Gherman is a highly skilled and knowledgeable animal care expert. At the start of her career, she gained practical expertise with multiple animals. In addition to that, she works as a DVM veterinary editor for Joy Pet Products, which focuses on offering reliable information on pet health and wellbeing. She meticulously reviews each piece of writing before it is published to make sure pet owners get the most precise and updated information possible.