How to Cope With a Crying Labrador Puppy


All puppies cry, and some puppies cry a lot.

Listening to a crying puppy can be very distressing. We show you how to keep crying to a minimum, and help your puppy settle in happily.

Why do puppies cry?

Labrador puppies cry for two reasons

  • To get their needs met: instinctive crying
  • Because crying has been rewarded: learned crying

It is inevitable that you will experience instinctive crying when you bring a new puppy into your house,  we will look at why in a moment, but most ‘learned crying’ can be avoided.

Instinctive crying

Puppies will cry if they are in pain,  but the major cause of crying in young puppies is feeling unsafe.cope with crying labrador puppy

Some puppies will cry if they are very hungry, but many will not, so don’t be tempted to use crying as a feeding guide.

Puppies will also cry if they need to empty their bladder or bowels and cannot get away from their ‘den’ in order to do this.

It is therefore essential if you crate your puppy at night,  that you give him chance to leave the crate during the night if he needs to.

We have two in-depth guides to help you

Let’s look at that most common cause of crying now.  Feeling unsafe.

Safety first

Small puppies in the wild are extremely vulnerable and it is vital for their survival that they are never left alone unless in the safety of their den.

So if at any time your small Labrador puppy is left alone outside of his ‘den’, he will make a loud and alarming noise to alert his ‘grown ups’  to his predicament.

Scared puppy

The screaming and howling which comes out of a tiny pup is quite upsetting to listen to.   But he isn’t being naughty, he is just scared.


In your new puppy’s mind, his ‘den’  or place of safety is far away at his breeder’s house.   And no matter how nice the ‘den’ you make for him at your home, no matter how cosy his blankets, it won’t seem like his den for several days yet.

Short and sweet

The secret to getting through this phase and getting the puppy used to being left, is to leave him for very short periods to begin with.

When your home begins to feel like home,  your Labrador puppy will stop crying provided he has not learned to cry in order to get a reward.

Keeping the puppy with you

You may think that keeping the puppy with you all the time is the answer to instinctive crying  and to some extent,  during the first few days,  this can help the puppy whilst he gets accustomed to his ‘new’ den and learns to feel safe there.

But,  there can be difficulties with this approach.  You need to be aware of the potential for inadvertently creating the second type of crying.

Learned crying

Puppies learn through the consequences of their behaviour.  And they learn very quickly indeed.  If a good thing happens when the puppy cries,  his crying will be reinforced (ie more likely to occur again in the future).

He will learn to use the crying in order to fulfil his wish for more food, cuddles, attention, company and so on.  Even when he does not feel threatened or anxious.

Learning to be alone

I received a puppy pack from my vet recently when I had my young Labrador puppy vaccinated.  And it was nice to see that it contained some useful advice.

One of the things that the leaflet stressed was that puppies that do not learn to be left alone before they are thirteen weeks old,  are more likely to suffer from separation anxiety later on.

In other words, the experience of being ‘alone’  sometimes, is one that puppies need to get used to at an early age.   This is a part of the socialisation ‘package’ that we need to work through with our puppies.

This isn’t an excuse to leave a puppy for long periods of time, or in unfamiliar places.  But within a very few days of bringing your puppy home,  he should be capable of being left on his own for ten minutes without screaming the house down.

How to avoid learned crying

It is really important that you do not ‘reinforce’ crying.  This means not doing anything that the puppy might perceive as rewarding whilst he is crying.

Including picking him up, entering the room he is in if you are not there already, feeding him,  talking to him,  letting him catch sight of you if he cannot see you already. And so on.

Many people find this very difficult.  But if you can stick to this rule,  and make sure your family stick to it too,  the amount of crying in your house will soon be very minimal indeed.

At the same time,  it is important to reinforce any periods of silence, so that the puppy learns that being quiet is a better way to get his needs met in our illogical and modern world.   We can ‘reinforce’ silence by rewarding it.

How to reward silence

If your puppy has got himself in a state with yelping and crying,  any periods of silence may be quite short.

By the time you have got to the puppy with a reward,  he will probably have started howling again,  and you will end up rewarding the noise instead of the quiet.  So you need a ‘reward marker

You can use a word like ‘good’  or a clicker.  I have a clicker on a lanyard around my neck for the first few days with a puppy in our home.  Each time the puppy cries, I wait for a pause, press the clicker and  reward the puppy with a treat or a cuddle.

Gently does it

Over a few days I ask for longer periods of quiet before I press the click.  Two or three seconds,  then five,  then ten,  and so on.  Working my way up to a minute or so.   Puppies learn really fast (within a day or  two) that ‘quiet’ is rewarding

If you get this right,  by the time you get up to waiting one minute,  most crying will have stopped and the puppy will be silent most of the time.

One final approach to reducing the amount your puppy cries is restricting his space.

Restricting the den

Many people give the puppy the run of the whole house when he arrives and I feel this can delay the establishment of the ‘home den’.

Restricting puppies to one or two rooms initially helps them feel safe and secure,  as well as giving other family members a refuge away from biting teeth!

The sooner your puppy feels safe in his ‘new den’,  the sooner he will be happy to be left there,  and the sooner he is happy,  the sooner he will stop crying.

Giving a puppy the freedom and access that you would to a human guest might seem only fair,  but puppies don’t need freedom.  They need to feel safe.  If you get this right, the crying will stop.

More information

Check out our Labrador Puppies section for more help and advice on dealing with common puppy problems.

If you’d like loads more help and advice on living with your Labrador, don’t miss my new book, due to be released in September 2015

Click hereto pre-order now from Amazon UK, with Amazon’s pre-order price guarantee



  1. Hi my sister has a labrador pup 2 months old.when we move him out of his breeder yesterday he is so much afraid outside,and now he still make some noises and eat a little food ,its hard for me and my sister to take care of him because it is our first time to take care a labrador dog.But everytime he wokes up we make him feel comfortable and by giving him a cuddle,can you give us some piece of advice how to response to his stress from moving out.

  2. Hi Pippa,
    Our 14 week old Lab barks continually from whenever she wakes up (between 5 and 5.30am) this is too early for our household and we have spent the last week ignoring her until 6.30am but she still barks every morning disturbing our neighbours. Assuming we stick to our guns and ignore her will she eventually learn? She is worse than a baby who normally figure it out much quicker :-)
    Any advice would be appreciated.

  3. Hi first I want to say thank you for all the advice from your website, it’s helped a lot. I have a 10 week old pup we just got and at night we put him in a crate and he’s quiet but like at 4 am he started barking and whimpering. Another problem I’ve been having is that sometimes during the day he’ll be playing and he’ll start barking and howling, any advice? Thank you.

  4. Hi,
    Thanks for this article, it’s helped calm me knowing the crying happens to others too. (my first pup was an angle and made a few whimpers the first night and had done with it) my new pup in 9 weeks old, we’ve had him for a week now, some nights he is quiet all the way through and others he cries at several points for 30-40 minutes? Is there any reason for this?

  5. Hi,
    I have a lab which is about 40days and she constantly keeps whining thorough out the whole night. No matter what I do she just doesn’t stop.

  6. I desperately need help. I have a 9 week old lab and he was doing so well just urinating either on the pads inside or waiting until he was outside but yesterday he started going wherever he was in the house. Seems like he’s gone back a step. Also whenever we are outside he is more interested in eating grass and what’s going on that he won’t poop but as soon as we get inside he will go in the kitchen! I know he’s young but need to stop this. We constantly say poop to him outside so he knows to go but he ignores it. Also, we are both shift workers so when my partner goes to work at 6 he will take the pup out to wee. As soon as he’s back in the crate he will howl, cry and bark for over an hour straight. He doesn’t let up to treat him and doesn’t stop with a firm telling off. It’s driving me mental. Help!!

  7. I had a crying Labrador puppy, the obvious thing I thought was pick him up, take him to bed with me, to the shops with me to work with me. Guess what I got a totally velcro dog. His is nearly 12 years old now and sat at my feet as I type. I am now retired so not really a problem, also I love him to bits. But it is what happens and only do it if you it is what you want.