Is your puppy crying at night? And is the crying getting worse? Is he whining in his crate too?
Are you wondering when the crying is going to stop? If so, the help you need is here.
You’ll find help with crying at night, crying during the day, whining in the crate, and much more.
We’ll look at why puppies cry, and what is normal for a new puppy and what is not.
You’ll discover when it is reasonable to expect puppies to stop crying.
What went wrong?
Most new puppy owners are prepared for a few bumps in the road.
And they even know there will be a few tears at bed time.
But what can be shocking is the extent to which some puppies scream.
Why do puppies cry?
Puppies cry to get their needs met, and to alert those who care for them that the puppy is in danger.
And while you know that your puppy isn’t in danger, he doesn’t!
All puppies cry, and some puppies cry a lot.
Listening to a crying puppy can be very distressing, and losing sleep can disrupt your life and make you prone to accidents.
So it is important to settle your puppy in as quickly as possible
We can divide puppy crying into two types
- Natural crying
- Learned crying
Learned crying is what puppies do because the sound they make has been rewarded in the past.
Why new puppies cry so much
During the first few days, your puppies crying will be natural or instinctive.
Not something that he is doing deliberately or that he can control. So there is no point punishing him.
Natural crying is a response to a strong physical or emotional need. Such as
- Full bladder/bowels
But by far the majority of new puppy crying, especially at night, is from fear of being alone.
Many newly adopted puppies do this
And this crying can be stopped by making the puppy feel safe.
A study published in 1977 look at separation distress in 24 young puppies and found that the most effective way to alleviate separation distress in puppies, was human company
Better than another dog, much better than toys and even better than food.
In other words, your puppy needs you.
Why do puppies cry at night?
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.
To a puppy, a den is the place where the puppy was born and grew up, and it represents complete safety.
Your puppy won’t cry in his den, unless his other needs (toileting thirst etc) are not met.
That’s because he feels totally safe there. Even when his mother is away.
But when you bring a new puppy into your own home.
He is leaving his den, or place of safety, far away.
Even though you have provided him with a lovely cosy bed or basket, he doesn’t yet feel safe there.
If at any time your small Labrador puppy is left alone outside of his ‘den’, he will cry and if there is no response to that cry he will make a distinctive and piercing alarm call to alert his ‘grown ups’ to his predicament.
This alarm can be extremely loud and may seem as though he is screaming or howling in pain.
In the wild, this alarm could save a puppy’s life. In your home, it is pointless and annoying, but your new puppy doesn’t know that.
And of course what happens to many puppies on their first night in a new home, with no familiar den, is that as soon as night falls, they are to all intents and purposes abandoned.
Hence the howling and yelling. Your puppy is literally screaming for his life.
How to stop a puppy crying at night
The way to stop the puppy crying and switch off the alarm call is to make him feel safe again.
That usually means having the puppy sleep next to you.
If you put the puppy in a separate room so that he is isolated, this may cause the puppy stress, and a stressed puppy is going to yell.
There is some evidence that the use of Dog Appeasing Pheromones (DAP) may reduce this stress and we’ll look at that in a moment.
But the only way to stop a puppy yelling altogether is to let him see a friendly human face, or, to leave him in his “safe place” or ‘home den’. And there are problems with this.
- You don’t want to be traipsing around the house to show a puppy your friendly human face at 3am. (In any case, it probably isn’t very friendly face at this hour)
- You can’t put your puppy in his den when you go to bed because as far as he is concerned it’s miles away in another person’s house
- You can’t respond too often to a puppy crying at night through isolation because it teaches the puppy that crying is a useful tool (see learned crying).
- Responding to night crying also means tramping about during the night and losing sleep
You can try ignoring the puppy, but be warned that he will probably get so upset that he soils himself, and if he is in a crate he will probably cover himself in poop by jumping around in it.
I can tell you from experience, that shampooing a puppy in the wee small hours of the morning is no fun!
In a few days, your puppy will have readjusted his concept of the home den – a place where he feels safe.
At that point his own bed, basket or crate in your home will have become a place of safety.
The problem is – what to do in the meantime.
When do puppies stop crying at night
If you leave a puppy alone and don’t respond to him at night at all, most puppies will eventually stop crying.
For some puppies this can happen within a day or so. There are the puppies that sleep peacefully from the first night – but they usually belong to someone else.
Most puppies take three or four days to adjust.
I have had a puppy that cried every night for over a week, but at some point within the first week, the vast majority of puppies will stop crying at night.
That is provided that the puppy hasn’t ‘learned’ to cry. I’ll explain how you can avoid that in a minute.
It’s also important to recognize that leaving a puppy to cry alone won’t make him tougher.
On the contrary, studies suggest that higher levels of maternal care (and in this case you are now the substitute carer) makes puppies braver and more confident.
This is one of the reasons that I no longer use the ‘crying it out’ option with my pups
How to avoid night crying in puppies
The answer is to pre-empt the fear screaming that some puppies (not all) do during their first few nights away from home by keeping them next to you at night.
That means having the puppy in your room while you sleep.
From the very first night, until the puppy has stopped feeling homesick.
During that time, the best solution is usually to have the puppy in a crate or sturdy box, next to your bed.
Fortunately puppies don’t need to see your face with the light on in order to feel safe.
They are happy to be able to smell your presence and hear your voice and even your breathing
The vast majority of new puppies will settle happily at night in this situation.
And after a few nights, you can then move the puppy downstairs to his crate or puppy proof room.
He may still cry a little, but it won’t be because he is afraid.
How to stop puppies crying during the day
Daytime crying is often learned crying, but there are some other reasons puppies may cry during the day
Some puppies will cry if they are very hungry, but many will not, so don’t be tempted to use crying as a puppy feeding guide.
Nor should you assume a puppy is well if he isn’t crying. Sick puppies don’t alway make a noise.
Some 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.
Whining in the crate
Whining in the crate tends to be because the puppy has learned to whine in order to get the door open.
Or because the puppy needs to relieve himself.
It isn’t always possible to tell one reason from the other.
It is essential if you crate your puppy during the day or at night, that you give him chance to leave the crate often enough to keep himself clean.
Learned Crying In Puppies
Puppies learn through the consequences of their behavior. 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.
One of the most common reasons for puppies to cry in those first few days, as we have seen, is loneliness – or fear of being abandoned.
Teaching Puppies To Be Alone
It is nice to see that some vet puppy packs are including information on teaching puppies to be alone.
If you go out to work, then your puppy will probably be spending some time alone from an early age.
But not all puppies learn this valuable skill
One of the things that my own vet’s leaflets stress is 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 socialization ‘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.
One study showed that the majority of puppies left home alone for up to 60 minutes did not exhibit stress related behaviors, and those that were stressed improved with practice at being alone.
Note that this was a maximum of one hour. Long periods of isolation are not appropriate for young pups.
I suggest you start leaving your puppy alone for short periods (a few minutes) during the day from the end of his first week.
Check out the important information below to avoid teaching him to cry!
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, because all these things are rewarding to a puppy
Many people find this quite 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.
Try to pre-empt potential episodes of crying by ensuring that your puppy gets regular periods of company, plenty of opportunity to use the outdoor toilet area, plenty of safe toys to chew and a safe, familiar place to sleep
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 Puppy’s 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.
When the puppy is being quiet, I press the clicker and reward the puppy with a treat or a cuddle.
This is especially useful if a puppy has started yelling when you leave the room. Wait for a pause in the crying, then click for quiet, and return.
You can give the puppy a treat or a cuddle as a reward.
The use of dog appeasing pheromone for new puppies
Mother dogs give off a pheromone when they suckle their puppies that helps the puppies relax.
It’s called Dog Appeasing Pheromone or DAP for short, and in recent years it has been possible to purchase DAP for use in the home.
Being removed from Mom and siblings is undoubtedly a stressful experience for a young puppy and this is a factor in crying, whining and barking in pups left alone for even short periods of time.
A study published in 2008 found that DAP reduced the vocalizations of newly adopted puppies, and if you want to give DAP a try, you can purchase it online or in pet stores
It comes as a spray or a diffuser. Reviews are mixed but it might be worth a try if you have a very homesick puppy.
Building Up Time Alone
With a puppy that cries when left, over the space of 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 in those early days is restricting his space a little to encourage the development of a ‘den’ area.
Crate Training Your Puppy
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.
Remember, 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.
Giving a puppy the freedom and access that you would to a human guest might seem only fair, but puppies don’t need freedom.
- Try to avoid triggering the puppy’s fear response or teaching him to cry for attention
- Have the puppy by your bed at night for the first four or five nights
- Teach your puppy to be alone during the day for short periods from the second week
- Build up alone time duration gradually
- Provide the puppy with plenty of company, and interaction
References and further reading
- Guardini G et al. 2016 Influence of morning maternal care on the behavioural responses of 8-week-old Beagle puppies to new environmental and social stimuli. Applied Animal Behaviour Science
- Gaultier E et al. 2008. Efficacy of dog-appeasing pheromone in reducing stress associated with social isolation in newly adopted puppies. Vet Record
- Petitjohn T et al. 1977. Alleviation of separation distress in 3 breeds of young dogs. Developmental Psychobiology
- Cannas Simona et al. 2009. Puppy behavior when left home alone: Changes during the first few months after adoption. Journal of Veterinary Behaviour
- Gaultier E et al. 2009. Efficacy of dog-appeasing pheromone in reducing behaviours associated with fear of unfamiliar people and new surroundings in newly adopted puppies. Vet Record