Is your puppy crying at night? Or crying in their crate? Hearing your new puppy crying can be really distressing. In this article we are going to help you to teach your puppy to be left alone sometimes, to be settled and happy in your home, and show you how to stop your puppy crying.
We’ll look at the causes of crying, at different types of puppy crying, including whining in the crate. And at what you can do today, to immediately start to solve the problem.
you can use these links to skip down to the sections below
- Why do puppies cry?
- How do I stop my puppy crying at night
- Why do new puppies cry so much
- When do puppies stop crying at night
- Should I leave my puppy to cry at night?
- How long should I let my puppy cry?
- Why do puppies cry at night
- How to stop puppies crying during the day
- Whining in the crate
- Learned crying in puppies
- Teaching puppies to be alone
- Summary and tips
You’ll find help with crying at night, crying during the day, whining in the crate, and much more. I also send general dog and puppy tips out by email, and you can get those by dropping your name into the email box below:
Why do puppies cry?
Like most baby mammals, puppies cry to get their needs met, and to alert those who care for them that they are in danger. Crying in very young puppies is usually a response to a strong physical or emotional need. Such as
- Full bladder/bowels
As puppies grow they may also learn to cry in order to get attention. Learned crying happens when the sound the puppy makes has been regularly rewarded in the past. That comes later, but you need to be aware of it so that you don’t create problems for yourself. We’ll talk about learned crying a bit more, in a moment.
Why do new puppies cry so much?
Most well fed puppies rarely cry from pain or hunger. And unless they are trapped in their bed, they don’t usually cry with a full bladder. They just pee where they are standing. So, during the first few days, your puppy crying will usually be from fear. This is not something that he is doing deliberately or that he can control.
What makes new puppies scared?
Think of it as homesickness. Only worse. Because your puppy doesn’t know when he is going to go home again, or where his family is. Fortunately very young puppies have short memories and soon get over their sadness but for those first few days your puppy will a little bit scared, even if he doesn’t show it. And he will be especially scared if he is left alone.
Why do puppies cry at night?
Most small puppies actually sleep quite well at night, if they are close to a grown up! Much of the night time crying that new puppy parents experience, is caused by attempting to get a puppy to sleep alone on their very first night. Sometimes this works out, and the puppy cries a bit and then goes to sleep. Mostly it ends with you lying awake with your fingers in your ears, while your puppy screams the night away in the kitchen.
Placed in a box or crate by your bed, the vast majority of puppies will sleep for several hours at a time. But most will need to wake and get up once or twice at night to go and pee. So the other cause of night time crying is often due to the puppy needing to answer the call of nature.
Leaving a puppy to sleep alone
If you don’t want to get up in the night to your puppy and you don’t want the puppy to sleep in your room, it’s important to make sure that the puppy can leave their bed to pee and poop on some puppy pads. You don’t want the puppy to be forced to pee in their bed and most new puppies cannot last all night without emptying their bladder at least once.
If left alone on the first night, the chances are your puppy will cry very loudly for some time. If you then go and get them up again, they will cry louder and for longer next time. So should you leave your puppy to cry it out?
Should I leave my puppy to cry at night?
If you leave your puppy to cry at night, there are some problems that can arise, these include:
- Sleep disturbance
- Waking the neighbors
- Separation anxiety
You may think that the puppy will go off to sleep quite quickly. But it doesn’t always work out that way. Some puppies will cry for most of the night. And unless you live in a soundproofed room or own a mansion, you will be able to hear the noise. Not only will you hear it, your neighbors will hear the puppy too. And they are unlikely to be happy about it.
If you can’t hear the puppy crying, you won’t know when they need to go outside to pee. And puppies left to cry it out at night may become so distressed that they have diarrhea. Which they will then walk in and get in their fur. I can tell you from experience, that shampooing a puppy in the wee small hours of the morning is no fun!
How to stop a puppy crying at night
You can stop a puppy crying at night by bringing them next to your bed in a box or crate. The puppy can smell and hear you and if they stir or get upset to begin with, you can reassure them with your hand.
Even though your new puppy is far away from their familiar den on the first night in your new home, if they are next to your bed they won’t be scared and you’ll both be able to sleep. This doesn’t have to be a permanent arrangement. You need to spend some time over the next few days preparing your puppy for the transition to their permanent sleeping quarters.
When do puppies stop crying at night?
Provided they can get out of their bed to pee, your puppy will stop crying when left alone at night, once they have a familiar, safe, ‘den’ in which to sleep. At the moment nothing in your home is familiar.
Small puppies in the wild are extremely vulnerable and it is vital for their survival that they are never left unattended unless in the safety of their den. So puppies instinctively cry for help if they find themselves alone outside their den. And will rest happily when they are inside it. You need to create that ‘den experience’ in your home. Your puppy doesn’t need a fancy bed or expensive blankets. It’s all to do with familiarity.
Making a happy den for your puppy
Over the next few days it’s important to keep leaving treats and toys in your puppy’s new crate or basket, so that it gradually becomes your puppy’s place of safety. Their happy place.
This doesn’t take very long if you are persistent and generous. You can use much of your puppy’s food ration up in this way. Your puppy will soon be taking themselves off happily into their crate for daytime naps. And in a few days they will be able to sleep there at night too, without being afraid.
How to stop puppies crying 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 an indicator that your puppy needs more food (check out our puppy feeding guide.)
The most common cause of crying during the day is as a result of the puppy being left alone while the grown ups go to another room. The best way to avoid this problem is to keep your puppy with you as much as possible for the first few days, then to teach them to be alone in easy stages. This is covered in some detail in my Puppy Parenting course. But here’s a quick summary
Teaching a puppy to be alone without crying
There are three stages to this training.
- Crate Conditioning
- Crate Nap Training
- Leaving The Room
Most puppies need to be crated when left alone, to keep them safe. Being left in a crate is actually two new things: being shut in, and being left. If you get the puppy used to being shut in a crate before you leave them alone, you’ll find the whole process easier for both of you.
The process crate conditioning is all about getting the puppy used to being put in the crate. Having the door shut behind them and then being let out again (immediately to start with)
Crate nap training
This is where you put a sleepy puppy into a crate and wait for them to go to sleep. During crate nap training, you need to stay near your puppy, in the same room. If you want to watch tv bring the crate in with you.
Leaving the room
How long to let a puppy cry in a crate
When you start crate training your puppy may protest at being shut in. But how long should you let a puppy cry in a crate? It’s best if you do not repeatedly leave your puppy to scream. Leaving a puppy to cry it out is a risky strategy. Many puppies will to cry long enough that they need to toilet again. Then you have a crying and a bed wetting problem on your hands.
The answer is to build your puppy’s ability to relax on their own in a crate, in stages. A puppy that yells if you leave the room for five minutes, needs to go back to being left for only a minute or so with plenty of treats fed through the bars at intervals which you can gradually space out. And you also need to avoid teaching your puppy to cry in order to get you to let him out.
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.
Many puppies fall asleep quite quickly in their crates to begin with and the family gets on with life, relying on the puppy to let them know when they are awake and ready for more fun. But the puppy’s only way of letting them know he wants to get up again is by whining. And this can quickly become a habit.
Whining in the crate
Whining in the crate tends to happen because the puppy has learned to whine in order to get the door open. And whining to be let out of the crate is really common. And the best way to avoid it, is to get your puppy up before they start whining. So that the habit never becomes established.
When you are crate nap training, wake your puppy after 15 minutes or so of sleep. Play a little while, then put the puppy back in the crate for another nap. Don’t wait until the puppy cries before you get them up, and if they do cry, don’t open the door until they stop. 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.We have two in-depth guides to help you.
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 couple of weeks 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.
Tips To Help You Avoid Learned Crying
Puppies don’t just cry when crated or left alone. Some puppies are very vocal for much of the time and quickly learn to cry for attention throughout the day. So it is really important that you do not ‘reinforce’ this kind of 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. All these things are rewarding to a puppy, so it’s important to do them when your puppy is doing something you want to encourage
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 an ‘event marker‘ You can use a word like ‘good’ or a click from 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 as a reward.
Building Up Time Alone
With a puppy that cries when left, over the space of a few days you can ask for longer periods of quiet before you press the click. Two or three seconds, then five, then ten, and so on. Working your 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.
Crate Training Your Puppy
Many people give the puppy the run of the whole house when he arrives in their home. 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 their 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. They need company and a little time to adjust to their new life
Your puppy needs you
People sometimes worry that this gentle and gradual approach to raising puppies and teaching them to be alone will spoil them. But it’s 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.
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.
This doesn’t mean your puppy has to have company all the time. On the contrary, he also needs to learn to be alone, but those first few days in your home are a special case. Don’t be afraid to spend time with your puppy especially in these early days. Puppies need to feel safe. And if you get this right, the crying will stop.
- 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
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website