Why Is My Puppy Crying and Whining and How Can I Help Them?

Why Do Puppies Cry?

Both puppies and adult dogs cry and whine, but often for different reasons. Puppies cry or whine when they are distressed, such as when they cannot find their mother. They emit sounds so that their mother can seek them out. When adult dogs cry and whine, their vocalizations may convey a greeting, a message of defense, an invitation to play, or maybe a sign of submission.

It is important to determine why your puppy is crying or whining so that you can comfort them when they are distressed and attend to their needs.

Puppy Developmental Stages and Learning to Communicate

The first two weeks of life for a puppy are called the neonatal period. Puppies are born with their eyes and ear canals closed, and their main activities are sleeping and nursing. They cry or whine to seek contact or care from their mother. At this stage, puppies are helpless; they rely on their mother for everything from food and grooming to a warm and secure place to sleep.

In the transition period, which is the next stage of development, the puppy’s eyes and ears open, and they progress from crawling to walking. The frequency of cries and whines gradually decreases over the next several weeks as the puppies mature and slowly become more independent.

The socialization period for a pup occurs next. This is the period of rapid maturation in the brain, and the puppy becomes more coordinated and exploratory. Socially, this is the most important developmental period in the puppy’s life where they learn to interact with their littermates.

At this life stage, consistent exposure to people, dogs, and other animals is crucial to help puppies develop attachment and gain confidence and familiarity. Also, puppies should be introduced to different floorings, sights, sounds, and objects that they will encounter as an adult. Use positive reinforcement methods to teach your puppy what you want them to do, without scaring them.

Positive reinforcement training helps provide a line of communication between the pet parents and the new puppy. It also helps decrease fear and anxiety and increases confidence and optimism in a dog.

Puppies may be enrolled in puppy socialization classes if they are at least 8 weeks old, are dewormed, have received their first puppy vaccinations, and are not showing any signs of illness. During these classes, they will get additional introductions to other puppies, people, environment, objects, and maybe even car rides.

Why Is My Puppy Crying?

Puppies cry and whine in various situations, so it’s important for pet parents to determine the cause of their distress in order to comfort them.


Puppies cry or whine when they feel scared and alone after being separated from their mother and littermates and are in a new environment, such as when the pet parent first brings the puppy home.

Once puppies have formed an attachment to their pet parents and other family members, they also may cry and whine when they are separated from them. This could be at night, when the pet parent goes to sleep, and the puppy is placed in their pen or crate. Remember, they are used to sleeping with their mother and littermates cuddling up to other warm bodies. Learning to sleep alone can be scary and lonely.

They may also vocalize when family members go out of sight for short or long periods of time, such as to the bathroom or work. Also, the puppy may cry if they are separated from other dogs that they have bonded with in the household. They may also protest being placed in a pen for housetraining and being separated from the rest of the family.


Puppies cry or whine when they experience pain, such as being stepped on, getting their first vaccine, or having their nails trimmed too short.


Puppies cry or whine when they are not feeling well. In addition to the crying, they may have other signs of illness such as vomiting, diarrhea, or discharge from their eyes or nose.

Items out of Reach

If a favorite toy rolls out of reach, the puppy may cry if they cannot retrieve it. They may whine if the pet parent removes an inappropriate item the puppy is chewing on, such as an electrical cord.

Crate Training

It is common for puppies to cry or whine when they are being crate trained. Sitting next to the pen/crate and playing with your puppy through the bars can help distract them. You can also give them food hidden in puzzle toys to work on while you slowly increase the distance between you and your puppy. This helps the puppy focus on other activities and learn to be more independent.

At night, place the pen or crate within arm’s reach so that the puppy can see you in bed. Sometimes it helps if you stick your hand through the bars so that your puppy can be comforted by the smell and warmth of your hand. This does not make for a comfortable sleeping position, but you may only need to do it for the first few nights until your puppy adjusts to their new sleeping quarters. Additional options include placing in the crate a stuffed toy that makes the sound of a beating heart or that provides warmth while the puppy sleeps. Using dog-appeasing pheromones may also be helpful in making the puppy feel safe and secure in the new home or crate/pen.

Should I Ignore My Crying Puppy?

When your puppy is distressed, it is fine to comfort them. You may not need to immediately pick them up after they cry or whine; however, physical contact in certain situations can provide comfort to your puppy, such as when another dog barks at them or just after a veterinarian has given them a vaccination.

If your puppy whines out of frustration after losing a toy or after you remove an item from them, such as your expensive shoe or the TV remote, make a noise to distract your puppy and interrupt the crying or whining, then redirect their attention to more appropriate toys or give them back the toy that fell out of reach.

Puppies may cry and whine depending on the situation. These are usually cries for help or for the need to be comforted. Do not ignore your puppy’s whines or cries, and try to know the cause of their distress.

It is important to provide puppies with the comfort they need in the first few days you bring them home, and to later give them the proper training to address any specific behavior issues or to add to their communication skills.

Remember that both positive and negative experiences during this crucial period of socialization will influence your puppy’s future behavior. You want your puppy to not be fearful but open to meeting new dogs and people and excited about having new adventures. The more the puppy feels safe and secure, the more confident and positive they will be as an adult.

Featured Image: Istock.com/PeopleImages

Wailani Sung, MS, PhD, DVM, DACVB


Wailani Sung, MS, PhD, DVM, DACVB


Dr. Wailani Sung has a passion for helping owners prevent or effectively manage behavior problems in companion animals, enabling them to...

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