Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, former veterinary assistant, and author of the online dog training course "Brain Training for Dogs."
Why Is My Puppy Crying at Night? The Making of a Whining Dog
It’s one of the earliest vocalizations puppies emit, and one that’s often inadvertently reinforced by well-meaning dog owners: In this article, we’re talking about whining. There’s whining and whining, so if you want to learn how to deal with a dog who whines too much, you must put on your investigative hat and first determine the underlying cause. Why do dogs whine?
An Instinctive Behavior
The behavior of whining starts early when puppies are still with their mom and littermates. Born blind, deaf and unable to regulate their temperature and eliminate on their own, puppies are in a pretty much helpless state. Fortunately, momma dog is aware of their vulnerable state, so she’s always within reach so she can intervene at the first signs of trouble.
Whining at this stage is an important form of communication that puppies rely on to inform their mothers that they are hungry or cold. It’s also a good way to help mother dog locate her puppies should they become separated. No puppy had to take a class to learn how to whine; it’s an instinctive behavior that has an adaptive purpose so to grant the pups’ survival. However, just as with babies crying, as the pups grow, they start putting 2 and 2 together and the pups start associating behavior with consequence.
Whining brings warmth, whining brings food, whining brings attention. Whining is rewarding behavior, so a learning component is added to what was once an instinctive behavior.
Reinforcement of Whining Behaviors
Now, something important to consider is the work of B. F. Skinner, the father of operant conditioning. Skinner claimed that behavior that is reinforced tends to strengthen and repeat, while behavior that is not reinforced tends to weaken and extinguish. Puppies are not aware of the work of B. F. Skinner, but they sure learn quickly that whining works, so whining soon becomes a way of life.
It’s not surprising, therefore, that once the puppies reach 8 weeks and go to their new homes, they may use their whining around their new caretakers. The line between using the whining to fulfill real needs and getting attention is very thin. It’s up to the new puppy owners to make sure that whining does not get out of hand.
The puppy whines to tell the owner the bowl of water is empty? Fine. The puppy whines to tell the owner it’s time to take him out to potty? Perfect! The puppy whines the first night in his new home because he feels lonely being away from his mother and littermates? Understandable.
Problems start when puppy owners reinforce certain forms of whining by attending to the minimum noise the puppy makes, rushing to him as if he’s risked his life every time. Soon the puppy learns how to use whining to manipulate his owners every time he feels bored or wants attention. This may lead to a future of pushy behaviors. Here are some common scenarios.
Teaching Puppies to Whine
The following cliche happens to almost all new puppy owners: They adopt an adorable puppy, and every night upon placing him in the crate for the night, the concert begins. Concerned about the poor puppy being afraid of being left alone, the owner will rush to the puppy to console it and let it know that ''mommy'' is there. Unfortunately, this approach does more than providing reassurance to the new puppy; it actually has taught him an invaluable lesson, reminiscent of the times he was in the litter: whining works!
Indeed, whining should never be encouraged, whether you are dealing with a 2-month-old baby who is crying or a small puppy. Both infants may have small brains and have so much still to learn about life, but they already have the capability of understanding which behaviors bring results and which do not. So how to approach that tiny puppy that keeps you awake almost all night long?
If it's the first night you have adopted the puppy, it's a good practice to allow the crate in the bedroom, just the first night or two. Simply put, being in a new home is traumatic for a puppy that has lived in a home with his mom, littermates and previous owner. Your new home has new smells, new sounds and new views, and ultimately, there is really nothing familiar surrounding him. It is OK, therefore, to have him nearby the first few nights, just so he knows he has somebody to rely on and to understand that he has not been abandoned in the dead of the night.
Having him nearby is also helpful because the puppy will need to go out to potty at night because his bladder is still small, and the only way to let you know he must go is through whining. Check as well if he needs some water or if he is too cold or too hot. Whining in dogs is often a sign of him being uncomfortable.
Then, as days go by and the puppy is more familiar with the home, your presence and the smells, his crate may be gradually pushed farther and farther from the bedroom. As you learn how often he must go potty in the night, learn to differentiate signs of needing to go potty from signs of simply wanting to see you for comfort. If you notice he is simply seeking your attention, all you need to do at this point is ignore him, no matter how loud he whines. If you have been rewarding his whining with attention in the past, be ready for some extinction bursts!
Read More From Pethelpful
Causes of Whining in Dogs
Of course, there are many reasons dogs whine, and the best way to tackle whining in dogs is to recognize what your dog is trying to communicate through his whining. Puppies are natural whiners—after all, whining is how they get their mom's attention. Mom, however, at some point, learns when it is time to lend a deaf ear to those whiny voices.
When the pups come to our new homes, it's up to us not to reinforce undesirable reasons for whining. Adult dogs resort to whining as well once grown up and for various reasons. Following are some common causes of whining in dogs.
Some dogs whine out of pain. It is never a bad idea to have a dog seen if it appears to whine for no obvious reason. Watch for other signs suggesting some discomfort or pain.
Dogs have needs regardless of age. Puppies may need comfort, water, food or warmth. Adult dogs may whine for the same reasons; a dog may be found whining in front of an empty water bowl or whining because it wants to seek human companionship. Make sure your dog is not cold, hungry, thirsty, lonely or needs to be taken out. Don't forget about meeting your dog's needs for exercise, play and mental stimulation.
Dogs may whine for attention when they realize that . . . it brings attention. The recipe for a whiny dog is easy; just give it attention, and you are set up for success. While all dogs like attention, it's important to learn when and how to give it. Give your dog attention when he's calm, and ignore your dog when he's whining or acting pushy. Don't forget, though, that for some dogs, even negative attention is a form of attention!
Dogs may whine when they are frustrated. A good example is a dog whining at a squirrel going up a tree or at another dog behind a fence. They simply whine because they are frustrated because they are unable to get to the object of their attention. Visual barriers may reduce this type of whining.
Stressful situations may cause whining episodes in dogs. Just think of dogs whining at the vet's office, when there are thunderstorms or when left alone during the day. To help these dogs, you may need to invest in calming aids.
As seen, there are various causes of whining in dogs. The way owners react to the whining may really make a difference in the way dogs perceive their owners. Attention whining should never get attention, stress whining should never be scolded, it's important to help these dogs feel less stressed, frustration whining should never be reinforced such as taking a dog out to chase a squirrel, or he will whine anytime a squirrel is in the yard, and of course, pain whining needs attention.
Dogs may not have a lot of vocabulary compared to humans, but it helps at least to understand what they are trying to say when they vocalize with us.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
Question: My dog whines by the glass door when she see squirrels outside, what should we do?
Answer: Sounds like your dog has high prey drive. You can try to block off visual to that area by keeping your dog in another area of the house and finding a productive way to channel this drive by playing with her with a flirt pole (great tool for training!), engaging him in some fun doggy sports like Treibball, barn hunt trials or flyball. Whining and obsessing at the door is not good as it causes frustration and no outlet.
Question: My dog has whined since I got him at 10 weeks. He is now 6 months and likes to just whine all the time. Why?
Answer: Sounds like your dog may benefit from more exercise, training, and mental stimulation. A dog cannot whine much if you keep his mouth busy such as letting him a fetch a ball, letting him work for his kibble using interactive food puzzles and letting him play tug or chase a flirt pole. Make sure that you reinforce non-whining behaviors. In other words, if you are about to toss him a ball or feed his meal, make sure you toss the ball or feed him when he is quiet. Often behind a dog who whines too much is an owner who inadvertently has reinforced the whining by petting the dog, feeding the dog and giving the dog attention every time he whines.
Question: My puppy has been whining nonstop for an hour. What can I do?
Answer: It would be helpful trying to find out why your puppy is whining in the first place so that it can be addressed. Is your puppy whining by the door and asking to be let outside? He may have smelled something, or he may know that there is some critter outside. He may be whining for your attention. He may need to go potty or may want to join you. Whining can also be medically-induced in case your dog has a physical problem. As seen, there are many possibilities, and these are just a few.
Question: My six-month-old German shepherd whines at the door as soon as I put her in my bedroom. She does not want water, food, or to go out. What do I do?
Answer: Is your dog with you when you put him in the bedroom or alone? If alone, most likely he wants to be with you. If with you, then maybe he wants to go out to explore, play and not settle down in a boring bedroom. You can try exercising him and providing mental stimulation before putting him in the bedroom. Perhaps also give him a stuffed Kong to help him stay a bit occupied and settle down once in the bedroom.
Question: Ever since my German Shepherd turned one she has gotten in this routine of whining in the her crate in the morning. Along with that she also has barked at my husband and me when we interact with each other. We don’t know why this started because she didn’t used to do this; it only started after she turned one. What could be the potential cause?
Answer: At one, she is at the doggy adolescent stage. Lots of things going on at this time. The whining may be attention-seeking behavior. She may be eager to start the day and wants to get out and may want to be included when she notices your interactions. At this stage, it helps to ensure the dog has enough mental stimulation and training and that the whining isn't reinforced, but calm behavior is. Impulse control exercises can come helpful. https://pethelpful.com/dogs/Understanding-Dog-Frus...
Question: My pup whined on the vet table and vet shoved him hard several times until I said stop. She said it's correct training and I said no. Should I swap vets?
Answer: This is unacceptable and will only traumatize your puppy at future vet visits. Please look for a vet clinic that is "fear-free" certified.
© 2009 Adrienne Farricelli
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on September 07, 2020:
Please consult with your vet on this.
James on August 29, 2020:
My six week old puppy keeps whining. It just started and I’ve had him for about five days now. He’s eaten and used the bathroom and usually he goes to sleep after, he tries to lay down but keeps whining like he can’t get comfortable. Am I worried or so I have a problem ?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 25, 2020:
At one week, persistent whining can be due to a variety of things such as mother dog not producing enough milk, getting chilled, inability to nurse, parasites to just name a few. It may be a good idea to have her see a vet to check her out.
Michael walker on August 25, 2020:
My puppy is a week old if not younger, shes been whining everyday.
Willing moving around, while feeding, napping with her sibblings. Why is that?
Shellie(Queenie)my chihuahua a new mother of two little puppie on May 19, 2020:
Queenie is my chihuahua who had two little puppies 11 days old but there one of them tnat whines this is my first time having a female dog exspicially one whos had puppie what do i do """""HELP ME PLEASE
brittany caine on March 17, 2020:
I just started noticing about 3 days ago my 2 year old husky is whining and crying alot more then normal and the only thing that has changed is I'm getting induced this week.. what can I do to help her ? Why is she behaving like this?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on October 26, 2019:
Kaityln, I don't think dogs whine for no reason, there is always an underlying cause just us as humans cry for a reason. Is your dog a male? Can it be there is a female dog in heat nearby? Can your dog be in pain? Can there be critters that moved in your attic?
Kaitlyn Buckley on October 25, 2019:
My dogs has been whining for a week straight for no reason what do I do
Tallula Newton on March 20, 2019:
My 9 month old shih tzu puppy ( a girl ) is whineing / crying and I’m not sure what it is .we give her love and affection ,food ,she’s healthy but we think she could have her period or some of the dog walkers say it could be her wanting a baby so she gets really upset but I don’t know please give me advise
Tommi Grace from Woodward on March 13, 2019:
My nine-year old dog stress whines. She has done it her whole life. She does it when she hears people outside or when it storms and especially on the 4th of July when people are popping firecrackers. The vet gave us anxiety pills for her but they make her "dopey". I give her attention when I feel like she is feeling anxious. It doesn't stop the whining. I wonder if it has just become a learned behavior reinforced by my attention. I can live with the whining; my main concern is that I want what is best for her well-being. I want her to feel less stress without medication. I live in a small town and we don't have access to professional dog training classes we can attend together. What can I do to make her feel better?
Amanda on March 01, 2019:
My 9 week old puppy cries randomly. He'll have just eaten food, just drank some water, played and even went potty outside. Sometimes I think he just cries because he's tired, but why doesn't he just go to sleep? He can't want attention because even with him in my lap he'll cry. Is it discomfort? He's got so many places to lie down and be comfortable, nice beds, different kinds, couches, even my bed. Is he looking for something? He has my other dog for entertainment whenever I'm not playing with him. I've had him for about 2 weeks, almost 3. I don't contain him, if he wants to go be by himself, he can, if he wants a cuddle, he's got it. I don't praise or really pay attention to his cries unless it's for needs to be sated. But I'd still like to know what causes him to cry randomly so often?
Brandy on February 02, 2019:
My dog had a litter close to a year ago and she lives with us. I think my brother takes her to see her litter every once in awhile. Could that be why she doesn't let go her favorite toy and bow whines all day?
gilda on November 07, 2018:
my 6 year old shihztu / toy poodle mix has brought back her separation anxiety. She had weaned out of this from a puppy but it appears it has come back in the last month. Each morning when my husband and I leave to go to work she clings on us with her nails, cries very loud and tries to escape the front door to come with us. I am not sure why this habit has returned. What can I do to calm her down? It takes about 5 min for us to try and close the door with out her crying so loud. I feel so bad leaving her behind
Alison on July 25, 2018:
I have a 3yr old lhasa apso who has seperation anxiety i have been told by a behaviourist to crate train he will go in it but when door shut or i go to bed hes wineing and starts to bark had few sleepless nights how do i sort this without constantly getting up and telling him no im in a flat
angel on July 02, 2018:
i have a new puppy and put him in a create after dinner and he cries non stop after i leave. . i read about reinforcing the whining of your puppies if you keep patting or attending to him whenever he whine.. so i ignored his crying for 2-3hrs and then he just stop.
Walter Henriques on May 19, 2018:
Odin, was not labeled as an orphan but at just passed his twelve weeks on this earth, he experienced extreme trauma from his first owner. A single retired woman whom had a very different idea and/or vision of the responsibilities that will demand of her. Odin is a "Chiguagua". Go figure. Before getting him, her life required nothing but making sure that she is taken cared of first. Going to the gym for almost half the day (the culture thing. Social Pick Up). It was the first day I got him that his whining and making sure that he was close...very close to my side. Then his nervousness and always cowering with ears held back and tail between his legs. He despised the refridgerator, and whines because he needs attention. I was curious as to why he was behaving such as that. Then she spilled the beans. I informed her that I had talked with her landlord, because she had used the landlord as her excuse to get rid of him. Just leave it as is, but she should have gone to jail for what she had done to this poor dog at such a very young age. So, its an uphill climb for sure. But I love him so much...brat yes...but I'm also learning how to adjust and be patient.
Erin on March 09, 2018:
Yeah, umm, I think me and my roommate have been reinforcing our puppy's whining behavior..... By accident, of course! Our sweet little princess is only three months old. We've had her for a little over a week and she's pretty well behaved. That is, until bedtime rolls around. We keep her in a pen with a crate inside of it at night, but shortly after we put her in it, she starts whining and yelping, which results in us going to her to try to quiet her down so that we can sleep. Big mistake because now, every time we try to walk away from her, she will start crying again. She can keep it up for hours. I didn't know we were giving her the wrong kind of attention until now. What would be the easiest way to retrain her? I feel terrible because we are the ones who caused her to behave this way!
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on February 21, 2018:
Doug, you may need to evaluate why your dog is whining in the first place. At 8 months he's in prime doggy adolescence, he may need more exercise and mental stimulation. IIt may be that he is hearing sounds that you may not be hearing. In such a case having some white noise on can help. If the whining is directed towards you, then if whining from attention, ignoring is the best option. If it happens often, provide some interactive toys before you expect it to occur if it tends to happen at certain times of the day or when you are sitting on the couch.
Doug on February 17, 2018:
how do you stop the whining of an 8 month old dog.. not hungry or thirsty.. should i just ignore it and her while she is doing it?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on February 01, 2018:
It takes some time to get pups used to being in the crate. Leave the door open at first and let your pup find goodies in it, toys, treats, etc. Then start feeding meals in it, closing the door and opening only once your pup is done eating. Do not open the crate if pup is whining, open only when quiet. Make sure you have soft blanket in it and provide a stuffed Kong to enjoy while in it. Make sure you pup is mentally stimulated and exercised during the day so that he's tired at night.
Gayle Wright on January 13, 2018:
We have 12 week old puppy whose sleeping in crate in our room. He refuses t settle when crate door is shut. He will eventually sleep outside in kennel. How do we make transition & get crate from our bedroom.
Shaye-Marie on December 10, 2017:
My 8 week old Chihuahua wont sleep unless he's with me in my bed. So i put him into the bathroom to sleep and he wont stop whineing
michael campbell on November 29, 2017:
I have a 7 year old Blenheim Terrier he is a recue dog he will whine if everyone is in the room watching t.v. We have hi since he was eight months old .He will stare at the person watching t.v. and whine at them.
James fisher on October 25, 2017:
I have a working Labrador puppy who is 5 months old who whines for seemingly no reason there’s always water, she is in a feeding routine she is excercised , so how do I stop this, she has also taken to howling in the mornings, thanks in advance.
Caroline Nightingale on March 24, 2017:
Our 13 week puppy had stopped whining when left at night but has now started again any tips or advise please
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 03, 2013:
In what context does he whine? If you are ignoring and he is getting louder and louder you may actually be dealing with an extinction burst, keep it up in such a case! Here is a read about extinction bursts:
If he is whining, wait for the moment he stops, and reward him by giving him a long -lasting treat such as a bully stick or deer antler, this will keep him busy for a while. If he is whining because he is bored, up his exercise and mental stimulation, a tired dog is a good dog! Is he neutered? if not, maybe there's a dog in heat nearby?
Calpaige on May 03, 2013:
My dog is almost 2 and has just started whining. It drives me nuts. No matter how long I ignore him he still whines louder and louder. This is becoming an issue because not only do we live in an apartment but I have a baby due in a month. What can I possible do to make him stop?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on January 31, 2013:
Nae for "spoiled" I meant like how babies learn to cry to get mommy coming , perhaps this starts a little later, but when I worked in daycare my coworkers were often instructed not to run towards a crying baby unless there was a reasonable reason such a diaper change or hunger.
Nae on January 30, 2013:
Good advice for whiny dogs. My dog was going off one night. I took him for a walk, feed him, played him him for a but- nothing. Few hours of on and off whining and I let him out in the backyard- Turned out he just wanted to poo in the yard (finicky pooper). Just one remark- you can't spoil a 2 month old [human] baby. Babies are not able to become "spoiled" until they are much older, you would very much be neglecting the baby instead of spoiling him/her.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 06, 2012:
He should calm down once the novelty of having him around takes place. I think it is just a matter of time of him getting used to this new family member.
rodney on May 06, 2012:
We just got a puppy pit two months ago and our older dog always whine, smell hit butt, and follow him everywhere he goes. What should we do?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 27, 2012:
Well, take it as you want; both are different species, yes, but dogs are believed to have the mental capabilities par to a two year old child, and I was not trying to give parental advice, it was for sake of example...
Nokada on April 27, 2012:
Thanks for the advice concerning dog behavior. I would have been more open to it if you had kept it about dogs. Not sure about you... By my children are not dogs. Human babies and puppies are different species and should not be compared when it comes to "training". So, stick to what you know. Not into your "parenting" advice.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on January 04, 2012:
If he is very social he may be whining because he wants to be included, however, some dogs also whine when they are anxious about something,
Dan Carr on January 02, 2012:
My dog whines when hears familiar voices come into my apartment. Especially if the door is closed and he can have access to the person in the other room. Why is this does he want to be included ?
Cynthia Calhoun from Western NC on December 05, 2011:
This information is great! I learned some new facts when it comes to my dog. Thanks! Voted up.
Emma on October 31, 2011:
My 4 month old puppy whines through the night, whether in the kitchen with his sister or in his crate alone. He just wants out and to be with us. We always ignore him and have never once given in, well at 5am we let them in the garden to pee, as we are trying to train them to hold it in till morning.
We are at the end of our tether, we just don't know how to help little Fred settle in :-(
iitalianangel on October 30, 2011:
That puppy is adorable...I have a 4 year old baby pit mixed with a beagle. He's the best
TattooKitty from Hawaii on October 16, 2011:
Thanks for the great info! My 1 year-old Yorkie whines constantly. Of course, he always does it right after dropping a toy at your feet. Bit of a fetch-addict, that one is. Cute trick, except when it's late at night and you just want to watch TV!
ValL from UK on September 26, 2011:
I'm crate training my dog at the moment with the intention of not leaving her in the crate for more than a few hours a day. I'm getting better at recognizing which types of whining she does. I'm now making sure not to let her out of her crate when she whines and to wait until she's quiet and she is slowly getting better. I think sometimes it's harder on me than on her! But I will persevere.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 24, 2011:
Sounds like he is over-dependent on you. Don't let him follow you ever where all the time. Randomly close him in a room for five minutes and open the door only when he is quiet. Then gradually increase the time opening only when he is quiet. Sounds like as mild case of separation anxiety, you need to work on it before it gets worst, here is an article:
Kitsrayson1 on August 24, 2011:
My dog is a 8month old pit he cries and barks if im talking laughing,in the bathroom if I leave he cries,barks,chews on the window seals,and chews up the mini blinds. His dog bed toys chews the paint off the walls he is very spoiled .what should I do?
Mrs. J. B. from Southern California on February 02, 2011:
So this explains why my now grown pitbull called Puppy whines. Thank You for the sound advice
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on January 07, 2011:
Toss your dog a stuffed kong with treats every time you notice something that may trigger his response.. this will give him an alternative behavior (he will try to get the goodies out) plus he will start associated those threatening animals with something positive so there is no reason to feel intimated in the long run! best wishes~
David on January 06, 2011:
My dog whines at the TV and it drives me completely insane. He won't stop and nothing I have found has been any help. In the mean time I am unable to watch anything on TV with an animal or fighting because the dog whimpers when he sees it on the screen. I am at my wits end.
foxwalk on August 17, 2010:
This is a great hub. All too many dog owners make the mistake of coddling their puppies and bringing them into bed with them, only to find out later is is extremely difficult to get them out of bed. Worse yet, some dogs may even aggressively defend the bed.
Apple on July 01, 2010:
When we got out puppy, we brought a blanket & toy and with each visit, we rubbed the mother's & liter scent on them. It helped greatly!!
Jorge Vamos on June 04, 2010:
Mostly they seem to want attention when they whine, in my experience. It's too cute to ignore sometimes.
viryabo from Lagos, Nigeria. on March 04, 2010:
Such an adorable puppy.
I now know how to handle whinnings of young puppies. It used to make me feel so sad just hearing their whine all night long, but the idea of them being in the room with you for the first few days makes a lot of sense.
Thanks for this great and informative hub.
Emily Robinson on October 14, 2009:
Love the picture of the puppy
buddy12love on September 09, 2009:
i never knew that's why they whined love the pic
filthyscoundral on September 02, 2009:
gumballs on August 09, 2009:
great hub. Love the photo!
vidhu1707 from India on July 27, 2009:
good tips...will try tis with my pup...
advisor4qb from On New Footing on July 07, 2009:
Will hang onto this one. We are getting a dog.
ocbill from hopefully somewhere peaceful and nice on July 07, 2009:
thanks for the useful tips. I lean towards the attention need.
l1blonde on July 07, 2009:
Good hub. Good information for 1st time dog owners.