Why Dogs Cry/Whine At Night – All Reasons Explained

As a dog owner, you may have experienced those nights when your beloved furry companion starts crying or whining, leaving you perplexed and concerned. While it’s normal for dogs to vocalize, understanding the reasons behind their nighttime cries and whines is crucial for their well-being and your peace of mind.

why dogs cry at night

The Nature of Dogs’ Vocalizations

Different Vocalizations of Dogs

Dogs are known for their various vocalizations, and each one conveys a different message. Barking is their most common form of vocalization, often used to alert or warn. However, crying and whining are more emotionally charged expressions. Crying may indicate distress, while whining can signal a range of emotions, from anxiety to excitement.

Dogs’ Communication Through Vocalizations

In the wild, dogs rely on their vocalizations to communicate with pack members and convey their needs and emotions. Domestic dogs have retained this instinct, using their vocal range to express feelings and seek attention. Crying at night might be a way for dogs to signal their discomfort or seek comfort and companionship, especially if they are separated from their human family members.

Common Reasons for Pet or Street Dogs Crying/Whining at Night

  • Separation Anxiety

    One of the primary reasons dogs cry or whine at night is separation anxiety. Dogs are pack animals, and when we leave them alone during bedtime, they can feel distressed and isolated. This anxiety manifests as vocalizations when they long for the comforting presence of their human family. If your dog exhibits signs of restlessness, destructive behavior, or excessive barking when left alone, it may indicate separation anxiety.

  • Warning Signs

    When it comes to street dogs, they usually become active after all humans/traffic has vanished and they howl and mark their territories. There are area/territorial disputes when a dog enters the territory of another dog knowingly or unknowingly in the search of food or water or just for exploration.

  • Attention Seeking

    We all know our dogs love attention, and they can be quite persistent in seeking it, especially at night. Some dogs may cry or whine simply to gain our attention, asking for affection or to be near us. If you find your dog nuzzling, pawing, or nudging you during the night, it’s likely their way of saying, “Hey, pay attention to me!”

  • Fear or Stress

    Just like humans, dogs can experience fear and stress, and nighttime can be a particularly vulnerable time for them. Environmental factors such as loud noises, new surroundings, or unfamiliar scents can trigger fear or stress, leading to vocalizations. If your dog seems agitated, trembles, or seeks hiding places during the night, they may be expressing their unease through crying or whining.

  • Physical Discomfort or Pain

    Sometimes, dogs cry or whine at night because they are experiencing physical discomfort or pain. Medical conditions like arthritis, gastrointestinal issues, or injuries can cause discomfort that is more noticeable during rest periods. Pay attention to any changes in your dog’s behavior or mobility, as they may be vocalizing to communicate their discomfort.

  • Environmental Factors

    Environmental changes can also impact dogs at night and contribute to their vocalizations. Moving to a new home, rearranging furniture, or bringing in new family members can cause anxiety in dogs. Additionally, loud noises such as thunderstorms or fireworks can startle and distress them, leading to nighttime crying or whining.

How to Address/Stop Nighttime Crying/Whining of Your Dog/Puppy

Now that we understand the reasons behind our dogs’ nighttime vocalizations, let’s explore effective strategies to address and manage this behavior with care and understanding.

A. Rule Out Medical Issues

Before diving into behavior modification techniques, it’s crucial to ensure our furry companions are in good health. If your dog suddenly starts crying or whining at night, it could be a signal of an underlying medical issue. Seeking a veterinary evaluation is essential to rule out any health concerns. Addressing medical issues first ensures that we are not overlooking discomfort or pain, and it sets the foundation for successful behavior modification.

B. Gradual Desensitization

Desensitization is a valuable technique to help our dogs overcome their fears or anxieties related to nighttime triggers. The process involves introducing the triggering stimuli gradually and associating them with positive experiences. For instance, if your dog is afraid of loud noises, play recorded sounds at a low volume during the day while engaging them in enjoyable activities. Gradually increase the volume over time to help them develop a positive association with the sounds.

C. Establish a Bedtime Routine

Dogs, like humans, thrive on routine. Establishing a consistent bedtime routine can signal to our furry friends that it’s time to wind down and relax for the night. Include calming activities, such as a short evening walk or gentle play, followed by quiet time. Using familiar cues like a specific phrase or gentle petting can also signal bedtime. The predictability of a bedtime routine can promote a sense of security and relaxation in our dogs.

D. Avoid Reinforcing Unwanted Behavior

It’s natural for us to respond to our dogs’ cries with concern and attention. However, inadvertently reinforcing crying or whining with attention can perpetuate the behavior. Instead, practice the art of ignoring when your dog cries or whines at night. Refrain from responding until they have settled down. Once they are calm, reward them with attention and praise. By doing so, we reinforce the behavior of settling down quietly before receiving attention.

E. Provide Comfort and Security

Offering comfort and security can be instrumental in easing our dogs’ nighttime distress. Consider using comfort items like their favorite blanket or toy to create a sense of familiarity and safety. For some dogs, crate training can provide a cozy den-like environment that promotes a sense of security during the night. Designating a specific sleep area can also help them feel secure and relaxed.

Training and Behavioral Tips

A. Positive Reinforcement Training

Positive reinforcement is a powerful and humane training method that focuses on rewarding desired behaviors rather than punishing unwanted ones. It promotes a trusting and loving bond between dogs and their owners while encouraging them to learn and grow. When using positive reinforcement, we reward our dogs with treats, praise, or affection when they exhibit good behavior, such as staying calm during the night or settling in their designated sleep area. This positive association motivates them to repeat the behavior to receive more rewards. With patience and consistency, positive reinforcement can effectively shape our dogs’ nighttime behavior and foster a harmonious environment.

B. Consistency and Patience

Consistency is key to successful training. Dogs learn through repetition and routine, so it’s essential to be consistent in our approach. Once we establish a bedtime routine and rules, sticking to them consistently will help our dogs understand what is expected of them. Avoid making exceptions or changing the rules frequently, as this can confuse our furry friends.

Additionally, patience is a virtue when it comes to modifying our dogs’ behavior. Changes in behavior may take time, and each dog learns at its own pace. Avoid getting frustrated or giving up too soon. Instead, be patient and celebrate even the smallest progress. Positive reinforcement coupled with patience can work wonders in transforming our dogs’ nighttime behavior.

Seeking Professional Help

While most nighttime crying or whining can be addressed with the tips and strategies mentioned earlier, there may be instances where professional assistance becomes necessary.

A. Discuss scenarios in which professional trainers or behaviorists may be necessary

If your dog’s nighttime distress persists despite your best efforts, or if the crying or whining is accompanied by signs of fear or aggression, seeking help from a professional dog trainer or animal behaviorist is recommended. Professional trainers can assess your dog’s specific needs and tailor a training program to address their behavioral issues effectively. They can also provide guidance on implementing behavior modification techniques that are best suited to your dog’s unique personality and circumstances.

B. Provide resources for finding qualified professionals

Finding a qualified professional trainer or behaviorist can be a daunting task, but there are resources available to help you locate the right person for your dog’s needs. Consider reaching out to local veterinary clinics, animal shelters, or reputable dog training organizations for recommendations. Online directories and reviews can also provide valuable insights into the experiences of other pet owners who have sought professional help.


As dog owners, it’s essential to recognize and empathize with our furry friends’ vocalizations. Crying or whining at night can be their way of communicating their emotions and needs. By understanding the common reasons behind these vocalizations, we can better care for our dogs and address their concerns. Providing a secure and comforting environment, along with love and attention, can help alleviate anxiety and reduce nighttime vocalizations. Remember, our dogs trust us to be their caregivers and companions, so let’s respond to their cries with understanding and affection.

When it comes to dog behaviour we have covered many articles on it and you might consider checking out How To Remove Dog Saliva Stains From Car Leather?

Frequently Asked Questions About Dogs Crying/Whining at Night

  1. Why dogs cry/whine at night?

    Dogs may cry or whine at night due to separation anxiety, attention-seeking, fear, stress, physical discomfort, or environmental factors.

  2. What to do if a dog cries at night?

    Rule out medical issues first, create a consistent bedtime routine, use gradual desensitization techniques, avoid reinforcing unwanted behavior, and provide comfort and security.

  3. What does dog crying mean?

    Dog crying can indicate various emotions and needs, such as seeking attention, expressing fear or stress, or communicating physical discomfort.

  4. Why dogs howl at night at 12am or 3am?

    Dogs howl at night due to natural instincts, triggers like sirens or other dogs howling, seeking attention, or expressing loneliness.

  5. Why is my male/female dog crying at night?

    Both male and female dogs may cry at night due to similar reasons like separation anxiety, seeking attention, fear, stress, physical discomfort, or changes in the environment.

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