When a dog cries, or more accurately “vocalizes,” it can be for many different reasons and show in a variety of ways. However, it doesn’t involve tears and stuffy noses like it does with humans.
Dogs can learn certain behaviors based on reward. In some cases, a dog may be loudly vocalizing until their owner gives him a treat to keep him quiet. Once the dog has gotten his owner’s attention, he is more likely to get a treat, a toy, or playtime outside. While not all whining, vocalizing, and crying are a bid for attention, in many cases, a dog may have a very good reason he’s making such a racket.
Dogs will often cry and vocalize either out of pleasure and joy, or out of pain, fear, or frustration. Keep reading for a breakdown of the different types of vocalizations, or “crying” sounds you may hear from your furry companion. While most dog crying is nothing to cause worry, it is still a good idea to be aware of the possible causes in case a more serious issue is present.
Dogs That Whine
Dogs often whine as a reaction to stress or as a bid for attention. Dogs may whine to indicate that they want to get out of their kennel, to go outside, or even when they see something or someone they desperately want to greet.
Dogs may also whine to indicate they are thirsty or hungry, or to show emotion like when they are frightened. Often the sound of whining vocalizations is high-pitched and ear-piercing. It’s a nasal sound that’s produced while your dog’s mouth remains closed.
Dogs That Yelp and Whimper
A common sign that a dog is in pain is when he whimpers or yelps. Maybe someone stepped on his paw or he got hurt while playing with another dog. They might also whimper or yelp when they are extremely excited. For instance, the eager yelping and whimpering sounds a dog makes when his owner comes home or when another dog comes to visit for a playdate. Sometimes whimpering vocalizations may be a way for your dog to communicate he is in distress. An example of this is when dogs become anxious during a thunderstorm or when they hear fireworks.
Dogs That Bark
Dogs bark for many reasons. Some dogs bark as a way to ring the alarm, as in when someone walks through the door or a stranger enters the home. The sound is often sharp and staccato sounding. Dogs may bark as a warning or in suspicion, with a lower, more threatening pitch. Still other times, your dog might bark because he’s bored out of his mind and is trying to entertain himself or gain attention. If this is the case, you are going to want to teach your dog not to bark whenever he feels like it.
Dogs also bark when distressed or anxious. A dog that’s experiencing separation anxiety will often produce a high-pitched and repetitive bark. Dogs that are barking out of sheer boredom may sound monotonous. Next time your dog begins to make vocalizations, try to pay attention to them and learn the differences between them. More often than not, a dog’s barking is caused by an underlying factor that he is trying to communicate to you.
Dogs That Growl
Other vocalizations that dogs make are growling sounds. Growling is usually a warning sign from your pet that he perceives a threat and is often (though not always) a sign of aggression in dogs. Sometimes a dog will growl while playing. This is okay as long as you know that’s what he’s doing and he’s having fun. There are even certain breeds that growl when they are happy and feel good.
Dogs That Howl
Then there are the howlers. Once upon a time, howling was the way members of a pack communicated with each other. Today, dogs that howl often do so as a response or reaction to something. It may be a high-pitched sound that triggers him, or it could be from a sound you made while playing him. Sometimes a dog will howl because of separation anxiety and stress.
Dogs That Bay
Finally, some dogs make a sound called baying. This vocalization is a cross between a bark and a howl. It’s sort of like a long, prolonged bark or moaning sound. Hunting and tracking dogs are notorious for making baying sounds.
But Why Do Dogs Cry?
Your dog may cry or vocalize for several different reasons. It could be that your pup wants or needs something from you, and crying is the only way he knows how to get your attention. Whether he needs a bathroom break or he wants to go play outside, crying is a common way for a dog to communicate.
It could be an indicator that he is hungry or thirsty he has a toy just out of his reach, or there’s a cat outside the bedroom window. As you can see, the possibilities are truly endless. Once you figure out what your dog’s problem is and fix it, you can expect him to stop crying.
If your dog continues to whine even after you thought you solved the problem, there could be an underlying problem. For instance, a dog with an underlying bladder problem may whine to go outside, do his business, come back inside, and five minutes later, start whining to go out again. You won’t know there’s a bladder problem until you rule out all other reasons for the whining and see your vet.
Dogs may whine and cry when they are feeling anxious or fearful. Watch your dog’s accompanying behavior, because often this type of vocalization will be paired with other behaviors, like panting, pacing, and possibly trembling.
Some dogs will do all of the above as you get ready to leave the house. If so, this could be evidence of separation anxiety. Dogs that experience separation anxiety will often engage in other problematic behaviors while you’re gone, such as soiling on the floor, chewing our shredding carpeting and furniture, or ransacking the trash cans.
Some dogs cry and whine because they are in pain from an injury. Though this could be pain related to normal aging and degeneration, such as joint pain and canine arthritis, it’s not common for dogs to vocalize over chronic pain. It could be a recent injury he is still recovering from or a new injury you have yet to discover. If your dog behaves as though he is in pain and won’t stop whining, you should examine him thoroughly and giving him a gentle physical exam with your hands. Sometimes a dog will yelp if you find the spot that’s hurting. If this is the case, take your dog to the vet as soon as possible.
In other cases, many dogs will whine and cry merely for attention and affection. Dogs adore attention from their humans and do not like to be bored. To combat this behavior, make sure that you give your dog plenty of love and attention each day, as well as opportunities for exercise and play. Games help provide mental stimulation and may be a good tool to combat boredom for certain breeds, especially highly intelligent breeds that need “work” to feel at peace. Hopefully, given enough exercise and attention, you can avoid more destructive behaviors like digging, chewing, and shredding your carpeting.
In some instances, dogs whine and cry as a way to say sorry. Watch your dog’s body language. If he also cowers and tucks his tail between his legs while he whines, then it’s probably an apology. It’s a remnant from a dog’s pack days. They will often try to apologize for doing something they know they shouldn’t have done, especially if they get caught. If your dog has ever snatched something from the kitchen table or gotten into the garbage while you’re not home, you’ll likely recognize the apology whine right away.
Dogs that have not been socialized and that don’t feel safe in their environment may whine as a way to seek appeasement or reassurance from you. This is also common in older dogs that may be experiencing cognitive issues and dementia. It can be stressful when a dog feels confused or disoriented, and a canine will usually respond to the anxiety with crying, whining, or howling.
There are other reasons dogs vocalize and cry as well. Howling may be a remnant from the wild when canines used to howl to locate each other or to set boundaries around their territory. Domestic dogs may do the same thing as a way to find you or to keep away potential trespassers. Sometimes dogs howl in response to certain triggers. Maybe it’s thunder, maybe it’s loud music, maybe it’s the sound of children shrieking and playing outside. Every dog is different and will have different triggers.
How to Stop Your Dog From Crying
In most cases, merely by paying attention and learning your dog’s language, you can figure out the best way to approach his behavior. If you know your dog is whining and crying because of fear and anxiety over something, it’s important to determine the root cause so you can work on training your dog to respond differently. In some cases, you may find it best to give your dog what he wants. In other cases, you will have to be careful you aren’t inadvertently making the behavior worse and encouraging him.
For instance, going outside to go potty is something you should reward your dog for immediately. That way he doesn’t end up peeing on the floor. Whereas if your dog is whining for food or treats, you should redirect him with playtime or towns. Be selective in what you respond to. Remember, you’re the owner and your pet must obey you, not the other way around. He will learn that just because he’s crying for it, doesn’t mean he will get it.
If you believe that your dog’s whining is out of boredom or excitement, train him to change his behavior. In cases where your pup is showing signs of pain, get him to the vet as soon as possible. You’d always rather be safe than sorry, especially when it comes to the health of your pet.
Miller, Pat. “The Meanings Behind Different Dog Noises.” Whole Dog Journal, 1 Aug. 2011, www.whole-dog-journal.com/issues/14_8/features/Understanding-Vocal-Communications_20324-1.html.
Stregowski, Jenna. “What to Do About a Whining Dog.” The Spruce Pets, 24 Jan. 2019, www.thesprucepets.com/why-dogs-whine-4147056.
Ripley, Katherine. “Dog Whining: Why Do Dogs Whine?” American Kennel Club, 18 Jan. 2019, www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/reasons-your-dog-is-whining/.
“Why Does My Dog Whine for No Reason?” My Dog Whines for No Reason – Banfield Pet Hospital, www.banfield.com/ask-a-vet/dog-keeps-whining-all-the-time.