Skip to main content

Why do dogs cry? The 5 most common reasons

Is crying a real thing with dogs? Find out here

A dog lies on the floor making sad eyes up at the camera
PicsbyFran / Pixabay

One of the best parts of dog ownership is having someone to comfort you when things feel tough, and we try to do the same for them. However, dogs can cry for all sorts of reasons, and it’s not always a good idea to indulge them. Sometimes you need to train your pup that crocodile tears won’t get them their way — when they cry to get out of the crate or to get a treat, for example.

On the flip side, you always should keep a watchful eye out for cries that indicate a deeper issue, like sudden pain or discomfort. So you know whether to turn a deaf ear or reach for your phone to call the vet, these are five of the most common reasons your pooch might cry.

A dog opens his mouth crying
Ayubu Lulesu / Unsplash

Can dogs cry?

Let’s get this out of the way first: While your beastie has tear ducts, they aren’t actually shedding a tear when they cry. Instead, when we say cry, we mean whining or otherwise emoting loudly. Interestingly, the reason dogs cry is instinctual; just as it is in humans. They need to grab mom’s attention for food, warmth, or safety, as our babies do. When you become a pet parent, those needs transfer to you, and it’s therefore your responsibility to respond to the cries appropriately.

Sad face dog
Bruno Cervera / Pexels

Why do dogs cry?

As we established, a puppy cry could have lots of origins. Just as you learn the other behaviors of your canine, you’ll pick up on his different cries early and have a better sense of what they want and need.

Pain

Sadly, one reason your little guy might whimper could be pain or discomfort. You’ll get a feel for this one when you accompany them to the vet and they get annual vaccines and might let out a little yelp or squeak. Of course, that’s a necessary evil and certainly doesn’t cause any excessive discomfort. In day-to-day life, watch out for other signs of injury, such as limping, digestive issues, or lying down and sleeping a lot. This is always a good time to call the dog doctor.

Sickness

Similar to pain, you could pick up on whimpers or whines and realize that it stems from an illness. Sometimes pups get the sniffles or a tummy issue that just needs some meds to fix up, but will cause discomfort, the same as it would in you. For more severe sicknesses, you will need to discuss pain management with his vet.

Anxiety

Mostly, we’re thinking about separation anxiety, the bane of many pet owner’s existence. Lots of beasties struggle with this if they have had a difficult past or weren’t trained appropriately. Unsurprisingly, the solution will often be more training and slowly practicing spending time apart. Other anxieties might present less acutely but no less annoyingly. For example, when you experience a big change in the household, your dog could respond with excessive crying. You’ll have to strike a balance of not overindulging while also trying to redirect them.

Boredom

Dogs get bored just like us. Luckily, there are a bunch of ways you can fix this. First, make sure they’re getting enough exercise every day. The exact right amount varies by age, size, and breed, but overall, most pooches require several walks, at least in the morning and evening. Already got that covered? Try adding play time to the daily routine. Throwing a ball around burns energy and uses some of your dog’s innate skills. Lastly, consider a puzzle toy or other game to occupy your pup’s time when you can’t provide your own attention.

Hunger

Some animals will make a big fuss when they think it’s dinner time (while others barely seem to notice). For the most part, you don’t need to make any substantial changes if your pup cries a little for dinner. It can stick to a schedule; you might try switching to more meals per day by feeding them lunch, for example, in addition to breakfast and dinner. Rarely, medical conditions can cause excessive hunger, in which case your vet will intervene. If you’ve noticed anything like this, bring it up at your next appointment.

Your dog cries to get your attention and communicate their need, but that doesn’t mean you have to listen to it all the time. Once you take a good look at the situation and determine the cause, you can work to fix the underlying issue by introducing more training, shaking up their schedule, or taking them to the vet to diagnose a medical problem. Some crying should just be straight-up ignored when it’s for seemingly no reason and only to get your attention (note: also the big puppy dog eyes). Understanding the different cries will help both you and Fido feel better.

Editors' Recommendations

Rebekkah Adams
Rebekkah’s been a writer and editor for more than 10 years, both in print and digital. In addition to writing about pets…
Why does your dog lie on you? It’s (usually) a good thing
All the reasons why your dog considers you their favorite pillow
Dog lying on the leg of person with white sweatshirt

Snuggles and unconditional love were likely part of the reason you brought home your furry friend in the first place. You may have envisioned yourself scratching their ears and spending nights petting them after a long day at the office. You may not have expected that the bed you splurged on would be tossed aside in favor of your lap. You may wonder, "Why does my dog lay on me instead?"

Dog-human relationships are as sweet as they come, but a language barrier complicates them. Your pet can't answer this question for you, but we have some theories. The good news? Unlike other common dog behavioral questions, chances are, the reason your dog has chosen you as their favorite pillow is a positive (and sweet) one.
Why does my dog lie on me?

Read more
This is why your dog always wakes you up howling in the night
Plus, what you can do to fix nighttime vocalizing
Dog howls while standing near a flock of sheep in a pasture

You may enjoy watching wolves howl at the moon on TV, but you probably don't like it when it comes to life in your own home. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, your dog will wake up and channel their inner Canis lupus (wolf). Both of you need sleep, so you might want to try to tamp this down with a little retraining.

Of course, the first step to fixing your noise problem is to figure out the underlying cause, which involves paying a bit more attention to exactly what your pup is doing and when. So, if you wonder, "Why is my dog howling at night?" we suggest you note a few factors.
Why do dogs howl?

Read more
The most adorable toy dog breeds (that also make great pets)
You'll love the charming faces and spunky personalities of these toy breeds
A Yorkie wears a jacket on the street with his owner

When you think of a dog, we suspect you picture a statuesque German shepherd or possibly a sweet and droopy-eared golden retriever. But some of the best and most loyal buds don't have the size or the hunting instincts and yet are still unmistakably canines.

Toy dogs represent an entirely separate breed group, alongside others such as terrier and herding. While pups in the toy group aren't necessarily related genetically, they have a few characteristics that connect them together. Most obviously: Toy dogs are pawsitively adorable. If you want a teddy bear to come to life, consider one of the cutest toy dog breeds.
What makes a dog a toy breed?

Read more