Anyone who has had dogs and children will know how distressing crying at night can be. Partly due to the loss of sleep, and partly because hearing someone that you care about displaying distress themselves, can really tug at the heartstrings and make you feel worried and/or guilty.
This is not a parenting blog, and I don’t know enough about children to be able to advise on them! Fortunately I do know a lot about dogs, why they cry at night and what to do about it. There are different reasons that a dog may cry at night, and depending on the reason, what you do about it varies.
Key reasons for dogs crying at night:
- Separation anxiety; they feel stressed about being separated from you and are worried about whether you are okay.
- They are new to being alone at night – e.g. having just left their litter, or been rehomed from a family who allowed them to be with them overnight.
- They need to relieve themselves and don’t wish to do it in their own bed (this only applies to the really young and the really old)
- They have been disturbed by a fox or other noise, and now they are awake, think that they need to be doing something protective/proactive.
What not to do with dogs crying at night:
- Do Not go to them and give them attention.
- Do Not start allowing them to sleep with you instead
- Do Not start getting up to regularly let them out to the toilet overnight.
Whatever the reason for your dog crying overnight, they need to be able to go through the night without your intervention, for your sanity as well as theirs! So what do you do about it…
What to do with dogs crying overnight:
This is a massive topic and I have whole blogs dedicated to it – I’d suggest that you read some of these articles:
- What is Separation Anxiety and what to do about it
- Why dogs chew their beds
- How to stop your dog barking
- Do you have a destructive dog
Ultimately if your dog is crying to get you to return and you do, it will do it every night. Forever! However, it’s not simply the case that if you stop returning it will stop doing it. The separation anxiety needs to be addressed properly. This is one of the major problems which I am regularly called in to help people to resolve. It’s connected to your dog feeling responsible for the family, and thus suffering stress when you are absent. It’s about all of your day to day interactions with your dog which will help him/her to understand that they are not responsible for you after all.
Being alone overnight
If your dog is new to your family, or you are about to take in a new dog, and it is their first time for being alone overnight, then you can get them used to it gradually. You can follow some of these tips to help you (this is particular helpful with getting new puppies used to sleeping away from you):
- Start your dog off where you want them to be, put into their bed something warm and familiar smelling.
- You can sleep in the same room the first night.
- Each night following, move a little bit further away; for instance using a baby gate at the door of the room they are in, and sleeping out in the corridor.
- Progress until you are significantly far away that you may as well be in your own bed (and then go to bed)
- Be prepared for there to be a little bit of overnight crying, but do not react to it.
- If the crying starts once you start moving around in the morning, do not go into the room that your dog is in until they are quiet.
The toilet issue
Brand new puppies and elderly/poorly dogs may well not be able to make it through the night without needing the toilet. Simply ensure that their bed is in easy reaching distance of a news papered area/puppy pads.
If you react to the cry and go to let them out, it can become habitual behaviour and they will train you to get up and go to them in the night every night, whether they need it or not. Sure, they will squeeze one out once you let them go outside, but do they really need it?
I’ve helped many people whose dogs started crying in the night and the owners believed that they were in need of the toilet, so let them outside – sure enough they did go to the toilet, but often the main activity was rushing into the garden and sniffing about. These were all adult dogs, not elderly, so I know that their bladder capacity is brilliant (they have to be able to hold a lot of marking large areas of territory).
If they need to go, they can use the pads/paper. If they don’t need to go then you don’t really want to be getting out of bed unnecessarily do you?
Occasionally dogs crying in the night have been disturbed by a nocturnal creature, using their territory once you are all securely inside for the night. You know that this is no problem for your survival as a pack. A dog feels differently about this.
The simplest way to resolve this, is to move your dog’s sleeping area of one which is not right by the back door/somewhere that they are likely to be disturbed. If that’s not possible, then try to cover the doors/windows that they may be able to see the animal through. It’s not unheard of for foxes to come and look in through back doors, and dogs can find this quite distressing.
You can help your dog to feel less responsible for these perceived dangers – and again there are articles about this available elsewhere on my blog:
- Dog worrying about dangers
- What to do if your dog is anxious
- What to do if your dog is scared of fireworks
Summary: Dogs crying in the night
I hope you’ve found the explanation of the key reasons for dogs crying in the night useful and informative. If you would like some 1-2-1 help with any dog behaviour problems or training issues, and are interested in a kind, calm, common sense approach, then please get in touch. I cover Essex and the surrounding counties.