My Dog Won’t Stop Crying at Night – What’s Causing This?

why does my dog keep crying at night

Before assuming your dog is crying for behavioral reasons, it’s essential to rule out any physical causes. Some common physical reasons a dog may cry at night include:

  • Illness or injury causing pain/discomfort – Your dog may be dealing with an undiagnosed illness or injury causing discomfort or pain at night. This can range from something as minor as an upset stomach to more serious conditions like arthritis, ear infections, dental problems, or pancreatitis. If your dog hasn’t been examined recently, schedule a vet visit.
  • Needs to go potty – Your dog may cry because they need to go out to relieve themselves. This is especially common in older dogs and puppies. Ensure you give ample potty breaks before bedtime and consider setting an alarm to take them out once or twice during the night. 
  • Hungry or thirsty – Your dog may wake up hungry or thirsty in the middle of the night, significantly if you’ve recently changed their feeding schedule. Ensure fresh water is always available, and consider giving a small snack before bedtime. You can also use puzzle toys or slow feeders to provide mental stimulation and extend mealtimes.

Pay close attention to when the crying occurs and look for any physical signs of discomfort. If you can’t find an obvious physical cause, the crying is likely behavioral. But when in doubt, get your vet’s opinion to rule out any medical issues first.

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is one of dogs’ most common causes of nighttime crying. It occurs when a dog has bonded very strongly with their owners and struggles to cope when left alone.

Dogs are pack animals, so being separated from their family members can create intense distress and anxiety. 

This anxiety peaks at night when the house is quiet, there are fewer distractions, and the dog feels more alone than during the day.

The night is when families go to sleep together, so dogs prone to separation anxiety may associate this time with being left by themselves and start crying, howling, or barking to try to get their owner’s attention. They want reassurance that they are not abandoned.

Signs that a dog may have separation anxiety include:

  • Crying, barking, or howling when left alone or separated from owners
  • Destructiveness – chewing, scratching, digging – in an attempt to escape confinement when alone
  • Urinating or defecating when alone despite house training
  • Following owners excessively, even into the bathroom
  • Displays of excitement upon owner’s return after absence

Separation anxiety can develop due to changes in routine, moving homes, loss of a family member or another pet, or after periods left alone.

It can happen at any age but is more common in dogs adopted from shelters who may have a history of abandonment.

Separation anxiety does not always occur at nighttime, but night crying is a common symptom.

Treatment involves counter-conditioning a dog to accept being alone through gradual training, management strategies, providing mental stimulation, and sometimes medication. Consulting a vet or behaviorist for advice is recommended.


Dogs can get scared and anxious, just like humans. Loud noises like thunder, fireworks, or gunshots can frighten your dog and cause them to cry or vocalize at night.

If you’ve recently moved or introduced your dog to a new place, like a kennel or daycare, it may cry out of fear of unfamiliar surroundings. 

Past trauma can also lead to your dog crying or whining at night. If they’ve had a frightening experience in the past, specific triggers can bring up those memories and make them anxious.

This reactivity worsens at night when things are quiet and dark. Try to comfort your dog when it is crying by using a calming tone of voice, petting, or holding it.

Creating a safe space like a crate or covered bed can also help relieve their anxiety. With time and positive association, your dog will hopefully overcome the fear.


Dogs are social animals who crave attention from their owners. If your dog cries at night when everyone sleeps, it could seek your attention.

Some dogs learn that crying or whining gets a response from you—whether getting out of bed to comfort them, yelling at them to be quiet, or even just responding verbally.

This reinforces the behavior and teaches the dog that crying at night works to get your attention.

To get your attention, your dog may cry for things like:

  • Playtime and cuddles. Your dog wants to interact with you.
  • Food or treats. Your dog associates you with feeding times and knows crying might get you to feed them.
  • Potty breaks. Your dog might need to go out at night and cry to let you know.  
  • General attention and comfort. Your dog wants you to be near them.

The best way to discourage attention-seeking behavior is to ignore the crying completely. As hard as it is, don’t give your dog any attention when they cries at night.

You can also ensure that your dog gets plenty of playtime, exercise, and attention during the day, making it less likely to act out at night.

Provide interactive toys and puzzles with treats when you go to bed to occupy them. With time and consistency, your dog will learn that crying at night doesn’t get them what they want.


Is your dog getting enough physical and mental exercise during the day? Dogs need regular activity and stimulation to stay happy and healthy. Without sufficient outlets for their energy, dogs may act out and vocalize more at night.  

During the day, be sure to:

  • Take your dog on regular walks and playtime. The amount of exercise depends on age, breed, and overall health, but most dogs need 30-60 minutes of daily activity. This helps them burn off excess energy so they are calmer at night.  
  • Provide interactive toys and puzzles that challenge your dog mentally. Food puzzles, Kongs filled with treats, snuffle mats, and hide-and-seek games are great for mental stimulation. A tired brain helps promote restful sleep.
  • Avoid letting your dog nap too much during the day. Excessive daytime sleep can disrupt their sleep-wake cycle, leaving them restless at night. 
  • Give your dog opportunities to socialize with other dogs and people. Mental stimulation tires them out.
  • Do training sessions and teach commands and tricks. Learning keeps their brain engaged.

Ensuring your dog gets adequate physical and mental exercise will help prevent boredom.

A well-stimulated dog during the day will be less likely to cry and act out at night simply out of excess energy and an understimulated mind.

Promoting healthy daytime activity is vital to reducing unwanted nighttime behavior.

Changes in Household

Dogs are creatures of habit and can have difficulty adjusting to their environment and household changes. If there have been any significant changes recently, your dog could cry at night.

New Family Member

Adding a new member to the household, like a baby, another pet, or even a new partner, can be an adjustment for your dog.

They may feel jealous of the new family member getting attention or uncertain about their place in the pack.

This can cause anxiety that leads to nighttime crying. Give your dog extra love and positive reinforcement to help them through this transition period.

Owner Away  

Going away on a trip without your dog disrupts their routine and leaves them missing you. They may cry at night looking for you or from anxiety at being left alone.

Leaving recently washed clothing with your scent can provide comfort. Also, be sure they are getting adequate exercise during the day to tire them out at night.

Move to New Home

Moving homes is incredibly unsettling for dogs. All the smells and sounds are unfamiliar, causing stress and insecurity. Crying at night is your dog’s way of expressing discomfort with all the changes.

Make sure to give them their own safe space in the new home with familiar toys and bedding. Maintain their routine as much as possible and be patient as they adjust.

Cognitive Decline

As dogs age, it’s common for them to experience some cognitive decline. This can be due to aging changes in the brain or, in some cases, the onset of canine cognitive dysfunction (also known as doggy dementia). Cognitive issues tend to progress slowly over time, but you may notice the following:

  • Disorientation and confusion, especially at night – Your dog may seem lost or confused about where it is. They may pace, wander around the house, or cry out due to this disorientation.
  • Changes in sleep-wake cycles – Senior dogs tend to sleep more during the day and become more restless at night. The crying or vocalizing at night may be a sign your dog is having trouble settling down to sleep.
  • Loss of prior training – Your dog may forget previously learned commands or no longer be house-trained. Accidents around the house, especially at night, can cause anxiety and vocalizations.  
  • Anxiety and agitation – Dogs with cognitive decline often seem anxious and restless, especially at night when the house is dark and quiet. The crying may be a response to this anxiety.

A veterinary exam is a good idea if your senior dog is crying at night along with other signs like confusion or lost house training. Some medications and supplements can help manage age-related cognitive decline in dogs.

Ensuring your dog feels safe and secure at night, sticking to a schedule, and providing affection can also help ease this anxious behavior.

Trouble Sleeping 

Dogs can have trouble sleeping at night for a variety of reasons. Physical discomfort, anxiety, or other disturbances can prevent your dog from getting quality sleep.

Your dog may suffer from insomnia, making it difficult for them to fall asleep and stay asleep through the night.

Lack of exercise is one common cause of sleep troubles in dogs. Without enough activity and stimulation during the day, your dog may have pent-up energy at night that keeps them from settling down.

Ensuring your dog gets adequate exercise and playtime will help them sleep more soundly. 

Underlying medical conditions can also interfere with a dog’s sleep. Issues like arthritis, gastrointestinal problems, UTIs, and cognitive decline can cause pain, discomfort, or disorientation that disturbs their sleep.

Have your vet examine your dog to rule out any physical causes.

Solutions to Dog Crying at Night

There are several things you can try to help reduce or stop your dog’s nighttime crying:

Address Physical and Mental Health Issues

If your vet has ruled out underlying medical problems, consider whether your dog is experiencing mental health issues like separation anxiety, fear, or cognitive decline.

Work on resolving these root causes through training, medications if prescribed, and making your dog feel safe and secure.

Create a Calming Bedtime Routine

Try establishing a relaxing pre-bed routine for your dog, such as a long walk, playtime, and snuggles earlier in the evening, followed by quiet time before bed.

This can help your dog wind down and be less agitated at night. Stick to the routine every night.

Manage Separation Anxiety

If your dog cries due to separation anxiety when you leave them at night, try reassuring them with affection and a favorite toy or blanket with your scent before going to bed.

To build their independence, gradually increase the time you’re out of sight. If your vet recommends it, consider anti-anxiety medication.

Block Fearful Triggers

Determine what’s frightening your dog at night, such as thunderstorms, fireworks, or outside noises.

Use white noise machines, closed curtains, or a comfortable enclosed bed to muffle triggers and help your dog feel secure. Stay with your dog if they need reassurance.

Using these methods, you can help solve your dog’s nighttime crying with patience and consistency.

Show them plenty of love and attention during this process. If the crying persists, consult your vet or a professional trainer/behaviorist.

When to See the Vet

If your dog’s nighttime crying persists for over two weeks, it’s time to take them to the vet. There may be an underlying physical illness causing the behavior.

Some signs your dog may need medical attention include:

  • Excessive panting, pacing, trembling, or appearing visibly distressed
  • Loss of appetite or thirst
  • Vomiting, diarrhea, or other signs of gastrointestinal issues
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Lethargy, weakness, or inability to stand or walk
  • Hunched posture, limping, or stiffness
  • Skin problems like sores, bald patches, or itching
  • Cloudy eyes, redness, swelling, or discharge
  • Foul breath or drooling
  • Coughing, sneezing, wheezing, or labored breathing

The vet will give your dog a complete physical exam and may recommend blood work, urinalysis, imaging tests, or other diagnostics to check for underlying conditions. Some possibilities include:

  • Infections
  • Nutritional deficiencies 
  • Organ dysfunction
  • Cancer
  • Arthritis
  • Dental disease

Don’t delay—prolonged night crying could be your dog’s way of telling you it needs medical intervention. It’s best to partner with your vet to get to the root of the problem as soon as possible. With treatment, your dog can get back to peaceful nights of sleep.

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