Why are my newborn puppies crying?
Compared to the zest and rambunctiousness of older puppies, newborn puppies are pretty laid-back. Their eyes aren't fully functional, and their hearing isn't as sharp as it will be. They don't move much, except for some wriggling or crawling. At this stage, they mostly search for their mother's milk and making occasional soft sounds.
Vocalizations and crying in newborn puppies
Newborn puppies make an assortment of gentle (and adorable!) vocalizations, such as quiet squeaks, chirps, or grunts. Those early squeaks aren't technically crying. They're simply small sounds puppies make as they creep around in search of their mother for (yet another) meal. Sometimes they even make sounds while sleeping. Like many other newborns, puppies spend the vast majority of their time sleeping, up to 22 hours a day. And when they aren't sleeping, they're usually eating.
But a newborn puppy that is truly crying—and perhaps doing it extensively—may be exhibiting signs of a problem1 and a veterinarian should be consulted. Older puppies may cry because they're bored or lonely. But crying in newborn puppies is generally due to one of a few issues:
- Hunger. Make sure each puppy is nursing properly and is getting enough nursing time. Watch out for competition from the other littermates and keep an eye out for any issues with the mother dog and her milk.
- Cold. Puppies have difficulty regulating their temperatures during the first four months of life and will likely cry if they're too cold. Is the puppies' home (usually a whelping box) warm enough? Are the puppies staying close enough to their mother and each other to keep warm from the combined body heat? Would they benefit from a heated pad or additional heat source?
- Sickness. Newborn puppies can become susceptible to illnesses. Crying in newborn puppies could indicate that something isn't quite right, so be sure to check with your veterinarian.
Crying in older puppies
The story is a little different when it comes to an older puppy that's over eight weeks old. Older puppies may cry for a wide range of reasons. It's one of their primary ways to express their opinions and wishes. Older puppies may cry when:
- They're left alone. An older puppy recently weaned and perhaps removed from its littermates is probably still adjusting to these changes. He may cry if his new human family is out of sight. Keeping the pup in view of household activities can help alleviate crying.2
- They're awake at night. It's not much fun if you're trying to sleep and your puppy is wide awake, especially when she starts crying or barking. But don't worry! There are a few things you can do to help her sleep at night.
- They're sleepy. Puppies sleep a lot! It can be as much as 18 to 20 hours a day at this age. And if they're sleepy, they sometimes cry.
- They need to go outside. If your puppy is already smart enough to alert you when he needs to go outside, you're doing great—and so is he! To make sure things stay that way, take your eight-week-old puppy out every three hours or so to give him a potty break,3 whether he's crying or not.
Your puppy's cries are a good form of communication. It's a valuable clue to help you figure out what he's trying to tell you. So listen and respond. You'll be communicating with your puppy in no time!
- PetPlace. “How to care for newborn puppies," August 25, 2015, https://www.petplace.com/article/dogs/pet-care/new-born-puppies.
- Grieves, Deidre. PetMD. “Puppy Crying: Why it Happens and How to Help," January 27, 2017, https://www.petmd.com/dog/behavior/puppy-crying-why-it-happens-and-how-help.
- PetPlace. “What to Expect from Your 8-week-old Puppy," March 29, 2016, https://www.petplace.com/article/dogs/pet-care/what-to-expect-from-your-8-week-old-puppy/.