Is My Dog Crying? When to Worry

Good dog owners are in tune with what their dogs need and want. A big way dogs communicate their wants and need to their owners is through vocalization.

The vocalizations may include crying. But how can you tell if your pup is crying? Why are they crying? And what can you do to stop them from crying?

Here is a complete list of tips on how to identify crying in dogs, why your dog might be crying, and how to help them.

Identify crying

The term ‘crying’ when describing a noise a dog makes can be confusing. Dogs do not cry as humans do. Dogs do not cry actual tears when they are sad. When someone describes a canine as crying, they are usually describing a high-pitch whining or whimpering.

Dogs do not always cry when they are sad. But almost always, when a dog is crying, they are trying to communicate.


Dogs are pack animals. In the wild, wolves have to communicate with each other to work together and survive. Then humans started to domesticate dogs, and our lives now intertwine. Scientists suggest dogs evolved throughout history to communicate with their humans.

The biggest way dogs communicate with humans is with vocalization. Dogs will growl to let you know they do not like what you are doing. Dogs will bark when they want to play. And sometimes dogs will cry to communicate with you. But dogs can cry for many different reasons.

Your pooch’s body language and the context of the situation are important to note when trying to decipher Fido-speak.

Identify excited crying

One would typically associate crying with sadness. But said assumption is not always the case for dogs. To effectively determine if your dog is happy crying or sad crying, look at the rest of their body language and the context of the situation.

If whining accompanies relaxed ears, jumping, and a wagging tail, then your hound is joyous! When you get home from a long day of work, your dog may roll over on its belly and cry. Said behavior means they are happy you are home and they want you to pet them.

Identify stressed crying

Crying with pacing, shaking, a tucked tail and ears flat back indicates distress. One reason dogs stress-cry is because they are afraid. You might notice your dog crying when a thunderstorm is passing overhead or they are taking a car ride to the vet.

Other reasons your dog might be stress-crying are boredom, a disrupted routine, separation anxiety, or even depression. To soothe your pup, stay calm, give them a familiar blanket or toy, and offer gentle petting.

If you notice your dog under distress for a long period of time, consult a veterinarian about possible anxiety or depression.

Decide to give or not to give attention

The effects of positive reinforcement are never more evident than they are in dog training. Positive reinforcement means you reward a dog’s behavior by giving them a treat, belly rub, or verbal praise.

People usually use positive reinforcement when training a dog to sit or stay, but people can condition their dogs without meaning to. For example, say your furry friend starts crying. To soothe them, you give them ear scratches.

If the reactions happen often enough, your dog will know if they cry, they will get ear scratches. So they may start crying, not because they are sad, but because they want ear scratches. Your dog has effectively trained you rather than the other way around!

One way to stop the attention-seeking behavior from your dog is to ignore them. It can be difficult, especially if your pooch can get loud and obnoxious. But eventually, they will learn crying does not get them what they want.

Sometimes your dog actually needs attention, though. Dogs do get lonely, just like people. They crave human affection and can become sad if they feel they are not loved.

If your dog is crying for attention and you haven’t spent time with them recently, maybe put down your phone and give out some belly rubs.

Let them sleep talk it out

Have you ever been caught talking or moaning in your sleep? Dogs do the same. Researchers suggest dogs experience the REM sleep phase, just like humans. The REM phase is when dreaming occurs. Dogs might softly growl, purr, or whimper while dreaming.

Some dogs even move their paws as if they are running in their sleep. If you hear your dog crying in its sleep, it is not necessary to wake them up. Sleep-crying does not mean Fido is under stress.

Some believe dogs do not experience nightmares as humans do. If your dog is truly in pain or afraid, your dog will most likely wake up and vocalize loudly.

Assess possible pain

Have you ever accidentally taken a step back on your pup’s paw? They most likely let out a high-pitch whimper to let you know you hurt them.

Dogs will let out a short scream-cry if they play too rough, if you cut the quick of their nail, or if you brush their hair too harshly.

When assessing where the pain is exactly, dog owners will do a touch test, applying pressure to different areas of the body. The dog will cry when you touch the injury area.

It is important to note, though, sometimes when a dog is in serious pain they may not cry at all. They may become quiet and lethargic. If you notice your dog is not acting like themselves, it may be time to take a visit to the vet.

Question medical conditions

Sometimes constant crying is a symptom of a larger medical issue. For example, some dogs who have Cushing’s disease may cry all day long. Cushing’s disease is characterized by an overproduction of cortisol.

The hormone cortisol helps to regulate stress. Too much can have harmful effects. Anxiety in dogs is often linked to Cushing’s. It is important to share any medical concerns about your dog with a veterinarian.

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