How to Stop Dog Whining at Night: A Dog Owner’s Guide to Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
Hearing a dog cry at night usually feels as if our heart is going to break with each sound. It’s gut-wrenching to have to ignore it, not to mention avoid soothing the dog personally. However, in order to learn how to stop dog whining at night, some sacrifices have to be made.
Luckily, in the guide below, you’ll find techniques that won’t further traumatize the dog. In fact, they’ll help you finally get a good night’s sleep and make the dog a bit more independent. But first, let’s see why the whining even occurs.
How to stop dog whining at night: is crying something we should worry about?
Although no one likes hearing their small ball of fur crying at night, according to most experts, this isn’t a type of behavior we should worry about. Indeed, it’s a bit similar to babies, in that dogs may whine at night because they need to pee but don’t want to spoil themselves. They could also be hungry but are not sure how to show their frustration otherwise.
In all of those cases, ignoring the whining might not be the greatest idea. However, if the dog is not confined to a crate or we’ve left plenty of food and water by its side, we won’t have to soothe it. But improper elimination is another thing; leave the dog to pee in the crate or its bed once, and you’ll run into headache-inducing problems.
We’ll talk about the solutions to all of these situations a bit further down the line. For now, though, let’s reflect on the two most common reasons dogs tend to whine at night: separation/ abandonment anxiety and overall loneliness.
If you’ve recently brought home a puppy and cannot seem to stop it from whining at night, you could be dealing with separation anxiety. Puppies tend to get separated from their moms rather soon, and if they had some littermates as well, it’s possible they miss the warmth and the cuddles. Thus, it’s no wonder the puppy is crying — being all alone in the dark is not fun at all!
However, what if you have just adopted an older dog, perhaps a rescue? Well, then you’ll first have to deal with abandonment anxiety. Think about it — this dog was probably kept in a crate, away from any human contact, its friends and family. It was lonely for so long, and it kept waiting for someone to adopt it. Now that it has a family, it fears the worst — that it will be once again left at a shelter, all alone.
If you’ve started to cry — that’s OK, we also have some tears in our eyes. But it’s time to do something about this problem. Nobody wants their dog to be this unhappy. On the other hand, if we want to avoid sleeping with the dog, we’ll have to create a more welcoming environment for it. Don’t worry — there’s always a solution.
In line with the previous reasons, the dog might also be suffering from general loneliness. The types of anxiety we mentioned above are sort of like loneliness on steroids — they are the escalated version of common dog troubles.
Loneliness by itself, on the other hand, is a tiny problem some toys and a few treats could easily fix. The dog is usually just trying to get your attention because it loves you, wants to play, or is just plain bored. Still, don’t underestimate it or leave the dog to fend for itself. Loneliness could transform into full-blown anxiety if you don’t take the necessary steps to curb the whining.
Other possible reasons a dog might start crying at night
Apart from the anxiety and the general loneliness, the dog might also be whining at night because it’s not comfortable enough. Small dogs, in particular, are rather sensitive, and if it’s too hot or too cold, they might start crying for attention. Additionally, their beds might not be comfortable enough, or they have accidentally soiled themselves and would not like to spend the night in their feces or pee.
If you believe this is what the dog is experiencing, taking action will be easy. A dog’s bed, as well as its crate, should be its sanctuary. Therefore, we should splurge if we can, as the dog’s life will be much better if it’s comfortable at all times.
What’s more, making sure we’re potty training the dog is of the utmost importance. A puppy that soils its bed won’t want to sleep at all, let alone stop whining. However, we cannot blame it for it if we haven’t put in the effort to teach it where to pee and poop.
Bottom line? Consider the bigger picture — are you missing something that the dog is perhaps trying to communicate? Is its bed too stiff or have you put it somewhere where the draft hits it often? Remember to make the dog feel welcome in your home. Even though it cannot sleep in your room or your bed, it should still be comfortable enough to get some rest.
How to stop dog whining at night: top 8 easy-to-implement techniques
- Tire out the dog
- Make bed comfortable
- Ensure all basic needs are met
- Play a “lullaby”
- Check if the dog is in pain
- Comfort with a soothing smell
- Train to treat the crate as its new home
- Ignore the crying-don’t reinforce it
How to stop dog whining at night: tire out the dog
The gist of the first technique we ought to try out is quite simple: a tired dog will immediately fall asleep and probably won’t wake up until the next morning.
If you’re a veteran dog owner and this isn’t your first rodeo, you already know that dogs have a lot of energy. They love jumping around, chasing their tail, digging holes and running after balls. That’s how they have fun, and it’s all the cardio they need. Without this form of exercise, they will have excess energy, which will keep both you and them up at night.
It’s the same as with humans — night owls are usually people who feel a surge of energy as soon as the clock hits midnight. Therefore, if we’d like to get a good night’s rest and ensure the dog stays quiet at night, it’s time to take action.
Exercise is an important part of a dog’s life, and without at least two walks per day, stopping the whining won’t be easy. Of course, some dogs grow out of the crying at some point — but we cannot bet on that, can we?
What’s more, exercise will keep the dog healthy and thriving, not to mention help it avoid common health issues some dogs might develop over time. So what are you waiting for? Grab a leash and take the dog out. In fact, if you can, take it for a nice, long stroll before bedtime. That’ll lull its senses and make it too tired to even notice you’ve left it all alone.
Make its bed as comfortable as possible (See dog beds on Amazon)
Let’s expand on the topic of comfortable dog beds for a bit, shall we? Most of us think that dogs can easily fall asleep anywhere. And for some breeds, that might be true. We’ve all seen dogs fall asleep on our laps, or on the floor in the summer.
However, we have to take the following into account:
- Sleeping in our laps lets them stay close to us
- Floors in summertime provide the much-needed coolness furry creatures love.
With that in mind, aim to mix it up from season to season. Don’t let the dog always sleep on a rather warm, soft pillow, as if it’s hot, it won’t like it at all. Likewise, if the house is too cold for the dog, cover it with a blanket. Make the bed as comfy as possible!
Whatever you do, don’t make a mistake most dog owners are guilty of — don’t soothe a whining dog by bringing it into the bed. If you do that, you’ll basically show the dog that its bed is bad while yours is good. We don’t want that, especially given the fact that we cannot bathe dogs every single day for the rest of their lives.
In essence, each member of the family deserves a nice bed to sleep on. Therefore, splurge on those softer pillows if you can, as the dog will surely appreciate it. The more comfortable the dog is, the more sleep you’ll get. However, don’t forget to get the right bed size; sleeping on a bed that’s too small can also lead to whining at night!
Ensure all its basic needs are met
Have you ever tried to fall asleep while you were starving? The pain in your stomach — it kept you up all night, right? It probably even made you cry at some point, didn’t it?
Well, the same can happen with dogs. These creatures depend on us to have their basic needs met. A dog cannot possibly take itself for a walk — although many would love to try. Likewise, we’re the ones who are in charge of their food, where they can pee and poop, as well as how much fun they can get during the day.
Thus, pay attention to your dog’s basic needs. They have to be met, one way or another. Take it out for plenty of walks, feed it the right kind of kibble, provide a treat or two now and then. Essentially, give it all the reasons to be happy, and you won’t have to listen to its crying at night.
Play it a “lullaby” (Go here for music to relieve anxiety)
Now, even though dogs don’t react to lullabies the same way babies do, it’s still a good idea to try them out. Some dog owners have even gone as far as to sing lullabies themselves to help the dogs fall asleep. However, in hindsight, the dogs probably stopped whining because their owners were right there in front of them!
In any case, let’s not talk about regular lullabies, although there are some great ones on YouTube. What we suggest is playing the dog a familiar sound. You can get a ticking clock and put it in the dog’s crate or on its pillow.
The idea is that the ticking sounds will remind the dog of its mother and its litter buddies. Thus, the self-soothing process will begin, as it will feel as if it’s not alone. What’s more, the rhythm will affect it the same way it affects us; it’s a distraction that lets us relax our minds and bodies.
The only thing we would have to worry about is the dog using the clock as a chew toy. Therefore, remember to hide it well!
Check if the dog is in any pain
Sometimes, a dog might not realize it’s in a lot of pain until it lies down. Additionally, the pain or discomfort may start during the night. Dogs love sniffing stuff out, and sometimes even tasting things they really shouldn’t be eating. Thus, their bodies may react to strange things a bit later, once they’ve already fallen asleep. At that point, the dog will wake up and start whining for its owner.
If there’s an indication that the dog might be in pain, it’s vital to react fast. Dogs are sensitive creatures, and if you’re not a vet, you may not be able to diagnose them properly. Therefore, just to stay on the safe side, get the dog to the vet as soon as possible. You can tell they’re in pain as the whining won’t stop when you try to soothe them.
Comfort it with a soothing smell
Separation anxiety is real, especially in dogs that are rather attached to their owners. Thus, it’s not uncommon for them to start whining at night just because the owner seems miles away from them.
Luckily, there is an easy fix for this. A dog’s sense of smell is quite powerful, so if you place your T-shirt in the crate or on its pillow, it might be able to soothe itself and stop whining. It will be as if you are right next to them, so they won’t feel the need to call out for you in the dark.
Train it to consider the crate its new home (and den)
Although this technique will work best on puppies, it can also come in handy if we’ve adopted an older dog. Basically, what we want to do is make the crate a safe haven for the dog. It should be its home and a place where it can go hide or relax, not to mention sleep and live its best life.
However, crate training will take a bit of time. Still, it goes without saying that it’s highly rewarding. After a few weeks, the dog will become independent and learn to soothe itself if it’s sad. What’s more, it won’t be as lonely in the crate as it would be anywhere else in the house, purely because it’s been taught to view the crate as its very own sanctuary.
Step #1: Make the crate nice and cozy (See crates on Amazon)
It’s vital for the crate to ooze comfort. Otherwise, using this method won’t do any good, as the dog will view it as something bad. Therefore, make sure it’s large enough for the dog and that there’s a nice doggy bed in it.
Also, fill it up with all sorts of toys that the dog might love, and that would provide it with much-needed comfort. Here, you can also use your clothing as a means to an end — cover the bed with an old sweater if it’s cold in the house or a T-shirt if it’s warm.
Step #2: Slowly introduce the concept of staying in the crate
In order for the dog to fall in love with its crate, we have to slowly get it used to it. Therefore, aim for 10 to 15 minutes of crate time in the beginning. Let the dog explore it a bit, and if it goes inside by itself, reward it. Furthermore, stay with the dog while it’s in the crate — it’s less likely to be scared of it if it seems that you’re entirely calm. If it starts crying, though, wait for a bit to see if it stops. For now, you can let it out of the crate when it’s whining.
Step #3: Practice and adjust the technique
Now, you cannot just go by those 10 minutes per day forever. So, once the dog is happy to go into the crate on its own, it’s time to increase the amount of time it spends there, as well as the distance between the crate and its owner.
Add a few minutes more to the crate time each day, and every time, try to move a bit further away from the dog. Don’t leave the room just yet — you don’t want to startle the dog. Instead, go a few steps further from it. Once the dog is OK with that distance, increase it once more by standing beside the door, for example. Then, once it’s ready, you can leave the room.
Step #4: Repeat the steps as much as possible
Over time, the dog will get used to the crate, but you have to be persistent. Repeat the process as many times it’s necessary, and don’t let the dog out as soon as it starts crying. That will only reinforce the idea that whining is a good thing, which is not what you want. Instead, if it starts whining, sit in front of the crate. Let the dog know you’re there for it, but that you cannot let it out until it stops crying.
Ignore the crying — don’t reinforce it
Finally, it’s crucial to mention what you shouldn’t do while trying to figure out how to stop dog whining at night — positive reinforcement of a bad behavioral pattern. Of course, you want to reinforce the idea that nothing bad will happen to the dog if it’s not with you. However, by soothing it rather than letting it soothe itself, you won’t get anywhere. The dog will learn that whining is a trigger for you to come see it, pet it, or otherwise calm it down. Therefore, it can “use it against you,” so you’ll find yourself waking up at night a lot, which could affect the overall quality of both your and the dog’s life.
Final tips on how to stop dog whining at night
If you’ve made it this far, it means we’ve achieved something amazing! You are now ready to help your dog stop whining and live a better life.
However, remember that these things take time. Dog owners might need to repeat some of these techniques for a few weeks before they see the first results. During that time, their patience will be tested a lot, and they might snap at the dog at some point.
Whatever we do, we shouldn’t let the dog know that we’re frustrated with it. We don’t want our pets to be afraid of us or to think they’re the main reason our lives have gotten worse. Like we’ve said — dogs are sensitive, fragile creatures, and we have to tread lightly when training them.
The good news is that persistence pays off. If we put in enough effort, the dog will realize that there’s nothing scary waiting for it in the dark and that we’re not that far away. Thus, it will learn how to cope with sleeping separately over time, giving everyone in the house a chance to finally catch some z’s.