Training

Reasons Why Your Dog Whimpers at Night

Published: January 6, 2022
Home / Training / Reasons Why Your Dog Whimpers at Night

Some dogs are known to make whimpering and whining noises at night. At best, it is very annoying; at worst, it could indicate that your dog is experiencing a serious physical or psychological problem. The best approach to the problem depends on the cause, which you may need the help of a veterinarian to determine. Here are some possible causes to help you determine whether any of the following may apply to your situation.

Age

If your dog is still a puppy, it is normal and expected for him to whine and whimper at night, at least at first. Put yourself in your puppy's place: You've spent the first couple of months of your life being looked after by your mother and playing with your littermates. Every night, you've slept warm and safe cuddled up next to their bodies. Now, all of a sudden, you are in a big, strange place all by yourself for the first time in your life. It's dark, and the comforting smells you're familiar with are all gone. Wouldn't you feel like whining and whimpering?

Puppies whine at night because they want attention and reassurance. However, you should avoid giving it to them because then you are reinforcing a behavior that you do not want. It is difficult to ignore the heart-rending cries, but once puppies get used to their new homes, they usually calm down and stay quiet at night. This adjustment typically only takes a few days. You can help this along by rewarding your puppy with a treat or praise once he does become quiet.

Poor Training

Most puppies grow out of whining when they mature into full-grown dogs. However, if you respond to your puppy's whining early in life, he learns quickly that making those sad sounds gets him what he wants from you. He may keep whining even as he grows into an adult dog, and if you keep giving him attention to quiet him, you keep reinforcing the behavior. This is sometimes referred to as a lack of training, but this is not entirely accurate. Without realizing it, you have trained him to do exactly what you do not want him to do, and he's doing just what he has been taught. It may be effective to stop reinforcing the behavior that you do not want while looking for ways to encourage the behavior that you do. However, you may need a professional trainer or to take your dog to a behavioral class to break out of the cycle.

Medical Problems

If a full-grown and well-trained adult dog suddenly starts whining at night, it may be a sign that she is experiencing pain or discomfort due to a medical issue. Some dogs have food sensitivities or develop digestive issues due to poor quality food. This can cause problems such as bloating. Dogs with joint pain or other chronic medical issues may have pain due to their position and whine because of the discomfort. Dogs may whine when they develop a urinary condition; they know they are not supposed to go inside, but holding in the excess is uncomfortable.

If your dog suddenly starts whining well out of puppyhood, it is a good idea to take her to the vet to see if there is some underlying physical problem that may be causing her pain or discomfort. Your vet should be able to diagnose the problem or at least help you narrow down the possible causes. He or she may be able to provide treatment options or at least offer suggestions for making your dog more comfortable at night. 

Anxiety

If you and your vet are able to rule out a physical cause of your dog's whining, perhaps the reason is psychological. It is common for dogs to suffer from anxiety. The most common cause is separation anxiety, which is when your dog becomes fearful when you aren't around and doesn't like to let you out of his sight. When you close your bedroom door to go to sleep at night, your dog's fears manifest and he may start whining to get you to come back. If you are comfortable allowing your dog to sleep in your room at night, whether on the bed or not, this is an easy fix for your dog's separation anxiety at night. However, it doesn't address the bigger problem, and there may be legitimate reasons why you can't or don't want to let your dog into your room at night.

Dogs can get anxious for many different reasons, and the cause may be something other than separation. Your veterinarian may recommend medications that may help or anti-anxiety products. Some people are surprised that aromatherapy works on dogs, but with their sensitive noses, it makes sense that essential oils might have calming effects on them as they do on humans. Other calming products for dogs include synthetic pheromone sprays, calming treats and supplements, and swaddling suits. Your vet may recommend any of these alone or in combination with behavioral training.

Boredom

If your dog whines at night, it may be a sign that she has not gotten enough stimulation during the day and now she is bored. You can burn off your dog's excess energy and keep her from getting bored at night by exercising her at least 30 minutes per day. If you do this right before bedtime, she may be so tired out that she goes right to sleep.

While some whimpering is normal for puppies, it is usually a sign that something is wrong in adult dogs. Your vet can help you figure out what's wrong and suggest a possible solution.

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