Sarah Wilson

Dog Expert

Why Do Puppies Cry So Much at First?


New pups often cry at firstIt is 4:17 AM and my new puppy friend, Button, who woke up a few minutes ago, is keening in her crate. At 8-weeks-old, she has just left her litter.  This AM, she’s been to her papers., had water and has toys in her crate. She’s had a brief cuddle as I carried her (without much comment from me as 4 AM is not a time I want her getting up so I don’t reward it with a lot of attention).

She can see me from where she is but her cries are ear-piercingly loud. So loud that I’ve closed the windows to spare the neighbors. Anyone who has ever lived through this knows this sound.

She is not hysterical – the only word I can attach to some pup’s experience. If she were, I’d bring her crate over next to me, might add in some warmth like a Snuggle Pup and do this is stages. I’ve done that many times.

But she is a pup who can self-calm nicely. She starts to wind down pretty quickly – her volume lowers and the gaps between cries lengthens.

We’re both in for about 3 days of this. She’ll get plenty of cuddling and play time, lap napping and chew toys, but none of that will prevent any of this. She just has to get used to this new life of hers.

Why do puppies cry like this? The common explanation is that she misses her mother/litter mates. That may be part of it but I think there is something else going on here.

Any 8-week-old puppy who found herself alone in the wilderness, separated from her family, would very quickly be a dead puppy. My guess, from observation and tons of early AM contemplation, is that everything in a puppy tells her to call out – loudly – for the adults. To find her group.

It is an alarm call.

You know why else I think this? From how other dogs can react to hearing it. Play the audio below, recorded in the car on Button’s first moments in her new life, and tell me what your dog does.

Pup Crying

Chances are pretty good that when that sound fills your home, your adult dog(s) will come running with obvious concern. Many seem hard-wired to respond to that sound. Just as we are. Ever hear a child – any child – scream a true scream outdoors? Any adult I know would drop everything – instantly – and bolt toward the sound.

As Button adapts and attaches to me, she will calm. Her crying will moderate and then, finally and thankfully for both of us, subside.

Note: Day two and we made it until 4:31 AM. Her current crying is half what it was yesterday and, even at its peak, it is less intense, less piercing, less desperate than yesterday. As expected, she is adapting. Good puppy! Oh and now, at 4:38 AM, she is asleep. I’m right behind her.

Note2: Day three, 5:38 AM and all is quickly quiet.

It is nice when this stage is over – for all concerned. 


  1. What a genuinely helpful and caring post. I’ve never seen this issue addressed with the “why” underneath the “what to do.” Thank you.

    Kenny sat up, head tilt back and forth, forehead furrowed, then came over to look at the computer.

    • Kenny is such a nice dog – made more so by your efforts.

      That furrowed brow is a common thing I see in dogs responding to this sound. Played it the other day for a client dog and instantly: ears forward, brow furrowed, sniffing my iphone.

  2. Perfect timing on this and so helpful! We get our pup tomorrow and this will help my daughters understand those first few nights.

  3. What kind of dog is in the picture at the top of the page? He/she is adorable! I’m glad to know about puppies crying too, as I’m sure I’ll be getting another one sometime.

  4. Fritz tilted his head one direction then the other, while trying to push his nose down into the netbooks keyboard, obviously needing to know what is going on.

  5. Hi Sarah, when i played that tape, my Aussie, Joey (whom you’ve met) came running in from the other room like the house was on fire. “Concerned” would be an understatement. it was very sweet, actually.

  6. Great correlation between a responsive adult human and a responsive adult dog! It makes the experience more practical and less upsetting to overly sensitive people like me. And since I plan to take in foster children I expect they will also have an adjustment to accept my husband and me as their tribe and our home as their safe place.

    • What a thoughtful comment. If you have time once you have foster children in your life, I’d love to hear what you think after your experience with those soon-to-be lucky kids.

  7. maggy is a good puppy i brought yeastarday when he call him he ran near to me

  8. Great post! I got up every two hours for the first month we had our Yorkie puppy! No matter how tired I was it was worth it! I will do anything for my dog! Roxy just turned one, she had trouble with commercial dog food so I created a couple of recipes for her. I cook once every 45 days for her and freeze in muffin tins. I never thought I would be “one of those people” who spoiled their dogs! Too late, I’m one of you!

  9. My 9 week old brussels who is going through this and sleeps hard woke up with ears pricked the highest I have seen them. I think your answer makes perfect sense and we have called the keening her singing the song of her pack!. What do you do to calm a dog who does this during crating even though you put yummy goodies there and serve dinner there? Don’t want the distress to turn to separation anxiety but I need to do some housework!

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