Is My Newborn Puppy Crying Too Much?

"Too much" is a subjective term. Does your dog bark too much? One person's yes, is someone else's no. It can come down to tolerance levels. The same applies to puppies and their crying. One owner might be clapping her hands over her ears long before another feels the need for earmuffs. But puppies cry for a reason. Crying is pretty much your puppy's only means of communicating her needs to you. And it's more or less instinctive in newborn pups. This can put a different spin on "too much."

Sleeping puppy
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Is your puppy sick?

First rule out injury or illness. Signs might include diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, lack of appetite, or loss of equilibrium. But "lethargic" can be something of a subjective term, too. Puppies sleep and eat about 90 percent of the time until they reach about two-weeks-old, so be alert for other symptoms as well.

Is he nibbling at his skin or scratching a lot? Check for parasites. Is he crying right after he eats? This could signal illness or even continued hunger because his mother's milk is insufficient in some way. It's usually safe to say that he's had enough to eat if his stomach is nicely rounded, but it could indicate a problem if he's crying rather than dozing off after feeding. What are his littermates doing? Are they crying, too? You might want to have mom's milk checked.

It's usually better to err on the side of caution with very young puppies and call your veterinarian sooner rather than later if your pup is exhibiting any signs other than crying. In some cases of infection, you might have only a matter of hours to get him help.

Where’s his family?

Two cane corso mastiff puppies sleeing in a pile
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When a puppy is crying a lot, it's most likely due to loneliness or fear, especially if your puppy has recently been weaned or you just brought her home. She may feel alone without her mother, brothers, and sisters. Most puppies cry a lot during this transitional time. It's natural. Her den was the safest place in the world, and now it's gone.

This kind of distress can result in more than just a little whimpering. Your pet might develop a howling or yelping response. It can take puppies up to four days to adjust to a new home. Pups tend to experience "fear periods," too, usually when they're eight-to-12 weeks old, although it can happen at later points in their lives as well. Something that never got a rise out of her before might suddenly begin to terrify her. Being faced with a lot of new things all at once can elicit fear as well.

What to do?

If your puppy is still with his litter and is still nursing, the problem might be something that his mother needs your help to fix. Is he unable to get to her nipple for some reason? Pick him up and situate him. Is he cold? A hot water bottle might do the trick — take care to wrap it in a towel first, so you don't burn him. Puppies can't regulate their body temperatures on their own until they're about two-weeks-old.

Ask your veterinarian about supplemental feeding if it's determined his mother's milk is inadequate. You might have to keep this up until he's old enough to eat "real food" on his own. Newborn puppies need to eat approximately every two hours.

Otherwise, keep in mind that you're probably his best and only friend right now as he settles into his new home. Consider purchasing multiple crates so he can be with you in whatever room you're in at the time, or drag the one you do have from room-to-room-with you. He can see you at all times, and this can offer solace.

Begin enforcing "alone" times in small, increasing increments, leaving him with his own company for 10 minutes, then for 20 minutes, but not for an hour or more. Bring him into the bedroom with you at night. He should take comfort just from your scent and the sounds of your breathing if he's in the same room with you. You don't necessarily have to take him into your bed. Just place his crate in a strategic position where he can see you.

What not to do

You do not want to overreact to your puppy's crying; avoid snapping at her or scolding her. But don't reward her either. Scolding will confuse her and could ultimately damage your relationship with her. Remember, she's trying to communicate something to you.

She will perceive it as a reward if a good thing immediately happens when she cries — maybe she gets a treat or extra cuddling or attention. She'll soon learn that crying is a good thing because good things happen when she does so. You need to give her an incentive to stop crying.

A better idea is to try to avert the crying before it happens by keeping her nearby and addressing her fears and loneliness before they exhibit in yelps. Try to ignore her when she does cry, or at least do nothing more than talk to her quietly from a distance. It might pain you as much as it pains her, but you can lavish her with affection and treats as soon as she quiets down. Then you'll both feel better.