Many 8-week old puppies cry when they are sent to their new homes with their new owners. Their crying can be quite ear-piercing and rather frantic especially when they are crated or left alone for some time. We can't blame them though: puppies this young are very vulnerable beings and feeling isolated can be very scary!
A Time of Changes
Taking your new puppy home at 8 weeks can be very exciting for you and your family. You have puppy proofed your home and can't wait to see your puppy play with his new toys. All seems good until night-time comes and you put your puppy in the crate or in a laundry room or bathroom and your puppy can't settle.
Your puppy starts whining and then scratching the bathroom door. You decide to ignore it, but it doesn't get better, rather, it seems to get worse. Your puppy is now crying at the top his lungs with an ear-piercing tone that make you worry about your neighbors complaining. So what's up with puppy? Why is your 8-week old puppy crying so much?
In most cases, it's due to the stress of changes. Before coming into your home, your puppy was mingling with his littermates, playing with them and sleeping piled up on each other for warmth. This provided him with reassurance.
Now, he's in a new home, with different sights, scents and sounds. He no longer has his mom and littermates to play with and sleep with. He is now surrounded by new people he has never seen before. It's a time of uncertainty and with this may come some stress.
Before your puppy has arrived in your home, your puppy was sleeping piled up with his littermates. It feels reassuring for puppies to stick together.
According to Scott and Fuller (1965), by 7 weeks, although competitiveness among siblings prevails, bonding remains very strong. This can be easily noticed upon witnessing the distress vocalizations in 7-week old puppies when isolated even briefly from their litter mates at this time.
At 8 weeks, the bond among the puppies is therefore still very strong. This attachment is expected to decline by 10 weeks of age. However, puppies may still sleep in contact with each other if this helps them feel warm and reassured.
So when your puppy arrives in your new home he may struggle at night being alone far from his siblings and all the reassuring smells of his home.
Not Used to a Being Closed
Good breeders will acclimate puppies to a crate from an early age, creating positive associations with being in it. This provides young puppies a head start so they may be less fearful of being enclosed in it.
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Puppies not used to being confined in a crate may therefore find the experience frightening, especially if there is nobody nearby them to reassure them that they are not alone.
Even if you do not crate your puppy at night , but rather, leave him in a room alone, he will likely start to panic and vocalize to manifest his sense of unease or profound solitude associated with being left alone in a closed room.
Onset of A Fear Period
To further compound things, consider that puppies go through what are known as fear periods and one of a puppy's fear periods coincidentally takes place between the age of 8 to 10 weeks of age.
During this time, the puppy may be very sensitive to traumatic experiences, and a single scary event may be enough to traumatize the puppy and have life-long effects on his future behaviors.
Due to the fact that this fear period coincides with the time when puppies are often sent to their new homes, some breeders feel that their puppies are better off adopted at a later age. This is why some breeders decide to sell puppies at 12 weeks.
An Unmet Need
Puppies have several needs and it may not always be easy identifying what exactly the puppy wants. When your puppy cries it may therefore be a sign of him being thirsty, hungry or needing to go potty if he's closed in a crate. It could also be your puppy is too hot or too cold.
So pay attention to your puppy and determine whether he may have a need and he is trying to get your attention.
Now That You Know...
As seen, 8-week old puppies have their own good reasons for crying. Life is tough at this age with all the changes going on. Here are several tips of owners of puppies who cry.
- Ensure all needs are met. Make sure your puppy has water, has eaten and that he is not too hot or too cold. Also, make sure he doesn't have to go potty. Learn to recognize signs your puppy has to potty. At night, aim to take your 8-week old puppy out to potty at 10pm (just before crating), then 2am, and then wake up at 6am. Gradually stretch things out as the bladder develops.
- Provide a warm water bottle wrapped in a blanket. This warmth may help your puppy sleep since the warmth emanated from the bottle may mimic sleeping with his litter mates.
- Invest in a Snuggle Puppy Behavior Aid. This may seem like a simple stuffed animal, but it was purposely crafted for lonely pups. It emanates warmth and also mimics a heart beat to help sooth distressed puppies.
- Try calming aids. Adaptil offers a variety of products meant to help new puppies adapt to their new homes. Its products are made with synthetic pheromones which mimic the pheromones mother dogs produce to sooth their puppies when they're nursing.
- Take some time to acclimatize your puppy to being closed in a crate. Puppies shouldn't be shoved in a crate and expected to behave. They should be gradually introduced by creating lots of positive associations with the crate (give treats inside and toys) and keeping the crate the first days besides the bed so that the puppy can be reassured by voice or touch as needed. Don't be afraid to comfort your puppy, you can't reinforce fear in dogs.
- Cover the crate with a blanket. This can help your puppy feel safe.
- Some puppy owners have noticed less crying when placing straw in an airline style crate carrier for the pup to sleep in. It is not clear why this may work, some suppose it's because breeders often use straw to raise their pups.
- Try an x-pen. If your puppy struggles being confined in a crate, you may find it helpful keeping the crate with the door open inside an x-pen and placing several pee pads at the opposite side. This will give your puppy some more space while encouraging his denning instinct (instinct to not eliminate in his sleeping area).
- Consider that very young pups may not be able to cope with being left alone. These pups need love, reassurance and security. The more a puppy experiences the trauma of being alone, the sooner the panic will set in next time. Fortunately, most puppies become more independent once they mature.
- Consider as well that leaving a puppy to cry in a crate or downstairs closed in a room all alone is teaching the puppy to associate the crate or room along with night time with being distressed.
- Consult with a pro. Severe cases may benefit from the guidance of a dog behavior professional (veterinary behaviorist) who can provide behavior modification with or without the use of medications. Young puppies may suffer from separation anxiety too!
- Mild cases may benefit from over the counter supplements such as l-theanine.
- Rule out medical conditions. A puppy who cries non-stop may be suffering from some health ailment that needs addressed.