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Why Do Dogs Cry? – What Does it Mean?

Dogs can cry, but not in the same sense humans do. Unlike people, dogs don’t tear up when they are sad, nor do they sob or wail. The canine equivalent to human crying is whimpering or whining.

But why do dogs cry? There are several reasons why dogs cry. Whining can be a sign of attention-seeking behavior or that your dog needs or wants something. Some dogs whine when they are scared, stressed, or in pain. Crying is also a sign of submissive behavior and might be your dog’s way of apologizing.

Whining is sometimes cute, but it can become bothersome if it goes on forever or becomes a habit. To stop your dog from crying, you have to understand why it’s crying. Keep reading to discover the potential causes of crying. 

Do Dogs Really Cry When They Are Sad?

Dogs can cry, but their eyes can’t secrete tears, at least not when they are sad. Dog crying is more like whining and whimpering, and unlike people, dogs don’t shed tears when they are unhappy.

Signs that your dog might be sad include vocalizations like whining and whimpering, lack of energy, changes in sleeping pattern or behavior, and refusing food or treats. If your dog is sad, its eyes may appear smaller than usual and squinty.

While dogs don’t cry tears when they are sad, dog tears can be a sign that something is wrong with your dog’s eyes. Take your dog to the vet as soon as possible if it has teary eyes.

Reasons Why Dogs Cry 

Reasons Why Dogs Cry 

Dogs use many methods of communication, and their preferred way to express sadness is through whimpering or whining. Dogs cry for several reasons, including when they are scared, stressed, in pain, want attention, or need something. 

Your Dog Needs or Wants Something

The most common reason dogs cry is that they need or want something from their owners. Like barking dogs, dogs who whine or whimper are trying to communicate. 

Your dog’s whining can be a sign that it wants food, water, or a potty break. Maybe your dog turned its water bowl, or its favorite toy is nowhere to be found. Once you identify the problem and fix it, the dog’s cries will stop.

Whimpering and whining can also point to bigger problems. If your dog is whining that it needs to go outside after you just took it out, this could indicate a digestive problem or bladder issue. If your dog goes again, as soon as you’re outside, take it to the vet.

Crying for Attention

Some dogs whimper and whine just because no one is looking or paying attention to them. This type of behavior is similar to how small children cry when bored.

If your dog wants attention, spend more time together playing or exercising. Keep your dog mentally stimulated with puzzle toys and teach it new commands and tricks to keep things interesting. 

Lack of mental stimulation and exercise leads to boredom and destructive behaviors such as digging and chewing.

Your Dog is Scared or Stressed

Dog-whining can also be a sign that your dog is scared or anxious. If your dog is pacing, trembling, cowering, or panting while whining, it’s nervous or afraid of something. 

If your dog cries right before you leave for work, it may suffer from separation anxiety. Dogs with separation anxiety usually exhibit destructive behaviors, like digging, howling, and chewing while their owners are gone.


Sometimes, whining can be a sign your dog is in pain. If your senior dog whines every time it needs to go up the stairs or while attempting to jump on the sofa, it might suffer from arthritis and joint pain. 

If your dog cries for no apparent reason and all its needs are met, schedule an appointment with your vet. Your vet will examine your dog and order the necessary tests to rule out health problems. 

Your Dog is Apologizing

Whimpering and whining can be signs of submissive behavior and your dog’s way of saying you’re in charge. When you reprimand your dog for digging the carpet or begging for leftovers, the whining can be a form of an apology.

If your dog is crying because it’s sorry, accept its apology and walk away. This will show your dog that everything is forgiven. 

What To Do When Your Dog is Crying

Dogs cry and whine as a means of communication. Attention seeking, pain, frustration, and resource soliciting are common reasons dogs cry. 

If your dog’s basic needs are met, and it’s still whining, consult your vet. Your veterinarian will examine your dog and run tests to rule out medical problems that can cause pain.

If your senior dog starts to whine suddenly, it might be suffering from canine cognitive dysfunction, which causes symptoms similar to those of Alzheimer’s in people. 

If your vet rules out medical issues, your dog’s whining is likely caused by a behavioral problem. A certified animal behavior expert or a certified trainer can work with your dog and help stop your dog from crying.


Unlike people, dogs aren’t capable of secreting tears when they are sad, nor do they weep. The equivalent of a human crying is a canine whimpering or whining. 

Dogs use whimpers and whines to communicate, and these vocalizations can mean many different things. The most common reasons dogs cry are attention-seeking behavior, pain, anxiety, frustration, resource soliciting, excitement, and fear. 

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