5 Reasons Why Your Older Dog Is Whining In His Crate

5 reasons older dogs whine in crate

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As our beloved pups get older, they may begin to show signs of the aging process. This includes sleeping more often, eating less, and being a little bit slower getting up from their bed.

Our senior pups may also begin displaying some other odd behaviors, most of which are probably just part of getting older.

One of the most common parts of the aging process is the vocalizations your senior dog might make. Just as humans start making odd noises as we age, so, too, do our four-legged friends.

One of the most common things to see (or rather hear) in your senior dog is an increase in whining, which is often most notable and most excessive when your older dog is within their crate.

But why might your older dog be whining so much while in their crate, especially if they have never really whined while in there previously?

Unless your older dog has underlying medical issues, sudden whining in the crate is usually your dog’s attempt to let you know they need to go to the bathroom, are uncomfortable due to joint issues or they’re anxious. 

While in most cases your senior dog’s whining within their crate may be nothing to be worried about, it is still important for you to determine the root cause of the whining and rule out any serious medical issues, as well as to make sure your older pup is as comfortable as they can be.

Below we will go over the top reasons your older dog may be whining in their crate, as well as ways to help lessen the whining and how to help your senior pup feel more comfortable in their crate.

Reason 1 – They Have To Go To The Bathroom

Senior dogs, as part of the aging process, generally have poor control over their bathroom habits, especially their bladders, and can’t hold their urine as long as they used to.

If your senior pup is otherwise fine in the crate, but only whines on occasionally (particularly at night and in the early morning), then it may be due to the fact that they have to go to the bathroom. If you find a mess in their crate that occurs after the whining, then it’s even likelier the whining was due to them trying to tell you they needed to go outside.

If you crate your senior pup, it’s wise to allow them more frequent bathroom breaks so that they do not potty in the crate, especially if they have any other underlying medical conditions such as diabetes or cancer.

If you do find an accident in the crate, be patient with your four-legged senior citizen and just clean up the mess without incident, then take them outside to see if they need to go again.

Going forward, you can schedule more frequent potty breaks (perhaps even waking up your pup throughout the night to offer them the opportunity to use the bathroom, similar to how you may have to do the same for a young puppy) and listen for unusual whining while your older dog is within his crate so that you can let him outside to potty.

Reason 2 – They Are Uncomfortable

Just like human senior citizens, doggy senior citizens also suffer from joint and muscle pains.

Dogs age at a different rate than humans, so depending on the size of your pup, they may be considered a senior citizen as young as four years of age!

For large breed dogs, such as Great Danes or German Shepherds, the sudden whining in the crate may be related to arthritis or other aches and pains due to their aging bodies.

You may need to purchase a larger crate so your senior dog can spread out or provide an orthopedic bed within the crate to provide cushioning for their joints.

Your senior dog may also be whining to indicate he is uncomfortable with the location of his crate.

If your pup’s crate is normally in a very busy part of the house, or an area that can sometimes get a little too warm or cold, then your senior dog’s whining may be his way of telling you he needs a quieter, more comfortable location for his crate so that he can sleep in peace!

Reason 3 – They Are Unwell

If your senior dog is otherwise crate trained and has no issues with potty training issues, but they begin suddenly whining in their crate, then the cause may be related to an underlying illness or injury.

As with people, older dogs can be more susceptible to illness and injury. Because dogs cannot “talk” to us to let us know something is wrong, they will communicate in other ways such as whining.

While whining within their crate due to a more serious underlying condition is rare in most cases, it is still something to consider.

If you notice your dog is suddenly whining during odd times while in their crate and have made sure it’s not just because they need to go to the bathroom, and especially if you notice other pain-related behaviors such as heavy panting, pacing or circling within the crate, or lethargy, then a visit to their veterinarian is in order.

Reason 4 – They Are Anxious

Senior dogs can be more prone to anxiety behaviors as they age, largely due in part to their failing eyesight and hearing loss.

While a dog’s sense of smell is very strong and it does not deteriorate as much with age as other bodily functions do, the gradual loss of hearing or the development of cataracts in a senior dog can cause them to start suddenly whining in their crate when previously they did not.

This is most prevalent when the light changes, such as at dusk, overnight, and in the early morning hours, or if there are sudden loud noises or quick movements that the dog can vaguely see or hear but cannot pinpoint, thus making them anxious.

This whining and crying can be one of the ways your senior pup is telling you that he’s scared and needs some reassurance that he’s OK in his crate.

If you suspect that your senior dog’s whining within their crate may be due to anxiety, you should schedule an appointment with your vet to get your pup’s eyes and ears checked out, and possibly look at calming medications and solutions to help your dog relax while in their crate and reduce their anxiety from their loss of sight or their hearing loss.

Reason 5 – They Are Dealing With Behavioral Changes Related To The Aging Process

Senior dogs do develop something similar to Alzheimer’s disease in people, and it is often referred to as cognitive dysfunction syndrome or CDS. This gradual cognitive decline is part of the normal aging process and can result in symptoms similar to what you would see in people, including changes in mood and memory.

This can lead to your senior pup suddenly whining in his crate, which may be due to him forgetting what it is, or where he’s at.

As your senior dog’s brain changes with age, his behaviors may change as well. Anxiety, fear, sudden excitement, or even aggression may appear at random in your older dog.

If your senior dog is suddenly whining in their crate and appears to be behaving oddly, it is probably best to get them into a vet to get checked out and make sure there is nothing more serious going on and this video can show you some of the common signs:

Is It Normal For My Older Dog To Whine In His Crate?

If your older dog is otherwise crate trained and the whining has not been an ongoing issue even when he was younger, then it is usually not normal for your senior pup to be suddenly and consistently whining while in his crate.

If your senior dog is suddenly whining while in his crate, you should first rule out that he doesn’t just have to go to the bathroom, and then make an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible to figure out the root cause of the whining.

Even if the whining is due to only needing to go to the bathroom more frequently, your vet can help you set up a good schedule and there are some medications that might also help with bladder issues.

Senior dogs should have more frequent vet visits because health issues can pop up quite suddenly, and the whining within their crates can be one of the first signs that something may be wrong with your pup.

How Do I Stop My Senior Dog From Whining In His Crate

In order to stop your senior dog from whining in his crate, you must first determine the root cause of the sudden whining.

While in some cases it may just be that your senior dog is not wanting to be in the crate anymore, in other cases it may be due to a medical issue or behavioral issue that must be looked at by your veterinarian.

Since senior dogs can decline so quickly when a health issue is the cause, it’s important to take your pup to the vet as soon as possible no matter what you suspect the cause of the sudden whining to be, if only to rule out any more serious conditions and ensure that your pup is otherwise happy and healthy.

Once an underlying medical or behavioral issue has been ruled out, then you can look at other ways to stop the whining, such as increasing the number of times your senior dog is let outside to potty, or by increasing the size of her crate and putting in an orthopedic bed.

In some instances, it might be better to just leave your senior pup outside of the crate all the time, provided it is safe to do so.

While it’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks, it is unlikely that you can use training to help stop the whining as it is more often a health or aging-related issue rather than training issue.

Is It OK To Leave My Senior Dog Out Of Her Crate?

Yes, provided there is nothing your senior dog can get into it is safe to leave them outside of their crate.

If your senior dog is consistently whining within their crate and you have ruled out any underlying medical or behavioral issues with your veterinarian, then you can look at possibly eliminating the crate completely and allowing your older dog to just be out and about the house at all times.

You can also just leave the crate doors open and allow your dog the choice to enter the crate or stay elsewhere.

If you do choose to leave your senior dog out of their crate at night, it is important to be aware that your senior dog may start using the bathroom in the house, or they may do things that they otherwise wouldn’t when they were younger.

This can be due to the cognitive decline of an older dog, as well as the gradual loss of bodily functions.

The most important thing to think about when deciding whether to leave your senior dog out of their crate at night is whether it is safe for them.

Even if the whining while in the crate can be annoying to you, if it is unsafe for your pup to be out and about at night it’s probably best to keep them confined in the crate.

Closing Thoughts

Whining is generally a normal pattern of sounds that dogs use to communicate with us and indicate their emotional state.

When your older dog suddenly begins whining, there could be a variety of reasons behind the whining, and it’s important to determine the cause if the whining becomes consistent or is accompanied by other odd behaviors.

Usually, it’s probably not too much to be concerned about but if whining starts suddenly it can sometimes catch our attention more.

It can be sad and sometimes traumatic to see our beloved companions in such a state of distress, so don’t be afraid to seek out advice from an expert to see what you can do to help your senior dog’s golden years be as comfortable as possible.

In rare instances, the sudden, continuous whining could be related to a more serious condition.

When in doubt, schedule an appointment with your vet!