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Canine Behavior/Why is my dog crying at night?


I have 2 cocker spaniel bitches (they are sisters) which are now 8 months old. We have never had a problem with them crying at night before and now they are whining after we go to bed and also waking us up in the night crying. It only appears to be one of them and she doesn't stop, their routine hasn't changed, they are shut in their own area on a night and get a treat before we go to bed but the last two weeks she is crying hysterically when we first go to bed for around half an hour and then will wake us up during the night atleast twice. Could this be seperation anxiety? She compared to her sister is very needy, always wanting attention and unless we stand with her whilst she eats she won't eat as she chooses instead to follow us out the room and be with us? Also she is due to come into season.. Her sister started two days ago, could this be the reason?

OK let's assume this is hormonally related; allow both bitches to come into first estrus.  Twelve weeks from onset, spay them.  Before spaying, I'd like you to find a certified applied animal behaviorist in Britain to evaluate both dogs.  Fortunately, there are many in Britain.  The "problem" bitch needs more structure BUT, since you have her sister also, they must be observed and evaluated before doing anything to create more structure; you cannot promote the wrong bitch and you must include both if doing behavior modification.  Here are some links in Britain:

I could also give you two "heavy hitters" (famous) but I doubt you need that level of expertise here and they will be much more expensive.  This is a simple problem with a simple solution that will require some time and effort but will result in both of your dogs being happier and more well adjusted.  Meanwhile: feed your two dogs separately.  Find an area with a door; put the food down for the one who appears to be suffering from oncoming separation issues after confining the more secure dog with her food; walk out of the room, close the door; leave the food for both dogs for fifteen minutes.  Then go into the room, distract the dog and remove the food bowl (eaten, or not).  Split meals for twice daily (all dogs should be fed twice daily).  She will not starve herself unless there is a biologic problem.  Keep a close eye on this bitch.  Pyometra can affect any bitch at any age and is deadly.  If your bitch does not begin estrus within a week of her sister, take her to the veterinarian for examination.  

DO NOT give her any attention because she "demands" it; instead, ask for "sit" before petting her or acknowledging her (a simple enough behavior).  IF she awakens you during the night, DO NOTHING.  Do NOT reward her by going to her or even yell for her to shut up.  Contact a CAAB as soon as you can; after assessing temperament, this professional should be able to determine which of these bitches should be spayed first.

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.


I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.


30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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