Closeup image or rottweiler chewing on dog toy.

Why Does My Dog Cry When he Plays With Squeaky Toys?

Are you pulling the leash, or is the leash being pulled? Are you oblivious as an owner to what stressors cause your dog to overreact in certain situations?

To answer these questions, let's go back in history a little bit and comment on the many ways that dogs have strived to imitate and communicate with their human owners and companions.

The domestication of dogs, and their evolutionary breakaway from the wolf species, has caused many unintended consequences. The tendency for miscommunication is chief among them.

Dogs have evolved over 20,000 to 40,000 years to become humanity's best friend.

And over that time, both species have become more alike than each may appreciate or realize.

Humans and dogs have worked cooperatively over tens of thousands of years for mutual benefit. Scientists believe that ancient humans may have accidentally initiated the domestication of wolves into dogs 40,000 years ago; they shared surplus meat with wolves to entice cooperation and companionship.

Dogs helped humans to hunt, protect property and family, and guard against silent predators. And over the last 40,000 thousand, dogs may have learned to understand and imitate and understand human beings in incredible ways. These imitative traits are probably genetic traits that dogs inherited from their wolf ancestors.

According to a 2015 study by the Yale Comparative Cognition Laboratory, dogs have learned to mirror human beings in many sympathetic ways. Dogs are intelligent creatures and are adept at tolerating the company of human beings, getting along with us, and paying attention to us.

Dog being carried by owner down a sunlit street.

According to numerous scientific studies, dogs can display empathy for their owners and other human beings based on watching their actions. Dogs engage in human-watching activities in the same way that we may bird watch to study the social movements of humans and learn social cues in cross-species communication. 

Our dogs can probably learn to accurately read our facial expressions when they are close enough to us. Dogs can manifest jealousy if they see their owners being friendly to another dog. Dogs have shown empathy during their people-watching activities to see their owner or other humans being poorly treated while people-watching.

Many dogs learn their people-watching social skills just by watching TV.

The Yale study found that dogs are adept at eavesdropping and listening to human speech to discern tones of voice they recognize more than others from training and regular commands. Think about that – dogs can process human speech in their own way relative to how humans do the same.

And dogs are so instinctually attuned to people watching that they know to watch and follow the gazes and stares of human beings. Dogs may do this as a safety trait inherited by wolves to visually discern potential threats that only humans may recognize first. 

Ironically this is a genetic safety trait that ancient humans prized in wolves and ancient dogs.

Some animal psychological studies have shown that dogs can exhibit the human-like traits of sadness, listlessness, and lethargy commonly associated with long-term depressive episodes.

The point in all of this is to show that even with cross-species interactions and communications barriers, dogs have been struggling to understand and mimic their human companions for over 40,000 years. Dogs can't speak and communicate with other dogs primarily through barking, smell, and visual interpretation of body posture.

However, as dog owners understand, dogs often try to communicate with their owners. But do the dog or the dog owners appreciate the efficacy of comprehension?

In the same manner that your dog watches you and tries to discern your facial expressions, body posture, verbal commands, and movements, are you paying enough attention and distinguishing your dog's actions?

For example, why does your dog cry, whine, or howl when playing with its squeaky toy? After all, it's your dog's toy, and it actively seeks out the squeaky toy.

So, why does it actively manifest stress, fear, or anxiety and cry after purposely seeking out and playing with a dog toy? Do you, as a dog owner, pay enough close attention to notice or care?

Your dog may be crying after playing with a squeaky toy as a manifestation of an ancient hereditary response, to manifest possessiveness, to manipulate your actions, or for a variety of other reasons.

Before getting into that, let's discuss why it is healthy for dogs to have toys. And don't react negatively if your dog habitually plays with an annoying squeaking toy – after all, you bought the toy for your dog's enjoyment.

The toy itself is not the main issue – it's your dog's misapplied psychological interpretation of the toy which is the issue.

Want to buy durable dog toys to enhance playtime and engagement with your pet? Contact Runball today.

Related: Runball Tug - The Ultimate Pull and Tug Toy

Why Dog Toys are Important

Dog toys should never be viewed as a luxury or an impulse buy designed to spoil our canine friends. Dog toys are a vital emotional, mental, and psychological necessity that dogs of every breed need and will appreciate.

This is especially true of dogs who live in small, cramped dwellings and are left alone at home for long periods.

Dog toys help pack hound animals, dogs genetically wired to work cooperatively with other dogs in a hierarchy and hunt, adjust to loneliness, and do not have much to do at home.

Many dogs have more energy than they can spend during playtime with their owners. Dog toys can help dogs to tucker themselves out and dissipate a lot of pent-up energy.

Just like human beings, dogs can get depressed and anxious. Playing with dog toys can help dogs to deal with anxiety and learn to relax.

Small dog playing with a soccer ball-like chew toy.

Do you have a dog that chews up everything in the house? Get a few chew toys for your dog, and it will spend its time, energy, and attention chewing up its toys and not your valuables.

Most importantly, playing with a dog toy gives your pet purpose and something to look forward to if they spend a lot of time alone. Dog breeds that instinctually pack benefit from dog toys since it gives them a function relative to the hierarchical duties in a pack.

However, as the old saying invariably goes, the road to Hell is always paved with good intentions. Buying the wrong dog toy or substituting dog toys with actual engagement with your pet and not monitoring its behavior can have adverse effects for everyone involved.

So, why does your dog cry when it plays with a squeaky dog toy? The reasons could be endless.

Why Does my Dog Cry When he Plays With Squeaky Toys?

There may be too many valid reasons to list why your dog cries when it plays with a squeaky. You must watch your dog at play to discern vital clues.

Otherwise, you may never get down to the root of the problem, which in turn could make burgeoning behavioral issues in your dog worse.

Prey Instinct

The high-pitch and sudden squeak of a squeaky dog toy can activate the latent and instinctual prey instinct in your dog. 

Your dog knows that its squeaky toy is an inanimate object. Your dog knows it is a dog meant for its amusement and enjoyment.

However, dogs are also creatures of pure instinct. And instinct is a genetic trait that dies hard even after 40,000 years of domestication and the advent of modern obedience training techniques.

Dogs have sensitive hearing abilities and are renowned for interpreting those sounds into action. 

The high-pitched squeal and squeak of a squeaky dog toy could instinctually and instantly activate the genetic prey instinct in your dog's mind. That high-pitched squeak could remind it of injured or hiding prey that it will instinctually want to hunt and find.

This could be true if your dog is of a distinct pack breed.

Your dog may be crying because its instinct is momentarily fooling it into believing there is small prey in the house that it frustratingly can't find. 

For a spontaneous moment, your dog may forget it has a toy in its mouth and may psychologically ready itself to hunt for the sound of the squeak. But then, 40,000 years of evolution, domestication, and obedience training kicks in, and your dog realizes that there is nothing to hunt.

Psychologically speaking, squeezing a squeaky dog toy may remind your dog that the imaginary, instinctual hunt that was triggered in its mind never exists, never will exist, and that depressive, instinctual thought will reappear every time it squeaks its toy.

Squeezing that squeaky toy with its mouth may also constantly remind your dog of its pack instinct and depress it since it doesn't have a pack function and is often alone.

Protective Instincts

Many breeds of dogs are highly protective of others. The high-pitched squeal of a squeaky toy could remind it of a frightened or injured pup. 

Dogs are highly intelligent and have long-term memories. Did your dog recently give birth to a litter that was given away? Is it pregnant? Is it a breed of dog that is used to protecting its own?

Squeaking its squeaky dog toy may remind of a familial role that it longer has, and it may be depressing.


Some dog breeds can be more possessive and territorial than other breeds. Your dog may be stressed that its squeaky chew toy could be taken from it.

So, it could be crying out of pride when it squeaks its squeaky chew toy. Crying could be your dog's way of bringing attention to itself, its toy, the fact that it and it alone owns its toy. 

It could even be crying at the thought of someone taking its toy.

Emotional Manipulation

Remember how at the start of this article, we talked about how dogs have learned to mimic and emulate many of the emotional and psychological traits that they see in human beings?

Dogs may be using their intellect as an advantage to train you unwittingly.

Over time, a dog may learn that it can get what it wants or get you to act in preferred manners by manipulating your emotions. If you consider yourself a dog parent, a crying dog may command all of your attention.

Your dog may have been initially freaked out by its squeaking toy and then paid close attention to your actions and how you treated it. So, your dog may be freaking itself out and crying to get you to do what it wants.

Such emotional manipulation may not be the norm, but such tactics are not out of the question, especially for inattentive dog owners who don't engage enough with their pets.

Benefits of Squeaky Dog Toys

This is not to imply that all squeaky toys are wrong or psychologically harmful for your dog.

Squeaky toys can be fun for some dogs. The squeak can be an addictive source of mental playfulness to your pet.

Repetitive squeaking can mentally excite some dogs.

Squeaky dog toys can be used to manipulate dog owners in a good way as well as mentally. A dog could squeak their toy to get your attention and initiate playtime, walking, or some other activity where it gets to spend some time with you.

Solving the Squeaky Cry Problem

Dog being fed treat by its owner.

First of all, you should understand what breed of dog you own. Many dog owners encounter problems with their dogs because they don't know what breed of dog they own.

You may want to get your dog enrolled in a good obedience class. 

A professional dog trainer can help your dog learn to engage with squeaky dog toys without crying or stressing itself out.

Your best bet could be not to give your dog a squeaky toy or replace one with a non-squeaky toy. Reinforce the behavior that your dog should play with new non-squeaky toys by playing with them, encouraging them to play with its non-squeaky toy, and giving it treats. 

Also, talk to a dog trainer or vet about the appropriate age and breed of the dog relative to squeaky dog toys. In some dogs, the instinctual hunting instinct freaks them out so much when they hear a high-pitched squeak that they may tear a soft squeak toy apart to get to the squeaking mechanism.

Then, that innocuous squeak toy can become a choking hazard. So, pay attention to pets at play.

Many behavioral and training issues in dogs arise because pet owners are disengaged or don't recognize or diagnose problems correctly.

Need to get your pet a dog toy? Check out Runball today.

Related: Runball's Dog Rope Toy Extension