Whining is one of the many ways dogs communicate vocally. Dogs most often whine when they’re seeking attention, when they’re nervous or anxious, or when they’re excited. In this article, we’ll talk in more detail about why dogs whine, and what to do to reduce or stop it.
They Have a Physical Need. If your dog is whining, the first thing you should consider is whether they’ve been fed recently (and are they eating enough), whether they have water available, if they need to go outside, or if they’re having some sort of physical pain. You may also consider whether the dog is in need of rest. This may occur if you’re away from home with the dog for long periods of time.
During Greetings. Dogs whining when you get home, when someone comes over, or when someone approaches while out on a walk is usually just excitement.
Being Submissive. Some dogs will start whining while interacting with other dogs or people as a way of displaying a submissive posture (like when they tuck their tail in or lower their body). Dogs displaying submissive behavior is their way of communicating that they pose no risk – that they have no intention of being aggressive in any way.
Trying to Get Attention. Dogs will often whine in order to get attention, treats, or something they desire like a certain toy, or to go outside, for example.
Stress or Anxiety. Some dogs will whine when they’re in a stressful situation – this sort of whining is usually involuntary.
They Are Injured or Have a Medical Condition. If your dog is whining excessively, this is the first cause you should consider. They could be whining because they’re in pain. It’s important to take your dog to the vet if they start whining suddenly and for no apparent reason.
Separation Anxiety. If your dog only whines just before you’re getting ready to leave the house, it may be separation anxiety. He may also show other symptoms of separation anxiety such as panting, pacing, or drooling. Dogs with separation anxiety will often destroy things in the house while you’re gone. They’ll sometimes show signs of depression.
And they may begin urinating in the house. Dog separation anxiety is a serious issue. You can get more information about this in my article (video included), Helping Dog’s Separation Anxiety – How to Teach a Dog to Stay Home Alone.
During Greetings. You can reduce your dog’s whining while greeting people by diverting him to his favorite toys. Trying to just tell your dog to be quite during greetings isn’t usually effective because, unless you’ve actually trained your dog to understand what the word, “quiet” means, he won’t understand. And since whining during greeting is usually caused by excitement, the dog won’t have much control over his behavior.
It’s important to address the excitement issue most of all. Try to downplay greetings – don’t act like it’s such a big deal if someone comes to the door. Shouting, “Aunt Debbie’s here!” when your sister pulls in the driveway, for example, is only going to ignite your dog’s excitement. The best thing you can do is to set the right example for your dog, in any greeting situation. Remain calm and quiet, and remember to hand him a toy to help him manage his excitement.
I had a Boston Terrier named Cagney who got so excited when I got home, that he’d run to his toy box and quickly grab a toy to greet me at the door with. I didn’t adopt Cagney until he was about 12 years old. So I wonder…did someone use this technique with him years earlier? It seemed to really help him manage his excitement if he could grab a toy. (That’s him in the picture grabbing his favorite toy, Monkey!)
While Displaying Submissive Behavior. As we’ve said, dogs will display submissive behaviors with people or other dogs if they’re trying to send the message that they don’t plan to be the aggressor (or alpha dog) in the situation. This happens most often if the dog feels a threat or aggression being directed at them. It is a normal behavior for dogs. The best way to reduce this sort of whining is to help build your dog’s confidence.
Doing obedience training helps. Activities like throwing a ball or frisbee and rewarding the dog when he does well also helps to build confidence. Using a rope or toy to play tug-of-war with your dog, and letting him win, helps confidence.
When Trying to Get Attention. The best way to address your dog’s whining to get attention is to make it not pay off for the dog. If his whining gets him what he wants – your attention – then he won’t stop. Some dog owners actually make this worse without realizing.
Looking at the dog, touching the dog, or talking to the dog in response to his whining is just reinforcing the whining behavior. Your best choice is to not respond to the dog in any way so he’ll come to the conclusion that whining is not the answer; it’s not the way to get your attention.
In addition to not reinforcing your dog’s whining for attention by giving him attention, you also should give the dog a reward when he’s quiet. Making a habit of only giving your dog attention when he’s quiet is the best way to teach this. And repeatedly giving your dog a treat or affection only when he’s quiet will help.
Because of Stress or Anxiety. Stopping whining as a result of stress or anxiety is difficult unless you’re able to identify and eliminate the source of stress or anxiety. If your dog is whining, pacing, circling and/or licking, he may be under stress or suffering from anxiety. You can get some help from this article, How to Calm a Dog’s Anxiety – How to Calm a Fearful Dog. Products such as Adaptil can be helpful. If the problem persists, I strongly recommend seeing your veterinarian for professional help and advice.
Make sure your dog is getting enough food and water (seriously…is he whining because he’s hungry or because his water dish is empty?) Make sure he’s getting enough exercise. And always make sure your dog is getting enough love and attention. And, as we mentioned earlier, realize your dog’s whining may be caused by physical pain or some sort of medical issue. You should see your vet right away if your dog is whining excessively.
Need More Help with Your Dog?
Dealing with dog behavior issues can be challenging and frustrating for dog owners. I highly recommend a dog training website called, The Online Dog Trainer, run by Professional Dog Trainer and Behavioral Specialist, “Doggy Dan.” The site contains more than 300 videos of Doggy Dan working with dogs on every behavior issue you could think of. You can choose the dog training issue you’re having and get instant help with it from Doggy Dan by clicking HERE.
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