Chris Sherwood is a project manager by day and avid home and garden scholar by night who loves to share his trials and success with others.
Why Is My Dog Whining?
Your dog stands out as not only your most loved pet, but also as a major part of your family. What do you do when this member of the family picks up a new habit like whining, seemingly without purpose or reason? While it may quickly wear on your nerves, understanding the underlying potential causes of dog whining can help you take the necessary steps to correct the behavior.
Is Your Dog Injured or in Pain?
Before getting into some of the main reasons why dogs develop whining habits, it's important to first address any potential injuries. Whining is often a dog's only way to communicate pain or discomfort. If whining is associated with a lack of movement, wincing, or other signs of pain, take your pet to the vet as soon as possible for a checkup. In some cases, you may be able to quickly identify the problem, such as a hurt paw. However, internal problems or problems with joints are less noticeable, much more painful, and potentially dangerous.
Common Reasons Why Dogs Whine
If there seems to be no pain associated with your dog's whining, keep reading on.
If dog whining is accompanied by a submissive posture, crouching down, or a lowered head, ears, and tail, it may be your dog's way of showing you that you are the dominant person in the household. You can either chose to ignore this behavior or quickly acknowledge to the dog that you see that they're in a submissive state by a quick pat and by walking away from them.
Dog whining often occurs with excitement, and this is easy to tell due to your dog's body language. Excited whining is typically accompanied by excited behavior such as running around you, spinning in circles, or trying to jump on you. Correct these behaviors as needed if they are not allowed in your house, and withhold attention until your dog has reached a calm state.
A common reason dogs whine is to notify their humans of something. The most common of these notifications is the need to relieve themselves, especially if they are kennel trained, and the need to go is overpowering their natural instinct not to potty in their den. This is also common if whining is accompanied by standing by or scratching the door you typically let them out of to go to the bathroom. In many cases, you may not want to stop this whining behavior, especially if it is immediately relieved by letting them outside.
Loneliness or Insecurity
Whining can be especially difficult to correct when it's connected with loneliness or insecurity. Insecurity is one of the easier emotions to recognize in your dog as they will often have a hunched posture, ears down, and tail tucked between the legs. They may also pace nervously around their space or even shake. A lonely dog will whine any time that you're not in the same room with them, such as when you put them in their crate for the night if crate trained or when you leave the house in the morning for work.
The best way to approach these forms of whining is to tackle the cause. For an insecure dog, change their posture by petting underneath the chin versus on the head to force the head up while rewarding them at the same time. Ignore them when they show signs of insecurity and reward them with praise or a treat when they show a more confident posture.
For lonely dogs, set aside more time to do active activities with them instead of just sitting around the house or cuddling. Take them for a longer walk or play catch to help wear out nervous energy and reassure your dog that they are still part of your family even when you're away. Consider other helpers as well, such as leaving safe puzzle toys when you leave the house, turning on the radio or TV softly, and leaving something that smells like you on their bed or in their crate.
Dogs May Train Their Owners to Respond
In many cases, dogs develop the habit of whining when they realize it causes a response in their owner. Dogs are fast learners, especially when a repetitive behavior gets the result they want. If every time your dog whines you quickly respond by talking to them or petting them, they make the connection that whining equals attention. Unless your dog is alerting you to a specific need and has no other learned way to alert you to it, it's important to correct the dog early on to prevent whining from evolving into barking.
To stop the whining behavior, use Caesar's "no touch, no eye contact" method. By ignoring your dog during this unwanted behavior, you teach them that it will not get the result they want. Instead, wait until they are in a submissive posture and silent, then reward them with what they're whining for, whether that's your attention, food, or other items.
Pay Attention to Your Dog's Cues
Hopefully, these tips help bring some peace and quiet into your home. However, remember that in many cases, a short amount of whining may actually benefit your relationship with your dog, such as when they need to go to the bathroom or are communicating an injury. So, be sure to balance your training to remove unwanted whining while maintaining their way of cueing you to actual needs.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2017 Chris Sherwood