Reasons Why Dogs Whine and How to Stop it

Updated on February 9, 2016

Is your cute little puppy making you lose zzz's?

The Making of a Whining Dog

It’s one of the earliest vocalizations puppies emit, and one that’s often inadvertently reinforced by well-meaning dog owners: in this article, we’re talking about whining. There’s whining and whining so if you want to learn how to learn how deal with a dog who whines too much, you must put on your investigative hat on and first determine the underlying cause. Why do dogs whine?

An Instinctive Behavior

The behavior of whining starts early when puppies are still with their mom and litter mates. Born blind, deaf and unable to regulate their temperature and eliminate on their own, puppies are in a pretty much helpless state. Fortunately, momma dog is aware of their vulnerable state, so she’s always within reach so she can intervene at the first signs of trouble. Whining at this stage is an important form of communication that puppies rely on to inform their mothers that they are hungry or cold. It’s also a good way to help mother dog locate her puppies should they become separated. No puppy had to take a class to learn how to whine, it’s an instinctive behavior that has an adaptive purpose so to grant the pups’ survival. However, just as with babies crying, as the pups grow, they start putting 2 and 2 together and the pups start associating behavior with consequence. Whining brings warmth, whining brings food, whining brings attention. Whining is rewarding behavior so a learning component is added to what was once an instinctive behavior.

Reinforcement of Whining Behaviors

Now, something important to consider is the work of B. F. Skinner, the father of operant conditioning. Skinner claimed that behavior which is reinforced tends to strengthen and repeat, while behavior which is not reinforced tends to weaken and extinguish. Puppies are not aware of the work of B. F. Skinner, but they sure know learn quickly that whining works so whining soon becomes a way of life. It’s not surprising therefore that once the puppies reach 8 weeks and go to their new homes, they may use their whining around their new caretakers and the line between using the whining to fulfill real needs and getting attention is very thin.It’s up to the new puppy owners therefore to make sure that whining does not get out of hand. The puppy whines to tell the owner the bowl of water is empty? Fine. The puppy whines to tell the owner it’s time to take him out to potty? Perfect! The puppy whines the first night in his new home because he feels lonely being away from his mother and littermates? Understandable.

Problems starts when puppy owners reinforce certain forms of whining by attending to the minimum noise the puppy makes rushing to him as if he’s risked his life every time. Soon the puppy learns how to use whining to manipulate his owners every time he feels bored or wants attention. This may lead to a future of pushy behaviors. Here are some common scenarios.

Teaching Puppies to Whine

The following cliche' happens to almost all new puppy owners: they adopt an adorable puppy and every night upon placing him in the crate for the night, the concert begins. Concerned about the poor puppy being afraid of being left alone, the owner will rush to the puppy to console it and let it know that ''mommy'' is there. Unfortunately, this approach does more than providing reassurance to the new puppy, it actually has taught him an invaluable lesson, reminiscent of the times he was in the litter: whining works!

Indeed, whining should never be encouraged whether your are dealing with a 2 month old baby who is crying or a small puppy. Both infants may have small brains and have so much still to learn about life, but they already have the capability of understanding which behaviors bring results and which do not. So how to approach that tiny puppy that keeps you awake almost all night long?

If it's the first night you have adopted the puppy, it' s a good practice to allow the crate in the bedroom. Just the first night or two. Simply put, being in a new home is traumatic for a puppy that has lived in a home with his mom, litter-mates and previous owner. Your new home has new smells, new sounds and new views, and ultimately, there is really nothing familiar surrounding him. It is OK therefore, to have him near by the first few nights, just so he knows he has somebody to rely on and to understand that he has not been abandoned in the dead of the night.

Having him nearby is also helpful because the puppy will need to go out to potty in the night because his bladder is still small and the only way to let you know he must go is through whining. Check as well if he needs some water or if he is too cold or too hot. Whining in dogs is often a sign of him being uncomfortable.

Then, as days go by and the puppy is more familiar to the home, your presence and the smells, his crate may be gradually pushed farther and farther from the bedroom. As you learn how often he must go potty in the night, learn to differentiate signs of needing to go potty from signs of simply wanting to see you for comfort. If you notice he is simply seeking your attention, all you need to do at this point is ignore, no matter how loud he whines. If you have been rewarding his whining with attention in the past, be ready for some extinction bursts!

Causes of Whining in Dogs

Of course, there are many reasons why dogs whine, and the best way to tackle whining in dogs is recognizing what your dog is trying to communicate through his whining. Puppies are natural whiners, after all whining is how they get their mom's attention. Mom however, at some point, learns when it is time to lend a deaf ear to those whiny voices. When the pups come to our new homes, it's yup to us not to reinforce undesirable reasons for whining. Adult dogs resort to whine as well once grown up and for various reasons. Following are some common causes of whining in dogs.

  • Pain

Some dogs whine out of pain. It is never a bad idea to have a dog seen if it appears to whine for no obvious reason. Watch for other signs suggesting some discomfort or pain.

  • Needs

Dogs have needs regardless of age. Puppies may need comfort, water, food or warmth. Adult dogs may whine for the same reasons, a dog may be found whining in front of an empty water bowl or whining because it wants to seek human companionship. Make sure your dog is not cold, hungry, thirsty, lonely or needs to be taken out. Don't forget about meeting your dog's needs for exercise, play and mental stimulation.

  • Attention

Dogs may whine for attention when they realize that brings attention. The recipe to a whiny dog is easy, just give it attention and you are set up for success. While all dogs like attention, it's important to learn when and how to give it. Give your dog attention when he's calm and ignore your dog when he's whining or acting pushy. Don't forget though that for some dogs, even negative attention is a form of attention!

  • Frustration

Dogs may whine when they are frustrated. A good example is a dog whining at a squirrel going up a tree or at another dog behind a fence. They simple whine because they are frustrated because they are unable to get to the object of their attention. Visual barriers may reduce this type of whining.

  • Stress

Stressful situations may cause whining episodes in dogs. Just think of dogs whining at the vet's office, when there are thunder storms or when left along during the day. To help these dogs, you may need to invest in calming aids.

As seen, there are various causes of whining in dogs. They way owners react to the whining may really make a difference in the way dogs perceive their owners. Attention whining should never get attention, stress whining should never be scolded, it's important to help these dogs feel less stressed, frustration whining should never be reinforced such as taking a dog out to chase a squirrel or he will whine anytime a squirrel is in the yard, and of course, pain whining needs attention. Dogs may not have a lot of vocabulary compared to humans, but it helps at least to understand what they are trying to say when they vocalize with us.

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    • profile image

      michael campbell 2 weeks ago

      I have a 7 year old Blenheim Terrier he is a recue dog he will whine if everyone is in the room watching t.v. We have hi since he was eight months old .He will stare at the person watching t.v. and whine at them.

    • profile image

      James fisher 7 weeks ago

      I have a working Labrador puppy who is 5 months old who whines for seemingly no reason there’s always water, she is in a feeding routine she is excercised , so how do I stop this, she has also taken to howling in the mornings, thanks in advance.

    • profile image

      Caroline Nightingale 8 months ago

      Our 13 week puppy had stopped whining when left at night but has now started again any tips or advise please

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 4 years ago from USA

      In what context does he whine? If you are ignoring and he is getting louder and louder you may actually be dealing with an extinction burst, keep it up in such a case! Here is a read about extinction bursts:

      If he is whining, wait for the moment he stops, and reward him by giving him a long -lasting treat such as a bully stick or deer antler, this will keep him busy for a while. If he is whining because he is bored, up his exercise and mental stimulation, a tired dog is a good dog! Is he neutered? if not, maybe there's a dog in heat nearby?

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      Calpaige 4 years ago

      My dog is almost 2 and has just started whining. It drives me nuts. No matter how long I ignore him he still whines louder and louder. This is becoming an issue because not only do we live in an apartment but I have a baby due in a month. What can I possible do to make him stop?

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 4 years ago from USA

      Nae for "spoiled" I meant like how babies learn to cry to get mommy coming , perhaps this starts a little later, but when I worked in daycare my coworkers were often instructed not to run towards a crying baby unless there was a reasonable reason such a diaper change or hunger.

    • profile image

      Nae 4 years ago

      Good advice for whiny dogs. My dog was going off one night. I took him for a walk, feed him, played him him for a but- nothing. Few hours of on and off whining and I let him out in the backyard- Turned out he just wanted to poo in the yard (finicky pooper). Just one remark- you can't spoil a 2 month old [human] baby. Babies are not able to become "spoiled" until they are much older, you would very much be neglecting the baby instead of spoiling him/her.

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 5 years ago from USA

      He should calm down once the novelty of having him around takes place. I think it is just a matter of time of him getting used to this new family member.

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      rodney 5 years ago

      We just got a puppy pit two months ago and our older dog always whine, smell hit butt, and follow him everywhere he goes. What should we do?

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 5 years ago from USA

      Well, take it as you want; both are different species, yes, but dogs are believed to have the mental capabilities par to a two year old child, and I was not trying to give parental advice, it was for sake of example...

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      Nokada 5 years ago

      Thanks for the advice concerning dog behavior. I would have been more open to it if you had kept it about dogs. Not sure about you... By my children are not dogs. Human babies and puppies are different species and should not be compared when it comes to "training". So, stick to what you know. Not into your "parenting" advice.

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 5 years ago from USA

      If he is very social he may be whining because he wants to be included, however, some dogs also whine when they are anxious about something,

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      Dan Carr 5 years ago

      My dog whines when hears familiar voices come into my apartment. Especially if the door is closed and he can have access to the person in the other room. Why is this does he want to be included ?

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Sageleaf 6 years ago from Western NC

      This information is great! I learned some new facts when it comes to my dog. Thanks! Voted up.

    • profile image

      Emma 6 years ago

      My 4 month old puppy whines through the night, whether in the kitchen with his sister or in his crate alone. He just wants out and to be with us. We always ignore him and have never once given in, well at 5am we let them in the garden to pee, as we are trying to train them to hold it in till morning.

      We are at the end of our tether, we just don't know how to help little Fred settle in :-(

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      iitalianangel 6 years ago

      That puppy is adorable...I have a 4 year old baby pit mixed with a beagle. He's the best

    • TattooKitty profile image

      TattooKitty 6 years ago from Hawaii

      Thanks for the great info! My 1 year-old Yorkie whines constantly. Of course, he always does it right after dropping a toy at your feet. Bit of a fetch-addict, that one is. Cute trick, except when it's late at night and you just want to watch TV!

    • ValL profile image

      ValL 6 years ago from UK

      I'm crate training my dog at the moment with the intention of not leaving her in the crate for more than a few hours a day. I'm getting better at recognizing which types of whining she does. I'm now making sure not to let her out of her crate when she whines and to wait until she's quiet and she is slowly getting better. I think sometimes it's harder on me than on her! But I will persevere.

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 6 years ago from USA

      Sounds like he is over-dependent on you. Don't let him follow you ever where all the time. Randomly close him in a room for five minutes and open the door only when he is quiet. Then gradually increase the time opening only when he is quiet. Sounds like as mild case of separation anxiety, you need to work on it before it gets worst, here is an article:

    • profile image

      Kitsrayson1 6 years ago

      My dog is a 8month old pit he cries and barks if im talking laughing,in the bathroom if I leave he cries,barks,chews on the window seals,and chews up the mini blinds. His dog bed toys chews the paint off the walls he is very spoiled .what should I do?

    • Mrs. J. B. profile image

      Mrs. J. B. 6 years ago from Southern California

      So this explains why my now grown pitbull called Puppy whines. Thank You for the sound advice

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 6 years ago from USA

      Toss your dog a stuffed kong with treats every time you notice something that may trigger his response.. this will give him an alternative behavior (he will try to get the goodies out) plus he will start associated those threatening animals with something positive so there is no reason to feel intimated in the long run! best wishes~

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      David 6 years ago

      My dog whines at the TV and it drives me completely insane. He won't stop and nothing I have found has been any help. In the mean time I am unable to watch anything on TV with an animal or fighting because the dog whimpers when he sees it on the screen. I am at my wits end.

    • foxwalk profile image

      foxwalk 7 years ago

      This is a great hub. All too many dog owners make the mistake of coddling their puppies and bringing them into bed with them, only to find out later is is extremely difficult to get them out of bed. Worse yet, some dogs may even aggressively defend the bed.

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      Apple 7 years ago

      When we got out puppy, we brought a blanket & toy and with each visit, we rubbed the mother's & liter scent on them. It helped greatly!!

    • thehands profile image

      Jorge Vamos 7 years ago

      Mostly they seem to want attention when they whine, in my experience. It's too cute to ignore sometimes.

    • viryabo profile image

      viryabo 7 years ago

      Such an adorable puppy.

      I now know how to handle whinnings of young puppies. It used to make me feel so sad just hearing their whine all night long, but the idea of them being in the room with you for the first few days makes a lot of sense.

      Thanks for this great and informative hub.


    • Emily Robinson profile image

      Emily Robinson 8 years ago

      Love the picture of the puppy

    • buddy12love profile image

      buddy12love 8 years ago

      i never knew that's why they whined love the pic

    • filthyscoundral profile image

      filthyscoundral 8 years ago

      Great hub!

    • gumballs profile image

      gumballs 8 years ago

      great hub. Love the photo!

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      vidhu1707 8 years ago from India

      good tips...will try tis with my pup...

    • advisor4qb profile image

      advisor4qb 8 years ago from On New Footing

      Will hang onto this one. We are getting a dog.

    • ocbill profile image

      ocbill 8 years ago from hopefully somewhere peaceful and nice

      thanks for the useful tips. I lean towards the attention need.

    • l1blonde profile image

      l1blonde 8 years ago

      Good hub. Good information for 1st time dog owners.

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