Reasons Why Dogs Whine and How to Stop It
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 littermates. 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 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. The line between using the whining to fulfill real needs and getting attention is very thin. It’s up to the new puppy owners 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 start 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, littermates 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 with 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 up to us not to reinforce undesirable reasons for whining. Adult dogs resort to whining as well once grown up and for various reasons. Following are some common causes of whining in dogs.
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.
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.
Dogs may whine for attention when they realize that ...it 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!
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.
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.
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.
Questions & Answers
My dog whines by the glass door when she see squirrels outside, what should we do?
Sounds like your dog has high prey drive. You can try to block off visual to that area by keeping your dog in another area of the house and finding a productive way to channel this drive by playing with her with a flirt pole (great tool for training!), engaging him in some fun doggy sports like Treibball, barn hunt trials or flyball. Whining and obsessing at the door is not good as it causes frustration and no outlet.Helpful 8
My puppy has been whining nonstop for an hour. What can I do?
It would be helpful trying to find out why your puppy is whining in the first place so that it can be addressed. Is your puppy whining by the door and asking to be let outside? He may have smelled something, or he may know that there is some critter outside. He may be whining for your attention. He may need to go potty or may want to join you. Whining can also be medically-induced in case your dog has a physical problem. As seen, there are many possibilities, and these are just a few.Helpful 9
My six-month-old German shepherd whines at the door as soon as I put her in my bedroom. She does not want water, food, or to go out. What do I do?
Is your dog with you when you put him in the bedroom or alone? If alone, most likely he wants to be with you. If with you, then maybe he wants to go out to explore, play and not settle down in a boring bedroom. You can try exercising him and providing mental stimulation before putting him in the bedroom. Perhaps also give him a stuffed Kong to help him stay a bit occupied and settle down once in the bedroom.Helpful 9
© 2009 Adrienne Janet Farricelli