Without the words to describe how they feel, dogs use verbal and nonverbal cues to communicate a need. So how do you train a dog to stop whining if you don’t know what he’s looking for?
Causes of Dog Whining
Believe it or not, these cues are clues to speaking your dog’s language. Read on for the five most common causes behind a dog’s whining, and what you can do to stop it.
The Attention-Seeking Whine
You’re the center of your dog’s world, but he fails to understand that you can’t always reciprocate the affection. The moment your attention turns elsewhere, your dog may whine to sidle back into focus.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell if your dog actually needs a need met, or if he simply wants your time. The attention-seeking whine, though, usually comes with frenetic pacing and intense stare.
The following strategies will help keep attention-seeking whining at bay:
- Stick to a feeding schedule. Feed your dog around the same time each day to ensure he’s not crying out of hunger.
- Take your dog out after mealtime. Let your dog burn off that energy and go to the bathroom at his own will.
- Play regularly. Dogs are (mostly) active creatures; they require daily exercise to expend all that energy. Walks, fetch, tug-of-war, and other age-appropriate activities will help keep your dog happy and healthy.
If you’ve already implemented these steps in your daily routine and your dog still whines for attention, ignore his whine. Don’t let your dog outside, pet him, or even scold him—even negative attention is positive reinforcement.
Once your dog has stopped whining, even for five minutes, reward him with treats, praises, or playtime. Doing so will associate stillness with the attention he so craves.
The “Happy to See You” Whine
You leave the house for five seconds and your dog’s already shouting your praises when you return. On one hand it feels great to be this loved. On the other hand, however, excessive whining at the door could prop it open for more.
Curb the “happy to see you” whining by modeling proper behavior:
- Greet your dog in a less excited manner. He will most likely mirror your behavior and quell the whining over time.
- Speak out a command as you enter—in a calm tone, of course. Distracting your dog with a command will help him focus on a task over his excitement.
The Whine of Submission
Dogs are hierarchal animals. The dog in your life might be looking to you—or a canine nearby—as his pack leader. A dog will showcase signs of submission through tucking his tail, high-pitched whimpers, or turning over on his back.
Whining out of submission is not just annoying; it’s often rooted in something deeper, like insecurity. Build your dog’s confidence with the following:
- Enroll your dog in reward-based obedience classes.
- Increase playtime, lavishing him with rewards for confident, focused behavior.
- Do not punish your dog. This will only worsen his self-confidence.
As your dog’s confidence grows in your bond and his abilities, it will also seep into other interactions.
The Anxious Whine
If your dog gets worked up when you’re out of sight, he may have separation anxiety. There are several possible causes for this: traumatic life events; shifts at home; even a change in routine is enough to startle.
As creatures of habit, a change of any kind can be unsettling for your dog. Help your dog overcome mild separation anxiety with the following tips:
- First and foremost, do not punish him. This is counterintuitive to the positive relationship you’re working towards.
- Make your dog feel at home when you leave with fresh water, clean bedding, and his favorite toys.
- Leave a piece of clothing with your scent to accompany your dog while you’re away.
- Create a comforting ambience by turning on the radio or a light.
- Discourage dependence. Show your dog it’s okay to be apart, even for a short amount of time, through crate training.
If all else fails, obedience training helps dogs understand and respond to everyday situations, such as being away from you.
The Injured Whine
Sometimes your dog is not crying out at whim. Sometimes he truly is in need of attention—but of the medical kind. If your dog showcases discomfort, weakness, or an overall drop in energy, bring your dog to a veterinarian.
No matter how annoying a dog’s whine may be, remember that he is only trying to communicate with you—not push you away. With the proper discipline, attention, and affection, you’re on your way to a happy and peaceful home.