Dogs Never Whine “For No Reason”
I have a friend whose rescue dog whines constantly. The dog will come in from outside, stare at my friend, and whine. Until my friend was able to understand why her dog was whining, it drove her crazy!
As you might suspect, whining is an escalated communication of a need. Here’s what your dog may be trying to tell you when other attempts at communication have failed, or because whining has worked like a charm every time:
Why Do Dogs Whine
- Pain. If your dog is lying down and not trying to engage you, your dog may be in pain from injury, illness, or a chronic condition like arthritis. Don’t let this slide especially if your dog has never whined before. Have your dog checked out by a vet, as there could be something going on internally that you can’t determine through observation.
- Elimination. If your house-trained dog is whining, it may be a request to go outside to pee or poop. Whining may be a sign of frustration that you’re ignoring their nose-bumps or door-scratch requests to go out. Or, whining has simply worked in the past as a request to go outside.
- Needs. Did you forget to fill the water bowl? Is it hours past feeding time? “Have you given me a single belly rub today?” Make sure the dog’s basic needs are met (including attention) and you may minimize or even eliminate the whining.
- Submission. If accompanied by a submissive posture (ears, head, and tail down and squatting close to the ground) the dog may be saying, “You’re the alpha and I need you to reassure me that I’m still part of your pack!” This was the case with my friend’s dog who would desperately seek acknowledgment and affection from her alpha. A quick acknowledgment stopped the behavior immediately.
- Greeting. A dog may greet you with an excited whine, yipping, or jumping. That’s love! Have you ever seen a group of women greet each other? The pitch of their voices goes way up! By contrast, when men greet each other, the pitch of their voices goes down. Your dog is doing the same thing! In the case of whiny or overly exuberant greetings, do not engage the dog. Wait until your dog has calmed down before greeting him affectionately.
- Attention and boredom. If a dog has used whining as a way to get you to pay attention to him, he has done a stellar job of training you. “I whine, you respond. Good human!” Yelling at your dog is still attention so your dog wins either way. Try increasing the interaction you have with your dog while your dog is calm, and making sure your dog has enough exercise and stimulation.
- Mooching. Hey, if it worked once it will probably work again, right? Just because a dog wants something doesn’t mean she needs it. It’s up to you whether to give in and encourage the behavior.
- Anxiety or fear. If your dog is nervously pacing, looking around and otherwise acting agitated, he’s anxious or afraid. Are there new people or dogs around? Does the dog cower or try to hide? Give the dog space, and reassurance.
- Age. If your dog is elderly, diminished senses can make the dog feel anxious. “Where are all the smells? Why don’t you talk to me anymore, Mom?” Try to be compassionate. Someday you might be in the same boat.
- Anticipation. If a dog starts whining on the way to the dog park or at feeding time, they’re expressing excitement that something really good is about to happen. You probably do this too… well, not the whining, but you express excitement about something good you’re anticipating! Minimize the intensity and don’t feed the dog’s energy by staying calm yourself and keeping your voice low, slow, and steady. Avoid high-pitched excited questions like “You guys wanna go to the dog park?” unless you want to listen to whining and yipping the whole way there.
It’s one thing for puppies to whine, or for dogs to whine for obvious reasons like needing to go outside. Whining from most healthy adult dogs can become obnoxious and in many cases whining is a learned behavior (it got your attention, didn’t it?). Pay particular attention if the dog suddenly starts whining when she has never whined before and always rule out pain or discomfort before assuming it’s a ploy to get something.
If you’ve ruled out pain or a strong physical need (“Gotta go, NOW”), giving attention to a whining dog only reinforces that particular way of communication. If you don’t want your dog to whine habitually, always assume the role of calm and assertive pack leader:
- Ignore the behavior just as you would with a whiny child. Do not give the dog the slightest indication that you hear her or that you’re going to give in to her demands. Only interact with her when she approaches you calmly and reward the calm behavior.
- Ask your dog to perform a basic obedience command like “sit” as a way to acknowledge her, but show her you’re the alpha. You’re calling the shots, not the dog.
- Increase your dog’s impulse control. For example, if she whines when it’s feeding time, tell her calmly, “Not now” and get busy with something else. Make her wait calmly and never feed her when she demands it. Feed her only when she acts calm.
Also be aware that dogs pick up on, and mimic, your behavior. Consider whether you are escalating the overly excited energy and make it a point to be calmer and more assertive around your dogs at all times – a true leader.
How to Stop Dog Whining – 10 Reasons Your Dog Whines. Please share your ideas, thoughts and stories below.