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6 Reasons Why Your Dog Is Whining (and How to Stop It)

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By Nicole Cosgrove

dog whining

Besides barking and growling, whining is another important method that your dog uses to communicate with you. It may be annoying at times, but there is often an important underlying reason that your dog is whining. Identifying why it’s happening will allow you to quickly stop it from happening or at least not let it turn into a compulsion.

Learning why your dog is whining is a vital part of forming a strong bond with your pooch and can help a great deal with training too. Of course, finding out the reason that your dog is whining is the best way to make them stop, much to their relief and yours! Below, we identify six possible reasons that your dog could be whining and how to help them stop.

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The 6 Reasons Why Your Dog Is Whining and How to Stop It

1. Dog is Stressed

Stress is typically the reason that most dogs will whine, and it is a key signal that something is not right in your pooch’s world. Additionally, your dog may appear visibly stressed, marching around in circles, pacing, cowering, and even hiding. Of course, shouting or discipline is only going to make the situation worse, and though it can be frustrating, its best to keep calm and assess the situation.

Pug Might Choke

Look around for what may be causing your pooch to be stressed. Are there strangers or strange dogs in the home? Are there any loud or high-pitched noises that could be bothering them, like music or machinery? Try to locate whatever it may be causing your dog so much stress and anxiety, so you can then address the situation. Your dog will need to be shown that whatever is scaring them will cause them no harm and that they are safe. If it is new people or animals, be sure to introduce them slowly, calmly, and quietly, never forcefully. If it is the sound of a vacuum cleaner or something similar, you’ll need to introduce it in a similar way until they are accustomed to it.

Bear in mind that dogs have far more sensitive hearing than humans do. They can hear sounds that are three or four times farther away, and can pick up almost twice as many frequency bands. This makes them highly sensitive to sound, even sounds that we cannot hear. High-pitched sounds or loud music may be causing your dog stress simply because it is hurting their ears.

2. Dog Needs Attention

Many dogs will whine in an attempt to get your attention. If your dog wants something from you, be it a walk, food, a ball, or simply acknowledgment, they may whine to get their needs met. Puppies and adolescent dogs are the biggest culprits of this, and you need to be especially careful at this point in their life, as this can quickly be seen as a great way for them to get what they want. This bad habit will then need to be trained out of them, which can be a challenge.

Excited Golden Retriever Puppy

This kind of whining can also occur if you are busy with someone or something other than your dog — or heaven forbid, another pooch! Your dog will whine to remind you that they are, in fact, the center of your universe. This is especially common in certain breeds that form strong bonds with their owners and that may get jealous easily.

The first thing to note is that the more you give in to this behavior and thus encourage it, the more your pooch will learn it as a habit. The best way to mitigate this behavior is to teach your dog that this is the last way they can get your attention — and ignore them. While it may be challenging and even feel cruel, do not give any attention to your dog when they are whining for your attention, and then praise them when they stop. It may take a while in the beginning, but your dog will soon realize that they will not gain your attention or affection this way.

3. Dog is Excited

It may seem somewhat counterintuitive, but some dogs whine when they get excited. The moment you grab the leash, open the door, get home from work, start dishing their food, or just a look at them will evoke an excited whine. The good thing is that this particular type of whine is the easiest to recognize, as it is usually accompanied by shaking, jumping, wiggling, and other obvious signs of excitement. While this is in itself not a bad thing, it can get annoying and is a slippery slope into attention whining.

Excited dog

The first way to stop this is careful management. Remove your dog from whatever is getting them whining in excitement until they are calm and collected. For example, if they start whining whenever you grab their leash, put it back until they are calm, and try again. It may take time, but they will eventually get the idea.

The second method is reward-based training. Once your dog learns to stop whining in any particular situation, give them a treat as a reward. They soon realize that calm and collected equals a tasty treat!

4. Dog Alert Whining

Most dogs will bark or growl when they are trying to alert you of something, and this is natural watchdog behavior. However, some dogs will whine to alert you, especially dogs that are low in confidence. They may want to let you know something’s up but are not confident enough to go running out to see what it is. This type of behavior may be breed-specific at times but is most commonly a learned behavior.

dog at balcony

In order to stop this type of behavior, redirection and reward-based methods are again the best way. As soon as your dog begins to whine about a potential threat, redirect their attention to something else, and then offer them a treat when they stop. This will serve to get them to focus on you and your attention rather than fixating on whining.

5. Learned Behavior

Whining can easily become a learned habit if any of the above reasons are left unchecked. Once whining becomes habitual, it is harder to stop and will take time and patience to fix. Of course, not all whining is bad. If your dog is whining at the door to be let outside to do their business, this is a learned behavior that is a good thing and a result of good training. However, rewarding your dog with immediate attention whenever they whine is a learned habit that is enabling and not helpful to you or your pooch.

Hybrid dog whining

The solution lies in breaking the habit with careful and patient training or preventing it from happening in the first place. Again, reward-based methods for good behavior are a surefire winner.

6. Pain and Discomfort

Lastly, your dog may be in pain from an injury or illness and has a legitimate reason for whining for your attention. This is usually easy to identify, as your dog will be showing other signs of discomfort too. If they are limping, licking excessively, breathing heavily, or acting strangely, there is a good reason for their whining, and a trip to the vet is necessary. Older dogs often whine due to pain, as they may have arthritis or sore, aching limbs. These dogs may need medication to help them deal with old age and the associated pain and discomfort.

Ill labrador retriever in veterinary clinic_jaromir chalabala_shutterstock
Image credit: Jaromir Chalabala, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts: Whining Dogs

While whining can be annoying, remember that is a form of communication between you and your pooch. Most of the time, your dog is trying to tell you something, and the quicker that you find out what it is, the easier it is to stop them. Learned behavior may take a while to stop, but patience, dedication, time, and most importantly, mental and physical stimulation will go a long way in stopping the behavior. You will likely never completely stop your dog from whining, but dedicated training will at least reduce it to more tolerable levels and hopefully have your dog whining only when absolutely necessary.

Featured Image: klimkin, Pixabay

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