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If dogs could talk, oh the tales they would tell. Truth is, dogs do communicate in many ways, and one of the more vocal ways they communicate, both with humans and other animals, is through whining. Dogs whine sometimes when they want attention, when they’re excited or anxious, or when they want to please you. In this article, we’ll discuss why dogs whine and how to stop a dog from whining.
Why do dogs whine?
As we mentioned, dogs whine for various reasons, the main reasons for whining being one of these:
We’ll take a look at each of these types of whining, what they mean in dog speak, and actions that sometimes accompany them to help you ascertain the difference.
Appeasement whining is often a response to submissive behavior toward humans or other dogs. So when your pup is looking to please or show you — or the dog next door — that he’s submissive to your Alpha dog status, he may let out a whimper or two. This is also often accompanied by the submissive physical reactions of tucking the tail or showing the belly.
Greeting whining is motivated by excitement, and can be directed both toward your or other dogs. If your pup whines when you come home from work or at other dogs he sees on his daily walk, then he’s likely saying how excited he is to see everyone. You can expect some tail-wagging and smiling here, too.
Just as it sounds, your dog may whine to get your attention. If you’re enthralled in your favorite show or working steadily on your computer, your dog may use whining to gently remind you that he’s here, he wants to be played with, needs to use the bathroom, or wants to go for a walk (like the boxer in the video below). In our experience, this type of whining is often accompanied by pacing or an intent stare, both of which are tough to ignore.
Sometimes dogs whine when they’re anxious. They may be anxious about their surroundings, with other animals, or with a certain situation. Being in-tune with your pup will help you discern the difference in this type of whining and others. More specifically, separation anxiety whining is caused by your dogs distress when left alone for long periods of time or even concern when they sense you are about to leave. This type of whining is often characterized by drooling, pacing, panting, or destruction of indoor objects.
A little less common — at least we hope! — is injury or medical whining in which your dog whines in response to pain or a painful action. If you notice that your pup if frequently whiny, displays general discomfort while doing so, or just doesn’t seem to be whining for all the more common reasons listed above, it might be time to take your pet to the vet for further examination.
How to stop a dog from whining
All whining is not created equal, which is why before you even think of deterring your pup from vocalizing his emotions, you should be sure that he’s not being mouthy for a medical reason. Once you’ve ruled out any injurious reasons for his whiny behavior, you can set about figuring out what emotion is causing the whining — does he just whine a little when he’s excited to see you after a long day or does he whine incessantly to get your attention? — and decide from there how to handle it.
Appeasement and Anxiety
We’re tackling these two types together because in both instances there’s some common ground: confidence. Often, when your pup whines to please and is in a submissive state, or when he whines to show anxiety, it comes back to your dog’s lack of confidence. Build up your pup, Alpha Dog! Increase their confidence with reward (read: treat) based obedience classes, or one-on-one play time, all the while showing affection and rewarding confident, focused behavior. Do not use physical or verbal punishment as it will counteract the positive effects you’ve worked — or played — so hard for. As his/her confidence grows individually, and in you as their Alpha, you should notice less whining in these situations.
This might be the toughest type of whining to discern: Is your dog whining to let you know he needs to go out, or simply because he’s demanding your attention? Either way, it’s important that while your dog is in the act of attention whining that you do not acknowledge his behavior. Don’t get up to let him out, don’t pet him, don’t even look in your dog’s direction while he’s in the act of whining; even scolding him is attention and will be perceived as a positive response to their actions. Once your dog has stopped whining, take them out immediately or reward them with attention so they learn to associate being quiet with the attention they desire. We know ignoring is hard, so we suggest making sure your pup gets plenty of exercise and mental stimulation — play time or food-filled Kongs work wonders — to keep them from being so needy.
Maybe it’s just us, but if our pup lets out a few cute whimpers to welcome us home, then we’re OK with that. He’s excited, we’re excited, and his whining isn’t a terrible thing when it’s so darn cute, right? If, however, his “hellos” are getting a little out of hand, try greeting your pup with a calmer tone and demeanor — your pup will likely mirror your actions and will be a lot less likely to get rowdy (and subsequently whiny) if you don’t. Distracting them with an action or command as you enter — calmly of course — will also help keep your pup focused on a task rather than his or her excitement.
Any tips or tricks up your sleeve to keep your pup from whining?