By Lori Carman, VSPDT
As a professional trainer, I get asked this question a lot. For dog owners, whining is the most unpleasant sound a dog can make. The truth is, there are many reasons why dogs whine.
Boredom is a big contributor to our dogs whining. Exercise, training, or puzzles are great ways to engage your dog’s brain.
Find the Cause
Whining can be a greeting behavior. They start by dancing with their paws and wagging their tails, and then the whining starts.
Submissive behavior or an apology can be expressed as a whine as well. This whine is accompanied by submissive or appeasement behaviors, such as tucking of their tail, ears dropping, or rolling over onto their back.
They may whine because it works for them. Some dogs learn that whining gets your attention. Whining is a very easy way to get you to notice them or something that they want, like the ball that got stuck under the couch.
Fear or stress can cause constant whining, such as during thunderstorms, fireworks, visitors in the house, or a trip to the vet. Other behaviors that you may see to tip you off that your dog is afraid is lip licking or yawning when they are not tired.
Injury or medical issues can be the root of whining as well. Is your dog trying to communicate that they are in pain or discomfort? Handling your dog daily, and watching for abnormalities in their gait, eating habits, and bowel movements are key.
Separation anxiety can set off the whining as well. However, there is a difference between true separation anxiety and what I call “spoiled rotten brat syndrome.” True separation anxiety comes with drooling, and usually destruction of something, as dogs chew to alleviate stress.
Make It Stop
To stop the whining, you must figure out why they are whining. Always use positive reinforcement and reward your dog for being quiet—so being quiet yourself will help. Provide an alternative behavior. If your dog whines at the door to go out, provide some bells for them to hit to notify you of their needs.
Respond appropriately to your dog. Aggressive or impatient behavior from you will not solve the problem, it will only make it worse. Make sure that you see your vet regularly and don’t miss your yearly health check to identify any underlying health issues. Enrich your dog’s environment. Maybe your best friend just needs something to do, like a puzzle, a feed ball, or a stuffed Kong.
Lastly, address any stress factors that may be affecting your dog. If possible, remove your dog from stressful situations or, if you can’t remove them, be sure to offer them a distraction.