BEHAVIOR & TRAINING

Why Do Dogs Whine: Causes And Methods To Stop This Behavior

Why Do Dogs Whine
John Walton
Written by John Walton

It is a known fact that dogs use whining as a form of communication and if you have a dog, you have probably heard him whine from time to time. However, that is not their primary form of communication; they use body language mostly, so when a dog whines it is usually because he is very excited or in need of something. That means that your beloved furry friend can be in pain or hurt. It can also mean that he is acting submissive to his master or another dog; or it is just his current mental state.

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There are many forms of vocal communication that include whining and some of them will be presented in this article so you can find out why dogs whine. We intend this article as a small guide on how to stop them doing that or how to help them if they are seeking your help.

Main reasons for whining

The dog’s physical needs

If your dog constantly whines, then the reason behind that may be that he is hurt, in pain or simply in some kind of discomfort. Just like human beings who cry out when they are hurt or in pain, dogs do the same. If your doggie starts whining suddenly and without any apparent reason, you should probably check him to see if there is any visible sign of injury.

If there is none, consult your vet to see whether there is any other health problem. You should be concerned in this case and make sure to have your dog checked by the vet so he can tell you what is going on.

Additionally, if your dog is house-trained, it is very possible that he or she must go outside to urinate or defecate which can be very frustrating since they cannot go out on their own. If the dog is nudging you with his snout or scratching at the door and floor, then that must be it. Make sure to never forget your dog’s needs, because you do not want him to be in pain or mess up your house. In order to minimize your dog’s discomfort when it’s time to go, take a few tips and tricks from our article on how to house train your dog.

If your dog is a female, she may be pregnant, as whining may also signify canine pregnancy. Make sure to visit the vet as soon as possible to rule out any other problem and to see whether it is really pregnancy or something else.

The dog’s mental state

Whining is considered a sign of submission, which is normal in a pack. Your dog may be telling you that you are the master, or he may be showing that to some other dog that he is more dominant than him. This is often accompanied by his ears and tail down. Your doggie may also greet you by whining or simply ask for something, especially if he managed to get a snack by doing that.

In that case ignore his stare until he calms down, only then you should pet him, otherwise you may encourage the whining. You should know that your pooch craves your attention and if his basic needs have been met, then you should just acknowledge him and show your love to him.

The dog’s emotional state

There are many emotional states that make your dog whine: nervousness, sadness, excitement, fear, frustration, anxiety. If the dog got scared by some sudden noise or he may have lost his favorite toys or he may be too cold or hot. Dogs can also have nightmares and whine in their sleep. In that case you should try gently calling out his name, avoid abrupt waking because any dog can snap after having a nightmare.

These states can be accompanied by jumping or any other activity in general. You should act as a leader of the pack and put your dog in a submissive position before deciding whether to give him what he wants. It is always for best to stay calm, but there are some steps you can help to alleviate your dog’s anxiety. You can read about some great tips in our article about how to calm your dog.

How to make your puppy stop whining

It is completely natural for a young puppy to whine – it is how the puppy wants to get your attention, his mom, or ask for anything. However, when the whining keeps going on and on, and it becomes a real problem, then you should do something about it.

Puppy whining

Firstly, make sure that your puppy is safe and healthy – your puppy may be in pain, hungry or lonely. Always provide your dog with a safe, dry and warm place. Never leave your puppy alone for a long time, he is just like any other baby, he needs your attention and love. Play and exercise with him regularly. It may also be that the puppy needs to go to the ‘toilet’ or it is bored.

Also, the puppy may whine because you reward him, so he always looks for more treats and snacks. Never try to stop whining by feeding the puppy or praising him. That will make the opposite effect and the whining will become worse.

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Of course, make sure that everything else is ruled out, so you do not end up ignoring your sick puppy, which would be very cruel. Therefore, you can check out this simple guide in order to find out how to get a puppy to stop whining.

  1. If you made sure that your puppy is not sick, hurt or injured in any way and that his all basic needs had been met, then the best solution would be to ignore the whining. Yes, that is probably very difficult, especially if your doggie gives you the puppy eyes stare. However, if you acknowledge him and even reward him, it will be worse. That will mean that you are rewarding the behavior that you wish to go away.
    After some time your dog will stop whining when he sees that he won’t get a snack. It will be difficult, but it is the only way to teach your puppy so it does not turn into a whining little furry ball and make everyone crazy in the house.
  2. Your puppy is still a persistent and stubborn whiner? In that case you should teach him by ordering him to stop. When the dog starts whining, say loudly ‘stop!!’ or ‘enough!!’ and slam the door if the dog is in another room. If he becomes quiet, go back to the room and praise him by patting him and giving him a treat. This is probably a slow process, but your dog should learn that pointless whining is not tolerable and that you will not be around if he whines.
    However, he will also learn that you will come back if he stops whining, so he won’t whine pointlessly.
  3. Some people use a water pistol, which is actually a popular method for training cats. When your dog or puppy starts whining, squirt your puppy with it and say ‘no!’. However, do not do this for more than a couple of times, because that would mean that this method is not working and you do not want to go around squirting your dog all the time, especially if he finds it amusing.
    You should also be careful that the squirt is not the harsh one or that it does not go into the puppy’s eyes, because that can hurt him. Aim at the head, but also be careful. Your dog will associate the squirting with something negative and may stop whining and you must reward him if he stops.

Never abuse, yell at or beat your dog! You should always have patience and understanding, just like with children. Some dogs take longer to understand and learn and you should accept them that way. Make sure to repeat the training for as long as it is needed.

Sad dog sitting and whining

To sum up, whining is a natural and normal form of vocal communication among dogs and their masters. They can be random and done out of boredom or confusion. The reason may be also more serious – sickness, pain, fear, anxiety, worry, loneliness etc. and in that case you must go and consult the vet. Whining is more present when it comes to puppies and they also need more attention. They are also more fragile, so you should pay attention that they are never hungry, thirsty or in need of a toilet.

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The best way to stop your dog or puppy whining is to ignore him. That is difficult, however, it will stop your dog from whining whenever he thinks he can get a snack or anything else that he should not. You can also use vocal commands and orders such as ‘stop’ and ‘enough’, but you should also use praise and treats when your dog is good and stop whining.

All in all, it is up to you to decide when to start training or when you have had enough with whining. You should act as a leader of a pact, but also as your dog’s friend, or in a puppy’s case – his mother. Make sure to keep your dog healthy and comfortable and the whining may stop at some point.

Whining is just one part of a dog’s behavior. You’d do well to read our article on dog body language so that you know you’re understanding exactly what your dog is trying to tell you, no matter the situation.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.

  • Ruth Smith

    We’ve had a dog who is a very persistent whiner. She began to whine incessantly one night and after a trip to the vet (who proclaimed her absolutely healthy) we tried all sorts of things to make her stop whining. The one thing that worked was to walk them a few mins. before bed. Yep, the pooch just needed an exercise! It effectively stopped the whining and we could have our sleep.

    • John Walton

      Whining can be a signal which is anything from pain, to distress, to boredom. Walking is the safest and cheapest way to address this because you aim to use its energy into something else. True, some dogs just need a little walk!

  • Margo Walter

    We have recently adopted this pooch who suddenly whined incessantly. It became this terrible habit and only after months of little sleep did we diagnose that the dog was… bored. Yes, after all this time she was trying to communicate that she was bored! Only then did we learn to buy her interesting toys, especially the puzzling ones that should serve to amuse her. Now she’s got all the toys that she wants (and we have all the sleep that we need!)

    • John Walton

      Indeed, Margo. Whining is often associated with boredom and/or distress. Keeping it entertained and curious will divert that whining episodes into something more productive and positive!

  • Betsy Johnson

    When the weather is not cooperating and your pooch wants to go out (like it’s raining) what are the most effective ways to distract him? Our dog often plays outside and enjoys the sun. But it’s wet outside and he kept on looking at me with sad, sad eyes and whining! I’ve tried distracting him with toys and treats. But nothing is working.
    What do you do when your best furry friend is such a whiner? :(

    • John Walton

      One thing you can do is to restart its socialization skills, or perhaps create a completely different routine to divert the whining into something physically stimulating. While dogs whine as part of communication, there are fur babies who are born whiners.

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