Helping a Dog Stop Whining

Helping a Dog Stop Whining

Has your dog not grown out of their whining puppy phase? The puppy dog eyes to get a bite of your food is cute the first couple times, but can become tiresome very quickly. So, how can this whining habit be broken?

Read these tips and tricks and to help stop dog’s excessive whining!

Dogs have a lot of ways to communicate with their human friends. Barking, growling, or even whining are just a few of the many messages that dogs give us on a daily basis. Of the many verbal cues of dogs, whining is one of the more dynamic parts of their language. While it is hard to understand what a dog is whining about most of the time, how you respond to their behavior will affect how they continue to talk with you, and can lead to excessive whining if handled poorly. Therefore, it is helpful as an owner to learn the most common causes of whining in order to temporarily inhibit this behavior and break a bad habit if it exists.


The ‘Why’ Behind the Whine

The first step to reeling back on excessive whining is to find out why your dog resorts to whining in the first place. As mentioned before, whining is one of many ways that dogs learn to communicate their feelings and needs to their human parents. However, the difference between whining for food and feeling ill can vary widely, as well as the body language that accompanies their whine. When your dog starts to whine again, look for these common indicators to pinpoint the reason that they are whining.


For instance, some dogs use whining as a greeting for when their owner returns home. This behavior is often seen in dogs with a submissive personality. Since they see their owner as an alpha dog, they greet you as such. Flattened ears, avoiding eye contact, and a tucked in tail with fast wagging are common indicators of a submissive dog. In a similar fashion, some dogs whine to show their excitement when you arrive while also jumping up and down.


In another sense, whining can be a good way for your dog to tell you their needs, such as their favorite toy, needing to go outside, or even that they need a hug. Often times, their whining is accompanied by shifting eye contact between you and the object of their desire. We’ve all seen this one before; do puppy dog eyes sound familiar? While this tactic can be helpful for a peaceful lifestyle, it can lead to demanding dogs that whine just to get the attention of their favorite person. Indicators of this habit can be whining until being rewarded with eye contact or verbal interaction.


One of the more common causes of whining is during stressful situations that make your dog anxious or afraid. Other signs that this is the case is licking lips, yawning, flat ears, or a tucked tail. This type of whining will only occur in specific circumstances, so it can be easier to identify the cause.


While all of these are common causes of excessive whining, it is extremely important to separate these signs from excessive whining due to injury. If the whining seems to happen in no specific situation as listed above or starts out of the blue, it may be time to visit a veterinarian. Remember, whining is not just a means of communication for a treat, but can also be a cry for help.


Solutions for Excessive Whining

With a better idea as to why your dog is whining so much, finding a solution to the problem can be more specific and therefore much more effective.


If your dog has a more submissive personality or is prone to anxiety or stress, a good solution is to build confidence in your dog. One common way to do this is through routine obedience classes. The reward-based activities will make them feel worthy of praise and less scared. Even if they are already trained and obedient, many dogs can benefit from learning new tricks or even dog-based sport training. Playing consistently with your dog will make them see you as an equal instead of an intimidating force. In addition to these methods, avoid physical or verbal punishments that reinforce you as the alpha dog, which may increase the whining behavior or result in aggression. In terms of anxiety, the whining may never go away until the source of anxiety is identified and removed and/or tolerated. If the stress-inducer is temporary, such as fireworks, calming agents may be a good solution. However, if the thing that stresses out your dog is permanent, other steps may need to be taken to make them calm.


If your dog usually whines as a greeting, simply demanding that they be “quiet” will not usually work because they have no idea what that word actually means. Instead, try to redirect their attention to their toys when you enter the house. This distraction will slowly teach them that the house should be quiet when you come home. If whining is your dog’s way of showing excitement when you are home, try to train them to express their excitement in a different fashion, such as greeting you by sitting down or hand-directing.


If your dog is whining to get what they want, it is not always a good idea to give in, since it will only reinforce this behavior. Of course, ignoring their whines does not apply to things such as potty breaks, but instead treats or attention. The key to eliminating whining behavior is to reward another, quieter behavior as opposed to whining. The ideal behavior to reward them for is sitting or lying down quietly. This can be difficult to commit to since eye contact, talking, or touching is a type of reward for attention-seeking behavior. Be aware of this as you completely ignore your dog until they are quiet, then give them all the attention they want. After a couple sessions, your dog should learn that being quiet is much more rewarding than whining loudly.


Excessive whining can be an enduring process to unlearn, but it is not impossible to do with dedication. Just like humans have a hard time breaking habits, the same can apply to dogs that whine for everything. Remember to stay calm during training and that your dog is trying their best as well to find a way to talk to you that works for the both of you!

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Dr. Chris Vanderhoof, DVM, MPH

Chris is a seasoned veterinarian with over 15 years of animal health experience in small animal, large/farm animal, equine, and public health fields.