How To Respond to A Whining Dog

Dogs whine for a reason.  It could be they are in pain, they’re stressed, bored, needs something, is excited, or wants your attention.  That’s a lot of reasons and calls for an astute owner to figure out how to address the whining.  Obviously, you aren’t going to treat pain whining the same way you would boredom whining.  One thing to be careful of, is that you don’t unintentionally reward the whining when it is unwarranted.  You also don’t want to yell or punish your dog, which would make your dog turn more extreme if he’s in pain, or fearful or anxious.

It is important to listen carefully to the sound and pitch of your dog’s whining, which will help you figure out what type of whining it is.  Also, look carefully at your dog’s physical posture and behavior.  If ears are up and tail is wagging slowly, chances are he isn’t in pain nor is he exhibiting any aggressive behavior.  If he is cowering with ears and tail down, that could be a symptom of pain or uneasiness.  If that is the case, you will want to approach slowly and carefully and try to determine what is bothering him. If you have determined the whining is not fear or pain related, it could be that he just needs a potty break.  In order to make sure, your only option is to leash him up and take him out as the other option of doing nothing would be messy. 

Let’s assume we have narrowed down the whining to attention-seeking and boredom, the most common forms of whining.  One of the first things I would do to address this is to enrich his environment.  That means chew toys, puzzle toys, filled-kongs, exercise (at least 1.5 hours of panting a day), and training.  Believe it or not training burns up just as much energy as exercise, minute for minute, so don’t discount training as a way to minimize your dog’s whining.  If you have been introducing all of the above and your dog continues to whine, it’s best to respond selectively, meaning if you find your dog is trying to game you, ignore him the best you can.  This is actually a great time to teach the “Quiet!” command.

The “Quiet!” command takes patience and really good timing.  For example, whenever your dog whines and you know it’s for attention or because of boredom, say the word “Quiet!” with some authority behind your voice.  You may have to say it a couple of times.  When your dog becomes quiet for 3 seconds or more, mark the good behavior with “yes!”, “quiet!” and then reward with a high-value treat.  You may be on the other side of the room when this happens.  The most important thing to do is get the marker work “yes!” in at the right moment, which is 3 or more seconds after his last whine.  You don’t have to walk up to him to say “yes!”, just say it where you are and deliver the treat secondarily as soon as practicable.  In a short period of time, your pup will come to realize that it’s his silence that is driving the rewards, not the whining.

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