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How to Curb Whining in Dogs

ASPCA logoWhining is one of many forms of canine vocal communication. Dogs most commonly whine when they’re seeking attention, when they’re excited, when they’re anxious or when they’re trying to appease you.

Why Do Dogs Whine?

Appeasement Behavior

Some dogs whine excessively when interacting with people and other dogs, usually while adopting a submissive posture (e.g., tail tucked, body lowered, head down, gaze averted).

Greeting Behavior

Some dogs whine during greetings. This kind of vocalization is usually motivated by excitement and may be directed at dogs or people.

Seeking Attention

Some dogs whine in the presence of their owners in order to get attention, rewards or desired objects.

Anxiety

Some dogs whine in response to stressful situations. In this context, whining sometimes seems involuntarily.

Other Problems That Might Cause Whining

Separation Anxiety

If your dog only whines just before you leave or during your absence, she may have separation anxiety. If this is the case, your dog will usually display at least one other symptom of the disorder prior to your departure or when left alone, such as pacing, panting, excessive drooling, destruction (especially around doors and windows), urinating or defecating indoors, depression or other signs of distress. For more information about this problem, please see our article, Separation Anxiety.

Injury or Medical Condition

Dogs often whine in response to pain or a painful condition. If you notice that your dog vocalizes frequently or has suddenly started to vocalize, it’s important to take her to the vet to rule out medical causes.

What to Do About Excessive Whining

Appeasement Whining

Dogs can try to appease people or other dogs when they perceive a threat or aggression being directed at them. Appeasement behaviors include holding the ears back, tucking the tail, crouching or rolling over on the back, avoiding eye contact or turning the body sideways to the perceived threat. Appeasement whining is also a normal canine behavior. You may be able to reduce your dog’s appeasement whining by building her confidence. Try taking her to an obedience class that uses reward-based training techniques. You and your dog can also try trick-training classes or dog sports like agility, flyball and musical freestyle (a combination of heeling and tricks performed to music). Playing fun, interactive games with your dog, like tug and fetch, can increase your dog’s confidence. Avoid physical and verbal punishment. (Please see our article, Teaching Your Dog to Play Tug-of-War, for more information about teaching your dog how to play tug using gentle, positive methods.) Avoid physical and verbal punishment. Intimidating your dog will only decrease her confidence level and may increase appeasement whining.

Whining During Greetings

If your dog whines when greeting people, you can divert her attention to her favorite toys. Simply telling your dog to be quiet during greetings usually isn’t effective because, unless you’ve taken specific steps to teach your dog what the word “Quiet” means, she won’t understand you. Additionally, most dogs whine when greeting people because they’re excited, and in an extremely aroused state, they may not have control over their behavior. Instead, use management procedures to help prevent your dog from becoming overly excited. For example, downplay greetings, keeping them short and simple. Avoid speaking in excited, loud tones, and keep your movements slow and calm. Wait to pet and interact with your dog until she’s less excited. It may also help to teach her to do something you’d like her to do instead of whining, such as sitting or hand targeting when she greets you or other people. Your dog may whine a lot less if she’s busy performing some other, more polite behavior instead.

WebMD Veterinary Reference from ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist

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