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6 Reasons Your Dog May Be Whining

Our canines are masters of communication, and when they find something that “works,” they stick with it!

Many dogs discover that whining is an effective way to get their point across, whether they’re telling us they’re excited, stressed, hungry, or in pain. If your typically quiet companion starts whimpering out of nowhere or it suddenly becomes incessant, a trip to the vet should be in order.

But don’t worry, this behavior isn’t always a sign of something bad! There are many other reasons your dog may be whining, depending on the situation. You know your furry friend best, so check out the 6 possibilities below to figure out what he’s trying to tell you. After all, the more we understand our dogs, the better we can make their lives!

1. Pain

It should come as no surprise that pups can whine when they’re in pain, and a medical issue should be the first thing to be ruled out — especially if the whining comes on suddenly or is out of character.

If you notice that your dog whines while doing certain activities, like jumping off the bed, climbing up stairs, or simply putting weight on one side of his body, it’s definitely time to get checked out by a vet. Even if you can’t detect any physical signs of pain, there could be something going on internally that needs to be addressed.

2. Stress or Anxiety

Sometimes dogs will let you know they’re stressed by letting out a string of high-pitched whimpers. Particularly anxious or low confidence pups may be more likely to whine in new or confusing situations, including meeting new people or pups. Dog trainer Kristina Lotz adds:

“A lot of reactive dogs will whine before they bark. Usually it is accompanied by pacing, cowering, lip licking, low tail carriage, panting, inability to respond to cues, etc.”

Whining can also indicate fear. Perhaps they’re afraid of the stranger who’s approaching, or they’re anticipating a thunderstorm or a trip to the vet. If they whine every time you leave the house, it can also be one of the many signs of separation anxiety.

3. Communicating a Want or Need

Our canines are not only intuitive, they can be pretty darn good at getting their point across! Lots of dogs will whine when they have to go potty, when they’re hungry, or when they’re ready for a walk, especially if they know you’ll respond accordingly. In this way, those squeaky sounds are definitely a good thing!

But like anything else, whining can become a learned behavior where your pooch figure out that it gets them what they want! If you have a chow hound or a pup that can’t get enough time outdoors, they may continue whining even after they’ve eaten or had their bathroom break, just because they want to do it again.

As mentioned, if the whining becomes insistent, a consult with the vet is always a good idea. Perhaps they really do need to pee again because of a bladder issue, or they’re having tummy problems that are a symptom of something else.

4. They Want Attention

Again, dogs are opportunistic creatures. When they find something that gets them what they want, whether it’s counter-surfing for snacks or crying for attention, they’ll do it!

Negative or positive, dogs craving attention will get it any way possible, and that includes whining. This may be especially true for pups who are left home all day and don’t get enough play time or exercise in. Spending more time with your pooch and helping them burn off their extra energy may be enough to stop that cycle of habitual whining – just don’t give in as a response to it.

Lotz also notes that puppies are some of the biggest (little!) culprits of the “whine-for-attention” tactic. Pet parents should be careful about giving in to their young pups every time they whine or start demand barking, as these can become learned behaviors. If you know that all your puppy’s needs are met and they’re not engaging in dangerous or destructive behavior, ignoring those peeps will teach them that this is not the way to get your attention. Reserve extra pets and play time for when they are behaving nicely in order to reward it.

5. Submission

Dogs who tend to be anxious are also usually more submissive when meeting new friends, so they may engage in appeasement behaviors that include whining. Lotz explains:

“Appeasement is something the non-confident dog will do. Linked to stress, these dogs believe the new person or dog they are meeting may be a threat, and they will display appeasement behaviors including holding ears back, tucking the tail, crouching, rolling on their back, avoiding eye contact, turning the body sideways to the new person/dog, and/or whining.”

She adds that helping your dog gain confidence, particularly with the help of a personal trainer, will likely stop this behavior. More importantly, it’ll help your pooch be less fearful in new situations.

Your companion may also whimper when showing their submission to you. If they’ve done something naughty and know you’re not pleased, whimpering may be one of the ways they “apologize” to you, according to the American Kennel Club. The site explains:

“This behavior comes from dogs’ ancestors, wolves. Wolves can be shunned from the pack when they break the pack rules, like biting too hard during play. To be accepted back in, a wolf will bow his head and put his tail between his legs. This is the same posture our dogs display when they look guilty.”

While gentle correction and positive reinforcement are necessary for training, remember that yelling at, scolding, or punishing your dog is not only ineffective, it instills fear.

6. Excitement

Have you ever been so elated that you squealed in excitement? Well, so has your dog! Only, it doesn’t take a lucky lottery ticket or a surprise trip to Disney World to get your pup that happy – just seeing their favorite person can be enough!

If your dog begins to whine whenever you come home from work, when you see them for the first time after a week’s vacation, or in anticipation of a trip to the dog park, it’s just because they’re so excited, they can’t hold their eagerness in!

If overexcitement starts to lead to unwanted behaviors, like peeing in the house or jumping up on strangers, you can work on calming techniques to employ during these situations. Giving them something to do instead of jumping, peeing, whining, etc. — like going to their bed, sitting politely (or else they won’t get any pets!), or even teaching your dog the “touch” cue — may help.

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Written by Karen Tietjen
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