Dogs may not speak our same language, but they definitely speak to us. From their tail position to their yawns, and even full-on body shakes, a dog’s action has a lot of meaning behind it. It’s their way of communicating. Well, whining is just another way dogs communicate with us.
Dogs whine for a variety of reasons, and not all whimpers are created equal. So, when your canine companion whines, it’s important to keep a close eye on his other actions and surroundings. This will help you figure out what your pup is trying to tell you.
Here are five common reasons dogs whine!
1. Pain or Discomfort
People cry when they’re hurt. It’s a natural response to the intense pain we’re experiencing. Well, just like we cry, dogs may whine when they’re feeling any pain or discomfort.
If your dog suddenly starts whining out of nowhere, the first thing you want to do is rule out pain. Do a quick body check: Is Fido limping? Does he have any visible cuts or scrapes? While injuries are usually pretty easy to spot, other types of pain may require more attention.
For example, over time, if you notice your dog whining instead of jumping up on the couch like usual then he may be feeling some joint pain. Perhaps he’s developing arthritis. If your dog is whining while laying down in a submissive position – or paired with any other warning signs of pain – then it’s also a sign something is wrong.
What To Do: If your dog is visibly injured or begins whining during normal situations / unexpected times then schedule a visit with your veterinarian for a medical check.
2. Your Dog Needs/Wants Something
Often, dogs will let you know they need something through whining. For example, a housetrained dog may whine to let you know he needs to go outside and use his potty. If he whines and runs to the door then it’s a clear sign he’s saying, “Common mom, I gotta pee!”
Similarly, your dog may be alerting you that he’s hungry and it’s time to serve dinner. When my toy Poodle, Gigi, is hungry for dinner, she always runs up to me, spins around in a circle, and whines. It’s her way of saying, “Dinner time!”
Or maybe Fido’s water bowl is empty and your pup is parched.
What To Do: If your pup is simply asking to go out to the bathroom then I suggest giving into the whine. You don’t want to ignore your dog’s “I gotta go” sign and unintentionally promote accidents in the house.
If your dog is whining for food or a toy that’s stuck under the couch, have your dog sit and calm down before giving them what they want. That way, they don’t start associating the whining as: “I whine and then good things happen … so I’m gonna keep whining”.
3. Bored & Seeking Attention
This is sort of like a little kid tugging on mom’s shirt, asking to leave while they’re sitting at the grownups table and engaging in a boring conversation. If you’re doing something that doesn’t involve your dog and he’s feeling bored, he may whine as a way to get your attention.
What To Do: Make sure to spend quality time with your dog each day. Plus, ensure Fido is getting enough physical exercise and mental stimulation. Go for long walks, play a game of fetch, spend some time working on commands, let your pup play with treat-filled puzzles, etc. Enriching your pup’s life will make him both happy and tired. So, when you’re on a work conference call or have a friend over for coffee, your canine kid is more likely to relax.
If your dog starts whining when you first walk through the door, he’s likely just excited to see you. “WOOHOO – MOM’S HOME!” In this case, whining may be coupled with spinning around and/or jumping.
Your dog may also “excited whine” when he sees you bust out the leash because that means a walk is in his near future.
What To Do: I know this is hard, but ignore your dog when you first walk in the house. Go put your stuff away and give your dog time to settle down. Then, once your pup is calm(er), ask him to sit and then let the greeting begin. While whining is instinctual, it’s also learned. So, if you don’t want your dog whining when you walk in the door – or grab the leash for a walk – then you need to break the association of winning = attention.
5. Stress or Anxiety
If whining is paired with pacing, panting, ears down, and a tucked tail then Fido is likely feeling afraid or stressed out. This can be the result of a variety of things: A loud thunderstorm, a strange visitor in your house, separation anxiety, a recent move or big life change, etc.
What To Do: Find the true source of the problem and then work on training and desensitizing your dog to overcome his fears.
What Not To Do
Never punish your dog for whining, as this may backfire, ultimately making your dog more fearful or anxious. In most cases, you can manage excessive whining with basic training, redirecting attention, physical exercise, and mental stimulation. If the behavior has become too serious to manage on your own, it may be time to enlist the help of a professional trainer or behaviorist. The key is to be patient with your pup!