How To Understand And Treat The Causes Of Dog Whining

If you lacked the ability to communicate with words, how would you express yourself to others? This is the challenge confronting your pooch. He can only bark, howl, growl, or whine in order to tell you what he’s feeling. This can confuse and frustrate owners who are unable to infer meaning from their dog’s sounds.

Each expression has a different purpose. For example, if he barks, he’s doing so to make a statement about something; if he howls, he’s communicating with others far away; if he growls, that means he is issuing a warning. A whine is basically a request for attention or care, but that request may have different triggers.

If you can determine the reason your canine is whining, you’ll be better able to identify whether he truly needs your attention. With this in mind, we’ll describe the most common reasons dogs make this sound.

Learning The Habit Early In Life

The behavior forms early. When your pooch was a puppy, he learned to whine in order to get his mother’s attention. His mother likely found the sound to be impossible to ignore. Her quick response reinforced the behavior. Thus, at an early age, your dog learned that whining resulted in his receiving his mother’s attention.

When puppies are first adopted, they continue the behavior until it becomes clear that doing so fails to produce the same result. If their owner responds in a manner that is similar to their mother’s response, the habit is further reinforced. If the owner responds only to check whether the pup is okay, but leaves soon after, the habit wanes. Adult canines that engage in dog whining do so because they have learned the behavior is still effective.

Separation Anxiety

medium short-coated white and black dog leaning on window
Image: Per Lööv | Openverse

Many dogs whine when they are left alone. They become anxious when nobody is present, especially their owner. In severe cases, a canine might start whining when his owner leaves him with other people. It is his way of expressing his desire to be near his owner.

Excitement Or Anticipation

A lot of canines begin whining because they are excited about something. Triggers can include anything that grabs your pooch’s attention and creates an expectation. For example, he might hear you arrive home from work and stand by the front door to greet you. If he hears you talking on the other side of the door, he may start to whine in anticipation.

Owner’s Attention

Some dogs whine simply because they crave their owner’s attention. For example, they might yearn for their owner’s direct eye contact. Or, they may want their owners to pet or praise them. Any response that implies their owner’s interest – even yelling – can seem desirable to them.

Discomfort Or Pain

If your pooch is suffering from discomfort or pain, he will likely express himself through whining. With this trigger, the behavior is often instinctive; he may not even realize he is doing it. For example, it’s not uncommon for canines to whine while recovering after a surgical procedure. The sound is not meant to draw attention from their owner. Instead, it is an automatic response to the pain.

In most cases (with the exception of pain as a trigger), whining is similar to nearly any undesirable behavior: it can be modified with training and repetition. That said, curbing the behavior in your dog may require patience, especially if he has spent his entire life accustomed to people responding to his whining.

Give him plenty of exercise and make sure his diet is healthy. Incorporate dog treats and a clicker to reinforce desired behavior. A single click and his favorite treat after he stops whining will gradually teach him the value of resisting the urge. Over time, he’ll learn that his whining does not produce the results he wants.


  • Randy Michaelson

    Randy is a passionate dog lover and enthusiast with years of experience in canine care and training. With a deep understanding of dog behavior and a commitment to promoting responsible pet ownership, the author shares insightful tips and engaging stories to enrich the lives of both dogs and their owners.

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