What To Do If Your Puppy Won't Stop Whining
Less whining, more cuddles 💕
Nothing's more frustrating than hearing your puppy whine when you just can't figure out what's wrong.
“Whines are considered care solicitation vocalizations,” Dr. Wailani Sung, veterinary behaviorist at the San Francisco SPCA, told The Dodo. “This means that when the puppy is in distress or needs care, they whine to call for their mother.”
The Dodo spoke with Dr. Sung and Victoria Schade, a certified dog trainer and author, to figure out what your puppy might be trying to tell you when she whines — and how to stop it.
Why is my puppy whining?
“Puppies whine for many reasons; they might be scared, sick, uncomfortable, bored, lonely, unsure, in need of a potty break or looking to get your attention,” Schade told The Dodo.
“Some amount of whining should be expected if the puppy has been recently separated from their mother and littermates,” Dr. Sung said — after all, your puppy is getting used to being on her own! But you can help by trying to figure out exactly what your puppy needs.
Consider context when trying to identify the cause of your puppy’s whining. “For example, a puppy might whine when inside the crate in the middle of the night because she needs to go out for a potty break, in which case the pet parent should take her out immediately,” Schade said. But if she doesn’t need to use the restroom, she might just need a few minutes to settle in.
You can also look at your puppy’s body language to understand what she’s trying to tell you. A puppy who whines because she’s excited to see you may jump up and down on her hind legs, while a puppy who whines because she’s afraid may display anxious behaviors, like a tucked tail or shaking.
Here are some common causes of whining in puppies.
Is your puppy scared?
Fearful puppies are easy to spot. In these cases, there’s usually a clear source of the fear, like fireworks or bathtime, and the puppy will show signs of stress, like flattened ears, yawning and/or a tail tucked in between the legs.
In these cases, simply try removing the object your puppy is afraid of to see if that solves it.
Some puppies will outgrow their fears, but if your puppy has developed a serious fear of something in her environment (like a full-on phobia of the vacuum) she might require a type of training known as desensitization, which is where you expose the pet to the thing they are scared of gradually so they become more comfortable. A trainer or behaviorist can help with this type of exposure if needed.
Is your puppy excited?
Other times a puppy will whine because she’s excited. When a puppy is excited, she’ll jump up and down on her hind legs and let out a whimper. This behavior is common when you return home after being away, or when a guest comes over.
Does your puppy want attention?
You should always provide your puppy with lots of attention daily. But sometimes, it might seem like there isn’t enough attention in the world to satisfy her (no matter how many WFH cuddles you give her).
If you’re on the phone, spending time with a friend, playing with another dog or basically focusing on anything that isn’t your puppy, her whines may mean she’s asking for your extra attention. While it’s cute, you don’t want to encourage your puppy to whine constantly.
“If your puppy has all the necessities … and you think he is just whining for attention, you can briefly ignore him for a few minutes,” Dr. Sung said. “Then make a noise to interrupt the whining and then redirect your puppy to another activity.”
Is your puppy sick, hurt or uncomfortable?
“Puppies may whine when they are in discomfort, such as when they are in pain or cold,” says Dr. Sung.
You can tell a puppy is sick if she has a sudden change in personality, like unexplained lethargy or aggression.
You may want to bring your vet into the conversation if all your puppy’s needs are met and you still can’t figure out why she’s whining. It’s possible that your puppy may be trying to tell you she’s sick or hurt, so it’s a good idea to be extra careful and rule out any health issues, just in case.
How to stop puppy whining
While it’s adorable that your puppy wants you so much, sometimes whining can turn into a problem behavior — especially if your little pup starts whining constantly whenever she doesn’t get what she wants (like your undivided attention 24/7).
The best way to combat this is to make sure your puppy gets lots of play and exercise, both mental and physical, so she isn’t totally bored when you do need to ignore her.
“First, make sure that you have provided appropriate care and have met all your puppy’s needs, Dr. Sung said. “This means that your puppy has access to food, water, a warm bed, toys, exercise, play and companionship.”
You can keep your puppy occupied, engaged and content by practicing basic puppy training techniques daily and keeping interactive puppy toys around. “If you provide adequate attention, exercise and play, that will go a long way to keep your puppy happy and eliminate their need to whine for your attention,” Dr. Sung said.
If your puppy is whining because she needs to potty, it’s important to take her to use the restroom as soon as you can. This will help enforce good potty training by discouraging your puppy from eliminating indoors.
Otherwise, if your puppy is alone in the crate and just used the restroom, you can ignore the whining until your puppy gets more comfortable.
Don’t encourage your puppy’s whining behavior if your puppy wants something extra -- and totally unnecessary -- from you (like that peanut butter and banana sandwich you’re holding). Instead, try diverting the puppy’s attention away from what she wants. As soon as your puppy stops the whining, reward her with praise and a treat.
If your puppy whining behavior seems almost impossible to control, enlist a trainer or behaviorist to help.
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