Decoding Dog Whining

By June 30 | See Comments

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Decoding Dog Whining

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Whining is one of the most common forms of vocal communication among canines. Dogs tend to whine when they seek attention, when they are anxious or excited or when they are trying all they can to appease you.

Causes of whining
  • Appeasement behavior – Some dogs tend to whine excessively when they are interacting with other people or dogs. It is often accompanied by a submissive posture (tucked tail, lowered body and head, averted gaze).
  • Greeting behavior – Some dogs tend to whine when they are greeting others. The vocalization is motivated by excitement and is usually directed towards other dogs or people.
  • Attention seeking behavior – Some dogs tend to whine when they are in the presence of their owners to get their attention, desired objects or treats.
  • Anxiety – Some dogs also whine when they are in stressful situations. Whining is involuntary in such cases.
Other less common causes
  • Separation anxiety – If your dog tends to whine just before you leave the house or when you are absent, he might suffer from separation anxiety. In such cases, you will be able to pick up on at least one more symptom of the disorder before you depart or when your dog is left alone, like panting, pacing, destructive behavior (especially windows and doors), excessive drooling, defecating or urinating indoors, depression and other such signs of distress.
  • Medical condition or injury – Dogs also whine when they are in pain. If your dog whines frequently or has just started to do it of late, you must take him to the vet to rule out possible medical causes.
What can you do about it?
  • Appeasement whining – Some dogs try and appease other dogs and people when they perceive an aggression or threat being directed towards them. Common forms of appeasement behavior include, holding back the ears, tucking the tail, rolling over or crouching on the back, avoiding any form of eye contact, turning the body away from the perceived threat. Appeasement whining is normal dog behavior. You can try and reduce your dog’s appeasement behavior by building his confidence. For starters, you can take him to an obedience class which uses reward based techniques for training. You can also take him for trick training and dog sports like flyball, agility, musical freestyle (a combination of tricks and heeling performed to music). Playing interactive and fun games with him like tug and fetch can do wonders for his confidence. Avoid verbal or physical punishment.
  • Whining while greeting – If your dog tends to whine when he is greeting people, divert his attention to his favorite toys. It is not enough if you just tell him to be quiet during greetings, unless you have taken specific steps to ensure that he understands what the word “Quiet” means. Use effective management procedures to keep your dog from getting over excited when he meets people. For instance, you can try and downplay meeting by keeping them simple and short. Do not speak in loud, excited tones and keep your movements calm and slow. Wait for his excitement to die down before you pet him and interact with him. You can also train him to do something else, like sitting or staying still when he greets people. He will whine less if he is performing more polite behavior.
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