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What is Whimpering?

Whimpering is a natural way for dogs to communicate, and is learned by puppies as they interact with their mothers. Most often, whimpering begins as a call for something that is needed, such as food. You may hear your dog whimper and whine in certain situations, or as a call to get a toy or attention. Reasons a dog may whimper include: 

  • Excitement
  • Anxiety 
  • Fear
  • Frustration 
  • Boredom 
  • Show submissiveness
  • Attention seeking 
  • Soliciting for resources 
  • Cognitive decline

* Pain 

* Illness

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Why Whimpering Occurs in Dogs

Why a dog whimpers depends on how it feels or what it needs, and can vary in different situations.

Excitement 

A dog who is happy may whimper to show their excitement. This could be during a greeting, such as when you arrive home, or in response to a walk or a car ride. They could be anticipating the food you are preparing for them, or are excited to get a treat or new toy. 

Anxiety 

Whimpering can be a sign of anxiety. Some dogs suffer from separation anxiety, and may whine when you are leaving. Factors such as an environment change or the addition of a new pet can cause stress for your dog, resulting in him voicing his unhappiness. His whining may increase when situations become more stressful, such as during a trip to the veterinarian.

Fear

Dogs can be afraid of many things, just like people. While some dogs are confident and seem able to handle anything, others may become fearful of new animals or people, an inanimate object, or even a loud noise, such as thunder or fireworks. Some dogs can even develop phobias that cause them to whimper when faced with their fear.

Frustration

Dogs can voice their frustrations over many things, such as being left inside when the family is playing in the yard, when their toy gets stuck under a chair, or if they dislike being in their crate. 

Boredom

Dogs can cause a lot of trouble when they are bored. Whimpering out of boredom is harmless, but should alert you that your dog may need more exercise, and maybe even some enriching activities to keep his body and mind active.

Show Submissiveness

Sometimes your dog may be whimpering to show submissiveness, especially if he has done something wrong, such as eaten your flowers, chewed your shoes, or gotten into the litter box. He may also whine to show another dog or person that he recognizes who the dominant animal is.

Attention Seeking 

Your furry best friend will have moments when he just needs some love and affection, or at least a good scratch. He may whine to alert you that he wants to spend quality time with you. 

Soliciting for Resources

Dogs are wonderful communicators, and love to let us know when they are hungry, thirsty, or need a potty break. They also may tell you that they really need that toy or bone.

Cognitive Decline

As your dog ages, he may experience a degree of cognitive dysfunction that can include disorientation, dementia, or even anxiety. He may suddenly become lost in the house, or forget where things are, and may whimper because he is confused.

Pain

Most animals will whimper when in pain, and dogs are no exception. Injuries, joint issues, and surgery or procedures can cause your dog to whine.

Illness

Just like when you may complain during a cold, your dog may have something to say about the misery of being sick. Allergies and colds can make your dog congested and sneezy, while other illnesses can affect any number of body areas. Your dog is telling you he just doesn’t feel good.

What to do if your Dog is Whimpering

While whimpering is a natural method of communication for dogs, if it increases or is excessive, there may be a problem that needs addressing. Some reasons may be obvious, such as if the whimpering is from anxiety, fear, boredom, or attention seeking. But whimpering that seems to occur when the dog is calm and not seeking a specific objective may indicate that a physical reason is causing his vocalization.

Consulting with your veterinarian can help to determine if there is a medical reason why your dog is whimpering. Your vet will ask you about his behavior and if there are any other symptoms present that may indicate an affected body area or illness. Tests may help to diagnose a problem, and can include blood and urine tests, and imaging techniques. If a medical condition is discovered, then it will be treated appropriately. 

Whimpering for a reason other than a medical problem can be challenging to correct. While there are medications that can calm anxious or fearful dogs, behavior modification is usually recommended to change your dog’s behavior. Discovering the triggers that cause an anxious or fearful reaction can help you to eliminate the cause, or work with your dog to change how he reacts. Dogs who get overexcited can benefit from calm greetings and departures. Obedience training and behavior modification can work in many cases, and there are licensed trainers who can provide training tips for all situations.

Old age can be tough for any animal and their owners, but providing a safe environment where your aged dog can relax may reduce his anxiety. You may need to provide ramps for achy joints, special diets that cater to older dog’s needs, a memory foam bed, or familiar smells on toys and other items to help your dog remain calm and comfortable.

Prevention of Whimpering

Preventing a dog from having extreme anxiety, fear, or submissive tendencies can be challenging, but you can give your dog more confidence in his early years. While still a puppy, expose your dog to new situations, animals, and people, and reward him for good behavior. Taking your dog in for routine medical check-ups can help to ensure he remains healthy, and help you to catch any conditions before they progress and cause your dog too much discomfort.

Remember that whimpering is normal, and is one of the ways your dog tells you how he feels or what he needs.

Cost of Whimpering

If your dog’s whimpering is due to a medical condition, the cost can vary considerably depending on what is wrong. However, many types of behavior therapy can cost $100 or more per session. The cost for treating cognitive dysfunction in dogs ranges from $300 to $500.

Whimpering Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Savannah
Min Pin
7 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Whimpers upon picking up

For the past 2 days my Min Pin whimpers for no apparent reason. No certain time or problem I can see. She is 7 years old. However, I have had more types of mushrooms in my yard this year.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2992 Recommendations
Whimpering may be a sign of pain, illness, attention seeking, sadness among other causes; without giving Savannah an examination I cannot say what the cause of her whimpering it, if you have mushrooms growing in your garden it may be that Savannah ate a few and it is causing some gastrointestinal or other symptoms. Try to identify the mushrooms in your garden, it can be difficult as many look similar; but you should also visit your Veterinarian to give Savannah a once over to see if there is anything medically wrong. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Brody
Yellow Lab
6 Years
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

wimpering

I have a yellow lab who is very well behaved most of the time. However when we go on hikes together and I stop for a break he begins to wimper. It is only when we stop that he does this. Is he excited or is he having anxiety?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2992 Recommendations
This may occur for a variety of reasons including anxiety, excitement, pain, attention seeking among other things; if it only occurs during a stop on a hike, it may be just a sign he wants to continue. However, if this behaviour continues at home or at other times, I would suggest having your Veterinarian give him a check to be on the safe side. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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