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If your dog's whining is driving you crazy, there are several ways to train your dog not to whine. But first, why is your dog whining? Is it because he has a legitimate need that has to be met? If your dog is hungry, needs outside for a bathroom break more often, or needs exercise and play, addressing these needs should come before initiating training to discourage whining behavior. If all of your dog's needs are met and whining persists, it could be a learned behavior to get attention, or you could have a very anxious or submissive dog that whines as part of his method of social interaction In both cases, training your dog to stop whining will involve discouraging whining behavior and providing your dog with an alternate behavior to communicate.
Whining is especially common in puppies, rescue and shelter dogs, or dogs that are unsure of their situation. Separation anxiety is a common cause of whining--if your dog whines when separated from you and other caregivers, you may need to address this issue separately, to provide your dog with confidence and a feeling of comfort and security. Some medical conditions can precipitate whining as well. If your dog is experiencing pain, cognitive, or nervous disorder, whining may be a symptom. If a dog that did not previously whine starts this behavior, it may be advisable to take the dog to a veterinarian to rule out an underlying medical condition.
Because anxiety is often an underlying cause of whining, training methods to alleviate whining behavior should avoid punishment, which, while it may inhibit the behavior, can make the underlying anxiety condition worse and result in alternate negative anxiety behaviors, such as destructiveness or breaking house training, that will make you wish your dog was just whining again! Many dogs also whine when excited, as a sign they are trying to appease their owners by acting submissive, or as a way of vocalizing greetings. In these cases, finding an alternate behavior for your dog during training will give him a more constructive way, to communicate with you.
Stopping your dog's whining will involve a time commitment on your part to develop confidence and social skills, especially if you have an anxious dog. You will also have to ensure all your dog's needs for food, sleep, play, and exercise are met, which may involve other members of the household, friends, neighbors, or dog sitters if you are not available for extended periods of time, for instance, if you are at work long hours or have a young dog that needs more attention. Activities to keep your dog occupied like Kongs, toys and puzzle feeder are also useful. Ensure you have treats to reward appropriate behaviors and patience to ignore inappropriate whining. These tools and the following training strategies should help end your dog's whining habit.
The Extinguish Whining Method
Ensure all your dog's basic needs are met so he has no legitimate reason to whine.
Make sure your dog is not bored, but has toys, a puzzle feeder, a chew bone, a Kong filled with treats, and a quiet, safe retreat such as a crate.
If you dog whines or cries for attention, ignore the dog's demands. You can do this comfortably knowing that his needs, including needs for attention and exercise, have or are going to be met. You can walk away or turn away when your dog whines. Avoid yelling at your dog, as this is a form of attention in itself.
When your dog is being quiet and not demanding attention, reward him by providing affection, a treat, or play.
Continue to meet your dog's needs and reward quiet behavior over a period of several days or weeks as necessary, so your dog learns that his needs will be met on your schedule and that quiet calm behavior is rewarded, whining is not. You may need to engage all members of the household, and include friends or neighbors, if you have a young dog and need to be away from him for several hours, so that a reasonable schedule to meet your dog's needs is maintained.
The Desensitize Method
Make some time to spend with your dog, training and socializing him, so he develops confidence and is less apt to whine from nervousness, appeasement, or excessively submissive behavior.
Create new experiences
Take your dog out into lots of situations with friendly people, dogs, and even cats. Encourage play and exercise. Make sure you are in a safe situation and avoid public dog parks at busy times if your dog might have a negative experience with other people or dogs.
Teach your dog basic obedience commands like 'sit', 'lie down', 'heel', and 'come', to enhance your relationship with your dog and develop basic calm control. Avoid yelling at or punishing your dog when they make a mistake, calmly correct your dog.
Teach your dog tricks like 'roll over', 'beg', and 'fetch', to build confidence and provide fun and entertainment.
Giving your dog lots of social development with training and socializing will build confidence. Also, ensure a calm routine at home, with clear expectations your dog can meet behavior wise. Ensure all his physical and emotional needs are met. As your dog develops confidence, he will be less anxious and submissive and whining behavior will diminish and stop.
The Alternative Behavior Method
Teach your dog to ask for your attention with an alternate behavior to whining, by replacing whining with 'look at me', 'sit-stay' or 'down-stay' behaviors. Start by holding a treat in your hand.
Wait for desired behavior
Wait for your dog to do the desired behavior, such as sitting and look at you.
Provide the treat when your dog performs the desired behavior.
Expand location and time required
Gradually expand this exercise to include other locations and sitting or lying quietly for longer periods of time in order to gain your attention.
Substitute for whining
When your dog sits and looks at you or lays quietly, give him lots of attention and rewards, such as treats, to establish that being quiet and sitting or lying still gets your attention, not whining. Provide the 'sit-stay' or 'look at me' command when you come home, or any other time your dog gets excited and starts whining. This alternate behavior will distract your dog from whining and provide him with another, more constructive way of getting your attention.