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Some small dogs seem to be prone to whining. If allowed to go on, whining can become a problem that is an annoyance at best, and potentially damaging to your relationship with your furry friend at worst. In fact, many dogs have been re-homed over problem whining.
The reason small dogs seem to be prone to this problem behavior is likely that they tend to receive more coddling from owners that think it is cute or adorable when their puppy whines, or who assume that the little gal needs some comforting.
Luckily, armed with some basic knowledge, and a willingness to make some changes to how you react to whining behavior, you can usually curb problem whining in a few weeks. Read on to find out how.
It is important to take a moment to assess whining before you use any of these training techniques. Sometimes dogs will whine for legitimate reasons. You don’t want to discourage her from whining if she is trying to communicate something important such as:
- “I am in pain!”
- “I need to go out to potty!”
- “Please refill my water bowl.”
Notice that the first example is if your dog is in pain. This could be due to an underlying medical condition. If there is a chance that this is the case, consult with a vet before working on any whine reducing training.
Other, less legitimate, reasons for whining include:
- Attention seeking: “I want attention. Now please!”
- Anxiety: “I am worried…about everything. What was that?”
- Excitement: “Let’s go! Let’s go! Let’s gooooo!”
These emotional states are something we can encourage, without even knowing it. If you have been rewarding any of these types of whining behavior with attention your dog wants, then he is convinced that whining is a successful strategy… because that is what you taught him by rewarding him for whining.
The three methods we offer in this guide are not meant to be taken as single training sessions. Rather, they are different strategies to use when your dog whines for any of the above reasons. You can use them all, depending on which is most convenient for you in the moment, to curb problem whining once and for all.
These methods are called “continuous training” methods because they are really more of a lifestyle change than a discrete training session. The ultimate goal is to have other strategies for responding to your dog’s whining that do not involve rewarding the behavior.
The first step before getting started with any of these methods is to just be observant.
- When is your dog whining?
- Have you eliminated any possible serious problems, such as a painful medical condition or injury?
- How are you and other members of your family responding to whining?
- Is your dog being rewarded for their whining such as being picked up, being pet, being fed or being entertained?
- Identify the motivators that are rewarding to your dog. You will want to make sure to still use them, just save them for when your dog is not whining.
Unless you first eliminate any and all rewards for whining first, none of the methods suggested here will be effective.
The Ignore Whines Method
Any training program to curb whining needs to include this method. Start by giving your dog a “hard ignore” when they whine. This may include looking away or even walking away. The bigger and sharper the motion you use to ignore your dog the instant they start whining, the easier it will be for them to understand that whining isn’t going to pay off any more.
Ignore your dog until he stops whining. At first, accept only 2-3 seconds of not whining before looking at your dog and giving him a little pat or pet. If your small dog is on your lap when he whines, gently but quickly put him on the floor. This process might repeat several times in short order at first. That is normal – stay consistent.
Over time, continue with the hard ignore tactic, but start to expect more time to go by before acknowledging your dog’s presence.
Start to look for times when your dog is not whining, and make an effort to reward him with praise, food or pets to encourage more quiet behavior.
Less and less
Whining should decrease in frequency within a few days of using this method. Stay consistent. For whiners that continue to persist with whining, proceed to one of the other methods.
The Time Out Method
The instant your dog starts whining, say “Too Bad!” in a disappointed, but not angry, tone. Pick him up and put him in a crate or in a small room where he can safely be contained alone for several minutes without being supervised.
Wait for it
Wait for your dog to stop whining before you let him out. At first, take 2-3 seconds. However, as you continue to use this method, expect more time before releasing him from Time Out. Ignore all whining behaviors while your dog is contained.
Continue this process; the first day is the hardest. Be consistent. Every single time he whines, say “Too Bad!” and give a Time Out. If your dog cries and whines while in containment, it is not going to hurt him. Just ignore him until you get some quiet time before letting him out.
On the road
Take the show on the road with a portable crate – a luxury for the small dog owner. Continue to use Time Outs when you are away from home to let your dog know that whining never works.
If problem whining persists after a week of time out training, proceed to the 'Spray Bottle' Method.
The Spray Bottle Method
Modern day professional trainers tend to use direct punishment as a last resort. The reason for this is simple: Too much punishment can make your dog excessively aggressive or fearful, neither of which is ideal. In addition, overuse of punishment makes your dog “hard,” in other words, you have to keep upping the ante of punishment in order for it to remain effective. However, used properly, humane punishment can be a part of an ethical and effective training program.
Get a spray bottle or squirt gun and be sure it is clean before filling it up. In fact, if you have several places in your home that you spend time, having a few so they are handy at all times.
As soon as your dog whines for attention seeking behavior, squirt him with water. It will stop the whining. If he whines again, repeat.
Once your dog has stopped whining for 30 seconds, ask him for another behavior you know they are good at, such as 'sit' and give him praise and/or food rewards for giving you the right behavior. At this point you can allow him back on your lap or go back to what you were doing before the whining started.
You will find that your dog will soon respond to you just reaching for the water bottle. If this is the case, you can stop squirting because you are still getting the desired effect – an immediate stop to whining. Remember to continue to reward non-whining behavior, extending the period of silence that you expect before giving a chance for a reward, gradually.
By Sharon Elber
Published: 01/18/2018, edited: 01/08/2021