How to Train Your Dog to Not Whine When You Leave

Hard
2-8 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

If your dog whines when you leave, loiter outside the closed door and listen for a while. Or, if in doubt, ask the neighbors what happens after you're gone.

If the dog whines but soon quiets and settles down to sleep, then your work is done. He's already learned that crying isn't rewarded (you don't come back) and after a brief whinge, he stops. This is an acceptable state of affairs because interfering could backfire badly and make him cry more.

However, the alternative scenario is the whine is just the beginning, and after you are gone the whine gets louder and crescendos into a full-scale howl or bark. You wouldn't be the first pet parent who has a dog that suffers from anxiety in your absence and makes a noise in order to call you back to end the isolation.

This is a worry for the wellbeing of your best buddy, but it's also bothersome to those in adjoining apartments. To keep the peace, you need to know how to train your dog not to whine when you leave.

Defining Tasks

You can teach a dog the "Quiet" command, but this may only quiet him while you leave and after you're gone he may resume barking. Instead, it's best to create a new way of being alone where the root cause of the whining is addressed by teaching the dog to be content when alone.

This can be difficult to do since the behavior may be deeply ingrained and, in some cases, prescription medication from the vet may be necessary. However, if the dog has merely gotten into bad habits, then there are steps that will quiet him.

Be aware that accidentally rewarding the whining will reinforce the behavior. Thus it's important to ignore the dog when he makes noise, so he learns it is of no benefit to him. The other side of the coin is to respond and praise the dog when he is being actively quiet, so he learns this is a good thing to do.

Some dogs learn to deal with separation better when crate trained. If your dog is otherwise calm then consider this. However, if your dog's whining spirals into chewing and destructive behavior when you're gone, he may become unduly distressed by being confined and it may make matters worse. If in doubt, consult a qualified animal behaviorist.

Getting Started

Get set for success by equipping yourself with the following:

  • A crate: Crate training can provide a sense of security that comforts the dog when you aren't there.
  • A super-tasty, long-lasting treat or a puzzle feeder: This is to occupy the dog and distract him while you leave so he doesn't notice the moment of departure.
  • A TV or radio: The volume left on low can work wonders for some dogs.
  • A special toy: This is given to him when you leave and removed when you come home. This is the doggie equivalent of having a written note saying you will return.

The Desensitize Method

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Desensitize method for Not Whine When You Leave
Step
1
Shake things up
Before leaving, you tend to do things in the same order, such as putting on your shoes and coat, reaching for the car keys, and picking up your bag. These act as cues, which tell the dog it's time to start whining. Instead, throw him off the scent by doing things in a different order.
Step
2
Desensitize him to leaving
Again, try wearing your shoes in the house (so he doesn't only link them to being left) or walk around holding the car keys. The idea is to break the link between the keys and leaving, so he take these things in his stride and ignores them.
Step
3
Short abscences
Practice leaving him for ultra-short times - such as putting the rubbish out. Only come back in when he's quiet, so you reward the silence.
Step
4
Don't make a fuss about leaving
Drop the habit of reassuring the dog you'll be back soon. The dog will all too easily read this as he's right to be concerned because you're about to go. Instead, be totally nonchalant and ignore the dog when you go...and return.
Step
5
Low-key reunions
Don't make a big thing about coming back, In fact, don't immediately greet the dog but putter around while ignoring him, until he's calmed down. This reduces the significance of comings and goings, making him less likely to whine when you go.
Recommend training method?

The Set the Scene Method

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Set the Scene method for Not Whine When You Leave
Step
1
Quiet place
Set up the dog's bed or crate in a quiet part of the house. The idea is for him to have a safe place he feels secure and won't be disturbed by outside noises.
Step
2
Pheromone therapy
Plug in a DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheromone) diffuser beside his bed. This gives off soothing hormone messages that keep the dog chilled
Step
3
Draw the curtains
A dark environment is calming. It also muffles noises from the outside world that make him reactive.
Step
4
White noise
Leave a radio or TV on with the volume low. This provides a blanket of noise to quiet him.
Step
5
Ultra-tasty treat
As you leave, give the dog a long lasting ultra tasty treat (One that is safe in your absence, such as a Kong stuffed with peanut butter). This distracts him so he's too busy licking to whine when you leave.
Recommend training method?

The Keep Busy Method

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Keep Busy method for Not Whine When You Leave
Step
1
A tired body
Some dogs whine when left because they have plenty of energy and would prefer to go with you, for a walk. Make sure the dog is pleasantly tired when left, by giving an appropriate amount of energetic exercise.
Step
2
Exercise before you leave
In addition, consider walking the dog immediately before you leave. When he returns home tired he's more likely to snuggle down for a snooze than complain he's left behind.
Step
3
Mental exercise
A bored dog may whine when left, after all, it's going to be pretty dull when you're gone. Instead, make sure he has plenty to keep his mind occupied during the day, so a break is a welcome relief. Training is a good mental workout, as is giving his meals in a puzzle feeders. Also be sure to play with him and give lots of one-to-one attention.
Step
4
Daily training
Regular daily training sessions can work wonders, as they also makes him feel more secure and understand you are in control.
Step
5
An "I will return" marker
Some dogs settle when they understand you're coming back. This can be achieved by giving him a toy that he only has when you're gone and you remove on your return. Since you always come back to retrieve it, the dog waits patiently in the knowledge your intention is to return.
Step
6
Provide a distraction
Give the dog a Kong, or similar puzzle feeder, stuffed with wet food. This will distract him while you leave, so he doesn't whine. Then hopefully with food in his tummy, he'll settle down to sleep.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
harley
cockapoo
1 Year
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Question
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harley
cockapoo
1 Year

i just moved into an apartment building and my dog will not stop whining, howling and pawing at the door when I leave! I bought a two way audio camera to watch him. He does well when left with another dog he knows, there are no issues there. So I thought I solved the problem, I bought another puppy and it seems he is not comfotable with her and still howls and crys. They have only been together 3 days though. I have tried pretty much everything listed above but I do not know what to do because I feel like I cant leave the apartment or he will disturb my neighbours

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
274 Dog owners recommended

Hello Payton, First, I suggest teaching Harley the quiet command by following the "Quiet" method from the article that I have linked below. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Next, work on adding structure and boundaries to his life, and building his independence. Teach him a "Place" command and work up to him staying on that for up to an hour while you move about the house and leave the room. He needs to learn how to cope with being by himself, and practicing a place command while you leave the room is a great way to start. Also, work on Down-and-Sit-Stays on a long leash outside. Practice the commands on a thirty, forty, or fifty foot, non-retractable leash and work up to backing away from him the entire 30+ feet length of the leash. Work on teaching him to stay in a crate even while the door is open. If you have not introduced a crate, then check out the article that I have linked below and start the "Surprise" method. https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate Once he can handle being in a crate when you are there, then get him used to staying in the crate with the door open. To do this, clip a leash on him, put him in the crate, and while he is quiet open the crate door and if he tries to leave, close the door quickly again. Repeat opening and closing the door until you can open the door and he will stay inside. Tell him "Okay!" in a cheerful tone of voice when it's time for him to come out. Overtime, practice backing away from the crate while the door is open. If he bolts out, grab the leash that he is dragging and put him right back in. Practice this until he will stay in the crate with the door open for up to an hour while you move around the house or sit on the opposite side of the room and ignore him. By doing this, you are teaching him to cope with his anxiety and be a little more independent. You are giving him something specific to do - stay in the crate willingly, opposed to just closing the crate door and him trying to escape. If he can get used to being in the crate while you are out of the door and the door is open, then you will more easily be able to put him in the crate with a food-stuffed chew toy, like a Kong, when you leave, and he will better understand how to calm down in there. Once he has developed a habit of being calm in the crate, then you can give him freedom in the rest of the house again. He needs to learn a calm habit first though. Work on the above. If you are not seeing progress, then the next step is to interrupt his frantic-ness using an electric collar that has a vibration setting also (he may not respond to the vibration so you need both stimulation and vibration - if he does respond to just vibration then you can use that). When you choose a collar, only get one that has at least thirty-levels. Cheap, poorly made collars can be dangerous and collar without enough levels can be too harsh or not effective enough. E-collar Technologies, Garmin, SportDog, Dogtra, and Petsafe all make decent collars. E-Collar Technologies and PetSafe have the collars that go down lowest in dog weight I believe. You can also try using a remote controlled unscented air spray collar (AVOID citronella - only use unscented air or you might make your problem worse). Honestly, many dogs will not respond well enough to the spray collars though. I highly suggest hiring a trainer who is experienced with separation anxiety and using e-collars to help you. You want to find the lowest level that he can feel on the collar. You want to set a good foundation for him by doing the other training that I mentioned above to at the same time to help him learn independence. You also want to reward him when he is calm. To use the electric collar you would: 1. Get him used to wearing the collar around while it is turned off. 2. Find the lowest level that he responds to - called a "working level". 3. Set up your camera to watch him again. 4. Leave the house, drive down the block so he thinks you are gone, then walk back and hide next to the house - so the collar and remote will be in range. 5. Watch him on the camera and listen for howling, scratching or him getting really worked up whining. 6. Stimulate the collar when he howls, scratches, or starts to get worked up whining (a brief whine is okay but not anxious-continuous whining). 7. When he gets quiet for two minutes, go back inside, ignore him for five minutes (he should be in the crate when you first practice this). When he is calm, then open the crate door, but don't let him come out yet - if he tries to rush out, then close the door quickly again and repeat the opening and closing it exercise until he stays in there while the door is open. 8. When he will stay in the crate while the door is open, then ignore him for another five minutes while the door is open. 9. Tell him "Okay" to let him know he can leave the crate at the end of the five minutes, but act really boring and nonchalant with him when he comes out. 10. Practice the training sessions, correcting him from outside with the collar while watching on the camera, coming back in when he is calm, ignoring him for a total of ten minutes, then acting boring when you let him out. This protocol sounds very harsh I know. It is important to practice him being independent of you through things like "Place", "Stay", and being in the crate. He needs to learn how to cope with independence so that he will be able to handle being alone. When you correct him with the collar, you are correcting him at a more reasonable stimulation level that is high enough for him to feel but not so high that it's any harsher than it needs to be. Right now the anxious response is his go to. He needs an opportunity to choose a different response. When you correct him, you are interrupting his anxious state of mind and expression - which will get more and more anxious as it builds. When you remove that option from him, then he has to find another way to react. By coming back inside, you are essentially rewarding him when he is being calm - showing him that you come back and that it's alright for you to leave. Also, showing him that being calm is how he gets you back, not by getting worked up. He has an opportunity to learn in that situation. Being in the crate simply makes it easier for him to learn because his only other option is to chew on a chew toy and rest. He cannot pace, destroy things, pee on rugs, or try another type of behavior when the scratching, whining, and howling are not options anymore. After he has learned calmness in the crate and that has become a new habit, then it will be easier for him to be calm outside of the crate when you are gone too. If he has issues with when the time comes to let him out of the crate again - after he has formed good calm habits, then you can go back to the same camera and electric collar exercise, but he will likely respond to it even better by then because he already learned what he should do when he is corrected for getting worked up - which is calm down. He will be less likely to try other anxious behavior because he will understand why he is being corrected and what to do better. When you put him into the crate, be sure to leave a dog food and liver paste or cheese or peanut butter (NO Xylitol sweetener -it's toxic to dogs!) stuffed- safe- hollow-chew-toy for him in the crate, so that when he calms down he will have that to chew on - he probably won't chew it until he is corrected and learns to calm down though. Dogs typically won't eat when they are anxious. When he learns to be calm and is ready to do something other than get worked up, you will want him to have it though, so that he can learn to enjoy himself in the crate or in your home when you are gone. You can also try an automatic treat dispensing device, such as an AutoTrainer or Pet Tutor. Depending on the level of his anxiety he may or may not care about those treats though. The device might only work once you have interrupted his frantic state and he is looking for something to do or focus on. Either way the device will be great for the new puppy when he is older though - to prevent separation anxiety. I highly suggest crate training the new puppy with dog- food stuffed Kongs to prevent separation anxiety. You can download a free pdf puppy e-book that talks about all that and more: www.lifedogtraining.com Clip on the free downloads tab once at that website. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden I suggest that you do all of this under the guidance of a qualified trainer though. You have to be careful to use e-collars correctly. They can be very effective tools when used correctly, but they are powerful and can be severely misused if you don't understand how to use them. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Dakota
Labrador Retriever
16 Months
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Dakota
Labrador Retriever
16 Months

My dog is not crate trained but is confined to a room while left alone. She whines and scratches as if her life depends on it. She scratches at the door and has ruined carpet. I exercise her daily and even give her a KONG as a treat only when she is left alone. Im not sure how to stop her destructive behavior.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
274 Dog owners recommended

Hello Claudia, I highly suggest crate training her. This behavior is a lot easier to address while she is in a crate. Left free she is able to work herself up and express her anxiety in an unhealthy way. Using a crate and a separation anxiety protocol you can interrupt her anxious state and help her learn a better behavior in place of it. Check out this video from SolidK9Training on treating crate anxiety. It will give a brief over-view of treating separation anxiety more firmly. This trainer can be a bit abrupt with his teaching style with people but is very experienced working with highly aggressive, anxious, and reactive dogs. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5GqzeLzysk Make sure you are implementing what he teaches there in other areas of her life too. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Britt
Lab mix
9 Weeks
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Question
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Britt
Lab mix
9 Weeks

we are trying to crate train britt and it has been horrible. we tried to put her in her crate at night, but she cried ALL night that eventually we just let her sleep with us. i know she is very little right now so things will change in the next few months, the thing i am most concerned about is her howling and whining when we leave. we have a 3 year old chocolate lab who is with her. we tried to keep Britt in her crate while Bella was left free to roam around the house. Britt cried for hours. Bella went to day care the next day, britt cried for 46 minutes straight, then stopped, fell asleep, woke up and cried for 38 minutes straight. so we decided to just gate off the kitchen and leave her in there with her crate open so she could roam around there, she cried. we put bella in the kitchen with her, she still cries. if she doesn't see people she loses her mind. im not sure how to break this habit. thanks!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
274 Dog owners recommended

Hello Ashley, If it has been less than two weeks this is normal. The hard truth is that you need to let her cry for a week and not save her from it - every time you go to her when she cries she learns that that is the way to get you to come back and actually learns to cry even more. Some very determined puppies will cry for hours! Some adjust right away, but the hours puppy is also normal. If you leave them to cry you give them opportunity to learn that they are safe and they have the opportunity to calm themselves down (usually by becoming so tired they fall asleep), then they learn to stop crying because it does them no good. Most puppies take three days of very consistent training to adjust. Some very determined puppies do it for two weeks - but each day tends to be a bit better than before. It sounds harsh but you are actually preventing separation anxiety later by teaching them how to self-sooth and be alone now. When they have to go potty, try to wait for a quiet second before you return to her -you may have to be fast. You can correct the crying too. I typically only recommend this for older dogs because crying is normal for young puppies and almost all of them will adjust if given a chance for two weeks, then be fine in the crate for the rest of their lives, but there are circumstances where waiting it out is simply not an option. For such a young puppy I suggest crating her in a room by herself (no other dog around or you will have to do this all over again when your dog is gone). Work on getting her good and tired when you are home so that she will not be able to fight sleep as easily in the crate. Give her a food stuffed chew toy, and work on the Surprise method from the article linked below during the day. At night, wear earplugs or crate her in a room where the crying will not interrupt your sleep. Set an alarm to take her potty every three hours since you will not be able to depend on her cries to wake you up when she needs to go - later you can use an audio baby monitor and wait until she wakes up to take her potty. Surprise method: https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate If you find you need to correct, then tell her "Ah ah" and use a rolled up dish towel with a couple of rubber bands around it to bump the edge of the crate just hard enough to surprise her enough to stop the crying, then leave again. When she cries, return and bump the crate and leave again, and when she stays quiet for a couple of minutes, return and sprinkle treats in the crate - correct crying/reward quietness. Practice this during the day. You do not want to give food at night because it can make a pup need to go potty at night or cause them to stay awake in hopes of food. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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