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If you're like most people around a new dog, you probably think your Labrador puppy is the cutest thing on the planet. You bought them a comfy bed and some lovely toys and you are so excited about your new little friend. But, every time you leave the room or put your puppy into their crate, they start crying and whining. And if you leave your Labrador pup alone for too long, the whole house is suddenly filled with yowling, a high-pitched noise that makes you think your little one is in desperate pain. After a few days of this, you are probably at your wits' end with how to train your Lab puppy to stop whining.
Puppies whine as part of a deep-seated survival instinct. In the wild, a puppy left on their own is in serious danger, so they will whine to bring the adults in the pack back to them. Your new puppy has been whisked away from their safe place to come live with you. For the first few days, a puppy will whine because they don't feel quite safe in their new environment. Keeping your puppy comfortable will cut back on whining in general. After a week or so, if your puppy is still whining, they have probably learned that a good whine fest will get them what they want, be it food, cuddles, or your return to the room. Training your Labrador puppy not to whine is not too difficult if you are consistent and teach them that staying quiet is more likely to get them what they want.
For whining, it is best to use a clicker to mark the behavior you want. You will first need to clicker train your pup by associating the sound of the clicker with a tasty treat. Then, you can use clicking as a way to reinforce the behavior you want which, in this case, is staying quiet. You will also need to choose a reward to use to tell your Labrador puppy they've done a good thing. Puppies are often food-driven, making treats a good option, but your pup may prefer physical affection or a toy instead.
The It's OK to Be Alone Method
Get everyone on the same page
For this method to work, everyone in your house needs to understand that they can't reward puppy whining. While you shouldn't ignore signals that your puppy is uncomfortable or needs to go outside, rushing to their side every time they whine will only make the problem worse. Be strong and get ready to ignore the whining.
Leave your pup alone
Put your Labrador in a puppy-proofed room and leave them alone. Stand around the corner or outside the door. Your puppy will probably start whining, unhappy to be left alone.
Wait for the right moment
The goal is to wait for a break in the whining to reward your puppy. If your puppy gets really worked up when left alone, wait for any pause and then click or say "good." Your puppy should already associate the clicker or the word "good" with a positive result.
Give your pup some loving
Return to the room and give your Labrador puppy a treat or their preferred reward. Make a big fuss over how great they are for being quiet.
Make them wait for it
As your puppy learns to stay alone without fussing, require longer and longer periods of quiet before they get a reward. Over time, your Labrador will learn that being alone is no big deal and that whining doesn't give them what they want anyway.
The Crate Training Method
Make a lovely den for your puppy
In nature, dogs build comfortable dens to leave their puppies in. These dens represent a safe space where puppies do not need to worry about being left alone. Put your puppy's crate or a sturdy box near your bed and fill it with comfy bedding.
Show your puppy the crate is where nice things happen
Help your Labrador puppy become accustomed to their crate by associating it with good things. Give your puppy treats or their meals in the crate. Pet them when they are inside. Keep it clean and comfortable inside.
Leave your puppy alone for a short time
Place your puppy inside the crate and then leave the room for a few seconds. Your puppy will likely begin crying as soon as you do so. Resist the urge to rush back in and show them everything is okay.
Wait for a moment of quiet
Stay out of the room until you hear a break in your puppy's crying. Say "good" or click the clicker and then come back into the room. Repeat this action a few times and then let your Lab out of their crate. Over time, require longer and longer periods of quiet before coming back so your puppy feels comfortable being alone in their crate.
Spend time in the room when your pup is in the crate
Hang out nearby the crate for a few minutes a day while your puppy is inside. You can sit on the ground near the crate and read or do some other activity. Your puppy doesn't necessarily need to be able to see you, but it may help. Give them a toy or a bone to entertain themselves. The idea is to ensure your puppy doesn't associate the crate with being abandoned.
The Squirt Bottle Method
Try other methods first
The 'Squirt Bottle' method should only be used with very persistent whiners. First, try other methods of reducing your Labrador's whining habits. Make sure they are not whining because of some other health or comfort issue.
Use a squirt bottle or water pistol
Fill a water pistol or squirt bottle with water and keep it on hand. Make sure it won't spray the water too forcefully. Keep in mind your Lab puppy is small and a strong blast of water may hurt them.
Connect whining with a negative response
When your puppy whines, squirt a little water at them. It's best to do this from an angle where your puppy doesn't see you. Otherwise, they connect you to a negative sensation. The water should seem like a bolt from nowhere that hits when they whine.
If your puppy stops whining after the water, say "good" or click the clicker and give them a treat. This lets your puppy know what you want instead of the whining.
Be quick on the draw
Your timing will need to be very good with this method. With both the water and the treat, you need the response to come as closely to the action as possible. With good timing, you should see results in just a couple of days. If this method doesn't show results after a week, try something else.
By Christina Gunning
Published: 03/20/2018, edited: 01/08/2021