Curb your puppy’s whining habit: Our top tips

Puppies are adorable from nose to tail. Even their sweet little sounds can pull at your heartstrings … or make you want to pull out your hair! When whining becomes a constant problem, it can be difficult to pinpoint why it began in the first place — especially with litters, where pups may learn to whine from their siblings.

Addressing the issue behind the whining is only step one in curbing your pup’s noisy behavior. Even once you know just what she wants, it’s not as simple as appeasing her (which will only encourage whining). As frustrating as it may feel, know that you have all the skills you need to learn how to get a puppy to stop whining. Here are a few tips, tricks, and insights to get you started:

Why do puppies whine?

Trying to know why a puppy is whining is much like figuring out why a human baby is crying. Hunger, fear, loneliness, and discomfort are just a few of the reasons you might hear a whine from your furry friend, but she may be showing some canine-specific behaviors as well.

Anxiety is an especially common reason for whining among puppies. They may be adjusting to being away from their mother or littermates, or perhaps the environment is too cold or open. Whining can certainly be fear based, and when it is, it will be accompanied by anxious body language such as a tucked tail or bowed head. In these cases, confidence building can help.

Excitement is another, albeit opposite, reason your puppy might whine. Whether she wants to say hi or cannot wait to chow down on the food you’re about to give her, teaching her that waiting will be rewarded can help discourage whining.

a brown dog looks up with big brown eyes, looking sad

Never give in to whining

If you believe your puppy is whining out of excitement or want, she’s probably going to keep it up if you give her what she’s looking for. As difficult as it is to listen to, don’t give in! By appeasing her cries, you’re teaching her that whining gets her what she wants — but that’s not what you want.

However, this is not the same as ignoring your dog’s needs. If your puppy is under a month old, her cries should never be overlooked. No matter your dog’s age, though, injury or illness can also be a cause for whining, so it’s always important to pay attention to an unusually noisy pup.

Address why they’re whining — once they’re quiet

When your puppy whines, stop! She’ll slowly learn that crying doesn’t get her anywhere if she sees you stop in your tracks. If your pup is whining for attention, for example, you should cease all interaction with her immediately: Stand up so she can’t jump on you, cross your arms, and look away. It will definitely frustrate your furry friend at first, but soon she’ll learn that when she whines, she won’t get your attention.

Just as important as discouraging the whining is rewarding the quiet behavior when you see it. It’s essential to give your dog the attention or food she wants as soon as she’s quiet. Don’t make your pup wait too long, or you risk losing her attention or undermining the lesson. Rewarding your dog about three seconds after she stops whining is a great goal to start with.

Remember, even eye contact counts as attention

It can be difficult not to shush or correct your puppy when she whines, but even negative or dramatic attention will look like a reward to her. Unless you’ve specifically taught your dog that shh means to be quiet, she probably won’t understand anyway. Even the stink eye, which may work on your kids, probably won’t make much of a difference to your pup. If she got you to look by whining a minute ago, she’ll certainly try again.

a golden retriever puppy lies on the grass and looks up with big sad eyes

Redirect behavior when whining from excitement

Sometimes a dog can whine when they get worked up from excitement, especially during greetings. Ignoring your pup in cases like these may be next to impossible, so it might be more effective to redirect her excitement instead. Having your puppy follow a command or two will give her something else to focus on. It may help to ask guests to follow the same routine so your dog gets used to staying calm and active during greetings.

Help build your dog’s confidence

For pups who may be whining because of fear or anxiety, it’s all a matter of patience and confidence. Sometimes, a pet just has to get used to a new environment, and while you can comfort them in their new place, they ultimately need to learn to get around themselves. Rewarding them for small steps, such as exploring new places, will help them carry themselves with their head held high, even in unfamiliar situations.

Whining can be a loud and obnoxious problem for a puppy to have, but with some love and patience, she will pipe down and thrive. The most important piece to consider is just why she’s whining, which, unfortunately, isn’t always obvious. As you get to know your growing pup, though, you’ll also learn about her little quirks and what makes her tick. Soon, you’ll be working together toward meeting both of your needs, no whining included.

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