Your dog makes an array of interesting noises. He barks, he growls, he snores, he sneezes, and he yawns. But lately, you've noticed that your dog is whining when you pet him. He's also whining in other situations, such as when you go on walks, take him around in the car, and have guests over. You're wondering if this is something to be concerned about or if this is just normal behavior.
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Dogs whine for a few different reasons. It's just your pup's way of communicating his feelings to you. It's up to you to learn about dog whining in order to decipher normal behavior from a more serious issue that could be occurring.
Dogs sometimes exhibit appeasement behavior. Appeasement behavior is when the dog acts submissive toward you or another person or dog. Your dog is just trying to calm down a situation or say, "Hey, all I want is a friendly interaction." Your dog may whine when you're petting him if he thinks you're mad at him or that he did something wrong and now he's in trouble.
If he is in trouble, make sure you're not petting him aggressively or petting him at all, because this is sending mixed signals and will make him more stressed out. Instead, if he does something wrong, say in a firm voice, "uh-oh." When he exhibits the correct behavior, give him a treat and say, "Good boy!" enthusiastically.
If your dog is scared of other pups or gets nervous at the dog park or on walks, he may start to whine. He'll also tuck his tail between his legs and won't make eye contact with dogs. You can remove him from the situation by walking him on the other side of the street, where there are no dogs, or leaving the dog park. Another option is to take him to training classes, where he will learn about positive social interactions with other dogs. That should get him to stop whining and start having fun with dogs instead.
If your dog is excited that you're petting him, he may begin to whine. Have you ever noticed that your dog whines when he's about to go for a walk, or when he sees another dog outside? Maybe you're petting him in a particularly nice spot and he's happy that you're reaching that itch he just can't scratch himself. He'll also whine when you're playing ball with him or when guests come over. As long as this is a joyous whine, then there is nothing to worry about.
A dog will also whine when he is stressed out, nervous, or anxious. Perhaps he has separation anxiety and knows you're about to leave the house, so he starts whining, pacing, drooling, and sulking on the couch. Your dog may also become anxious around other dogs, certain people, or cats. He may get anxious when he knows you're taking him to the veterinarian. To calm your dog down, make sure he has his favorite toys with him, and keep him away from overactive children who don't know how to properly interact with him. Be calm when you're leaving the house for the day, and perhaps use an over-the-counter anxiety spray or collar to help your pup. You should also consult with a trainer if the anxiety is getting out of control and your dog is destroying your house when you leave or wrecking your car when you take him anywhere.
Another cause of whining is seeking attention. When your pup is around you, he may want you to walk him, play fetch, or give him a treat. Maybe you're petting him in the wrong place and he's whining so that you'll pet him the right way. Your dog needs attention in order to thrive, so make sure you're giving him the right amount every day by petting him, cuddling him, and giving him praise when he's good.
If your dog's whining is over the top when he's seeking attention, then you can train him that that's not the right way to behave. When he starts up, fold your arms and turn your back on him. You could also ignore the whining until he stops. With the right body language and tone in your voice, you can successfully communicate to your dog that whining is not going to get him what he wants.
If your dog has never whined before, or is whining in excess, he may be dealing with a medical issue. Perhaps he stepped on something sharp or hurt his toenail, neither of which are a big deal. But he could also be telling you that he's experiencing a worse kind of pain. If your dog's whining sounds painful, then take him to the vet immediately and explain what's going on. You want to ensure that your pup feels OK and is getting the treatment he needs to recover.