When you bring home a puppy, you expect a few sleepless nights of whimpers.
Puppies learn that a high-pitched, albeit adorable, whine gets your attention. As he grows, he learns new ways to communicate with you, such as barking, pawing, or tail wagging. But if your adult dog has become more vocal, he may be resorting to those tried-and-true puppy methods to perk your ears.
Your dog could be whining because of a change in his routine, or he may have developed chronic pain which makes sleeping uncomfortable. Either way, he wants you to listen up!
Here are a few reasons your adult dog might be whining, and what you can do to stop those crocodile tears (and get a few more hours of sleep).
But first...ask yourself these questions:
How much exercise is your dog getting everyday? The minimum amount is 30 minutes of aerobic exercise.
Are you feeding your dog the right diet? If your dog is a couch potato, he shouldn’t eat “performance rations” like your friend’s agility star.
How well do you and your dog communicate? He should respond to 85 percent or more of your one-word commands, such as sit, stay, and come.
When your dog whines, what do you do? Scold him? Pet her? Engage in playtime? These are reinforcing behaviors that teach your dog whining is a great way to get your attention.
Is your dog in physical pain?
When’s the last time you took your dog to the vet for a wellness exam? Before you blame behavioral issues, ask your vet if an underlying medical issue could be the cause—especially if you have a senior dog. Chronic pain is usually also invisible pain, and your dog might be telling you something hurts in the only way he knows how.
If you can scratch pain off the list, consider your pet’s sleeping zone. Is it warm, soft, and well supported?
Does your dog have anxiety?
Has there been a sudden change in your work routine or living situation? If so, your dog may have mild anxiety.
Pets thrive off consistency. And they need you to stick to their schedule as much as possible. While you can’t control all changes (i.e. a baby crying at night), you can control where your dog sleeps at night, what time he eats, and when he goes outside. Make a list of any changes that have recently occurred in your household. How did these changes affect your dog’s routine?
Now, (re)create a structured routine for your dog. This will give him security and comfort during the day.
Maybe your dog just wants attention?
Seeking attention is the most common reason a dog whines. Because, well, it works.
If you’ve increased her exercise, adjusted her diet and the vet has given her a clean bill of health, then it’s time to recondition the behavior. Whenever your dog whines, immediately and dramatically remove your attention. Cross your arms, turn around or walk out of the room. Be clear to your dog whining won’t get him what he wants.
As soon as the whining stops, reward the quiet behavior with a pet or treat. Likely, the whining will get worse before it gets better, but it’s imperative you never give in. Encourage family members and guests to also ignore any whining or seeking attention behavior.
Hopefully, you’ll soon be able to nix the whines, but if you feel you can’t handle the behavior on your own, consider contacting a local behaviorist to assist you.
Rebekah Olsen is a professional writer and wordsmith. She has a Master’s Degree in English from the University of Memphis, and enjoys writing about pet care. You can learn more about her at www.rebekaholsen.com.