Ask a dog trainer: why does my dog whine?

If your dog whines when it needs to go outside, chances are you figured that out pretty quick. But what about the other times? Why do some dogs seem to whine all the time or at odd times of day when they clearly don’t have to “go”? If you live with a dog that whines, you know how frustrating it can be to hear it. But also how frustrating it is to not be able to understand what your dog wants either.

Image Source: Mike via Flickr
Image Source: Mike via Flickr

Reasons A Dog May Whine & What To Do About It

Aside from having to go outside, here are some of the other common reasons a dog may whine. Knowing these may help you determine why your dog is whining. Then, you can work on solving the issues.

Stressed/Anxious or Fearful

Many dogs whine when they are stressed or anxious. Look for other signs of stress including pacing, white around the eye showing, stiff posture, low tail, cowering, trying to hide, yawning, etc.

Solution: You will need to do some extensive training to teach your dog to relax. It’s best to get help from a professional positive reinforcement dog trainer.

Image Source: H G via Flickr
Image Source: H G via Flickr

No Water

Is their dish empty? Some dogs will whine when they are out of water. One of mine whines, but will also go and stand over the dish, making it obvious what she wants.

Solution: This one has an easy fix – fill the dish!

In pain

Just like humans, dogs will whine when something hurts.

Solution: If you think your dog is in pain, take him to the vet immediately. If they’ve been to the vet and are whining, call and ask if you should bring them back in – something else might be wrong or they may need a higher medication dose.


Some dogs whine to get attention. Chances are, you’ve reinforced this habit by unconsciously petting or playing with them when they have whined in the past.

Solution: Stop giving them attention when they whine. As soon as they stop, reward the quiet with attention. The behavior will eventually become extinct.

Image Source:
Image Source: Tony Alter via Flickr


Some dogs whine when they aren’t getting their way. They may whine in their crate because they want out, or because they can’t reach the cat on the other side of the fence. It’s related to self-control. My youngest sheltie often whines when he is trying to follow my cues but really wants to do something else – for example he is in a mat stay and sees a bird fly by. He really wants to break that stay. He doesn’t, but he whines about it.

Solution: Eventually this type of whining will go away with more self-control training. If you aren’t sure how to do that, get help from a dog trainer.


This is most often seen in puppies – they whine as soon as you start approaching them for attention! (Which by the way, is where the habit of whining for attention probably started with your dog). Like frustration, this is also linked to self-control. If it’s not worked on when they are young, a dog will continue to do this as an adult along with other irritating habits like jumping up on you for attention.

Solution: With training, you can teach your dog to relax and not be so excited when you approach. Again, if you aren’t sure about how to teach your dog self-control, find a trainer to help you.


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