Stop a Dog From Whining for Attention

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How to Stop a Dog from Whining for AttentionDogs really know how to get our attention, and one way to do so is by whining.

It works, right?

Whining almost always gets a reaction from us. We either laugh at the dog, talk to the dog, pet the dog or even scold the dog. Either way, the whining is reinforced.

Some dogs whine more than others, and sometimes it even becomes a really annoying habit. If you have a dog that tends to whine for attention, the following are some ideas to get the behavior under control.

1. Truly ignore the dog for whining.

When a dog is whining and I do not want to reinforce that behavior, I make absolutely sure I do not give the dog any attention. This is a lot harder than it sounds, because even smiling or glancing at the dog is enough attention as far as he’s concerned.

“I recommend getting up and moving away from the dog if it’s too hard to ignore,” said Robin Bennett, a certified professional dog trainer. “At a minimum, turn your back on the dog.”

She said not to make eye contact because most dogs will find that rewarding.

Bennett also warned that when dogs are ignored while whining, they often whine even louder before they quiet down. If the owner continues to ignore the whining, the dog will eventually learn the behavior never works.

2. Try not to scold the dog.

Honestly, I do tell my dog “no” when he whines, and it doesn’t work very well to quiet him. He just wags his tail and looks at me, like, “Ha! I got you to look!”

This is the reason Bennett said she does not recommend scolding a dog for whining.

“For some dogs any attention is better than no attention,” she said.

3. If you have to give the dog attention, ask him to sit first.

Sometimes we do have to give our dogs attention when they’re whining. For example, maybe it’s the only time you have to take your dog for a walk or a potty break and you can’t wait for him to quiet down.

Instead of going to your dog while he’s whining, tell him to sit or lie down first. Then, reward him for that behavior. I learned this little trick from a professional trainer when I was trying to get my foster dog to stop barking in his kennel.

4. Reward calm behavior.

Watch for moments when the dog is not whining, and promptly give the dog praise, love and a treat, said Bennett. If you pet the dog every time she whines, the behavior is reinforced.

“No whining equals attention,” she said.

5. Plan ahead and manage the whining.

Finally, Bennett suggested it’s best to manage situations where the dog is likely to whine.

“Provide an alternative option for the dog before the whining happens,” she said.

For example, if you know your dog whines while you talk on the phone, she said you could provide your dog with a chew toy right before your phone call so he is occupied. Then reward him for calm, quiet behavior.

Do you have a dog that whines? How do you respond to the whining?

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  1. Rachel says

    We have a basset that whines way too often but it never seems to be an attention thing. We don’t ever give him attention when he does it but he just continues anyway and does it at random. He’ll be laying in his dog bed whining for absolutely no reason – its not like we’re eating or he’s looking at us for attention or anything. I’ve ruled out hunger, the need to go to the bathroom, attention, etc. but it STILL happens. He’s very low maintenence but the whining drives me NUTS sometimes!

    • Lindsay Stordahl says

      My dog whines on his bed sometimes when he seems to think he’s supposed to stay there even though I haven’t given him a stay command. It’s like he can’t remember he just decided to lie there on his own, and then he looks for permission to get up by whining! Not saying that’s what your dog is doing, but it’s an annoying habit my dog has somehow developed.

  2. says

    We have always had pretty good luck with this – but we usually go with the *ignore* option! I’m glad that I learned early on in pet ownership that any attention is rewarding the behavior. When we crate our dogs we usually give them a peanut butter kong or a small treat and this helps, esp when they are pups! Great post – sharing!

    • Lindsay Stordahl says

      I definitely used the peanut butter in a Kong trick as well. If I get the peanut butter out, my dog seriously dives head first into his kennel. He still whines for attention every now and then, and it’s totally my fault because I give him attention for it!

  3. keri k. says

    our dog tends to whine and yelp ANDscream? when she senses or sees something or somebody, especially other dogs and people. it breaks my sound barrier, hurts my ears and head. its very loud and can’t seem to break through it.ignore or not ignore, she still does it when you are trying to hear what someone is saying , I don’t know what to do. I have a small dog so I say quiet or relax then I pick her up! help!! keri

    • Lindsay Stordahl says

      Sounds like she is barking out of excitement when she sees someone new. I’m sure this is very frustrating! There are different techniques you could try, and you may want to consider hiring a trainer for some suggestions.

      Are there any treats she finds extremely valuable? Maybe some pieces of real chicken? Or hamburger? I would put her on a leash and then figure out her “trigger” distance. For example, if she barks at someone 20 feet away, you would stop at about 25 feet away, ask her to sit and give her some treats. Then, maybe the next time you can get within 18 feet or so. With time, patience and consistency, you should eventually be able to work closer and closer to her “triggers.”

  4. Tera says

    this is all great advice but what happens when you and your dogs have gone through the ordeal of having a house fire and then being forced to move into the city?

    • Lindsay Stordahl says

      Hi Tera. I’m sorry to hear your house caught on fire. Did your dog’s whining behavior start after you moved or before?

      I know moving can be stressful on everyone, including dogs. A couple of things that can help include sticking to a somewhat normal routine every day (so life is predictable for them). I would also recommend making sure your dog is getting plenty of structured exercise such as a long walk every day.

      For the whining, I would try the tips in this post, mostly ignoring the whining by not paying attention to your dog and even getting up and walking away. When it’s really annoying, you could try giving your dog something to chew on/interact with like a treat-dispensing toy or a natural chew.

      Hope that gives you some ideas to try!

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