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?

About Lindsay Stordahl

Lindsay Stordahl is a blogger for dogIDs.com. She has a black Lab mix named Ace and two naughty cats named Beamer and Scout. Lindsay owns a pet sitting business called Run That Mutt and also maintains the blog ThatMutt.com. ... Add Lindsay to your Google+ circles at . You can follow Lindsay on Twitter @ThatMutt.

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Lindsay Stordahl is a blogger for dogIDs.com. She has a black Lab mix named Ace and two naughty cats named Beamer and Scout. Lindsay owns a pet sitting business called Run That Mutt and also maintains the blog ThatMutt.com. ... Add Lindsay to your Google+ circles at <a href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/102050652657732372317/posts" rel="author">https://plus.google.com/u/0/102050652657732372317/posts</a>. You can follow Lindsay on Twitter <a href="http://www.twitter.com/thatmutt">@ThatMutt</a>.

  1. 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!

    • 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. 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!

    • 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. 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

    • 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. 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?

    • 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!

  5. HI,
    We just got a new dog that’s a year old. She does really well at not whining at home.
    We took her to Pet Smart though and WOW she just lost it. I know there are so many smells and things going on but would you have any tips for taking her to a place like that and teaching her not to whine? She mostly whined when she noticed other dogs.
    She’s a chinese crested about 12 pounds.
    Thanks!

    • Your dog sounds cute! I’m guessing she was really excited and overwhelmed. One thing that helps my dog is to take him on a long walk before taking him somewhere “exciting.” That way he’s tired when we get there and calmer. So I would definitely give that a try.

      Also, just slowly taking her out to more and more different places over time should help so it’s not such a big deal to her anymore. Start with some quieter places like different parks and then visit busier places as she seems more comfortable.

      Bringing along highly valued treats (like jerky treats) might also help in some situations to keep her focused on you. And you could always enroll in a group obedience class to work on basic obedience.

      Hope that helps you brainstorm!

  6. I took my puppy from a dog foster home about a year ago. I love him to bits; he has a great personality, and I feel that he loves our family so much. BUT he barks and whines A LOT. . So, leaving home is always a challenge for us. My husband and I were thinking about taking him to ‘doggy school’, but then again, it’s extremely expensive, and the nearest ‘doggy school’ is far away from us. Maybe you have some advice? THANK YOU!!!!

  7. Hi There,

    I have a 5 year old standard poodle that up until a month ago was never alone. She lost her sister to cancer. she is wonderful when left at home alone, in the car alone but was whining when she sensed our arrival. I ignored her whining when getting in the car, or arriving at home and it is coming to a halt. However, she whines if we take her somewhere and put her on a leash 10 or so feet away from us. We’ve ignored her for as long as we could but she just would not stop. After a scolding, she calmed down for the better part of the time she was leashed. How do we correct this? In this case, she can see us – just can’t reach us.

    • Hi Karen, my dogs will sometimes bark or whine if I tether them away from me in public too. I actually avoid doing that because it’s just not worth the stress for me. But sometimes it’s unavoidable. It might be helpful if you can practice with her a few times per week where you only leave her for 30 seconds, then return and give a treat if she’s quiet. Then repeat several times. Eventually you would do this in more and more situations and increase the time away from her to 45 seconds before giving a treat, 1 min, 2 mins, etc.

      Another idea that might work is if you can give her something to chew on like a bully stick or a Kong toy with peanut butter while she’s tied. But she might be too anxious to care about something like that and I’m not exactly sure what environment you’re talking about.

      Some people successfully train their dogs to lie down on a mat or towel at home and then take that item out in public and the dog knows to lie calmly on it. Just another idea.

  8. I have a Boston. She will come and sit in front of me and wait. If I don’t realize she’s sitting there she stands up one puts her paws on me and starts whining. I tell her to get down and she whines more. I’ll try the walking away and see if that works.

  9. Hi!
    So I have a 3 month old cockapoo who is extremely attached to me. She’s been at home 2 days and starts whining, crying and barking if I leave her in her crate and walk away. I’ve been ignoring her and she stops after 10 minutes. I give her treats when she is quiet followed by “good quiet” or “good being quiet”. But she started to whine after I walked away. So I waited until she COMPLETELY settled down to give her the treat. I am very anxious to leave her at home while I’m at work (even though my parents are at home) because I worry my mother will get really anxious and the pup will feed off of that.

    Any advice?

    • Even though it is hard to listen to your pup cry, keep up with the training! Once she knows that is her space and a time to be quiet it will get easier. It may take awhile but it will be worth it.

  10. I have a pit bull that’s about 2 months old. We’ve had him since he was 6 weeks. When we put him to bed, it takes hours before he is quiet. We ignore him, at first after about 30 minutes of crying I was thinking that he had to use the bathroom, but no he goes outside and chases the neighbor’s cat, and I honestly just don’t know what to do with him.

    • Keep up with the routine. If the crying continues, try moving their sleeping space to a new area. It could be that they don’t feel that this location is “their space” to be comfortable in.

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