Your dog has a rich and varied vocabulary that includes barking, howling and growling. One of the first things he learned to do was whine. Dog owners typically see whining as a sign that something is wrong. While this is sometimes true, whining can be a sign of happiness, ice-breaking or simply a learned habit. By observing your dog’s other behavior and body language, and by taking into account the context in which he is whining, you’ll be able to translate the meaning of any whine.
Dogs who are in distress or are experiencing anxiety typically whine to alert their fellow pack members that something is wrong. Separation anxiety is a classic cause of whining. Lucky thinks you’ve forgotten about him, so he whines to let you know. It’s a behavior he learned as a puppy. Rather than making him stop whining, your best approach is to help him get used to being isolated. This way, you cure the anxiety and not the whining.
Naturally submissive dogs are often very keen to show deference to more dominant dogs and people. This helps two dogs quickly establish superiority. Whining as an appeasement behavior is a great way of doing this. It is almost as if your dog is saying, “Hey, I don’t want any trouble, you’re the boss.” If your dog has tucked his tail underneath his body, is cowering and avoiding eye contact, his whining is probably due to submissive appeasement behavior.
If you’ve ever accidentally stepped on Lucky’s paw, you’ll be familiar with the pain whine. It’s a brief, high-pitched yelp, that no doubt made you jump out of your skin. The purpose of this whine is to communicate that what you’re doing is causing pain. In the wild, dogs use their whine to signal when play has become too rough. Dogs will also whine when ill. If Lucky is persistently whining, not eating and is low on energy, take him to the vet.
Some dogs emit a high-pitched, brief growl when excited, especially during play. Other dogs whine when excited. It depends entirely on the personality and upbringing of the dog. Many dogs whine as a greeting; they are simply so pleased to see you that they can’t help it. A wagging tail, alert expression and inability not to lick your face are signs that your dog is whining because he’s excited.
Remember when you stepped on Lucky’s paw and he whined? You probably lavished him with fuss and love to say sorry, right? Well, if Lucky is whining for no apparent reason, it may be that he thinks whining gets him attention. The best way to deal with this, once you’ve ruled out a medical problem, is to ignore Lucky when he whines. You’ll feel really mean to begin with, but it’s for his own good.
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