Dogs cry and whine for a variety of reasons, and this post is focused on dogs that whine and cry for attention.
As always, it’s often the human’s fault for encouraging a dog’s whining. If a dog has developed an annoying habit of whining to get attention, guess who’s likely been rewarding the whining for months? (I’m guilty of this too.)
10 Tips to stop a dog’s whining and crying
If your dog’s whining has gotten annoying, the best thing to do is train a new behavior. One way to do that is to encourage him to lie down and focus on a food-dispensing toy like the one below or something as basic as a Kong toy stuffed with peanut butter. Read on for more ideas.
1. How do you stop a dog from crying? Ignore the crying!
This is easier said than done, but in most situations it is best to ignore your dog if he is crying and whining for attention.
You want to teach him that he’ll get what he wants if he’s calm, quiet and patient.
I know this is not easy! I usually make the mistake of giving my Lab mix Ace attention for whining. I can’t help it! But it’s generally the wrong thing to do. (June 2018 update: Ace has passed away.)
Every time Ace whines and I look at him, he learns that whining gets my attention. The next time he wants attention, he will likely whine again because it worked in the past.
Sometimes I even pet Ace when he whines! No wonder he’s such a cry baby! Heck, even if I scold my dog for whining, he thumps his tail.
“Ha! Gotcha to look at me!” he says.
So what is the obvious solution?
Ignore the dog whenever he whines!
2018 update: Ace has passed away.
To truly ignore a dog means don’t look at your dog, don’t scold him, don’t laugh at him, don’t touch him and don’t even glance in his direction. Just stare at your phone or whatever you’re focused on. Leave the room if you have to, just make sure not to acknowledge your dog when you leave.
2. Teach your dog to stay on a dog bed.
If your dog tends to whine for attention, sometimes it’s helpful to provide him with something else to do. I recommend teaching him to lie down and stay on a dog bed with a special toy like a Kong filled with peanut butter or a bully stick. Sometimes it can help to put him on a leash and tether him or to put your dog in his kennel with his toy.
If your dog tends to start whining at a specific time each day, you can give him the bully stick before he starts whining in order to break the habit.
See my post: How to teach a dog to go to his bed.
3. Feed your dog meals from food-dispensing toys.
Dogs with pent-up mental energy are more likely to cry and whine. They may be bored, or they might be carrying around extra anxiety.
One of the easiest ways to drain a dog’s mental energy is to stop feeding his meals from a bowl. Instead, make him work for every single piece of food by feeding all his meals in food-dispensing toys such as the Kong Wobbler (below).
You can also feed your dog pieces of kibble while you work on obedience training. This isn’t going to solve your problem immediately, but the goal is to drain your dog’s energy over time in order to decrease the crying.
For additional training tips, see my ebook: “50 Dog Training Tips: Your Training Problems Solved Now.”
4. Provide your dog with lots of exercise.
It’s so much easier for a dog to “behave” if he’s had the chance to burn physical energy.
To stop your dog from crying for attention, I highly recommend you double the amount of exercise he’s getting. On average, I would say a dog needs a half-hour walk every day at a minimum just to get by. Ideally, most dogs could stand to walk for an hour to 90 minutes or more every single day.
If you run with your dog, a hands-free leash makes running (or walking) more convenient.
If you don’t have the time to walk your dog as long as you would like, a dog backpack can help a lot! We have the green Ruffwear pack below, and I can’t recommend it enough.
In addition to physical exercise, dogs need mental and emotional exercise such as solving puzzles, visiting new places, working on obedience skills or playing tug.
See these posts:
5. To stop a dog’s whining, you should relax, too!
Dogs pick up on our emotions and mirror us. So, if you are stressed or anxious all the time, guess who else will feel anxious? Anxious dogs will often pace, pant heavily and you guessed it, whine!
6. Try training tools to stop a dog from crying such as the Thundershirt.
Many people swear the dog Thundershirt will stop anxiety issues such as whining.
The Thundershirt is basically a vest that fits snugly around the dog to help him feel “swaddled” and more secure. It’s designed to decrease a dog’s anxiety during Thunderstorms but can also be used for a dog’s anxiety issues in general.
Some people will put Thundershirts on their anxious dogs during walks or during obedience classes, for example.
If you try the Thundershirt in addition to everything else in this post, you will likely see some progress. Read a review of the dog Thundershirt.
7. Teach the dog to lie down and stay with distractions.
Working on general obedience skills is important to stop a dog’s whining because your dog is learning self control.
All dog owners should have the goal of being able to leave their dogs in a down/stay position with distractions for up to a half-hour. I believe all dogs are capable of this skill. It just takes a lot of practice and patience.
And you have to start small.
Start by asking your dog to lie down for 2 seconds while you’re standing right next to him.
When I first adopted Ace, he did not know the command “down” or “stay.” No big deal. We simply worked on this every day, slowly building from 1 second to 5 seconds, then 10, then 30. We worked in the living room first. Then we practiced during walks. Slowly, I increased the distance, time and level of distractions.
If your dog learns the skill of lying down and staying, he develops a higher level of self control. This will benefit him in all areas of training, including learning not to whine for attention.
8. Instruct guests to also ignore your dog’s whining.
This is the tricky part at our house. When certain people visit (like “Uncle” Peter!), Ace gets very excited and wiggles and squirms and most definitely whines for attention. If his favorite people aren’t paying attention to him, he will even howl!
It’s very cute when Ace howls, and he always gets showered with affection for “singing.” However, if the goal is to teach my dog not to whine for attention, we need to be consistent even when people visit.
So what’s the solution?
Ignore the dog’s whining even when friends and family are over.
Before the guests arrive, inform them that your are trying to teach your dog to stop whining. Ask them to please ignore your dog for the first 10 minutes or so until he is calm and quiet. Then they can pet him all they want!
9. Teach the dog to appreciate being alone.
Dogs need some down time every day. A dog that knows how to be calm and quiet by himself is generally a more balanced dog.
Most of us have these things called jobs, so our dogs do spend time alone every day. But our dogs also need to learn that we can’t spend every second with them even while we are home.
So, at least a few times a week, put your dog in his crate for a half-hour or so while you are home. Or leave him in the fenced backyard or in a bedroom.
Give him a favorite toy like a Kong with peanut butter. Just teach him that it’s OK to spend time alone. Then, invite him back to spend time with you, but don’t make a big deal about being “reunited.”
10. Keep toys put away when not in use.
To keep your dog interested in his toys, keep them put away when they aren’t in use. Rotate which toys are available, so they will seem new and interesting to your dog.
When you want to stop a dog from crying, you can get him interested in a toy so he’ll leave you alone.
Of course, you don’t want to reward your dog with the toy for whining. Instead, wait until he’s quiet for at least a few seconds. Then ask him to sit or lie down and give him the toy as a reward.
Now … here are two more issues I want to address quickly. A dog’s crying when you’re not home and a puppy’s crying at night.
How do you stop a dog from crying when you leave?
Unfortunately, a common problem is your dog cries and whines when you are not home.
All of the above can help to stop your dog from crying when you’re gone, especially increasing his exercise.
But if your dog is crying when you leave, he might be dealing with some mild separation anxiety. Usually this will go away with time, and it’s best not to make a big deal out of coming and going. Most dogs will be less anxious if you can leave them in a smaller area such as a kennel/crate or in a sectioned off area of your house.
If your dog tends to cry when you leave, I recommend an extra long walk twice a day (morning and evening). You should also leave your dog with a couple of special chew toys like Kong stuffed with frozen peanut butter and a bully stick.
When a dog has separation anxiety, you’ll want to slowly decrease your dog’s emotional response to his “triggers.” This could be things like you picking up your keys, putting your shoes on or getting ready for work. You can do this by picking up your keys and putting them down randomly when you’re not going anywhere and tossing your dog a treat.
For a more detailed look on separation anxiety in dogs, check out this post.
There are also two books I recommend for stopping your dog’s crying when you’re not home. One is my ebook on separation anxiety and the other is a short step-by-step guide from behaviorist Dr. Patricia McConnell.
How do I stop my dog from crying at night?
Some dogs will cry at night because they don’t want to be alone. This is especially common with puppies on the first few nights, but it’s also common with newly adopted adult dogs. Usually the dog or puppy is just getting used to their new routine.
If your puppy is crying at night, it’s best to ignore the crying (as difficult as that is!). Some puppies will need a quick potty break in the middle of the night, but it’s best to set your alarm and take your puppy out on your own terms when he is quiet.
Some tips to stop a puppy from crying at night:
- Use a kennel/crate and ignore your puppy’s crying at night
- Keep the kennel by your bed if you can so your puppy can see you
- Wear ear plugs!
- Try putting a T-shirt of yours in the kennel with your puppy
- Keep soft toys and a soft blanket in your puppy’s kennel
- Put a tempting chew toy in the kennel like a bully stick
- If you have a towel or toy with your puppy’s littermates’ or mother’s scent on it, that can be comforting
- Try a “heart beat” toy
- Don’t feel sorry for your puppy. Give her plenty of interaction during the day.
For more details on how to stop a puppy’s crying at night, I recommend this post.
Do you have a dog that tends to cry for attention?
In the comments, let me know what has worked for you and what hasn’t. It’s definitely a common problem and a work in progress.
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