Owning a dog seems like a non-stop party of fun to an outsider looking in. After all, what’s not to love? It’s a constant stream of amusement, companionship, protection, and affection.
This much is all true, but as any pooch parent will tell you, raising a dog to be happy, healthy and independent is also a whole lot of work. One of the things that takes a great many first-time dog adopters by surprise is separation anxiety, in which their hounds lose all reason every time they’re left alone.
Now, separation anxiety when you leave the house is one thing, but when you leave the room? This can be a problem for a great many dogs, who whine loudly and unapologetically if you have the audacity to make yourself a cup of coffee without inviting them along.
Let’s take a look at what can be done to put a stop to this problem, and how you can convince your dog that you’re not embarking on adventures without them. It’s a fast track to a better relationship with your furry friend, and the healthy bond, unbreakable bond that every dog owner dreams of.
Table of Contents:
- What Causes Whining in Dogs?
- A Guide to Dog Breeds with Separation Anxiety
What Causes Whining in Dogs?
A dog’s whine is a form of verbalization. While dogs tend to communicate with each other using their tails, whining and barking are ways of gaining human attention.
There are many reasons why your dog may whine, including:
- Submission. Some dogs are more submissive than others, and they may be whining to demonstrate that they are not a threat in any way. This is called appeasement whining, and it’s designed to subvert any risk of being attacked – it’s your dog saying, “leave me alone please, I’m not a threat.”
- Excitement. Much like a dog may bark out of excitement rather than aggression, a dog may also whine in pleasure at seeing a beloved human or canine playmate. Equally, your dog may whine in short, sharp squeaks while pacing and hopping from foot-to-foot while you’re leashing them up for a walk.
- This is the most likely reason for a dog to whine. Do you find that you return home from work and your dog whines at you while you’re greeting your spouse? That’s because they have been waiting all day for you to get home, and want to be provided with the appropriate amount of attention for their dedication.
- Pain or Discomfort. Much like humans, dogs may emit a voluntary or involuntary whine when they’re in pain. Take a look at your dog if they display this behavior, ensuring that they don’t have something stuck in their paw or anything else that may leave them feeling sore.
- Now we’re getting down to the nitty-gritty. If your dog starts to whine every time you leave the room, you have a bad case of separation anxiety to deal with – and you really must deal with this, as it’s no fun for you or your dog.
Why is My Dog Whining When I Leave the Room?
This may seem like a huge overreaction – after all, it’s not as though you’ve left the house. You’re only a few meters away.
As strange as this might sound, this could be even worse for your dog. Think about it this way; your dog has a sense of smell that’s 40 times stronger than your own. That means that your dog can pick up your scent wherever you are in the house – and if you’re closing the door behind you, or heading into a room that they cannot follow, they know you’re still around but won’t let them come with you.
Your dog will want to be where you are, period. If you’re not allowing them to accompany you on what they assume is an exciting adventure, even if it’s something as mundane as using the bathroom, they take this as a snub and start to panic – especially if they are prone to separation anxiety. For the record, dogs seem to find watching humans take care of their business endlessly fascinating. Presumably, they’re wondering why we don’t wait until we’re surrounded by grass like a civilized being.
The point is, if you’re in the house but separating yourself from your dog, this will fill their canine brains with questions. Namely, why? Why are you closing the door behind you? Why are you not allowing them to come with you? Are they being punished for something? If so, what did they do that upset you so much?
As you can probably imagine, this is all enough to send a dog into a real spiral of anxiety as most dogs would be mortified by the idea of disappointing or angering their human. The result is a whole lot of whining, voicing these concerns and attempting to gain your attention so you’ll come back and reassure them.
Do Puppies Whine More Than Adult Dogs?
On paper, yes. After all, a human baby will whine and cry more than a human adult. A dog that is not trained early in life, however, may still display all kinds of behaviors that we associate with puppies into their senior years.
Puppies will whine immediately upon being separated from their pack and mum, possibly even howling. This is an attempt at sending a message along the lines of, “I’ve been dognapped! Come and rescue me!” You’ll probably find that this whining subsides pretty quickly when you get to their surroundings and curiosity overrides concern, especially if you leave some comforting scents around.
It’s crucial to remember that these early days of resettling can be hugely daunting and frightening for a puppy though, so you’ll have to be patient and earn their trust completely. Expect a puppy to whine when you leave the room a lot in the first few days of their new life in your family home. Every time you walk away, they see the person that feeds them, cleans up after them and plays with them leave – hot on the heels of being removed from their doggy family, and the breeder that provided their earliest human experiences. The good news is that, with the appropriate training, encouragement, and bonding, this insecurity will not last.
How to Stop a Dog from Whining for Attention
You’ll find a lengthy guide on how to break separation anxiety in your dog elsewhere on this very site, but let’s take a look at some of the techniques that may be useful to prevent your dog from whining for attention.
If your dog is whining because they are not receiving enough attention, the solution seems pretty straightforward. Yes, there are some occasions where dogs are a little needy, and there is not enough attention in the world that you can provide, but for the most part it’s easy enough to appease your dog. Canines are very similar to children – they want to spend some time with you, and they will be able to tell if you’re phoning it in and not enjoying yourself.
Make sure that you carve enough time out of your day to take Fido out for a stroll, and make it quality time. Don’t just drag your dog along by their leash, tutting and growing frustrated every time they stop to sniff something on their journey. Take a nice, scenic stroll to the local park and let them have some off-leash time, tossing a ball, Frisbee or other favored toy. This will go a long way to appeasing your dog, as they will feel as though they have managed to get some great time in with their beloved human.
How Do I Stop My Dog Whining When I Can’t Actively Entertain Them?
Having said all this, we fully appreciate that there will be occasions that you cannot drop everything and entertain your dog at that moment. This may be when you’re working, or attempting to entertain human company (sorry, being “too tired” or, “not in the mood” do not count – part of being a pooch parent means that we sometimes need to step up in such scenarios!)
In these busy instances, it might be worth attempting a different form of training, which teaches your dog that silence is golden. If your dog wants a response from you and starts whining, they consider any attention to be good attention – that includes you scolding them or complaining, which is why it’s so important to never respond to undesirable behavior. Even saying, “be quiet, please” or “shhh” will not have any impact unless you have specifically trained your dog to understand these sounds as voice commands.
It’s simple enough to encourage your dog to keep calm and quiet – reward peaceful and noiseless behavior, not whining. If your dog is sitting at your feet while you’re trying to get some work done and whining up a storm, you should ignore them for a few minutes. This seems cruel, but it’s for a good cause! And wait until they grow bored of this. Once silence descends, offer a treat and plenty of praise – possibly using this as an opportunity to try to teach them, “quiet” command. Your dog will soon learn that whining doesn’t get them anywhere – and, if you’re fortunate and your dog is a fast learner – they might also put two and two together when it comes to whining when you leave a room.
A Guide to Dog Breeds with Separation Anxiety
If your dog is seemingly resistant to being trained out of their separation anxiety and instead seems to relish and wallow in their distress, it may just be part of their DNA. Certain breeds are more prone to suffering from separation than others, and it’s believed that the following are most susceptible.
- German Shepherd – Many people bring these loving but protective canines into their home to increase their security, so it’s hardly surprising that they are prone to separation anxiety. After all, how can a dog protect somebody when they’re not at their side?
- Australian Shepherd – These are arguably the hardest-working dog breed of them all, and are mostly found on farms. The fact is, the Australian Shepherd needs to have a job to do – failing to offer this and leaving the breed alone means that it will quickly become anxious and distressed.
- Labrador Retriever – This is the most popular family dog in America, so it’s hardly surprising that the Labrador Retriever is used to being around people. This breed has become so social that they struggle with separation anxiety.
- Viszla – The Hungarian dogs live to hunt – and, by extension, that means that they live to serve and please their masters. Removal from human companionship will lead to these dogs becoming increasingly anxious.
- Border Collie – These beautiful beasts are among the most intelligent dog breeds of them all. The issue with this is that intelligence in dogs can often turn to boredom and anxiety when they’re left alone without play and stimulation for too long.
- Cocker Spaniel – Much like the Labrador Retriever, the Cocker Spaniel has developed a complex with being left alone over time because so many families have introduced this breed to their homes. Cocker Spaniels are not used to being left alone!
- Bichon Frise – These delightful furballs were bred to be companion dogs for lonely or vulnerable people. This means that they want to go where their owner does, often including following their human from room-to-room.
- Cavalier Charles King Spaniel – Combine a Cocker Spaniel’s good nature with the lapdog size of the Bichon Frise, and what do you get? The Cavalier Charles King Spaniel, a small and adorable dog, bred for companionship, not time alone.
- Italian Greyhound – These smaller, slightly less active greyhounds love hard, and they bond with their owners. The only time this becomes a problem is when they are expected to spend time alone.
- Toy Poodle – Like many smaller breeds designed to be carried around by their owners, toy poodles very quickly grow used to this pampered lifestyle. Try to take a Toy Poodle away from their owner, and you’ll soon find that this small dog can make a big noise.
- Havanese – The same as the above also applies to these small Cuban canines. The Havanese is a fantastic family pet, but they need to be kept company to be comfortable.
- German Shorthaired Pointer – Finally, we have another working dog – the German Shorthaired Pointer, who are used to spending many hours hunting with their owners. Expect them to amuse themselves instead, and you may experience difficulty.
Does your dog fall into any of the categories above, even if it’s a crossbreed? If so, you may need to be particularly patient and dedicated in your quest to break your dog’s separation anxiety.
Similarly, your dog’s background may play a part in how anxious they are about being apart from you. If you adopted your pet from a shelter, they may have been mistreated in the past and assume that somebody leaving the room means that they’ll be locked up in a small room for a prolonged period of time.
If a dog has been bereaved and separated from a loving owner, they may also grow insecure about their new human leaving their sight. Dogs do not necessarily understand why their friend is not around anymore, and they may well be racked with fear that this new family will also leave a room one day and not come back.
Is it Possible to Over-Bond with a Dog?
Yes, very much so – and its every bit as potentially harmful to your relationship as failing to forge an appropriate bond between human and canine. In fact, over-bonding is more likely than ever to result in separation anxiety and your dog whining like a maniac if you dare to leave a room without them. Don’t even think about trying to leave the house alone.
Over-bonding is particularly prevalent in dogs that only live with one human, especially those that were adopted from puppydom. It’s hardly surprising, as this means that the dog sees one individual as the source of all their food, comfort and playtime.
This may not seem like a problem at first – after all, everybody likes to be loved and needed! However, a dog that suffers from over-bonding (also known as Velcro attachment) is suffering, and it’s cruel to allow the animal to remain so emotionally reliant on the constant presence of a human.
If you are worried that your dog is over-bonded with you, take some of the following steps to build a healthier relationship:
- Don’t give your dog too much attention, and cater to their every demand for attention. An over-bonded dog will be an insecure dog, so they will probably demand tickles, cuddles and general attention all day. Ignore these pleas, using some of the training methods we discussed earlier.
- Help your dog understand that other people are fun too. Don’t be all things to your dog – let other people come into the home and play with them, feed them, give them treats and take them out for walkies – even day trips if they’ll allow it. This will help your dog realize that you are not the only friendly human and source of pleasure in the world.
- Speak to a vet. Hopefully, this is unlikely, but there may be a medical reason why your dog won’t leave your side. It could be that your pooch pal is sick or in pain, and wants to stay close to you in the hope that you’ll fix it. It’s always best to rule out a health concern.
- Slowly but surely increase your time apart. Start by leaving the room but stay in the house – being fully prepared that your over-bonded dog will still whine when you do so! With time and a great deal of patience and resilience, your dog will gradually learn to accept that life goes on when you are not in their direct line of vision
It’s going to be tough to see these steps through, and you’ll have to act against all kinds of instincts to comfort and nurture your dog! Overall, however, it will lead to a much better relationship between pooch and owner.
How to Stop a Dog from Whining at Night
A dog that simply will not stop whining when the lights go out can be just as problematic for a pet parent as a dog that continually barks at night. Sure, you may face fewer complaints from your neighbors, but you’re just as likely to lose your much-needed beauty sleep.
One of the easiest ways of preventing a dog from whining at night is potentially one of the most unpopular – letting them sleep in your bedroom with you. Obviously, this is not an option for puppies that are yet to housebroken, and it may not be appealing to anybody whose spouse doesn’t share their love of canine companionship, but sometimes it’s acceptable to cave in and give your dog what they want. Provided your dog is settled, healthy and happy, there won’t be any accidents.
If this is not an option, crate training is probably your best course of action. Naturally, you’ll have to be certain that your dog is not whining through any health complaint, but could help a canine that is afraid of being left alone at night.
Remember, when a dog is sleeping they are at their most vulnerable – this is why it’s a huge compliment when they want to doze in our bed. Dogs will make their peace with sleeping in a crate, however, as their instinct will be to seek out a den.
If you add a comforting smell, such as a blanket or old shirt with your scent upon it, your dog is even more likely to get with it and head to bed without too much protest. Also remember to ensure that they have received enough exercise and attention throughout the day, though – an exhausted dog is a happy dog, and a happy dog is less likely to whine.