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How to Handle Puppy Whining the RIGHT Way

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The first time you hear your new puppy whine it’s heartbreaking. The second time it’s troubling. But after a nonstop barrage of crying, particularly in the middle of the night, puppy whining might make your doubt your decision to bring home your furry best friend.

Decoding whining, or learning how to speak puppy, is an important first step in making sure that your new dog is safe and comfortable. Puppies whine for many reasons, and before you can come up with a solution for the noise, you need to discover the reason behind it. The key to understanding your puppy’s whining is looking at the big picture, meaning, you need to consider the circumstances surrounding it. For example, if you take your puppy outside for a potty break, then put her in her dog crate and she immediately starts whining, it’s probably just a brief case of crate intolerance and not a reason to worry. But if your puppy wakes from a two-hour nap in her crate and starts whining, there’s no doubt that she needs to go out.

Why Is My Puppy Whining?

The following are common reasons for puppy whining:

  • She needs a potty break
  • She wants your attention
  • She feels isolated or fearful
  • She is experiencing discomfort

You can prevent your pup’s isolation whining by helping her learn to love her crate. Your puppy needs to feel happy and safe in her crate since it’s going to be her home-in-your-home for quite a while. Take your time getting your puppy acclimated to it. Making her initial experiences with the crate positive will help decrease your puppy’s “help, this place is scary” whining. Give your pup ample opportunity to explore the crate and make sure to have tiring play sessions before you plan to crate her. Teach her that good things happen inside, like her meals and treat-stuffed toys, so that she looks forward to crate time.

Many pups whine at night when crated so it’s tempting to put your puppy’s crate at the far end of the house to avoid the ruckus. Unfortunately, doing so might lead to major potty training problems. Most young pups can’t hold it for the entire night, and if you’re not able to hear your puppy’s whining when she needs to go out, she’ll be forced to soil inside her crate. This negates the reason for using a crate, since puppies should never relieve themselves in their den. Keeping your pup’s crate in your bedroom or very close to it will allow you to hear her when she needs a midnight potty break. Plus, being near you at night can prevent fear and isolation whining.

Your pup might stop playing with you and whine to signal that she needs to go out for a potty break, but be aware that if she’s resorting to whining, an accident is imminent. A young, active puppy that’s running around needs to be taken out more frequently, possibly as often as every 30 to 45 minutes. It’s best to be proactive with your potty trips instead of waiting for a telltale whine. Crated pups can hold it for slightly longer periods, and you can calculate approximately how often your crated puppy will need to go outside to relieve herself by taking her age in months and converting it to hours. That means a crated ten-week old puppy can “hold it” for about two hours max, and slightly longer at night.

How to Handle Your Puppy’s Whining

There’s a fine line between being an attentive puppy parent and giving in to your pup’s every whimper. You need to learn to distinguish between true “something’s not right” cries and typical “I’m not happy” cries. For example, if your pup whines the second you close the door to the crate and you’re sure she’s “empty,” your best bet is to ignore her initial protest and give her time to settle down. You can encourage whine-free time by giving your pup something to keep her occupied, whether she’s in her crate and settling down for a nap, or just hanging out near you as you watch TV. Treat-stuff-able hard rubber toys will encourage her to focus on unpacking the goodies rather than crying for your attention. Remember, the behavior that is rewarded will be repeated, so if you check in with your puppy every time you hear her whine, she’s likely to continue the “whine for attention” strategy.

A whine might alert you to your puppy’s need for something, but it’s important that you help your puppy understand that quiet works even better to get you to do things for her. If your puppy whines at you because it’s dinner time, wait for a moment of silence before you put the bowl down for her. If she screams with excitement because you just got home and you’re about to let her out of the crate, wait for a moment when she’s quiet before you open the door. Attention-seeking and demand whining are pushy behaviors, so always think about what you might be accidentally encouraging before you give in to them. Whines and whimpers are a normal part of puppyhood, but it’s up to you to determine just how long they stay in your puppy’s communication repertoire.


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Victoria Schade is a dog trainer, author & speaker who has contributed to The Washington Post, Martha Stewart, and other publications.