Much Ado About Whining

Dear Dogma,

We have a German Shorthair who is 13. We’ve been lucky as she has always been in good health and fairly well-behaved. Our only complaint…she whines…all the time. She lays on the floor in the living room while we are in the dining room eating dinner and whines. While I’m getting ready for work she whines. No matter what we do, feed her (dogfood only), water her, let her outside…she whines.

Suggestions?

Sundi

—–

Whenever dealing with a behavior perceived as negative, you really have two options; redirect away from the negative and reward the positive, or ignore the negative and reward the positive. Not knowing you or your dog, I can’t tell you which will work out better for you both.

Redirection: Whenever you know your dog is about to begin a whining session, ask her to do something positive for you instead. If she always whines when you are about to eat dinner, ask her to do a sit, a down, or a retrieve. Reward this positive behavior. Then ask her to do a down stay with you. Be sure to occasionally give her a pat or a treat to help her maintain focus – and to remind her that she’s working.

Ignoring the Negative: Whenever she begins whining, withdraw your attention and affection. Don’t look at her, walk by her, stand near her, etc. The INSTANT she is quiet, click and treat – or if she’s not clicker trained, praise. A click is going to be far quicker and more accurate as you really may only get an instant of silence before the next whine begins. It’s imparative that your positive reinforcement comes while she’s quiet. So it may be in your best interest to teach her the clicker game.

In either case (redirection or ignoring the negative behavior) it will take some perseverance on your part, but she will figure out that far more good comes from people-pleasing than people-frustrating behaviors.

Good luck Sundi, and thanks for writing.

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