Why do dogs whine, and what does it mean?

Why do dogs whine, and what does it mean?

Pet Psychology

For a species that does not have a spoken language of their own, dogs can certainly communicate very effectively by means of sounds and vocalisations, and all dog owners soon learn to interpret the basics of what their dogs are “saying” to them in certain situations.

Barking, growling, howling, sighing, making grumbling noises in the throat and whining are all part of the dog’s repertoire of sound, and they will make use of all of them in different situations, depending on how they are feeling and what they have learned will get a reaction from their owners! Some dog breeds are also a lot more vocally expressive than others-such as the Siberian husky, who is one of the dramatic opera sopranos of the dog world!

However, all of the various different sounds and vocalisations that dogs make have a reasoning behind them from your dog’s point of view, whether they are deliberately making a noise like barking, or if they are simply sighing in their sleep without really realising it.

Whining can be one of the most confusing vocalisations that dogs make when it comes to how owners interpret the sound and what your dog actually means-because whining is a very versatile sound in dog-speak, which can mean any one of a wide range of different things!

In this article, we will look at some of the most common causes for whining in dogs, and the types of situations that can lead to this type of vocalisation. Read on to learn more.


If you are holding a toy or other resource that your dog really wants and are taking your time throwing it for them or handing it over, your dog may well whine or make a whimpering sound in their throats while their eye is on the prize!

This type of whining is your dog letting go of some of their frustration, and frustrated whining is one of the most common reasons for your dog to make a noise of this type. Trying to speed you up when you are preparing their food, asking for a toy or trying to chivvy you into taking them out for a walk are just a few situations in which your dog might whine out of sheer frustration that you are not moving fast enough, or not listening to them!

To get attention

Because whining is a distinctive and somewhat piercing sound, it is apt to get the attention of people very effectively, because we think of whining as a form of crying for the dog, which it can be. However, because dogs learn quickly that whining will soon turn the heads of dog lovers, they soon learn to use it deliberately in order to do just this!

Providing this type of feedback to your dog when they whine-even if you simply make eye contact or ask them what’s up-quickly reinforces this behaviour, and will lead to your dog doing it more and more!

To get their needs met

If a dog needs something urgently-or urgently in their minds-they are apt to whine both in order to vent frustration, get your attention, and provide an outlet for some of their distress.

For instance, a dog that needs the toilet is apt to whine to go outside if the door isn’t open for them, and this indicates a situation in which you should always move quickly to meet your dog’s needs, in a distinct way to how you might respond if they are simply whining for attention.


Dogs playing with other dogs or people or waiting to go somewhere or do something-such as a sporting dog about to enter the ring to perform their round-will often whine in excitement, because they are keen to get going. This is a type of frustration whining once again, but when excitement is in play, will often be accompanied by other vocalisations such as barking or even howling too!


Dogs that are in pain tend to react to this in one of two ways. They will either seek to hide and stay out of the way, avoiding drawing attention to themselves and concentrating on their own unhappiness, or they may make a lot of pained noises in order to try to make themselves feel better, or get the attention of someone that can make them feel better.

If your dog is whining and generally sounding unhappy and you cannot attribute this to any obvious cause, they may be in pain or uncomfortable. If your dog is say, recovering from surgery or otherwise under treatment and there is nothing that you can tangibly do for them, comforting them and staying with them can really help to make them feel better emotionally-and this helps to promote physical healing.

However, whining may also be the first indication that you will get that your dog is unhappy or in pain, so never ignore whining that you cannot interpret, as it may mean that something is wrong that you will need to have looked into.


Dogs are highly social animals and they are at their happiest when they have some company, either canine or human. Even if you are not interacting with your dog but are simply in the same room or house, your dog will likely be happy and at peace with themselves-but if your dog is alone a lot, for too long at a time, or has not been trained and conditioned to be happy alone for a bit, they may well whine and cry a lot.

This serves the purpose of both getting your attention or letting you know that they are lonely-or if you are not in earshot, your neighbours will get the message-and also, providing a comforting sound that can help your dog to both find an outlet to divert them from their thoughts, and break up the silence.

While all dogs should be trained to be happy alone for a few hours at a time, don’t leave them too long without company and other stimulus-it isn’t fair on your dog. Additionally, a dog that has been on their own for a long time, or that needs to go to the toilet may become increasingly more upset and even panicky, as well as frustrated, and will often make a lot of noise as a result.

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