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Why is My Dog Whining So Much All of a Sudden? What Your Dog Is Trying To Tell You

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

why is my dog whining so much all of a sudden

When your usually quiet canine companion starts crying excessively, you can’t help but wonder why is my dog whining so much all of a sudden? It’s not just puzzling; it’s concerning (and sometimes annoying). You’re left to wonder if there’s a secret doggie distress signal that got lost in translation. From feeling under the weather to being just plain bored, your canine could be trying to tell you something important with those whimpering sounds.

It’s not always a walk in the park to figure out the exact reason behind the noise. Your dog might be dealing with some health issues that are not immediately visible, or perhaps there’s something in their environment causing anxiety or fear. On the flip side, it could be a learned behavior; maybe your dog has realized that crying is a one-way ticket to getting more treats, cuddles, or attention from you.

Dr. Mathilde Massenet, PHD, and her colleagues, found that dog whining, particularly puppy whining, is almost as sad as hearing a baby cry for most pet owners. We’ll get into why this is so and more in this guide to dealing with those doggy cries. 

The context and other behaviors can provide valuable clues to the underlying cause.

We addressed the top reasons why puppies whine so much. But what does it mean, and what do you do when your adult dog can’t seem to shut up? Well, let’s start with the bottom line: you can probably tell something is a miss from these cries. To prove this, research from the Royal Society observes that humans typically associate whining sounds with sadness but this isn’t always the case.

Case Studies of Dogs Who Whine Suddenly

DIfferent dogs and breeds are more prone to crying than others. My Neapolitan Mastiff,  Hudson,  was a very vocal dog. If I was gone too long, he would cry when I returned, a mix of happiness to see me and a way of telling me how distressed he was by my absence. He would even whine if he wasn’t in the same room as me and whimper if he saw me in the bath (apparently worried I would drown). He would cry if he wanted food, and positively howl if he was locked outside.

In the case of dogs like Hudson, crying and whining was just part of his everyday communication over anything and everything. 

On the other hand, my two rescues mixed breeds, Penny and Josie, are not big talkers and won’t whinge easily. If they do whine, it’s usually very softly, and it’s typically because they want to go outside or come inside. They are far more hesitant to use their voice their communicate, so when they vocalize, i take note.

Josie also has mild separation anxiety, and when she cries suddenly it usually turns into a mournful howl. This only happens when I’m gone for a day or so.

Another example is another rescue, a Bouvier Des Flandre mix named Jeremy. Sometimes, he whines because he wants to play fetch. Jeremy loves chasing a ball more than anything and seeing a ball can trigger sudden whining. However, jeremy has suddenly taking to whining, and crying suddenly for seeming no clear reason. He will even do it in his sleep. Figuring out what the cause is with him is harder, as it appears to be medical. Possible causes the vet is exploring is some kind neurological condition, or a hidden cause of pain.

So remember, it’s like detective work; you gotta keep an eye out for other clues to get to the bottom of the whining mystery. The other behaviors they portray are the remaining parts of the puzzle. Do they have wagging tails? Are their ears pinned stuck to the head? Can you see the whites of their eyes Are they trying to get smaller, or are they jumpy? And so on. 

What Dog Owners Need To Know About Whining: Quick Overview

Dr. Bonnie Beaver, a vet who knows a lot about dog behavior, talks about this in her book, Canine Behavior Insights.  When dogs whine or whimper, they’re trying to tell us something, but it can mean different things.

Dr. Beaver says that dogs dogs whine or whimper when they’re feeling upset or need something. This could be because they want attention, they’re scared, they want to play, they’re in pain, or even just saying hello. 

When puppies are really young, like newborns, their whines have a certain sound (between 500 and 1500 hertz) and they last about a second. But as they get older, the sound of their whines changes. They can go as high as 3400 hertz, and they don’t last as long.

Here’s something interesting: when puppies are just 8 days old and they’re in a place they don’t know (or left alone), they might whine a lot, like over 100 times in a minute! But usually, it’s around 20 times per minute.

Also, there’s a special kind of whine called the “sex whine”. This is something that boy dogs do when they’re near other dogs that are mating, or if they’re separated from a female dog they’re interested in, or even near a female dog who’s having puppies. 

The sound of this whine is different too, going from 3250 to 4200 hertz, and it doesn’t have the ups and downs in tone that other whines do. And it’s one of the signs that a male dog wants to mate. Now let’s look at the 10 reasons dogs suddenly want start whining a lot.  

9 Common Triggers of Sudden Canine Whining

Labrador mix puppy crying for food with big sad eyes food bowl with kibble in front

Whining is a way for your dog to talk to you. Whether they’re super thrilled to see you or they’ve figured out that whimpering gets them extra cuddle time, this is their version of sending a text message. But it’s not all about the good stuff; sometimes, they’re asking for a little bit of help.

Here are some triggers:

1. They Want Food, Water, or to go Outside, Hooman!

Ever notice how our canine companions have this endearing knack for turning whines into a full-blown conversation? Or maybe you saw those videos of dog parents writing captions to their dogs’ whimpers and sounds. And what’s craziest? You could swear that’s what the dog said.

Sometimes, all your dog wants, with all the dramatic cries, is something from you. Maybe it’s five minutes past supper time, and they can’t believe their empty bowls. Or they really have to go, like this dog. The beggy sounds will probably reduce when they get what they need.

2. They’re Excited 

Whining when you come home? That’s doggo for “I missed you!” Excited cries are hard to miss with all the jumping, circling, running, and wagging. It really is one of the special ways dogs say they love you. Seeing their favorite toys, preparing for walks or other fun activities, and even seeing food can all also trigger overexcitement. 

3. They Want To Play

If a dog suddenly starts whining a lot and seems eager to play, it’s usually their way of saying, “Hey, I need some fun and exercise!” Dogs are social and active animals, and they often communicate their desire for interaction through vocalizations like whining. This behavior can be especially noticeable in breeds that are naturally more energetic or in younger dogs with lots of energy to burn.

 When dogs don’t get enough physical activity or mental stimulation, they might whine more to catch your attention, hoping you’ll understand it’s playtime. This whining is their way of inviting you to engage with them, whether it’s a game of fetch, a walk, or some other fun activity. It’s important for their physical health and mental well-being to have regular playtime, so if your dog starts whining more than usual, it might just be a sign they want to spend some active, quality time with you!

4. They’re Little Attention Seekers 

Remember, whining could be your pup’s way of holding up a sign that says, “Will work for cuddles and playtimes.” Sometimes, all your dog wants with all that noise is a bit of your precious attention. 

 They’ll even do stuff like nuzzle or paw at you to get you attentive. The whimpering in this case is their way of calling your name. Make sure you’re on top of their social calendar, and you might just find some peace and quiet.

5. Pain and Medical Issues

Golden Retriever puppy close up whining with Elizabethan collar showing signs of pain

Now, onto the serious stuff. You can probably tell the difference between an I’m okay whimper, and one that screams something is wrong. At least, research says most pet parents can discern what different kinds of sounds from their pets mean. This is likely due to the differences in pitch and volume from each individual whimper, increasing the harshness and urgency of the crying. 

Keep an eye out for signs of pain like limping, being less jumpy, yelping when touched, or favoring one side. Possible medical conditions include stomach upset, dental problems, arthritis, injuries, and infections.

Remember, your dog can’t email you their symptoms, so keep your eyes peeled and consult with a vet if your canine companion keeps tuning up their whimper radio.

6. Stress and Anxiety 

Collie dog looking out of window at thunderstorm whining and panting

Anxiety and phobias aren’t just for humans. Your furry buddy can have them too and they often vocalize their distress. Maybe it’s the vacuum cleaner or the beeping of the microwave. Maybe it’s thunderstorms or fireworks. If your dog is whining and it’s noisy, chances are they’re not fans of the soundtrack. Look out for obvious signs of fear like tucked tail, pinned ears, lowered body, hiding, licking the mouth, and yawning. 

Also, ew people or new environments might just throw your pooch for a loop. Dogs are creatures of habit, and new or rearranged items in your digs can get their tails in a twist. Additionally, fireworks or thunderstorms can make your dog’s inner Wolfie come out with a whimper rather than a howl.

Senior or older dog may also be prone to sudden bouts of whining. This can be due to two things. One is that as their cognitive function declines, they can get more confused.

7. Being Left Alone (Separation Anxiety)

Are you leaving the house more often? Your four-legged shadow might not appreciate the solo time. Separation anxiety has been shown to cause dogs to vocalize, pace, or even attempt a Houdini act to find you. Signs of separation anxiety include crying when you prepare to leave, destructive behavior like chewing, excessive excitement upon your return, and attempted escapes.

8. Boredom and Lack of Exercise 

A bouncing-off-the-walls dog might start their own whining marathon if they’re not getting enough playtime. Sometimes, your dog’s crying is their way of stimulating themselves as they cope with the feelings of boredom. This is true if you don’t take your dog out enough or they’re a high-energy breed. 

A dog that is lying down showing no obvious signs of pain or distress, but is still whining, may be bored and wanting to go for a walk.

9. The Crying is Rewarded 

Figuring out that whining equals treats is like winning the lottery for Fido. Excessive whimpering in dogs can often be attributed to the inadvertent reinforcement of this behavior. When owners respond to whimpering with attention, treats, or fulfilling the dog’s desires, the canine quickly learns that whimpering is a successful strategy to get what they want. 

10. It’s Mating Time 

During mating time or estrus, dogs may engage in heightened vocalizations, including the “scent whine”, as a natural part of their reproductive behavior. Female dogs in heat may cry to attract male attention, signaling their readiness to mate, and males may do it in anticipation of the female. 

How to Respond to Excessive Whining

Stay Calm

When your pooch starts their cry symphony, keep your cool. Dogs can catch on to your stress and probably get stressed themselves.

Ignore the Vocalization

Sounds harsh, right? But if you’re certain all their needs are met (think food, water, walks), not reacting to the whimpering can send a message. “Whining gets you nada!”

Positive Reinforcement

Catch them in a quiet moment, give them a command, and make it rain treats. You can also train them to quiet down using a command like “quiet.”

Improve their Physical Stimulation

Offer 1 to 2 hours of daily walks and giving mental stimulation in the form of snuffle mats, puzzles, and command training.


Gradually and safely expose your dog to situations that trigger excessive barking, such as new people, using positive reinforcement to reward calm behavior. This helps desensitize them over time.

Create a Safe Space

Provide a quiet and comfortable space where your dog can retreat when feeling anxious or overwhelmed. This can be a designated area with their bed and toys.

Rule out Medical Issues

Rule out any underlying medical issues by consulting with your veterinarian. Pain or discomfort could be contributing to excessive vocalization.

Reward Silence

◦ Whining stops: Offer praise or a treat.
◦ Keeps quiet: Extra belly rubs or playtime.

When to Seek Professional Help and Advice

Sometimes, you need to tag in the pros. No shame in that game! Maybe your dog’s not just being a drama queen. Pain, discomfort, or medical issues could be the real whimpering culprits. A vet check-up can rule out or treat any health concerns.

Seek a Behaviorist

If your vet gives the all-clear, yet the whimper world tour continues, a certified dog behaviorist can drop some knowledge. They can create a tailored training plan unique to your dog’s personality and address any troubleshooting problems like separation anxiety and fear.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

When your dog shifts into crying mode, it’s like they’re trying to win an award for Best Vocal Performance. But before you start considering a soundproof kennel, let’s find out what’s really going on.

What Makes Some Pups Turn into Night-time Whiners?

If your pooch is crying at night more than usual, it might be because they’re bored, stressed, or not feeling well. It can also be that something outside or inside the house spooked them and are letting you know.

Can Leaving Dogs Alone Cause Them to Whine?

You bet it can! Dogs are pack animals and can get lonely. To turn the noise down a notch, try leaving them with a comforting old shirt that smells like you or an engaging toy. Training them to stay in a crate as their safe space and tiring them out before leaving will help. Maybe they’ll forget they’re even alone.

Why is My Dog Whining When I Pet Him?

Chances are, your dog has figured out that whining equals more cuddles. If you’re not on board with constant whine-and-pet sessions, you need to set some boundaries. Only pet them when they’re quiet so they learn silence is golden.

Is My Fur Baby Trying to Tell Me it Hurts, or is this Just Drama?

Dogs don’t win Oscars, but they’re honest creatures. If the whining comes with other signs of pain, like limping or eating less, take them to the vet. Better safe than sorry, even if your dog is just rehearsing for a role in “The Whiners.”

What Are the Signs that My Dog is Anxious?

If your dog’s more jittery than usual, look out for excessive vocalization, pacing, or even shaking. These could be signs they’re anxious, and it may be time to make lifestyle changes or get a behaviorist on board. 

How Do I Know When To Ignore My Dog’s Whines?

Knowing when to ignore your dog’s whimpers involves gauging the context and understanding the purpose behind the behavior. If you’ve ruled out hunger, thirst, going for a pee, and medical issues and the system persists, it may be time for a brief timeout, about 2 minutes. 

Final Thoughts

Vocalization is normal in dogs. Whether it’s a plea for attention, a signal of discomfort, or a manifestation of excitement, understanding the context and accompanying behaviors is key to deciphering the cause

Remember, you’re not alone in this; it’s just a puzzle to solve. Your four-legged pal is counting on you to figure out the cause behind their sudden serenade of whimpers. Keep things positive, your patience hat on, and you’ll decode their canine language in no time. Who knows, you might just become the Sherlock Holmes of doggy dilemmas!


Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.