Does your dog whine when he sees other dogs? Keep reading to learn some of the most common reasons for this behavior.
- Why Do Dogs Whine When They See Other Dogs?
- Is Whining At Other Dogs Something to Worry About?
- Whining is Only Ever Part of the Story
- How to Stop a Dog Whining When They See Another Dog
- Frequently Asked Questions
Some dogs whine as a greeting, but it can also mean your pet is anxious, frustrated, or trying to appease the other dog.
This article will discuss some of the most common reasons for a dog whining. We’ve also provided some tips for preventing or reducing whining.
Why Do Dogs Whine When They See Other Dogs?
The simplest answer is that your pet might want to say hello! Not all dogs do this, but some use whining as a greeting vocalisation to other dogs or humans.
If the dog is happy about the greeting, whining will often be accompanied by a wagging tail and relaxed body language.
This type of whine is often short-lived and only occurs when the dog first sees whoever they want to greet.
Do you sometimes feel anxious in social situations? Dogs can feel this anxiety too – and it may cause them to whine.
Whining is a common way for a dog to show they are stressed. It can be an involuntary response to the anxiety felt when another dog is nearby, particularly if the dog is unfamiliar.
Anxiety when meeting other dogs is sometimes called social anxiety. It can range from mild anxiety that’s often unnoticeable to extreme anxiety that can even lead to aggression against unfamiliar dogs.
You can often identify whining due to anxiety by looking at your dog’s overall body language. Some other signs of anxiety include:
- Becoming fixated on the other dog and unable to look away
- Hiding behind you
- Lip licking
- Ears pinned back
- Tucked tail
There is a range of potential causes of social anxiety in dogs. For example, a lack of proper socialisation as a puppy can cause long-term fear of other dogs. Dogs may also develop social anxiety later in life if they have a scary experience with another dog.
Some dogs whine in frustration when they can’t greet another dog. This is usually caused by a leash, although frustration can happen if the other dog is behind a fence or otherwise inaccessible.
While frustration isn’t a sign of aggression, it does cause the stress hormone cortisol to be released. As a result, a stressed dog is much more likely to react, which can make aggression more likely.
For this reason, you should be wary about allowing a frustrated dog to greet another dog.
Instead, it’s important to teach your dog alternative behaviours when he sees another dog. We’ve provided some tips in the next section, but we recommend contacting a dog behaviourist if your pet regularly gets frustrated on walks.
Frustration Can Look Similar to Anxiety
Unlike anxiety, a dog who whines in frustration may want to greet the other dog. However, this can be difficult to diagnose, as an anxious dog may appear to act in a similar way..
For example, a dog who is frustrated and wants to say “hello” may pull towards the other dog to close the gap. But a dog who feels worried may also try and close the gap in order to warn the other dog off!
Most owners can only tell the difference between frustration and anxiety when they allow their dog off leash amongst other dogs, as this tends to stop the whining if it is frustration-based. However, if you are unsure how your dog will react, you should never let them off leash to see what happens.
Whining is sometimes used to show appeasement. If your dog is anxious about greeting the other dog, he may use whining to show that he’s not a threat.
Just like anxiety, it’s important to look for other body language signals that your dog is showing appeasement.
Examples of appeasement behaviours include lowering the body, a low tail carriage, head bobbing, lip licking, and averting the gaze. In general, appeasement behaviours aim to make the body smaller.
Unlike a fearful dog, who may cower or freeze, a dog who is appeasing another may also try to seek attention through behaviours such as ear licking or play bowing.
Is Whining At Other Dogs Something to Worry About?
A dog who occasionally whines as a greeting is probably not a cause for concern. Whining is a normal form of canine vocalisation, so it’s not a problem by itself.
However, if your dog is whining due to fear or stress, you’ll need to work out what’s causing the issue. For example, a dog who is anxious when near other dogs will need a desensitisation program to help her to relax in these situations.
Similarly, if your dog is whining due to frustration at not being able to greet another dog, then you’ll need to address this with a canine behaviorist.
What is Dog Reactivity?
Reactivity is the term most commonly used for when a dog visibly reacts to a stimulus (e.g. another dog) they perceive as scary. This ranges from mild whining to attacking the other dog.
While reactivity isn’t the same as aggression, it can lead to aggressive behaviours.
For example, a dog who is scared of another dog may lunge, growl, or bark to try and keep them away. If the dog comes too close and the reactive dog feels trapped, he may try to pre-emptively attack as a form of self-defence.
The key to overcoming reactivity is to teach an alternative response to the trigger, such as looking at the owner whenever a new dog appears. We recommend contacting a qualified dog behaviorist if your dog is reactive to other dogs, as teaching an alternative response can be difficult and requires a lot of patience.
Whining is Only Ever Part of the Story
Dogs rarely whine in isolation. There are nearly always other vocal or body language signals, which are clues to what your dog is trying to communicate.
Some examples to look for include:
- Panting or yawning.
- Pulling toward the dog
- Averting the gaze away from the other dog
- Ears pinned back or stiff
- Lip licking
- Tense body posture
- Tail stiff or wagging
The solution to whining at other dogs depends on why it’s happening.
For example, taking a frustrated dog away from another dog she is trying to meet is effectively a punishment. But doing the same for an anxious dog could be a positive move.
Without knowing why your dog is whining, it’s impossible to address the behavior.
How to Stop a Dog Whining When They See Another Dog
If you want to stop your dog from whining at other dogs, the first step is to understand what not to do.
You should never use punishment of any kind if your dog is whining at another dog – whatever the reason for this behavior. Punishment makes any situation more stressful and unpleasant, increasing anxiety, frustration, and fear.
As we mentioned earlier, the best way to reduce whining depends on what’s causing it. But the key is always to use positive reinforcement to teach alternative behaviour.
When teaching this alternative behaviour, the dog must always be under the reactive threshold. Once the dog has become reactive and stressed, the teaching opportunity has been lost.
In other words, if you can’t get your dog’s attention with a treat or toy, then it’s already too late to train the behaviour. Instead, you should calmly remove the dog from the situation and try again next time.
Here are a few tips for the four causes of whining listed above:
- Greeting – Try to get your dog’s attention with a treat or a toy, rather than letting her focus on the other dog. This works best if your dog has spotted the other dog but hasn’t yet started whining or getting excited.
- Frustration – As with whining as a greeting, try to get your dog’s attention (using a treat or toy) before the whining starts. You can then allow your dog to greet the other dog if he has remained calm – but only if it’s safe and the other owner is happy for you to do so. Moving away from the other dog may make the frustration worse, but this might be necessary for both dog’s safety if he is stressed.
- Anxiety or Fear. If your dog is anxious around other dogs, you’ll need to implement a gradual desensitisation program. This often starts by teaching the dog to automatically look at you when they see another dog, which helps to change their focus. We recommend working with a dog behaviorist if your pet is anxious around other dogs.
Desensitisation training and teaching alternative behaviours can be difficult. The process is much easier if you have a non-reactive practice dog to work with, as you can control the trigger’s intensity.
For this reason, it’s essential to contact a behaviorist – especially if your dog’s whining is excessive or accompanied by other stress signals.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Do Dogs Whine When They See Other Dogs on TV?
Your dog may not understand that a dog on the TV isn’t real, so the reasons above still apply. They might whine due to frustration, as a greeting, or because they feel anxious.
Dogs rely on their sense of smell to identify people and dogs, however, so they usually quickly realise that the TV dog isn’t actually there.
Dogs may whine at other dogs as a form of greeting. But this behavior can also be caused by frustration, anxiety, or appeasement.
If your dog is showing other signs of stress when whining at other dogs, you should always contact a qualified dog behaviorist. He or she will be able to develop a de-sensitisation program to gradually reduce the intensity of the trigger and teach your pet an alternative behavior.
Do you have any questions about why dogs whine when they see other dogs? Please let us know in the comments section below.