Whining is a pretty common complaint from clients so in this post I will provide you with the details of how I struggled with it, and how to effectively resolve it. Incidentally, you know dog owners are struggling worldwide if there's a # on Instagram with loads of pictures and videos to match #whiningdog.
My Aussie Karma was a super chatty gal. By "chatty" I mean she would whine and make other grumbly vocalizations for hours on end if left uninterrupted. I began obedience training Karma when she was seven years old. Her whining always drove me crazy! It was an element to her behavior that was at the very top of my list to resolve.
In the early stages of our relationship, Karma would whine and her nervous mojo would feed into my naturally nervous high strung energy. Together we were a hot mess. Here's a little bit how our dramatic whining cycle went: I would worry that she was uncomfortable or sad...I felt guilty for working so much and not spending more time with her. Then, I would try to give her treats to calm her down and distract her. Meanwhile, food would fill Karma with a boost of adrenaline. I didn't realize that by feeding her during these whining fits I was actually reinforcing her whining. Essentially telling Karma, "I want you to whine MORE." Awful right? Then I tried to completely ignore her whining, and only reward her when she was silent. Ultimately, my timing and frustration was confusing to Karma, that we both ended up more nervous and uncomfortable than when we started out the training exercise. Although her whining persisted for years, I never got to the point where I could tune it out.
I was told that it was cruel to correct her for whining, but the bottom line is, it's more cruel to ignore a dog in that perpetual nervously whining state of mind. If it were not for being empowered by the concepts of balanced training our lives would have become much more chaotic and unbalanced.
Many people blame the dog's breed. I don't believe that is fair. In all honesty, it is a lot easier to blame the dog for a breed temperament issue than it is to take some personal responsibility for the amount of time a person dedicates to shaping the dog's calm state of mind. Ya know? Before I started training Karma SHE was the big jerk with all of the problems. After I started working her through impulse control exercises and actually heeling her, I realized a major component of her nervous behavior was because she was expected to exist around my nervous personality without any real leadership or structure. In my opinion, neglecting a working dog's need for leadership and structure is not fair to the dog.
So how do you resolve a dog whining constantly?
Structured walks one hour daily. This means your dog is "heeling" at your side for more information on how to heel your dog, watch this video:
Leave the prong and leash on your dog, in your home.
Teach your dog "place" and use it. "Place" is most effective if the dog is expected to chill out in one spot for thirty minutes or more. For more information on how to teach your dog "place" watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xPG-EI161OI
Using a verbal correction such as "no", coupled with prong and leash correction will communicate to your dog that the whining behavior is not acceptable.
"Heeling" and correcting the unwanted whining behavior cleared up a lot of Karma'a nervous verbalizations. She is older now and less apt to be chatty but when it happens I use verbal corrections and tell her "down". She quiets down promptly.
As much as I would like to say ignoring bad behavior and rewarding good behavior works, it doesn't. The theory is cute and fuzzy, but after trying this theory out for YEARS I can absolutely tell you that theory does not work in the real world. What works is walking your dog properly, giving your dog a command such as "place", and correcting the whining. I hope this information is helpful to all of you who are struggling with a similar dog behavior issue.