Adrienne is a certified dog trainer and former veterinarian assistant who
partners with some of the best veterinarians worldwide.

Learn how to stop or prevent excessive attention-seeking from your
dog.

Learn how to stop or prevent excessive attention-seeking from your dog.

Nancy Nobody

Dog Constantly Whining for Attention

Excessive whining and barking in dogs can sometimes be triggered by a strong
desire for attention. This attention-seeking behavior is not unusual in dogs
and it often has a history of reinforcement.

What dogs are likely to crave extra attention from their owners? As social
beings, most dogs are eager to gain attention as much as they can, but some of
them crave far more attention than others.

Let’s take a look at what type of dogs may be affected by a predisposition for
attention-seeking whining and barking.

How to Handle Attention-Seeking, Whining, and Barking in Dogs

Attention-Seeking in Dogs with Medical Problems

In some cases, this attention-seeking whining is accompanied by extra clingy
behaviors, such as following the owners everywhere, anxiety when the owner is
away and nervous pacing.

At times, this can be triggered by underlying medical causes. Dogs who have
experienced loss of hearing or poor eyesight, may feel vulnerable and the
owner’s presence makes these dog feel more secure.Some dogs may also
excessively vocalize as they age and develop the first signs of canine
cognitive dysfunction.

So when these dogs are not getting attention or are left alone, they feel
lost, anxious and vulnerable. Dogs who whine while they are eating often have
a mouth or dental issue. Excessive whining and barking for attention should
warrant a veterinary visit, just to make sure everything is fine in the health
department.

Dogs with Anxiety Problems

Some **** dogs simply feel lost when they are away from their owners and not
receiving attention. Underlying insecurity and anxiety makes these dogs crave
more attention than others. It’s as if these dogs are half dogs that cannot
live with their other half, their owners.

When left alone, or not receiving the amount of attention they crave, these
dogs will whine, in a similar way puppies do when they are seeking their mom.
It’s as if these dogs were stuck in a phase during which puppies become
distressed when separated from their mother.

From an evolutionary standpoint, these distress whines had an important
function as they helped mother dog locate the stranded puppies. This whining
is then reinforced from getting mom’s attention.

Dogs with Needs Not Met

Why is your dog vocalizing? Make sure his needs are all met. Does he have
access to water? Was he fed? Is he too hot or cold? Does he need to go potty?
We often think about food, water and shelter as primary needs, but often
forget that dogs also have other important needs such as exercise, social
interactions and mental stimulation.

It’s unjust to leave a dog in the home all day without being exercised and
expect him to just quietly lie there until we return home. Several dog breeds
such as huskies, Weimaraners, German shepherds and lapdog companions easily
become depressed and will bark if they are lonely for too long. Dogs suffering
from separation anxiety will bark and be in distress when left alone

**Dogs with a History of Being Re-homed

Many re-homed dogs who have gone through the trauma of staying at the shelter
appear more susceptible to develop anxiety and cravings for attention. Too
many changes, the inability to control the environment and lack of stability
may trigger insecurity, confusion and frustration.

In some cases, these dogs were actually surrendered for their anxiety and
excessive whining in the first place. Newly adopted dogs may fear abandonment
and develop dysfunctional hyper attachments to their new owners.

This over bonding causes them to not feel safe when left alone. Once they find
a home with people that love them, they will resort to those whining
strategies they used when they were pups when they are separated from their
owners.

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Dogs of Certain Breeds

Some dog breeds were selectively bred to work a good part of the day alongside
humans and some were pampered lap dogs and feet warmers for aristocratic
ladies. These dogs may crave extra attention from their owners and may suffer
a whole lot if left alone during the day. Yet, no black and white statements
can be made.

So for every clingy Great Dane or Dalmatian, you’ll find several independent
ones, and for every overly attached Keeshond or Weimaraner, you’ll find other
specimens who thrive even if they aren’t showered with attention all day. Even
within a litter, variances between puppies and their behaviors can be quite
significant.

Dogs Undergoing Recent Changes

Some dogs develop anxiety and excessive whining when they undergo changes. If
you worked at home all the time, and then suddenly start working out of the
home, this change may be too drastic and your dog may develop separation
distress.

Your dog may start whining when you start getting ready for work. Some dogs
develop anxiety if they feel insecure in their environment at home because
when left alone something scary happens such as a plane flies too low or
construction workers cause excessive noise.

Excessive vocalizations in dogs can be a major
problem.

Excessive vocalizations in dogs can be a major problem.

lavenderflower23

How Owner Attention Increases Whining

It quite often takes a dog predisposed to developing over attachment and an
owner that reinforces attention-seeking whining behavior, for hyper attachment
to set in. However, even dogs who aren’t predisposed to this may develop over
attachment, given the correct circumstances.

The owner’s role in this case is providing negative or positive attention
every time the dog whines. The following scenarios are some common dog/dog
owner interactions that pave the path hyper attachment behaviors.

Positive Attention

The dynamics are similar to a small child who cries and is comforted by his
mother every time. The child soon learns that every time he cries he is picked
up. The mother at some point decides to ignore the crying and no longer picks
the child up, but the child’s crying increases so much that in order to longer
listen to him cry, the mother gives up and holds the child once again. Soon, a
pattern establishes and the parent is stuck with an overly needy child.

With dogs, the same dynamics may take place. The dog craves attention, barks
or whines and the owner looks at the dog. Looking is already a form of
attention.

Walking up to the dog, opening the door to let the dog in, talking to the dog
and petting the dog further reinforce the vocalizations. Soon, the dog
understands the equation that whining, brings attention.

It doesn’t take long for dogs to understand this, as after all, reminiscent of
puppy hood, the puppy used the same strategies to get attention from mother
dog.

From a learning theory standpoint, the whining behavior is positively
reinforced by attention. This means that the whining behavior will repeat and
increase in frequency.

Negative Attention

Dog owners often do not realize that dogs may also appreciate negative
attention. The dog who has been left alone all day while the owner is at work,
will likely not mind being scolded for whining as at the same time, the owner
is looking and talking to the dog which the dog dearly craves.

To better understand this, imagine being a big fan of a famous rock star. You
would literally do anything to get his attention. Since he is walking by the
crowd and he cannot notice you, you decide to climb over a gate and wave at
him. He finally sees you, but makes a negative remark to his bodyguard about
what a nut you are.

Yet, despite the negative comment, you are happy he actually noticed you and
made a remark about you. It was thrilling to see him make eye contact with
you. And you would likely do this again in the future.

As in positive attention, the dog gains reinforcement from your reaction. This
explains why your dog no matter how much you scold him or push him away, may
continue whining or barking to get your attention.

So if your dog appreciates positive attention and doesn’t respond to negative
attention (something I don’t really recommend applying), hold your horses
before thinking about using harsh punishment-based techniques or investing in
a no-bark collar as these do nothing to help and they actually may exacerbate
the underlying anxiety.

So your next step is learning about strategies to reduce excessive attention-
seeking behaviors by going to the root of the problem and employing force-free
techniques.

A Thought on No-Bark Collars

The sale of no-bark collars makes punishing a dog for vocalizing look
acceptable; after all, if they are on the market, there’s nothing wrong in
using them, right? And because you just push a button or the bark collar
remotely delivers shock on its own, it may appear like a more humane option,
but let’s remember that even if we are not the ones actively administering the
correction, we are the ones who purchased the collar in the first place and
put it on the dog.

To add insult to injury, the companies selling such collars often advertise
them by sugar coating what they do. Many claim that the collars deliver
“static corrections,” “harmless electric stimulation,” or “gentle taps.” Don’t
be fooled by these terms!

Truth is, if they are meant to reduce and stop barking behaviors they must be
severe enough to accomplish such. You wouldn’t stop speeding if you received
candy instead of a hefty speeding ticket!

So before purchasing a no-bark collar ask yourself the following questions:
Why is my excessively dog barking? What is my dog trying to communicate? What
alternatives are there to no-bark collars?

Excessive vocalizations in dogs may stem from various reasons. By better
understanding why the dog barks excessively, we can take better approaches to
reduce excessive vocalizations in dogs. Quick fixes such as no-bark collars is
like only treating the symptoms of a disease and doing nothing about the
weakened immune system which is causing disease in the first place.

I love this statement by dog trainer and behavior consultant Jonathan P. Klein
“Barking, as is the case with most ‘bad’ behaviors, is merely a by-product of
a bigger issue. If the root cause of a problem isn’t addressed the behavior is
sure to continue.” As a trainer and behavior consultant, I 100 percent agree
with such statement.

Some Tips on Addressing Attention-Seeking Whining in Dogs

In order to effectively address attention-seeking whining in dogs, you will
have to take care of the underlying cause. Does your dog have a medical
problem? Is your dog exercised and provided with enough mental stimulation? Is
he left home alone for too many hours? Are you unintentionally rewarding
excessive vocalizations with positive or negative attention? The following
tips will help reduce attention-seeking whining in dogs.

Tips to Help Reduce Attention Seeking Whining in Dogs

  • With your vet’s help address the underlying medical problem. Senior dogs with signs of canine cognitive dysfunction may benefit from the drug Anipryl.
  • Find a dog behavior consultant to guide you through behavior modification.
  • If your dog’s exercise and mental stimulation needs aren’t addressed start implementing changes. Go on walks, engage your dog in games, encourage foraging, use interactive toys, implement fun training sessions. A tired dog has less energy to engage in excessive whining.
  • Don’t make a big deal when you leave or return from an outing or are out of sight. Act neutral. When you are absent, your dog will likely vocalize a lot, and when he sees you don’t return, he will feel helpless and frustrated. Making a big deal with highly emotional displays when you return only reinforces his needs to make contact with you and confirms in his mind that good things happen only when you come home.
  • Desensitize your dog to pre-departure cues. Put on your jacket, grab your keys and then sit on the couch. Repeat several times and then start putting on your jacket, grabbing your keys and leaving for a few seconds and then coming back inside. The goal is to teach the dog to see pre-departure in cues in a different light. For more on this read: tips on stopping separation anxiety in dogs.”
  • You want to minimize the transition from the positive energy when you are present to the quiet silence when you leave. The objective is to decrease the contrast between your presence and your absence. You can accomplish this by leaving “white noise” on such as a radio or TV. Keep the radio and TV on though even when you are home or turn it on hours prior to your departure, to prevent turning the radio or TV a cue you are about to leave that may trigger anxiety.
  • Don’t reward the whining with attention. If your dog whines when you leave the room, make sure you return only when your dog is quiet. If your dog is quiet as you walk in the room and starts whining, take some steps back and wait for quiet again. If your dog whines when you are eating, don’t feed him table scraps when he whines. Your dog whines when he wants to be pet? Don’t pet him when he whines, instead wait for silence and pet him then. You want to reinforce silence instead of actively reinforcing the whining.
  • Be aware of dog extinction bursts. This is where attention-seeking whining intensifies before reducing. Since your dog was used to getting attention when he whined in the past, he will intensify the whining once he notices you start ignoring it. Keep up ignoring the whining and rewarding silence and soon the whining should gradually reduce.
  • Teach your dog coping strategies for dealing with frustration triggered by separation. Install a baby gate and have brief sessions during which you are away from the room and your dog cannot follow you. Unable to follow you, your dog may get frustrated and start whining. Find replacement behaviors for the whining. Encourage playing with an interactive toy such as stuffed Kong during your brief absences. You want your dog to learn that every time you leave the room something good happens. Return to the room when your dog is done emptying the toy and act neutral. Repeat several times.
  • Use feeding time to your advantage. Leave the room where your dog is separated from you with a baby gate, and start making noises that signal meal preparation. Don’t worry, your dog knows those noises way to well! Those noises include opening the food bag, opening the fridge, picking up the food bowl, mixing up things. Prepare his food, and if he is actively whining when you are away, stop making those food preparation noises. When he is quiet continue making food preparation noises. If he continues being quiet walk towards him with the bowl. If he whines, freeze and take a few steps back. When he’s quiet continue walking in his direction. He’ll soon get the idea that quiet makes you walk towards him. Place the food bowl down and then leave so he can eat. Come back when he is done.
  • Reward your dog’s non-whining behaviors. If your dog whines most of the time, mark with a clicker or a verbal marker those precious moments of silence or when your dog engages in other more acceptable behaviors. Your dog usually whines when you leave the room and instead decides to lie on a mat? Mark the wanted behavior and immediately reward. If you mark wanted behaviors and ignore the whining/barking, those moments of silence and whining replacement behaviors should increase in frequency.
  • Severe cases of attention-seeking whining may need the intervention of a dog behaviorist (a board certified veterinary behaviorist of Certified Applied Animal behaviorist) who may prescribe anti-anxiety medications along with behavior modification.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It
is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription,
or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional.
Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a
veterinarian immediately.

© 2014 Adrienne Farricelli

Comments

A on September 17, 2018:

Tonight my day dog cried to go in with my mother in her room he usually sleep
in my room is that normal

Unknown on March 17, 2018:

I have two dog and we recently lost our third. My one dog is the daughter of
our other, and is always seeking attention. Whenever we go to walk away from
her she wraps her legs around your knees and almost trips you as if she is
hugging you. She barks all night long and all day if people are not around
her. Even today I was petting her mom and she jumped up trying to get on my
lap. Also this is a 102 pound Labrador so it’s kind of hard to deal with her,
but thank you for the helpful tips!!!

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 15, 2017:

It could be she simply doesn’t like to be restrained to one area of the home
if she is used to having free run of the house 95 percent of the time. Have
you tried leaving her with a stuffed Kong or a bully stick (or other long
lasting treat) the time she has to stay secluded in an area? Giving her
something to do may help keep her mind off being “forced” to be in a specific
area. If she won’t eat, that can mean she is really upset about it and maybe a
bit stressed too. Have you been opening her when she was actively whining? If
so, she may think that whining is the way to get out, rather than being quiet,
so that can also be a reason why she’s repeatedly whining. You can practice
restraining her to the area when she doesn’t need to dry, just for training
purposes making her stay in the area for brief periods giving her something to
do, and letting her out once she’s done but make sure you open when she’s not
actively whining. You can try this at first without closing or putting up the
gate at first so she doesn’t feel trapped. Just make that place a happy place
to be. If you use a clicker, you can also train her to target an object in
that area and then click/ toss her a treat in the area. Only once she can stay
there for brief periods you can progress to a bit longer ones and start
introducing the closed door/baby gate. Mix in some longer and shorter stays in
the mix so she doesn’t feel pressure to think that the stays in there are
getting progressively longer. I think what’s happening is that the area is
perceived as negative so when she gets out, it’s sort of like “phewww…
finally I am out of this trap” so the focus should be on making this area
extra rewarding. Her little piece of heaven to look forward to being. It may
take a bit to accomplish this, and may not being be too motivating to do if
you only seclude her like once or twice a month for 10-15 minutes, but it may
be worth it if this seems to stress her out and you do this frequently enough.
One piece of advice, it may be useful to pick a whole new, fresh place to
seclude her and make it “the happy place” as it may take more work to
transform a previous place that has assumed negative connotations and “has a
history” into a nice place-to-be.

Dani on April 15, 2017:

My 10 year old female lab/chow mix (shelter adopted at age 2) starts
whimpering pretty much whenever she’s kept in a restricted area. She’s fine
when she knows I’m gone (I tested her). She fusses a little when she hears the
car leave but goes quiet very quickly afterwards.

But if I keep her on the back porch, for example (to dry after having been
bathed) with the screen door closed, where she can still see/hear/smell me she
starts whimpering. Same if I put up a baby gate to keep her in the hallway
while I’m at home, within eye shot of her. She is not an attention seeker,
more the aloof type. And she has free run of the house 95% of the time I’m
home, with doggie door access to the enclosed back porch and all the way
outside into the fenced backyard. I’ve successfully cured separation anxiety
in another dog and I don’t believe that’s what she has… I can’t figure it
out. This far neither positive nor negative reinforcement has made any
difference.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 01, 2016:

Yes, addressing the cause is of paramount importance when addressing dog
behavior problems.

Jonathan Klein on May 01, 2016:

Thanks for the reference. But it is such an important point, to deal with the
cause, not the symptom.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 27, 2014:

I am happy you found the article helpful! Bless your heart for rescuing from
the Humane Society. Kind regards!

Karen Hellier from Georgia on August 27, 2014:

This is helpful, thank you. I have a dog from the Humane Society and she does
whine a lot.

Sp Greaney from Ireland on August 13, 2014:

Not being a dog owner, I can only judge what I see from people I know who own
dogs. I think many of them could learn from reading this hub. 🙂

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on August 13, 2014:

When I had dogs they did not behave much in this way I always paid attention
to them. Another helpful hub from you about the beautiful pets.