Dog whining and acting needy
July 28, 2021 2:40 PM   Subscribe

What can I do about my older dog, a twelve year old Shiba Inu who whines a lot when he seems to want something?

I have a 12 year old Shiba Inu who is generally pretty laid back and independent. But lately he seems to whine a lot when he appears to want something. Sometimes we figure out what he wants and once he gets it he stops whining immediately. For example...he likes to go to bed after his evening walk and sleeps with my wife and I. He will whine like crazy until we go to the bed at which time once he's on the bed with us he immediately stops whining. The other challenge is sometimes I don't know why he's whining. He may whine while I'm working in the office and then he gives me the "death stare" which is where he stays completely still and doesn't take his eyes off me. At that point I don't know what he wants. He seems to be eating and drinking normally. He is walking normally, and plays fetch normally with no signs of pain. The one thought that crossed our mind was that it's hot and maybe he is not happy with the heat which is why he's whining. is it more then likely just behavioral? Maybe have the vet take a look? Any suggestions on how to make him whine less?
posted by ljs30 to Pets & Animals (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Sometimes we figure out what he wants and once he gets it he stops whining immediately.

Why is he whining? Because it works.

Since it sounds like there aren’t any signs of something going on with his health (but check with vet to be sure)— As much as is possible, don’t give him what he wants while he’s whining. Ignore, make it seem like the whining has no effect, and expect an extinction burst.
posted by supercres at 3:07 PM on July 28, 2021 [7 favorites]

In my experience (though not with Shiba Inus), when you are sitting down and a dog whines and stares at you, if you acknowledge them and stand up they will instinctively start to skitter or just generally kind of incrementally move mass towards whatever it is they are keen on doing or having. Then it's a process of elimination.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:09 PM on July 28, 2021 [2 favorites]

I've got a 9 year old dog and was just at the vet this weekend with him. He's had some behavioral changes recently, in his case 100% related to bringing a second dog into the house, but my vet talked to me for a bit about how common it is for dogs to get a little sassier and more vocal as they age, and to watch for that as well. And you've got a senior dog, so this could certainly be a normal* part of aging.

*Note that behavior changes often can indicate some kind of underlying issue, but not always. Vet said that dogs just get set in their ways, and as they get older they're just less likely to tolerate any deviation from their preferred schedule. Maybe your dog is just getting tired sooner in the day, and wants to go to bed, but bedtime means bedtime with you, and without that: cry.
posted by phunniemee at 3:19 PM on July 28, 2021 [3 favorites]

It's probably behavioral - Shibas are prone to be talkative anyway and older dogs do seem to run out of fucks about etiquette about the same as middle-aged people - but if you haven't been in for a checkup in a year it's definitely worth it.

My dogs are 15 and 16 and for the most part - and within reason - I indulge it. The thing that has gut-punched me after the last two dogs I've lost was, you know, every single time I said "go away" or "stop it" when my dog wanted my attention. I take a couple of minutes to follow if someone is really staring at me or otherwise being real obvious about bugging me (both of mine know that the clack of their nails on the floor - which is almost entirely covered in rugs - pierces directly into my brain, and will go tapdance on a small piece of exposed laminate), to see if they'll lead me to whatever it is that is dissatisfactory so I can fix it.

Sometimes if I don't know what that is, I'll get a couple of treats and ask for a sit, and that seems to satisfy enrichment, attention, and treat requests for a decent stretch, and I probably needed to stand up for a minute anyway. Sometimes we just go walk around together or do some pets on the couch.

If it's too early to go to bed, or watch TV/do evening tasks in bed, can you maybe try going in and putting him to bed and see if he'll let you leave him there? I had a dog that would not stand for that, and he barked at me every night at 9pm, so I just had to go read or watch TV in bed, but I've had others who would accept being tucked in and I could leave again for at least a little while before I got scolded again.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:25 PM on July 28, 2021 [11 favorites]

More whining can be a sign of hearing loss in older dogs.
posted by jamjam at 3:29 PM on July 28, 2021 [1 favorite]

He's attempting another way (whining) to teach you what he wants/needs, because you haven't resolved whatever it was.

He's a pretty smart dog, is what he is.

I've got a doxie-chihuahua (chiweenie) that is basically the king of doing exactly this, which has been a godsend in many ways, especially since he's lost a lot of mobility this last year and is using a doggie wheelchair. I've become pretty fascinated at just how good he is at teaching me to communicate with him.

It is, I'll admit, incredibly obnoxious when he decides it's bedtime and I'm not ready to go to bed. He usually goes to the ONE LOUD SHORT BARK mode if I'm ignoring him and he thinks it's urgent. He tried that when he wanted it to be bedtime - and since he's pretty much a non-barker, I would just about jump out of my skin. It took telling him, multiple nights, NO, I'm not ready to go to bed yet, but tucking him in bed (in the same room we were already in!) to get it to (mostly) stop. (My desk is in my bedroom, and he's often under an extra blanket on top of my bed if I'm at my desk, so tucking him in consists taking him out one last time for the night, and then moving him up by the pillows and putting him under the regular covers.) Now he puts himself to bed, when he decides "we" should go to bed, and stares at me. The only time he acts up about it if he thinks I'm not feeling well or am really tired and should be in bed. He's always right, it's just that I'm trying to finish an assignment and can't give in and go to bed until it's done! Even mid-day, he'll attempt to get me to rest if he thinks I need it.

So... he's almost certainly communicating, but not in a way you appreciate. I've had a lot of success with switching those annoying attempts to more tolerable tactics... but it takes REALLY paying attention to what he's doing and what his focus seems to be.

One thing I'll try is to run through the list of obvious words he knows, and see which he gets excited about. If I'm really stuck, and we've already physically tried the critical things like potty, food, water, then we'll go through play and walk and stroller and [grandchild's name] and bed and floor and blanket and fan and snuggle and nap and ride and toy and etc. (He knows a ridiculous amount of words.)
posted by stormyteal at 4:53 PM on July 28, 2021 [11 favorites]

He has you well trained, as far as he is concerned everything is working correctly.

Our oldest dog whines and "talks" (chuffs/light-bark) - but only at me - because I kind of encourage it... "What was that? Did Jimmy fall down the well again?", then I will run through the litany of choices; outside, walk, dinner/food/treat and he will get all excited when I reach the one he wants. It annoys the heck out of everyone but me - but, I also am getting older and am suffering about a 7% hearing loss, so higher frequencies don't bother me.
posted by rozcakj at 7:05 AM on July 29, 2021 [2 favorites]

Welcome to the joys of owning a smart dog. As others have stated above the one of the ways to stop this behaviour is to stop doing what he has trained you to do when he whines. The behaviour will get worse for a while in an extinction event but they they'll start trying to figure out some other way to get you to do what they want. Secondly to reinforce that quiet and to head off any other attention getting behaviours, want, if you know what he wants when he starts whining, wait until he is sitting quietly and calmly before getting up to give it to him, or even train in another behaviour, like sitting at the bottom of the stairs quietly will signal it's bed time. Even if you train out one behaviour, they will continue to look for ways to communicate with you what they want so pick the behaviour you are happy with them doing and reward that, this way they don't come up with something more obnoxious like barking or scratching.

I even let my dog whine to remind me of certain things I want to be reminded of but only one time, if he goes on and on then I will not get up until he's calm, in return I try to get up with the first whimper of reminder. This works for us as he get's meds in the morning in a treat and I will sometimes forget to give them if I get busy with work, so you can use the whining to your advantage too.
posted by wwax at 7:45 AM on July 29, 2021 [1 favorite]

There is a disturbing lack of Dog Tax pics in this thread.

I'll start:
I don't have good advice because my lil wookie talks (whine-growl-idontevenknow combo) incessantly when she wants something, and since I'm glad she doesnt bark to express herself, I tend to at least pay attention to her long enough for her to show me what she wants.

But mostly I'm here for the Dog Tax. Pay up.
posted by JuliaIglesias at 4:38 PM on July 29, 2021

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