How can I make our dog stop whining every time we are in a separate room?
September 24, 2006 7:05 AM   Subscribe

How can I make our dog stop whining every time we are in a separate room?

My wife and I have a pug that is about 15 months old. As with most pugs, he's very much a people-person and wants attention all the time.

One problem that we've had with him since we got him (when he was ~8 weeks old) was that whenever we were in another room and he couldn't be in there, he would whine non-stop...literally.

Yesterday my wife and I were in our bedroom (she was napping, I was painting...nothing noisey that would make him think he was missing out on something) and he whined for 2 hours straight.

What can we do to break him of this habit? Any advice?
posted by JPigford to Pets & Animals (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Well I suspect this is happening because you’ve taken a pack animal and placed it in solitude; the whining isn’t a habit per se, it’s the result of instinct. The dog is probably experiencing separation anxiety. There's some info there.
posted by ed\26h at 7:31 AM on September 24, 2006

From reading that page, a lot of the symptoms would say he is experiencing separation anxiety. But it's an odd thing, because say I'm still asleep and my wife leaves for work (I work from home), Baxter (our pug) goes right to sleep because he thinks nobody is home. Meaning he doesn't seem to be experiencing anxiety unless we're actually there.

Interesting though...that could possibly be the case.
posted by JPigford at 7:49 AM on September 24, 2006

I'm not sure dogs are really rational enough to sense that there's nothing interesting going on, so they don't need to be there with you. Obviously he understands that sometimes you leave and he's okay with that (be glad!), but he doesn't understand that sometimes you don't want to be with him when you ARE there. Dogs are pure emotion, and they don't hide their emotions in anyway, so while you're not letting him into a room, he feels sad and left out, and he's going to express that. Why don't you let him in the room with you?
posted by Hildegarde at 7:57 AM on September 24, 2006

you should get him a friend.
posted by trishthedish at 8:29 AM on September 24, 2006

I've heard of dog therapies, maybe it could help your dog stop feeling anxious.
posted by PowerCat at 8:29 AM on September 24, 2006

I'm a corgi owner - aka the servant of an extremely stubborn and intelligent dog. Owning a pug puts you in the same club.

Have you ever been to obedience school with your dog? How is the interaction with him in other situations? Does he usually get his way with other things? Does he eat and drink whenever he wants or at established times? Does he follow you on a leash or do you follow him?

Depending on how you answer the questions above, you just might have an alpha dog on your hands - who will go to just about any length to be in control and get his own way. He knows that, eventually, he'll get what he wants.

Two hours of whining sounds extreme (yikes!!) but I don't think it's unheard of. If you haven't been to obedience school yet give it some consideration. Sometimes bringing a dog around to YOUR way of thinking can be hard work, but in the long run it makes for a happier dog AND owner.
posted by matty at 9:00 AM on September 24, 2006

I think you have to do some work on two fronts. Most importantly, I think obedience school and other training will be useful to build up the dog's general confidence level. A confident dog won't tend to be as needy of the others in his life as a less-confident or scared dog would.

Secondly there are specific things you can do to reduce the separation anxiety itself. Basically this involves doing some training to reinforce the dog's understanding that you will be coming back and that he has not been abandoned. As well, you can slowly train him to not whine by positive reinforcement, slowly but surely, when you leave the room and he doesn't whine. "Leaving" will mean seconds or mere minutes at first, but eventually you can bump up the absences.

Might be an idea to truly gauge the extent of this by using some sort of sound-actuated recorder when you're really out of the house. Is the behaviour just when he knows you're THERE just not with him, or does he whine for 4 hours straight when you go and run errands or whatever.
posted by mikel at 9:27 AM on September 24, 2006

As you go about your daily business, close doors between you and your dog occasionally. This gets him used to brief interruptions in following you around the house. Don't immediately open doors for him when he whines. Give it a few minutes or ideally wait until he stops or you happen to be going back through that door anyways.

The theory here is to make it seem like part of the routine, and he'll get used to it and not worry. Do it casually and matter-of-factly, and don't pet him or give affection as you're closing or opening the doors. This needs to seem like just part of life. Of course give the dog plenty of affection otherwise.

Seperation anxiety can also be brought on if you are showering him with affection right before you leave your house and right after coming home. If that's the highlight of their day, they'll sit around and wait for hours and hours for you to walk through the door. Better to leave a little space, come home, settle in, and then give the dog attention.

My dog hates to miss out on anything. But he's much happier now that he doesn't expect to always be involved in everything. He can relax when we are out of the room, instead of freaking out. He's happier and we're happier.
posted by voidcontext at 9:30 AM on September 24, 2006

To answer a few questions:

1) We didn't let him in the bedroom this particular instance because I was painting something and had paints and what not all over the place. That, and my wife was sleeping.

2) He's been to 2 different training classes (or sets of classes)

3) We actually are planning on 'getting him a friend' this upcoming maybe that will help some things.
posted by JPigford at 11:55 AM on September 24, 2006

Buy a cheap stuffed toy from the pets aisle, and put it in the bottom of your dirty clothes hamper for a couple of weeks.

Then, if you begin incorporating some of the suggestions above (i.e., gradually leaving him alone more often), try giving your pug the toy.

I'm not sure if this will help, but it's what I've done with my parents' Old English sheepdog (a breed that's EXTREMELY prone to separation anxiety).
posted by invisible ink at 5:45 PM on September 24, 2006

also, in the meantime before you get him a friend, because honestly ive been through this a few times and nothing works better than that.. try leaving him a room with a TV and leave it on a low level during the night. we used to have one of those little b&w tvs on the floor near a comfy bed that we would leave on animal planet and it worked really well for our lonely pup.
posted by trishthedish at 6:13 PM on September 24, 2006 [1 favorite]

My pug whines too. He also doesn't whine when I leave for work, nor does he whine when my husband goes out and I am asleep. However, he always whines when he hears people stirring in the bedroom, which sucks when I am half-asleep and want to try to go back to sleep. It's like the pug can sense when I could go play with him, and he complains when I choose to do something else. He's a smart dog.

You can try putting the dog outside. Our pug has an insulated dog house out back, so he can choose to be warm and sheltered or fully outdoors. This works great. We put his bed and water out back in the morning, then boot him out. My husband works from home (outdoors) and gets tons of stuff done without hassle from the dog. He is outside every weekday at about the same time every day, so he is used to the routine and does not whine or complain.

Another alternative is to get baby gates. When you need to shut the dog out of the room for safety/mess reasons, leave the door open but cover the opening with a baby gate. That way, the dog can see you and hang out nearby but not mess up your stuff. You can use the QUIET command through the baby gate to teach him to stop whining. You can also enforce the QUIET command with a squirt bottle without removing the gate. My husband uses this when he needs to work indoors.
posted by crazycanuck at 6:16 PM on September 24, 2006

Until his friend arrives, make sure he is getting ample real exercise every day. Once there's another dog, they'll probably handle most of that themselves, but single dogs generally only run and play when someone is interacting with them, and it's probably not enough. They get the canine equivalent of cabin fever, so that what should be a bit of mild concern over not being in the same room gets inflated to high anxiety.

When circumstances conspire so that my monsters are under-exercised, like when it rains, we have chewie-time so everybody can get their frustrations out. Some dogs don't do very well with rawhide, but pig ears or knucklebones (from the pet store, the ones with the tasty baked-on meat glaze) have always worked fine for all my dogs. When they were younger, the bones only came out for chewie-time, and then I took them away when I felt like everyone had had enough. There are also a number of treat balls out now that you put a biscuit or meat mousse, peanut butter, etc into and the dog has to work to get it out. I highly recommend them, though I don't know about meat mousse. In the old days, we put peanut butter in a Kong and that was good enough.

Also, when you don't need quiet, there's the Buster Cube. When my terrier-mix was a destructo-puppy made entirely out of teeth, ruining my furniture, the Buster Cube kept him occupied for entire minutes! And it made him use his brain, which tired him out much more effectively. The trick is to put it somewhere with plenty of room to play and not a lot of furniture for it to get stuck under, or block off chairs and tables it might roll under. It is not for naptime, though; it sounds like a tin can full of pennies.

Before I had jumpers, I had three baby gates and used them constantly, along with the squirt bottle. We use a squirt bottle now, too, but with this particular behavior the dog doesn't really know what he's being punished for. I think anxiety is better redirected than corrected.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:18 AM on September 25, 2006

In lieu of a friend, dogs do attach to objects like squeeky toys or even some sort of non-destructable stuffed doll. Also having some comfortable spot to bed down in will help them.
posted by JJ86 at 8:24 AM on September 25, 2006

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