Whining Dog: the Case of the Pomeranian

By Daniel Stevens and Martin Olliver

Misha was all in all a model pet. She was a great companion to her family and behaved well with visitors. The only thing that troubled her owners was Misha's awful whining fits when she saw other dogs out on walks.

Because Misha only whined in response to this stimulus, we could rule out the possibility that she was complaining as a result of a medical problem. We could also rule out separation anxiety, a common cause of the whining dog, since neighbors attest to her silence when she's left alone.

After spending a few hours with Misha and her owner, even accompanying them on a short walk, it was evident that her problem stems from a lack of adequate socialization with other dogs. It was clear that her owners had been quite protective of her from the start, likely because of her relatively small size as a Pomeranian.

In doing so, however, Misha was not able to see other dogs as animals that she could potentially engage with; instead she feared them or at least became over anxious in their company. The solution was a fairly simple one, but required a few patient steps:

  1. Schedule play sessions with other dogs. Ideally, these would involve play sessions with dogs the owners knew and trusted, and also dogs that were not going to awe her with their size.
  2. Let Misha greet "ok" dogs on walks. It is important that Misha interacts with her own kind. Of course, it is also important that her owner asks if it is ok that the two dogs greet. It's usually as simple as asking a passing dog owner "Can they say hello?" If the other dog is a risk, or seems unnerved by Misha's whining (she won't stop right away), then you can skip it.
  3. Remain calm and in control when Misha interacts. Misha looks to her pack leader for guidance. If her leader is nervous about her networking with her own kind, then she will pick up on this and in turn feel uneasy about the process. The whining will continue, and she may even hide behind her owner.

NOTE: Ideally, you want to give her lead as much slack as you can, or even let her off lead if circumstances allow it. This is because a lead often directs a dog's body movement and changes their body language involuntarily. The effect is that they can become more vulnerable and possibly even defensive.

In this case, Misha was a submissive dog who posed no threat to friendly dogs, but needed reassurance that they posed no threat to her. Whining uncontrollably was her attempt to communicate that need. There was an easy solution, and an obvious and quite necessary outlet for her anxious energy.

About The Authors

Daniel Stevens is the renowned dog trainer and author of Secrets to Dog Training: STOP Dog Behavior Problems!, one of the leading dog training guides on the market today selling over 25,743 copies (and counting). He currently heads the Kingdom of Pets dog training team.

Martin Olliver has over 12 years experience in dog training and is a proud member of the Kingdom of Pets team. He is the author of the newly released Ultimate Guide to House Training.

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