Why Do Labradors Whine? 4 Common Causes Discussed

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As a new Lab owner, I learned very early on that whining is one of many ways that Lab can communicate with its owner. Similar to crying infants, a Lab's whining can mean a few different things. It is our responsibility as owners to figure out what those things may be! So, why do Labradors whine?

Labradors will whine for a few different reasons. The most common of those are:

  • They need something from you
  • Fear or anxiety
  • Health related reasons
  • Feelings of guilt

While it can mean a variety of things, it is usually pretty easy to figure out why your Labrador is whining. Often there will be other behaviors that present alongside whining that can help you decode the message. In this article, we will take a closer look at the reasons why your Lab might be complaining, and what you can do to help them.

In this article

They Need Something From You

Most often, a Labrador needs their humans to do something for them. It's most likely something that is part of their daily needs, like food, water, the bathroom, or exercise. This whining is usually accompanied with an excited expression, bright eyes and a grin, and a wagging tail. 

This is a good sign that your Labrador wants something that only you can give them. And the puppy dog eyes help them get what they want.

However, it isn’t always a dire need. Sometimes they just want something really bad! If their food and water are filled, they’ve already gone potty and they’ve had their daily walk, chances are good that they want something a little more specific. 

Typically, it is something along the lines of a toy that they’ve lost under a piece of furniture that they can't get to. They might be begging for a treat, or a new chew toy because they’ve destroyed the last one. In some cases, it could be that the door to the bedroom is closed and they would like to go to bed.

Whatever it is, your Lab should probably be able to lead you towards the problem. Then, it's up to you to solve the mystery of the whining dog.

Sometimes it is something as simple as attention. They would like some, or all of your attention. So, if you can’t find the toy beneath the sofa, they might just need some good behind-the-ear scratches or tummy rubs!

Fear or Anxiety 

Sometimes a Labrador whines to let us know that something isn’t right. A scared or anxious whine might be accompanied by shaking, panting or agitated movements, like pacing or hiding. They will be showing some more closed off body language instead of wagging and grinning.

They’re trying to tell you there is something happening that they don’t like. It could be a sound, a smell or something they’ve seen through the window. Maybe a new person in the environment or a new animal like the dreaded feline! Whatever it is, they don’t like it and they'd like you to make it go away or tell them that it is alright. 

Another reason for anxious whining comes from Separation Anxiety.

What Is Separation Anxiety?

Separation anxiety is a more serious condition that can have lasting consequences for you and your dog. It is more common in puppies and younger dogs, and we don’t completely understand the causes for the disorder. One way to look at it is that it’s similar to a panic attack. The dog cannot manage the stress and anxiety that it is feeling when their owner leaves them alone.

This can result in a few problematic symptoms that can cause a bit of trouble in a home with a dog that suffers from separation anxiety. Symptoms include:

  • Pacing, whining, shaking and crying as you are attempting to leave or have left the dog alone.
  • Constant barking or howling once you’ve gone
  • Destructive behaviors like chewing or digging in the house
  • Pooping or peeing in the house
  • Attempts to escape that can damage property and lead to injury

It’s as if your puppy believes you’ll never return and that you’ve doomed them to be alone forever. This can cause a lot of stress for both parties. Unfortunately, problems with separation anxiety are one of the most common reasons why people abandon puppies. 

While we don’t entirely understand all of the mechanisms that cause this disorder, it is treatable. This article goes even further into the reasons for, and the solutions to separation anxiety.

Health Related Reasons

Another reason that your pooch might be whining at you is pain. If they are feeling some sort of discomfort, they are going to come to you for help. This type of whining might be a little more difficult to detect as they might not whine directly to you. 

They might whine from jumping up onto a bed or couch or down from a vehicle, and the whine may be subtle. The culprit here could be joint pain, which is unfortunately fairly common in older dogs.

Also, a loud shrill whine accompanied with trembling, hiding, or sporadic movement could mean that they’ve experienced something shockingly painful. It could be an insect bite or sting, a broken claw or a swat from an angry cat. Whatever the cause, an investigation will be needed. 

We have all likely met dogs that can yelp at the slightest scare like a car horn or the dreaded man-with-beard. These dogs can take a bit more work as you need to decide if they are actually hurt or just having a case of scaredy-dog. 

Whatever the case, it is important to make sure all of your dog's needs are met. If they are still whining or showing other symptoms of pain or sickness, it may be time to call your veterinarian. 

Feelings of Guilt

Labradors can always astound us with their ability to feel and display their emotions. Sometimes when they whine it is because they feel sorry for something they’ve done. Perhaps they’ve gotten into the cat box again for a disgusting treat, or maybe they had an accident on the rug. If they whine after being scolded, it is likely that they are begging your forgiveness. 

Our dogs want only to love us, so when they realize they’ve done wrong and hurt their owner, they can feel shame and disappointment. This comes from their ancestral instincts as pack animals. If a member of the pack did something to draw the ire of the other animals, they would be ostracized and shooed from the pack. Until that dog displayed submissive behavior, such as whining, they would not be allowed back into the family. 

If you find your dog whining to say they are sorry, all you need do is accept their apology with a pat, and continue as normal. By showing them affection and not showing them aggressive behavior, your dog will feel welcomed back into the fold. 

Whining Isn't Necessarily Bad

So, we’ve found out that dogs whine for a myriad of reasons and most of the time, the reasons behind that whining aren’t too bad. While dogs aren’t exactly expert communicators, they can say a lot with their whines.

So, when you find your dog making complaints that seem out of the ordinary, you can go through these steps to find out what it is that they need from you. And remember, if nothing seems to fix the situation, it is always a good idea to check with your vet.