Dogs can’t talk in human language, but they have no trouble communicating their thoughts at times. It’s easy to see when they are happy. Other times, it can be clear that something is wrong.
When your dog stares at you and whines, what are they trying to tell you?
Why does my dog stare at me and whine?
Your dog can stare at you for many reasons, including simply expressing love for you. However, when they stare at you and whine, they are trying to communicate something. It’s their way of looking to you for help, but help with what?
Both staring and whining are forms of dog communication. Both can communicate a wide variety of things. When combined, it narrows things down a bit.
If you are asking someone for something, you are likely to look at them when you speak. You want to be sure they hear you. When your dog stares at you and whines, it’s for a similar reason.
They want to know that you hear them. They may also want you to know that the whine is meant to communicate something to you, specifically. They are essentially communicating that they have a need or want, and asking you to help them.
One of the most common reasons dogs stare at you and whine is they are requesting attention. My own dog does this often, usually combined with a paw on my arm for extra emphasis.
In addition to staring and whining, your dog may bark, nudge, or paw you if they are requesting attention.
Most dogs will let you know when they are hungry. Some dogs will go to their food bowl and bark or whine. Others will stare at you and whine until you get the message.
If your dog walks to their food bowl, then stares and whines, it’s pretty clear they are saying, “feed me”. If you feed your dog food scraps, they may stare and whine while you are eating, expecting a bite.
It’s also common for them to ask to be fed if it’s meal time. Dogs can’t tell time the way we can, but they are surprisingly good at keeping track of when it’s time for their favorite activities.
A bored dog is always problematic. Some dogs become destructive when bored. They may destroy your shoes or other objects they aren’t allowed to chew. Potty accidents can also occur if your dog is bored.
Some dogs will become depressed when bored. They may seem withdrawn or lethargic. Other dogs may bark excessively, or constantly request your attention.
Anxiety or Fear
Just like humans, dogs can develop fear or anxiety. Fear is typically a response to a specific stimuli. A thunderstorm, for example, can cause your dog to be scared.
They may stare, whine, and even climb in your lap or nudge your leg, seeking comfort.
Anxiety is an ongoing state of stress or fear. It may be difficult to pinpoint the cause of the anxiety. Changes to their home or schedule are common causes, but like people, the cause of anxiety varies greatly from dog to dog.
Other signs of fear or anxiety include destructive behavior and potty accidents. Your dog may pace, bark excessively, or hide. Excessive drooling or panting can also be signs your dog is experiencing anxiety.
Dogs will often whine if they are in pain. If your pooch is injured, they may whine to let you know they are hurt. If your dog suddenly starts whining and staring at you and there’s no obvious cause, it’s a good idea to check them out.
Look for any tender areas, swollen areas, or cuts. If the whining continues, they may need a veterinary checkup.
An illness can also cause your furry family member to look at you and whine. Whining can express pain or not feeling well. In this case, when they look at you and whine, they are saying, “Hey, I’m feeling sick. Help.”
If this is the cause, your pooch will likely display other signs of illness as well. These will vary based on the type of illness.
However, you should look for lethargy, fever, chills, loss of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea. If your dog has any of these symptoms, they may be sick.
What to do if my dog stares at me and whines?
If your dog stares at you and whines, of course you want to fix the issue. They seem to be pleading with you to help them, and they are relying on you. How to help them will depend on the reason they are staring and whining.
The simple fix for your dog whining and staring at you because they want attention is to give it to them. However, this can do more harm than good.
Dogs learn what to do and what not to do through reinforcement. When you pay attention to them because they are whining, your dog will learn that it’s an effective way to get what they want.
This can encourage them to whine and stare anytime they want attention, because it works. If you don’t mind this behavior, feel free to reward them with attention.
However, if you’d like to curb it, don’t give in. Instead, wait until they are sitting quietly, then pay attention to them.
If your dog is hungry, the obvious solution is to feed them. If they are requesting you to fill their bowl and are genuinely hungry, it’s best to feed them.
However, if they are begging for food from your plate, it’s best to ignore their pleas. Feeding them is also positive reinforcement, which will encourage them to continue the behavior. If you don’t want them to whine every time you sit down to eat, don’t reward them with food.
Dogs require both mental and physical stimulation. If they are whining from boredom, consider their daily activities. You may need to add a walk to their daily schedule, or purchase a puzzle toy for mental stimulation.
Playing with them regularly can also provide mental and physical exercise. If they are bored when you can’t interact with them, you can turn on the TV.
Dogs love watching dogs and prey animals on TV. However, this isn’t a substitute for exercise and interaction with them.
If your pooch is suffering from anxiety, try to pinpoint the cause. You can then work to reduce or eliminate it. Give them plenty of attention and affection, and allow them to have a quiet place to get away from stimuli.
If the anxiety is severe, speak to your vet or an animal behavioralist.
Injury or Illness
If your pooch is showing signs of an injury or illness, it’s best to take them to the vet. Your vet can determine the problem, and treat them accordingly.
When You Can’t Figure Out Why They are Staring and Whining
You’ve gone through all the normal reasons your dog may stare at you and whine. They aren’t hungry, they don’t seem bored, and they get plenty of attention. They don’t seem sick or injured either. What do you do?
If you can’t figure out what your pooch is trying to tell you, it’s best to get a professional opinion. Some injuries or illnesses can be hard to spot. Some behavioral causes are also difficult to pin down.