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Imagine the following scenario:
You just whipped up a delicious meal for lunch, and everyone at home gathers at the dining table to have their food. To your dismay, Mango, your cute little golden retriever, starts whining by your chair. You can tell by her eyes what she is looking for. Initially, you find that her whining is adorable, but over time, it gets annoying, especially if she does not stop.
With every morsel of food you put into your mouth, the whining gets increasingly louder.
The truth is that your puppy is not hungry. She is simply throwing a tantrum!
By this time, you’re thinking of relenting and acceding to the request of your dog. You take a small piece of meat from your plate, and feed it to your dog. Your dog stops complaining and finally peace and quiet for the family!
Little did you realize that such a simple action compounded over time further strengthens the connection between howling and getting food for the puppy! This makes it even harder for the puppy to quit its terrible habit.
Fortunately, there are several strategies you can employ to train your puppy to stop whining.
Ignore your puppy
We get it. You love your dog and want to give the dog what is best for it.
However, we must understand the idea that rewards reinforce behaviour! By rewarding the pet with food, your puppy will continue to beg you for food!
Your dog understands that you will accede to its request simply by whining. If you do not, it will just continue to increase the intensity until you give in.
Your puppy has learned to associate with the high-pitched complain with you providing him food.
So the next time your dog whines, avoid all eye contact with the dog and assume that it is not there just for that period of time. Do not talk to your dog or touch her. Proceed with your lunch conversations as per normal, until your puppy learns that its whining will not help it to get what it wants.
Practice tolerating its whining and not giving in for the next 1 – 2 months. This practice has to be consistent.
Command your puppy to go to its place
If you are not a beginner dog owner, you should have already taught your puppy certain commands such as ‘Sit’, ‘Wait’, etc. Your dog should also be able to understand ‘Lie Down’, ensuring that it is in passive position on the floor, waiting for your next command.
The next time your dog whines, tell your dog to go to the area of your house that is its designated ‘discipline’ area such as a part of the kitchen or living room. Ensure that it is comfortable with carpeting, a pillow or puppy bed to ensure that the puppy is willing to comply. Further reinforce its obedience to your command by preparing some doggie treats.
The best type of command words are usually single syllables (eg. Sit, No, Stop). In your case, you may try to tell your dog ‘Go!’ and point to her designated ‘discipline’ area.
For beginner pet owners, you can train your pet to respond to this command by first going to the location and holding your dog treat. Once your dog complies and goes to your intended location, give the dog a treat. Your dog will associate your command with the treat. This should become easier with time and practice.
To ensure that your puppy stays at its place for extended periods of time, provide a pause or delay before giving your treat to her. Perhaps you can count to 30 seconds in your head before providing the treat.
Once your puppy has learnt to return to its ‘place’ and lower its energy, you will be able to eat in peace.
Lock your puppy in a room temporarily
If the above does not work, then time for Plan C. Yes, that does sound harsh but sometimes you must practice tough love in order to get your puppy to behave in the way that is socially desirable. Placing your puppy in your room is a form of punishment which teaches the puppy not to repeat its previous actions, weakening the association between whining and getting food.
Your puppy might continue to whine with greater intensity. However, this is likely to be for a short while as it gets accustomed to the routine, if this is done consistently.
Divert your dog’s attention to other things
Whenever your dog is whining, it may be useful to distract your dog with its favourite toy (a sock, slipper) that it likes to chew. Only offer this toy to your dog when you are having a meal, so that it keeps the dog occupied for the time being.
Another method would be to feed your puppy when you are about to have your own meal. This way, the dog is distracted with consuming its own food and will no longer disturb your family’s meal time.
Patience is the key to helping your dog correct its behaviours. This may take months or even years to correct. Slowly and surely, if you discipline your dog patiently and consistently, it will change its behaviour.