Why Do German Shepherds Whine? Top Reasons & Solutions

Categorized as Training and Behavior
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German Shepherds are known for being vocal dogs that use sounds like barking, howling, and whining to communicate. Of all these vocalizations, whining seems to be one of the most common noises that owners report hearing from their German Shepherd.

But what exactly is your German Shepherd trying to say when he whines? Understanding the meaning behind this common vocalization can help you better address your dog’s needs.

Reasons Dogs Whine

Before diving into the specific reasons German Shepherds whine, it’s helpful to understand why dogs whine in general. Dogs use vocalizations to:

  • Express emotions like fear, anxiety, excitement, happiness, etc.
  • Communicate physical needs like hunger, discomfort, illness, etc.
  • Get attention from humans or other dogs
  • Alert humans to potential threats or danger
  • Interact with other dogs
  • Cope with separation anxiety

Since dogs can’t speak human languages, whining allows them to get their message across. Puppies whine more frequently than adult dogs because they haven’t yet learned to communicate through body language.

Why German Shepherds Whine

Now let’s explore some of the most common reasons for whining specific to German Shepherds:

1. Seeking Attention or Comfort

German Shepherds are highly social dogs that thrive on human interaction and affection. Whining is one way they express their desire for attention, playtime, cuddles, or comfort from their human companions. It’s their way of saying “Hey, I’m here, pay attention to me!”

German Shepherds often whine when they want to be petted, when it’s time for their regular walk, or when you are preparing their dinner. They may also whine when they want to cuddle on the couch or jump up on your lap. It’s their way of asking for affection and quality time. Responding to this type of whine with positive attention will strengthen your bond.

2. Feeling Anxious or Insecure

Change and uncertainty make many German Shepherds feel anxious or insecure. You may notice whining when you introduce something new, have visitors, or disrupt their normal routine. Whining helps them cope with unfamiliar or stressful situations.

For example, if you move furniture around or do major cleaning, your German Shepherd may pace around whining. House guests often prompt anxious whines. Or your dog may whine during car rides, especially the first few times in a vehicle. Whining eases their nervousness.

3. Feeling Excited

On the flip side, German Shepherds also whine when excited about something positive like going for a walk, ride in the car, or arrival of their favorite human. It’s their way of saying “Hurry up, I’m so excited!”

You’ll probably notice whining, bouncing, and anxious pacing when it’s time for their regular daily walk. Or they may whine eagerly when they see you getting their leash and collar. German Shepherds also commonly whine when excited to greet favorite humans coming home from work or visiting.

4. Feeling Lonely

German Shepherds are prone to separation anxiety and loneliness when left alone for long periods. Persistent whining while you’re gone could mean they are distressed about the separation.

It’s important not to leave this anxious whining unchecked. Try recording your dog when you leave the house to determine if the whining is excessive or nonstop. If so, take incremental steps to get your German Shepherd more comfortable with alone time, such as providing interactive toys and starting with short departures.

5. Alerting to Danger

Thanks to their protective instincts, German Shepherds may whine to alert you of anything they perceive as potentially dangerous, such as an intruder on your property.

This whining may be paired with barking. It serves the purpose of warning you that something potentially threatening is approaching, according to your dog. Pay attention to objects, people, or animals that trigger this reaction so you can take steps to make your home more secure if needed.

6. Communicating With Other Dogs

Dogs use vocalizations as part of their body language to interact with each other. Your German Shepherd may whine when greeting other dogs or trying to play with them.

German Shepherds tend to be very social with other canines. You may notice whining when your dog sees another dog on a walk or at the dog park. They are expressing their eagerness to go say hello and interact. Allowing positive interactions helps satisfy your dog’s social needs.

7. Attention-Seeking Behavior

Some German Shepherds learn to whine persistently as a learned behavior to get what they want, such as food, toys, or access to furniture they shouldn’t be on. This attention-seeking whining should be discouraged.

For example, if your German Shepherd whines until you cave in and feed them table scraps, they will repeat this behavior. Or they may whine nonstop when you are preparing their actual meal. It’s best to ignore this whining and reward with attention only when your dog is quiet.

8. Responding to Pain or Discomfort

German Shepherds prone to joint pain or disorders may whine more frequently. Illness or injury can also cause them to whine to alert you something is wrong.

If your normally active and energetic German Shepherd starts whining and becomes reluctant to move around, check for injury and inflammation, especially in the joints and limbs. Schedule a vet visit if you notice discomfort or difficulty moving around.

9. Puppy Communication

Puppies whine to get attention from their mother and littermates. This instinct continues when they join your home until they learn other ways to communicate their needs.

You should expect more frequent whining from your German Shepherd during the first year of life. Respond to ensure all the puppy’s needs are met including food, bathroom breaks, playtime, and comfort. Over time, they will outgrow the excessive whining.

10. Boredom

Lack of physical and mental stimulation leads to boredom, which can prompt attention-seeking behaviors like whining. Ensure your German Shepherd gets adequate daily exercise and playtime.

German Shepherds need at least 30-60 minutes of activity per day. Take them on walks, play fetch, or try dog sports like agility and flyball. Interactive puzzle toys are also great for mental stimulation. If their needs are met, persistent whining is less likely.

Tips for Managing Your Dog’s Whining

If your German Shepherd seems to whine excessively, here are some tips:

  • Make sure his basic needs are met – food, water, bathroom breaks, health checks, etc. This will eliminate whining due to hunger, pain, or illness.
  • Provide adequate daily exercise to prevent boredom and excess energy. Interactive play is best. Long walks, running beside a bike, playing fetch, and swimming are great options for German Shepherds.
  • Give your dog plenty of affection and quality time with you. This provides mental stimulation. Set aside dedicated time for grooming, training, cuddling, and playing with your dog one-on-one.
  • Use puzzle toys, chews, or food puzzles to keep your dog engaged when alone. Items that dispense treats or kibble prolong play. Rotating through different interactive toys keeps it interesting.
  • Train your dog using positive reinforcement. Reward quiet behavior and give treats when whining stops. Never yell at or punish your dog for whining.
  • Ignore attention-seeking whines rather than rewarding them. For example, don’t pet or talk to your German Shepherd if they whine for food before mealtime. Wait until they are quiet to set down their bowl.
  • Consult your vet or trainer if anxiety is severe. Medication or behavioral modification plans may help. Trainers can provide management tools tailored for your unique situation.
  • Consider doggy daycare if your dog struggles when left alone. The socialization and activity helps reduce loneliness and boredom.
  • Rule out medical causes of whining with your vet. Joint disorders, allergies, dental problems, and other conditions may be at play.

When to See the Vet

It’s normal for German Shepherds to whine on occasion. However, if your dog’s whining seems excessive or occurs alongside other symptoms, seek veterinary advice to rule out potential health issues.

Signs to watch for include:

  • Sudden increase in whining frequency or volume
  • Whining paired with changes in appetite or bathroom habits
  • Whining when touched in a specific area, indicating pain
  • Whining along with lethargy, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Excessive drooling, panting, pacing, or lip licking
  • Reluctance to move, difficulty standing up or sitting down

Some conditions that could prompt excessive whining include:

  • Arthritis or joint injury causing orthopedic pain
  • Urinary tract infection or bladder stones causing discomfort
  • Allergies to food or environmental triggers
  • Dental disease like periodontal infection, broken teeth, or abscesses
  • Gastrointestinal issues like inflammatory bowel disease
  • Parasite infection like worms or giardia
  • Anxiety disorders like separation anxiety or noise phobias

Your vet will perform a physical exam plus diagnostic tests such as:

  • Joint X-rays to assess for dysplasia or arthritis
  • Bloodwork to check for infections and organ issues
  • Fecal exam to test for intestinal parasites
  • Urinalysis to assess urine and kidney health
  • Skin and saliva allergy testing

Treatment will depend on the underlying cause but may include pain medication, joint supplements, antibiotics, steroids, therapeutic diets, behavioral modification plans, parasite control, and more.

Getting to the root cause of the whining is key to stopping the behavior and improving your dog’s quality of life.

The Takeaway on German Shepherd Whining

While it may seem excessive at times, whining is just part of owning a vocal breed like the German Shepherd. Paying attention to context clues, your dog’s body language, and other symptoms will help you decipher the meaning behind those high-pitched vocalizations.

With time, patience, and proactive training, you can minimize attention-seeking whining while still attending to your dog’s needs for companionship and stimulation. Remember that whining is just your German Shepherd’s way of connecting with you!

By Andrew Garf

Andrew Garf has loved dogs, especially German Shepherds, since he was 10 years old. Though he also loves burgers, training dogs is his real passion. That's why he created the website TrainYourGSD.com - to help dog owners learn how to properly train, care for, and bond with their German Shepherd dogs.