If you have a Shetland Sheepdog then most likely they are the center of your universe and your best friend! Their unconditional love and affection are what we live for. When they look at us with those puppy dog eyes we melt and are ready to give them whatever their heart desires.
But when does our attention and willingness to always give in go too far?
If you have noticed your Sheltie has started whining a lot then you may have your answer.
Shelties whine or cry when they are trying to get your attention or communicate something to you such as hunger, anxiety, pain, separation anxiety or they want to play. Their whining may also indicate something is wrong. Their crying may be reinforced by your constant attention.
If your Shetland Sheepdog is whining and crying a lot it’s because he is trying to communicate something to you or it’s a learned and reinforced behavior.
Shelties are generally easy-going and obedient, but they can be very high energy and may take up whining as a way to get something, especially if your dog has been unintentionally trained to do so.
So if you are thinking of getting a Sheltie and want to know how to train it not to whine keep reading for some deeper insight, and to find out some interesting reasons Sheltie owners gave for why their dogs whine. Here is a quick solution guide to solving your Sheltie’s problematic Whining (find more details below).
Reasons for Whining
Find and reduce Stressors
Remain Calm, Praise for quiet behavior
Ignore unwanted attempts for attention
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Why is My Sheltie Crying and What to Do About It
If you love your Sheltie, then there’s nothing more heartbreaking than listening to its forlorn cries get louder and louder. It can be really hard and frustrating not knowing what your dog is trying to communicate to you and how to correctly handle your dog’s whining to get it to stop and help them be happy and healthy.
Here are 7 reasons your Sheltie might be whining.
1. Your Sheltie is Stressed
Learning to read your dog’s body language will be a very important step in understanding their crying. Knowing what they are trying to communicate to you will help you know how to proceed.
When you are looking for signs of stress look to see if your dog is doing any of these things as well. They will likely not be showing all of these signs at the same time.
How to Tell:
- Licking lips
- Raised hackles
- Whale eyes (when they show the whites of their eyes)
- Freezing or very stiff and tense body. Be very careful if this is the case, it’s most likely that your dog has gotten to the point he is so stressed his next move will be to bite.
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Is your Sheltie overwhelmed, or in a new situation?
Is he not understanding you or something you are trying to teach or communicate?
Did this come on suddenly, when someone or something came close?
Can you figure out a way to remove the stimuli that are causing him stress in order to help him calm down?
What to do:
Try and change the environment.
Be calm and reassuring.
Avoid too much stimulus.
Make sure that you are clear with training and giving commands.
Don’t use harsh punishment.
Try to figure out the trigger and avoid it, or work on training to tolerate it better.
2. Your Sheltie is Excited
Shelties are high-energy dogs they are great to have around when you are wanting to play or exercise with them, but if they don’t get the proper amount of playtime, or exercise they can easily get overexcited and over-energized.
They are fiercely loyal as well. This makes them wonderful companions because they are always extremely perceptive to your needs and ready and willing to please, but it can also mean that they pick up on every mood and emotion around them.
How to Tell:
Displaying zoomies (a sudden release of energy when your dog seems to go wild and is running around at high speed).
What is your energy level?
Have you just come home from work and they want to greet you?
Maybe your Sheltie is meeting someone new or wanting to play. If you are feeling high stress or excitement your dog will feed off your emotion and most likely be showing that behavior as well.
What to do:
You can redirect his energy by taking him for a run, playing a game of fetch with a toy.
Get him to burn some energy then reward him when he’s calm.
Make sure that you have calm energy about yourself.
Dim lights, or use some of this therapeutic aromatherapy spray from Amazon (Affiliate link) to help calm her down.
3. Your Sheltie Wants Attention
This is the #1 reason other Sheltie owners give for why their dog cries or whines.
Raising and caring for a puppy is no easy task. Shelties can sometimes be even more challenging because of the time and attention they demand from you. They also have the ability to build such strong attachments to their owners and because they are so smart they know how to manipulate you with their adorable little whimpers!
How to tell:
Similar to when your dog shows excitement, but more direct eye contact with you with intentions of trying to get something.
Has your dog had enough exercise and mental stimulation today?
Most Shelties require at minimum 2 hours of exercise a day as well as plenty of mental stimulation.
What is he trying to get your attention for?
Is it worth giving the attention or not?
Is your Sheltie whining to get food? (Check out this article I wrote to see why your Sheltie eats weird stuff!)
Do you have a new pet, person, or situation in your family? Perhaps your Sheltie is jealous?
What to do:
Your first task is to make sure they’ve had enough exercise and mental stimulation.
Trying out a fun training program together like this widely popular program Brain Training for Dogs can help unlock your dog’s hidden potential and help them learn how to avoid problem behaviors.
Remember you only want to reinforce behaviors you would like to see repeated. If she’s whining because she needs to go outside to go to the bathroom, then yes you should respond.
If she’s whining to get you to share your dinner then don’t reinforce that behavior.
Even telling your dog “it’s ok”, or to “calm down” in a loving voice is giving them the attention they are wanting. To truly get this behavior under control you need to completely ignore them.
4. Your Sheltie Has Separation Anxiety
Shelties can easily get attached to their owners. If you are the person that they spend the majority of their time with, caring for them, playing with them, and exercising them they will want to be around you more than anyone else and may even cling to you or get separation anxiety in the lack of your presence.
If your Sheltie is not prepared to handle the separation from you the crying can become extreme!
How to Tell:
Constantly jumps and whines for you to touch them pet them or cuddle them. Cries or howls when you leave them alone, destroys things when you are gone, is overly excited when you return.
How much exercise has my dog had today. How long have I been gone? Have I trained my dog to be ok without being near me every hour of the day?
What to do:
Read this article to learn more about how to identify separation anxiety and how to handle it.
Paws and Learn: Are Shelties Prone to Separation Anxiety? (What to Do)
You need to teach your dog that it’s not a big deal when you leave. When you leave, make it subtle and no fussing or kisses goodbye. Make your return no big deal and ignore your pup until they are calm.
When they are puppies it’s best to start with small increments of absence like 5 minutes at a time until they learn to stop crying then move to longer times.
Not only does it give your dog something to do, but it’s great for their dental health as well!
Try not to leave your dog alone too long if you can manage it. If you need to be away for more than 3-4 hours and your dog does not do well then it’s a good idea to find someone that can come and let them out and give them some attention and exercise during your absence.
5. Your Sheltie is Fearful
Puppies are very impressionable and teaching them and socializing them starts in the very beginning stages of their life. Because of this, it’s important to only support reputable breeders who take good care of their puppies.
Unfortunately, there are many people that run puppy mills (link to information on how to stop puppy mills) that are breeding Shetland Sheepdogs purely for the money and do not take very good care of them when they are young.
When a puppy starts their life in this type of environment it can be very damaging and set them up for a lifetime of fear or aggression. Thankfully there are things that you can do to help if you do end up with a puppy that has been treated this way, it will just be more difficult to get them feeling and behaving confidently.
How to tell:
How was your Sheltie treated as a puppy? Is your Sheltie a rescue? Was your dog properly socialized when they were young?
What to do:
If your dog seems overly fearful of many things and you suspect that your Sheltie is whining or crying a lot because of this, you will need to work very hard at building a solid foundation of trust between you and your dog.
Once this foundation of trust is established it will be easier for you to teach your dog that the rest of the world is not as fearful as they suspect it may be.
DO NOT use any coercive methods of training or yell or be too firm with your Sheltie.
You may also need help from a professional dog trainer or behaviorist who has experience working with fearful dogs. They will help you come up with and implement a training plan.
If you think their fear is a one-time circumstance that has been brought on by something unexpected in their environment, like sudden fireworks or the sound of a car misfiring, then you can isolate that particular thing and work towards training them to tolerate it.
I always encourage my students (check out my classes) to play sound recordings of fireworks starting quietly in the background and working up to very loud and life-like in order to prepare their dogs for coming celebrations like New Year’s Eve or the Fourth of July.
You could also try something like this anxiety wrap from Amazon (affiliate link) that has been useful for dogs afraid of loud noises like thunder.
6.Your Sheltie is Bored
Have I mentioned yet that this breed is a high-energy dog that requires a lot of exercise!! Ummm…. Yes I have at least a few times.
When you get a Shetland Sheepdog you are committing to be either being very active yourself or finding someone who is active to play with and entertain your dog.
You may notice your Sheltie following you everywhere or trying to herd you, your kids, or your pets. If they are doing this they are begging for a job!
Even if you have a lot of property, Shelties need to be given a job to do. Luckily they are easily trained, but they do need to have enough mental stimulation in order to not get bored or tired of doing the same old thing.
If they are left alone with nothing to do they will start to whine, bark, or get into some kind of other trouble.
How to tell:
Short high pitched whines, usually accompanied by a sigh, may seem lazy or disinterested in their favorite toys or games.
He could be digging in the yard, getting into things they shouldn’t like the trash, or chewing up your favorite things like shoes or furniture, or hiding and burring his food.
Again you need to think about how much exercise and mental stimulation your Sheltie is getting. Shelties do better when they have something to do to occupy their time. It helps if they are constantly learning new things.
When was the last time you taught your Sheltie a new command, game, or trick?
What to do:
Provide your dog with some mental stimulation. Teach them some new tricks, work on training, or give them a fun new toy like this fun crinkle toy from Amazon (affiliate link).
Try not to leave all their toys available all the time. If you keep all but 2 or 3 put away and rotate them that will keep your Sheltie from getting bored too easily.
You can also try this awesome program called Brain Training that can give you a huge boost in your training methods and plans.
If you are on Facebook I would suggest that you join a group like this Canine Enrichment group where you will find a plethora of great ideas from other dog owners. While you’re at it feel free to join our Dog Group and follow me on my Facebook page at Paws and Learn for fun ideas and new announcements.
7. Your Sheltie is in Pain
Shelties are generally a healthy breed and don’t usually have major health issues. If you have a rescue or your Sheltie is aging then pain or discomfort may be a reason your pup is whining.
How to tell:
Look for any kind of physical signs such as limping, constantly licking a sore area, or yelps and whines when picked up or moved.
How old is my Sheltie? Has his energy been waning? Are there other red flags such as growling or biting when handled a certain way or untouched food?
Has your dog had a recent dental exam. Poor dental health can cause pain for your Sheltie.
What to do:
If you suspect your dog is in pain take him to your vet right away. If you can’t figure out the cause of the whining and it doesn’t appear to be any of the above reasons then you will want your dog to have a complete checkup as soon as possible!
If your Sheltie Puppy is Crying
You can expect Sheltie puppies will whine more than adult Shelties, but puppies, in general, may whine for different reasons than adult dogs. If you just brought a Sheltie puppy home and he’s whining a lot, it’s most likely because he misses his mother and littermates.
Sheltie puppies should not be brought home before they are at least 8 weeks old it’s even better if they are 10 to 12 weeks. The younger the puppy the more you can expect to deal with crying.
If you are trying to Crate train a puppy and he whines a lot when he is in his crate it is most likely because he is lonely and scared. A crate all by himself is a scary dark place and if it’s new to him you can expect he’s going to have a hard time at first. When you first bring your puppy home learning how to properly crate train is important, don’t give in to your Sheltie’s cries if he’s just wanting attention.
How to Help Your Sheltie Puppy Not Cry
Sense of smell is a powerful thing for dogs. Their sense of smell is 40 times better than ours and much more refined. We can use this power to our advantage in two ways.
Before you get your Sheltie puppy take a blanket or sweatshirt that smells like you and give it to your puppy’s breeder to put in your puppy’s bed, so they can get used to your smell and create positive associations.
The second way this will benefit your Sheltie is it will allow the scent of his mother and littermates to get on the item so when you bring him home it will smell like them and help make the transition easier for him.
Another great tool to help your little puppy miss his family less is to get a stuffy like this one from Amazon (affiliate link) that mimics the heartbeat of his mama. Having a comfort item like this can be extremely useful and can make a huge difference those first few weeks you have your new puppy.
It’s a new environment and it’s going to take time for him to get used to it. Make sure that he has a small area (crate or playpen) to stay in, this will help him feel more safe and secure.
At night you can keep his crate near you so you are able to comfort him, it might make a few sleepless nights for you, but will go a long way in reassuring your puppy that he’s not alone.
It may be tempting to let your puppy sleep with you, but be sure that’s what you want before you go down that path. The following article may help you decide.
When using the crate at night don’t take your puppy out just because he is whining, that will only reinforce the behavior. You can take him out for bathroom breaks, but when his bathroom break is over put him back in. If you get him out for a cuddle or let him sleep in bed with you, crate training is going to be a lot more difficult.
Most Sheltie puppy owners said that they would let their puppy cry it out for 10-15 min. and if they didn’t stop after that they would take them out to get a drink or use the bathroom, but then promptly put them back in.
Whatever the reason for your Sheltie whining the best thing you can do is make sure that your dog knows you are in charge! That doesn’t mean yell at your dog or be mean, but be firm and consistent in the ways that you respond, let them know that you expect them to be well behaved and they will.
If you continue to have problems with your Sheltie crying please seek help from a professional dog behaviorist or a Vet.
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Check out our other articles all about your Sheltie!
While we strive to give the most accurate and helpful information about your pet’s health that we can, this article is meant to be informational only and not medical advice. Never disregard, avoid or delay in obtaining medical advice from your veterinarian or other qualified veterinary health care provider regardless of what you have read on this site or elsewhere.