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Is your Border Collie whining or crying? If the answer to that is yes, you might be feeling like yelling, “STOP IT!” which may relieve some of your stress, but it likely will not stop the whining. In fact, if the whining is anxiety-based, it can make the behavior worse.
So… let’s take a closer look at what is happening to help you figure out a better plan to deal with your Border Collie’s whining.
Why Does My Border Collie Whine?
There are a few reasons why your Border Collie is whining. Let’s take a look at some of the things that are causing it, and keep in mind that the cause may be more than one of these reasons.
Border Collies need a lot of mental and physical stimulation. If they are not getting enough, they will communicate that to you, and the whining and crying can be the result.
Crying and whining also burns some energy, so sometimes the whining is used to just take the edge off.
While this sometimes goes hand-in-hand with boredom, your Border Collie may also seek your attention when they think it’s time for a meal, or to go outside. Or they could just be feeling lonely, especially if they’re a puppy and new to the home and no longer have their mom or littermates.
Of course, some BC’s just want all of your attention all of the time!
If your Border Collie is whining and crying when you aren’t home, then it’s like separation anxiety and we have a complete guide on this here.
Border Collies will whine when stressed, too. If stress is the main culprit, they will likely exhibit other stress signals like yawning and lip licking. Be sure to watch their body language, as this will also tell you if it could be the next point, pain and discomfort.
If the whining is new, it could indicate pain or discomfort. Some pain you might be able to pinpoint (like if your dog is favoring a leg). But some pain, like an upset stomach or ear pain, might be harder to figure out.
So if the whining is out of character, do a full body check and consult with your vet.
How to stop BC from whining and crying
Figuring out the cause will help to better prepare you to tackle the whining issues.
Before you do any behavior management or training though, you want to be sure to rule out pain, or any other medical reasons for whining.
Exercise Helps Reduce Whining
With the exception of pain, almost every other cause of whining/crying listed above will benefit from more mental and physical exercise.
This doesn’t mean you need to take them on a 7-mile hike every day (and of course if they are a puppy, they will be restricted by their joint growth). But little brain games throughout the day keep them engaged and too busy to whine.
Be sure to read our Border Collie Exercise Guide, where we cover the best brain games and exercises suited to this lovable, and energetic breed!
Do Not Reinforce the Whining and Crying
If your Border Collie is whining for attention, food or toys, do not cave in!
So often, humans inadvertently “feed” behaviors we need to starve. It’s so easy to give your dog or puppy a pat on the head when they come up and whine at us. But if it works they have no reason to stop!
The exception here is usually for potty breaks. If your BC is whining to get outside, it’s better to keep the whine as a communication tool when your Border Collie wants to eliminate, rather than risk them getting confused and eliminating inside.
Nervousness and fear causing the whining
If your Border Collie has anxiety and stress, the first step to help reduce the whining is to figure out what is creating the fear. Sometimes this can be difficult. A dog’s perceived fear doesn’t always make sense to us humans.
Many times extra mental and physical exercise can help with anxiety and fear. But on top of that, I would highly recommend working with a positive reinforcement-based dog trainer to help find and resolve the anxiety your BC is feeling. Less stress will increase your dog’s quality of life.
Possible causes could be:
Being left home alone
A past experience has caused a phobia
Another animal (such as a dog) is in the house
Puppy being new to the home, missing Mom and littermates
We want to tell our Border Collies not to whine, but they learn better when we tell them what TO do, instead of what not to do.
So when your dog is calm, even if it’s just for a minute, calmly praise and treat. In class, I will often teach dogs to train to go to a mat. And the mat is the place where we reinforce the calm. This gives the dog a target and a job. Place = relax.
But the mat isn’t necessary. Emily Larlham has an excellent video (shown below) that will show you how to capture calm in everyday life. She has Border Collies of her own that you will see in this video.
Border Collie Whining/Crying in the Crate
If your Border Collie is whining or crying in their crate, you need to take steps to train them to be calm in the crate.
That training may vary, depending on when your BC is whining.
For instance, are they whining when they can see you and can’t get to you? Do they quiet down once you leave the house? If that is the case, you want to make sure to set them up with a good, long-lasting dog chew.
Put your Border Collie in their crate with the chew, and let them chew as you walk around, opening the crate before they finish.
So instead of being stressed that they can see you but not get to you, they expend their energy chewing and the crate is opened before they ever feel stressed.
If your Border Collie seems to whine whenever they are in the crate, or maybe your dog even resists going into the crate you need to go back to the beginning of crate training. The goal is to make the crate a happy place!
Depending on how stressed your BC is, you may need guidance from a professional dog trainer, but here are some simple ways to start to get your dog willingly going in and out:
Hide treats in the crate and leave the door open, so throughout the day, your Border Collie can find “treasure” inside the crate.
Feed meals inside their crate.
If your Border Collie is closed in the crate, be careful not to open the door if they are whining. Wait until they take a break (even if it is just a second to take a breath) before you let them out. This will help not reinforce the whining/crying behavior.
Why is My Border Collie so Needy?
Border Collies were bred to work with their humans. That trait remains even if your dog is not from working stock.
So one of the most important things you can do is to teach your Border Collie how to have fun without you. Setting up some nose work games can help.
Try hiding treats around a room that they can search while you are not in it. Puzzle toys and daycare can help with this too. Be sure to click the Shop button at the top of the page to check out our Hide’n’Treat Puzzle Toys.
And do not give your Border Collie attention when they demand it in a way you view as inappropriate (like whining). Ignore them until they are quiet, and ask them for a sit before showering them with attention, so we can show them a more human-friendly way to ask for attention.
Does my Border Collie have separation anxiety?
Separation anxiety is often overdiagnosed. Now, that doesn’t mean your dog isn’t getting stressed when you leave. And if left unaddressed it can definitely grow into full-blown separation anxiety.
But if your Border Collie does indeed have separation anxiety, you will likely need help from a professional. Severe separation issues can result in a dog harming himself to try to get out of his crate or your house to get to you.
This usually happens for one of the reasons listed above. Either they don’t like to be away from you, they haven’t been trained to be comfortable in their crates at night, or they are bored (usually driven by excess energy).
Your Border Collie will almost always do better if they can sleep in the same room as their people.
And while you want to make sure they burn a lot of energy before bed, keep in mind some games may make their adrenaline spike.
Chewing on something will help them to relax. So have safe chew treats available to pacify them as they go to sleep.
Getting your border collie to settle down can be a challenge!
In most cases, extra mental and physical exercise will be of some help. But if your Border Collie has a lot of nervous energy, you should talk to your veterinarian about using a pheromone spray.
While calming aids are not a cure-all – there is no substitute for a good behavioral program – it can take the edge off to make the program easier for you and your Border Collie.
Devene was nominated for a "Social Training Excellence" through the International Positive Dog Trainers Association in 2008.
She conducts private in-home lessons and teaches Puppy and Intermediate classes regularly.
Devene has fostered many retired Greyhounds, in addition to having many of her own. She has been active with Greyhound and Galgo rescue for over 20 years and has also fostered for Midwest Boston Terrier Rescue.