Why Do American Water Spaniels Whine So Much



The American Spaniel is a popular breed, often selected for his hunting prowess and friendly personality. American Spaniels are known for having a lot of energy and while eager to hunt, they are very controllable out in the field. They are also eager to please you as well as highly intelligent, which usually leads to a positive training experience. While not a leading personality characteristic, American Spaniels can also develop the habit of whining. Even when the whining is due to his suffering, the sound can still be quite annoying to you. There are ways, through training, to avoid or eliminate situations that may lead to his whining as well as behavior modification that can end the whining that has started.

The Root of the Behavior

American Spaniels, also known as Cocker Spaniels, are loving and affectionate dogs. He will grow very attached to you and be a devoted and loyal dog. While this is heartwarming if you need to leave him alone often or for long periods of time, he may develop separation anxiety. The anxiety can range from mild, where he will whine when you leave and while you are gone, as well as possibly urinate on the floor and chew non-edible and non-toy items, to severe where he jumps through glass or breaks his teeth and nails attempting to free himself from your home to find you. Stress, in general, can lead to excessive vocalization, which is the veterinarian term for whining. Many Spaniels will whine during a training session that may be too intense, or when faced with unfamiliar people or other dogs. In both of these instances, he is trying to get your attention and asking for help. Spaniels will also whine if they are in pain, but the whine will typically be accompanied by a yelp and a change in other behaviors such as limping or not eating. 

Aging dogs will also whine due to dementia, and this will be accompanied by a loss of interest in favorite activities, failure to recognize known people and places, as well as getting lost. Whining can also be a sign of glandular or metabolic irregularities or exposure to toxic substances. In those instances, typically when the substance is removed, the whining will stop. Spaniels are in the moderate to high category for becoming excited, so your pup may be whining because he is excited to see you or to greet a new friend. Body wiggles, tail wags, perhaps a bark, and some jumping too often accompany this whining. Along the same vein is a dog that whines as a part of appeasement during a new meeting. He may see the new friend as a threat and is whining to signify he does not wish to have any altercations. Your spaniel may also whine because you have trained him to do so. If you let him out and then did not let him in until he whined, he has learned that is how to get your attention. Similarly, if he has whined and you responded by either approaching him or even telling him to be quiet, you have reinforced the behavior. Often Spaniels are looking for ways to gain your attention and bond with you and if whining seems to work he will stick with it.

Encouraging the Behavior

American Spaniels are intelligent, love to hunt, and love their owners. Your pup needs stimulation, both mental and physical, and he needs to be with you. Leaving him alone for extended periods of time, and without something to tire his mind and body, can lead to separation anxiety. If he is whining when you leave, he needs your help. Make an effort to not leave him for extended periods, or consider hiring a dog walker who can come during the day to give him some love and exercise. Provide him with food release toys, such as the Kong, and perhaps a blanket that smells like you. Reward him when he does not whine when you leave, and take time to walk him before and after you leave so he associates your departure with a good experience. Whining because he is in pain, aging, or perhaps has a medical problem dictates a visit to the veterinarian. She can give him a full exam to identify what may be causing your pup’s pain or perhaps causing him an imbalance that stresses him out and leads to whining. 

If you find he whines when meeting new people or in unfamiliar situations, consider hiring a trainer to work with your dog on socializing him. It is important for dogs to be socialized so that both you and he can enjoy being out in the world. Finally, if your American Spaniel is whining to get your attention, you need to re-condition him to communicate with you in other ways. Do not respond to him when he whines, not even to push him aside or tell him to be quiet, as that will only reinforce his behavior. Rather, provide him a lot of attention, affection, and activity and reward him with treats when he is quiet. Identify situations in which he whines, such as when he wants to come in from being outside, and try to get to him before he exhibits the behavior. Meet him at the door, tell him to sit, and reward him for the behavior. Continue to meet him at the door, having him wait 30 seconds longer each time until he learns to wait patiently. If his whining is behavioral and continues despite your best effort, seek the help of a trainer to eliminate the unwanted behavior.

Other Solutions and Considerations

Retraining a dog often takes a lot of time, effort and consistency. It is not easy, especially when attempted without professional assistance. There are a lot of products on the market aimed at extinguishing negative behaviors such as whining. However, they do not often address why your American Spaniel is whining and typically another unwanted behavior will surface to replace his whining. There are shock collars that will zap your pet each time he whines. While he may stop making sound, he will invariably find his own way to get your attention if you do not teach him a behavior that is desirable. While you do want to eliminate the negative behavior, without addressing the source of the problem you are doing both yourself and your pet a disservice.


Your American Spaniel whines because he misses you, is anxious, is seeking your attention, or perhaps he has a medical problem that needs a veterinarian’s attention. Observe his behaviors around his whining as well as his environment. Once you identify why he is whining, you can work to eliminate the negative behavior. Because it is often a learned behavior that will require retraining for both you and your dog, consider hiring a licensed trainer to assist you in working with your pup.