If you are reading this post, you probably already know how annoying a whiny, noisy dog is when you’re hunting or running a competition. Some retrievers are noisier than others, and sometimes genetics are to blame, but is there anything that can be done to stop this behavior? Or even minimize it? Here are some training techniques to help you stop your noisy retriever from whining in the hunting blind or at the line.
Why does my dog whine?
It is unclear exactly why some dogs are noisy, and others are not. There are likely a combination of factors at play.
If your dog is a generally noisy dog and has been since your picked it up from the breeder, it may be a genetic trait passed down through the mother and/or father of your dog. While this theory is a little controversial, it’s likely that there is a genetic component to the whining. But that doesn’t mean that there is no hope to fix it, it just means that your dog may be predisposed to this behavior so you will need to train hard to overcome this natural tendency.
Noise has been encouraged
Many people never consider that they may have encouraged their puppy to make noise, but it is possible. Often, when a puppy cries or whines, owners think it is cute or sad. As a result, they pick the puppy up, hold him close and comfort him. The puppy learns, if I make noise, I get coddled. Another example is when puppies bark or growl. Owners often think this is adorable, cute, or funny. The result is the puppy gets attention when he makes noise.
Although inadvertently, your reactions to your puppy’s noise may have encouraged your puppy to make more noise. By giving attention to your puppy for noise, you may have taught your puppy that whining, barking, or crying gets him attention.
Whine or noise have not been discouraged
This may sound the same as encouraging noise, but it is slightly different. Some people do not actually encourage noise from their pup, but they also do not discourage it.
I always advise owners to jump on the noise problem right away. As soon as you bring your puppy home. If your dog has been whining, crying, or barking for a while and there has been no attempt to correct the behavior, your dog may have learned that whining is okay.
During retrieving training, if your dog has been making noise before, after or during a retrieve, and you have been ignoring this behavior, you likely have been inadvertently rewarding your dog for his noise problem. For instance, if your dog whines at the line and still gets to retrieve the duck or bumper, the dog just got rewarded for his noise.
Excitement and anticipation
Most dogs that whine, do so in anticipation of something, like before a mark is thrown or while sitting in a holding blind at a test awaiting their turn. Hunting dogs whine in anticipation of the duck or geese flying in, knowing that they will get to retrieve. While it is understandable that the dog is excited to get to retrieve, we, as trainers, need to teach our dogs that whining is not an acceptable way to display that excitement.
Some dogs are simply anxious dogs. These are often high energy dogs that don’t know what to do with all the energy they are feeling, so it comes out in the form of noise. These are the hardest ones to train to be quiet. And even when you manage to get some control, during high excitement or high stress, the noise will often return.
How do I get my hunting dog to stop whining?
Let’s be perfectly honest. Whining is not an easy thing to fix. Some dogs whine so often and so naturally they may not even know they are whining. It is just a part of their personality, and these cases are extremely difficult to fix. But most dogs can be taught to control their noise at least to some extent.
Depending on the age of your dog and the level of training, you may need to back up or simplify training to make this process effective.
Young pups, under 6 months of age
If your pup is very young, start discouraging noise right now. If your puppy barks or whines, grab his/her muzzle and squeeze saying a command like QUIET. Be VERY consistent. Do not allow your dog to get away with noise and do not reward your dog for noise in any way.
Here are a few things to watch out for:
- Never let your dog out of his kennel while he is being noisy.
- Never feed your dog while he is being noisy.
- Never pet or praise your dog while they are being noisy.
Take this training very seriously while your puppy is young, and you will eliminate many noise problems before they even start.
Dogs over 6 months of age
If your dog is over 6 months of age, and you have a noise or whining problem, you may need to back up and simplify your training. How far back do you need to go? It will depend on how bad the noise issue is and where you are seeing the noise.
How to stop whining dog in hunting blind
There may be a slightly different approach to stopping noise in the hunting bling verses a hunt test or competition dog. But the hardest step is the first one. Do not take your dog hunting while you have the noise problem.
Remember the discussion about rewarding your dog for noise? Well, hunting a dog with noise issues is getting rewarded each time he retrieves a duck. For retrievers, the retrieve is the paycheck. If they get the retrieve, they have been rewarded.
I understand that you bought the dog for hunting, and that you are anxious to hunt with your dog, but if you do not take steps to stop the noise now, you may as well learn to live with the noise. Because the longer your dog is rewarded with retrieves while he is making noise, the more difficult you make the task of stopping the noise.
Do yourself a favor and concentrate on fixing the noise issue during training and at home, so that your future hunting trips will be relaxing and successful.
How to stop dog noise whining at hunt test
Stopping noise for hunt test dogs is difficult. Hunt tests have a high excitement element that pushes dogs to their limit. If your dog is already noisy, do not start competing in hunt tests until you have solved the noise issue. If you are already competing, stop. This can be a difficult ask, but don’t put your dog in the position of getting rewarded after making noise.
If you are competing in a hunt test and your dog makes noise in the holding blind or at the line, the hardest but best training you can do is to pull your dog off the line, thank the judges and take your dog home. Your dog will learn a valuable lesson, he doesn’t get the retrieve when he makes noise, even though it will cost you some money.
6 steps for stopping noise
If you have decided that stopping your dog’s noise is your goal, here are the steps to use during training to start making progress towards this goal.
1. Develop standards.
How much noise will you tolerate? Preferably, none, because even a little noise can escalate quickly. But you need to draw a line in the sand and enforce that line no matter what. And not only on noise, but you need to up your obedience standards also. Why? Because if your dog is moving on the line, that is going to add to your noise. Work on line-manners. Is your dog keeping his butt on the ground during the marks? If not, step back and work on this. Elevate your standards and enforce them consistently.
2. Simplify training.
If your dog is already running multiple marks (doubles and triples), back up and only run singles. Never progress on training with the noise issue. Once you have control of the noise issue on singles, you will be able move forward again.
For now, run single marks and don’t use duck calls, shots, or any other noise at the line or in the field. We will add these back in as your dog makes progress.
3. Enforce behavior standards.
One mistake many people commit when trying to correct noise, is using an e-collar correction for the noise. The reason this is a problem is that e-collars often elicit noise from the dog with the correction. In addition, e-collars can create anxiety and lead to more noise. This is counter productive to stopping noise.
Instead, use a heeling stick for line manner corrections. And always remember, when enforcing obedience, never nag. Several small corrections are often much worse than one hard correction. Command and enforce.
4. Enforce noise standards.
During training, as you start walking to the line, watch your dog carefully for noise. Any noise and you need to stop, correct your dog for noise with direct or indirect pressure. Direct pressure would be grabbing his muzzle. Indirect pressure would be commanding SIT and giving a stick correction on SIT. Both corrections are to stop the noise.
If you are at the line and your dog makes noise when the bird is thrown, correct your dog for QUIET. Then have the thrower pick up the bird. You can also pull your dog off-line and move back to the holding blind, then return to the line when your dog is quiet.
A heeling stick correction for SIT at the line may help your dog focus on SITTING instead of making noise.
Remember, anything other than a quiet mark gets a correction.
5. Praise quiet and correct behavior.
When you can run a mark and your dog SITs quietly and does not make any noise, praise your dog like he is the best dog ever. Only give your dog praise when a mark is run with him being completely quiet.
Then run another mark. If he is quiet praise him again.
6. End on a positive note.
If you are successful with getting your dog to run a mark and make no noise, stop training for the day. Always end on a positive note, you want your dog to do it right and then be done.
As you start to make progress
As you start to make progress running single marks with no noise from your dog, you can start to add in more stimulating elements such as shot from the thrower station, a call from the thrower station, a duck call from the line and a shot from the line. Only add one element at a time and repeat the steps above until you are getting retrieves with no noise from your dog.
Remember, if your dog is quiet, praise the heck out of him. If he is not, have the thrower pick up the bird, take any noise stimulus away and run the mark again, quietly. When he runs quietly, give him lots and lots of praise.
Remember to take your patience pills
This process will not provide an overnight transformation in your noisy dog. But it will slowly make your dog realize that making noise will delay or deny him the thing he loves most, a retrieve. Trust the process and be patient. Acknowledge small changes and keep working.
Command, don’t yell
While it is very important that you command your dog and that your dog understands that when you speak, they should listen, this doesn’t mean that you need to yell at your dog. Commanding your dog is more about presence. From a young age your dog should learn that you are the alpha dog, the leader, and they need to listen to you. If you have established this presence, then you should be able to voice a command and your dog will listen. Yelling, or barking at your dog does not help. And if you are working with a noisy dog to start with, yelling is going to be more of the issue than the cure.
Final thoughts on how to stop noisy retriever
If your dog is noisy and whiny, you can make strides to control and eliminate this behavior in the hunting blind and on the line at hunt tests, but it is going to take some consistent training and lots and lots of patience. If your dog is exceptionally noisy, you may not get your dog to be quiet 100 percent of the time. Especially if the noise is a genetic trait. But you can make progress and, in the end, make hunting more enjoyable for you and your buddies. Or make running hunt tests less stressful and more productive.
Remember, if you want your retriever to grow and progress in his/her hunting this year but doing the training yourself sounds overwhelming or maybe your schedule is just too busy to get it done, I’m here to help! You can email me (email@example.com) or just give me a call (651-303-6459). I would be happy to discuss your goals for your retriever and tell you about the programs I offer.
Until next time happy retrieving.