Is your dog an attention seeker?
Attention seeking is a common problem presented by dogs of all ages and it presents itself in several different ways. Some are so subtle you may not even realise it, while some are very obvious.
Some attention seeking behaviours include: barking, scratching/whining at the back door, jumping up, mouthing, pawing/nudging, staring and general disobedience.
Dogs that love attention may find satisfaction in even the smallest response from their owner. Any attention is good attention – even verbal punishment and eye contact. Some examples that dog’s may find rewarding and therefore should be avoided are:
- Patting the dog
- Physical contact – such as pushing down a dog that is jumping,
- Verbal responses – not using a suitable tone of voice,
- Laughing – dogs find this highly rewarding!
- Picking the dog up
- Letting the dog inside
- Going outside to the dog to discipline
- Rushing over to the dog
- Not correcting inappropriate behaviour
It may be hard to ignore your dog as the dog’s efforts may become more intense. But do not give in. If you try to ignore the dog and then give in due to frustration, your dog will learn that trying harder for longer is what works. Ignoring your dog until it stops will be even harder next time.
Attention seeking is reinforced easily, and this makes the behaviour likely to continue. There are some things you can do to lessen the attention seeking that your dog displays. Put in place boundaries and rules and be a confident leader to your dog. Just like children dogs need love as well as rules. If your dog is a chronic attention seeker, make sure you are the one initiating all contact between yourself and the dog. When the dog tries to initiate the contact, ignore him until he has given up. All members of the house should follow this rule. Additionally, the dog can work for all that it receives including attention, food, and access to resources. This means the dog should perform a task such as a command or trick before being given privileges like meals and affection. This teaches the dog that it cannot come up and demand what it wants for free.
One of the hardest parts of addressing this is making sure that no one in the house-hold is rewarding the dog accidentally for attention seeking. Persistence and consistency is really important.
In addition to these tips, make sure you spend plenty of quality time with your dog so that he doesn’t feel the need to ask for attention all the time. Consider – is this is the reason that the dog is pestering you for attention in the first place?