Seeking attention from its owners (and other people) is a very natural behavior for a dog, after all dogs are just like us humans, social animals that lives in packs and who relies on each other and thus they sometimes need your help or want to warn you from a danger of some kind. Dogs actively searching for our attention is also the easiest to train. Soo attention seeking is not a problem in itself and there is a certain charm in a dog seeking your attention to get caressed or bringing you a toy to get you to play with him/her and fine, in the case of a well raised and well-balanced dog this behavior is often considered both acceptable and even desirable in a dog.
However, in many cases, attention seeking really gets overboard. It becomes very annoying and a real problem. Just imagine a dog constantly following you around, wherever you go. A dog who follows you to the bathroom and then stays outside the bathroom door howling or crying until you get out again. A dog who is constantly pawing, barking, putting himself just in front of your feet so you would trip over him when you walk.
Not to mention a dog which will be all over your visitors putting himself between you and them, jumping, licking and being all over them. In these cases attention seeking becomes a real problem as dog gets in your way all the time and prevents you from going on with your daily life and chores. Now there a several reasons why dogs develop the habit of constantly seeking attention and there are ways to prevent and to “cure” this problem as well.
Why do dogs become “attention seeking monsters”
There are different reasons why dogs become “attention seeking monsters” but in most cases it is a question of the dog being constantly spoiled and not properly raised and socialized. Young puppies constantly seek attention, this is a natural behavior for them and in the wild it is necessary for survival. If they always get attention whenever they seek it they will continue to seek it. So a young puppy who is constantly spoiled, petted and played with is going to develop this behavior and it will often get worse as the puppy gets older.
Young puppies are adorable and irresistible and most people just can’t help but playing and cuddling the cute little puppy whenever it demands for attention (which is most of the time). Of course, being the center of attention all the time is going to feel great for this furry little friend so it will keep seeking attention all the time and the problem will begin.
In the beginning, this might not seem like a problem at all, having a cute little puppy always wanting to be cuddled or played with but then suddenly there are situations where you might have things to do and the puppy is always in the way, not letting you do what you need to and there seem to be no way of getting rid of it. Imagine the cute little Labrador who jumped on your visitors and who now weighs in at 80 pounds (35 kilos) and who still jumps on them.
A puppy who was allowed to sleep on your bed and now takes up most of it and hardly gives you any room to sleep.
Rescue dogs can often develop this sort of behavior. A dog who has been abandoned and/or badly treated will look up to and attach itself strongly to person who adopts and takes care of it and will constantly keep his/her owner very close. Again this is a question of training and socialization and this could be achieved even if the dog is older.
A dog who are constantly seeking attention could either be very confident (he thinks his in charge and should always get what he wants) or have a complete lack of confidence thus feeling afraid and lonely whenever you are not in sight.
What to do about excessive attention seeking
If your dog is constantly seeking attention from you and this is becoming a problem then it is time to take action. This is not too difficult but it does require patience and consistency. It is important that all members of your household co-operate and act the same way.
The thing to do is to set boundaries and make the dog understand that it getting attention will be on your terms and not his/hers. You decide when it is time to play, time for affection etc so you will take the initiative to this. Not your dog. For example if your dog is pawing you to get caressed then ignore it and turn away. Later call your dog over and caress it. If your dog wants to play and bring a toy over, ignore it and a little later you call your dog over and encourage it to pick up the toy and you play.
These things will teach your dog that insisting on getting attention is not going to work. Your dog will understand that you will be in charge and that waiting patiently will be rewarded. This tactic will only work if all members of your family does this. If some of you still give the dog attention when ever it asks for it and others don’t then the dog will only be confused and you will not get the desired results, consistency is important. Remember, YOU are in charge, not your DOG. You will decide when it is convenient to play or to give affection. You have to act like a real pack leader here. This way your dog will respect you, be calmer and feel more secure.
So the bottom line here is ignore your dog when it is seeking attention and then take the initiative and give your dog attention when you feel it is appropriate.
So what could be considered acceptable when it comes to attention seeking? Well that is really only up to you. Your dog needs to behave in a way that you can live with and find acceptable and these are the limits you need to teach your dog.
Some useful tips
- Be consistent. When training you must be consistent and stick to the rules you have set out, if you give your dog attention at one point and then ignore the next time it is not going understand what you expect from it.
- Make sure all family members act the same way, otherwise the dog will be confused and you will not get the results you expect.
- Engage your dog in obedience training. Training your dog to obey commands such as sit, stay, lie down is very useful when your dog becomes to “sticky” and demanding. It will also establish you as its leader.
- Teach your dog to go to its bed and stay there. Make this a fun game and reward your dog when it calmly stays in bed.
- Avoid any attention such as yelling or pushing your dog off. Avoid touch and eye contact. For an attention seeking dog being yelled at or pushed away is a “reward” as it means it is getting attention.
- If your dog try to get up on your lap when you are sitting, get up quickly and turn away from the dogs.
- You decide when it is appropriate to give your dog attention and when enough is enough.
- In some cases, chemical additives in dog food can make dogs hyperactive and thus attention seeking. Then change to natural raw food.
When you apply these principles and let all attention be on your terms your dog will learn and soon its behavior will change. Thus, you ease back a little and allow your dog to seek attention and affection when you find this appropriate.
The behavior of a dog constantly seeking attention is very much like the one of a spoiled child and the and the effects can be similar. A spoiled child can indirectly rule an entire family since everything is done to please him/her and other family members are being put aside. The situation with a spoiled, attention seeking dog can be similar since the family can not function properly as the dog always gets in the way. Dogs do need attention, affection and play but this must be on your terms and fit with the lifestyle of the entire family.
Remember, you are in charge you decide what is acceptable what is not.
By following these simple tips, your dog will soon be more balanced and the constant attention seeking will stop.
Should you need any more assistance in dealing with your overly attention seeking dog, then Doggy Dan can help you out. Doggy Dan runs the Online Dog Trainer and has many years of experience in dealing with overly attention seeking dogs and just about every dog related problem you can think of. Here is a link to Doggy Dans site.
I hope you enjoyed this post and if you have any questions, comments or tips you would like to share please leave them below.