Dogs love to be with and please their owners, so it’s only natural that they should seek our attention. However, if yours goes a bit too far, you’ll need to know how to deal with it.
Inappropriate behaviour Dogs often seek both our attention and affection. Intelligent or demanding dogs learn quickly how to get it, but sometimes it can all get a bit too much.
Many dogs learn to get our undivided attention through excessive barking, jumping up and pawing, biting the lead, stealing items, stereotypical behaviours such as tail-chasing, and even aggression.
In fact, inappropriate attention-seeking behaviour is a common assessment referred to behaviourists.
What to do Dogs learn how to behave – and this learning only takes place when behaviour is reinforced in some way. It’s helpful if you can recognise the ways in which you reward out-of-control attention-seeking, even if you don’t know you’re doing it.
For example, your dog may bark when you’re on the phone. This annoying habit is often ignored, except for occasional reprimands to be quiet – which only rewards and reinforces the unwanted barking.
The barking continues because: a) it achieves results – your call is interrupted; and b) quiet behaviour is ignored and rarely rewarded for its own sake. By understanding the principles, it becomes easier to rectify the behaviour.
Basic training In general, dogs should learn and practise the basic obedience exercises, especially the ‘Sit’, ‘Down’, ‘Stay’ and ‘Heel’ commands.
It’s also very important to be consistent. Dogs may be asked to ‘Sit’ before getting anything they want, whether it’s attention, petting, food or play to help teach them calm emotional restraint around people.
Lead control Dogs that jump, leap and run out of reach should be kept on a lead any time a problem is anticipated. This is far better than trying to put the lead on after the bad behaviour has begun.
For example, if your dog jumps up on visitors, attach the lead before you open the door so you can control and correct the behaviour if necessary.
Stimulate your dog Dogs that seek your attention a lot sometimes lack adequate physical and mental stimulation. Attention should be given little and often throughout the day, and when you don’t give any, get your dog used to the signs of being ignored (turn your back and avoid eye contact, touch, speaking, etc.). All contact with the dog must be initiated and ended by you.
Reward your dog! Dogs learn quickly to behave if ‘good’ behaviour is rewarded and ‘bad’ behaviour is ignored.
If the problem still persists, ask your vet for assistance or for referral to a behavioural specialist – particularly if your dog gets aggressive.
With understanding, consistency and patience, you can soon teach your dog better manners and to be less dependent on you.