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.
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 issue referred to behaviorists.
What to Do
Dogs learn how to behave – and this learning only takes place when behavior is reinforced in some way. It's helpful if you can recognize 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 behavior is ignored and rarely rewarded for its own sake.
By understanding the principles, it becomes easier to rectify the behavior.
In general, dogs should learn and practice 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.
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 behavior 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 behavior 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' behavior is rewarded and 'bad' behavior is ignored.
If the problem still persists, ask your vet for assistance or for a referral to a behavioral specialist – particularly if your dog becomes aggressive.
With understanding, consistency, and patience, you can soon teach your dog better manners and to be less dependent on you.