Attention seeking behaviour in dogs is actually quite common. Every pet owner has seen their dogs demand for attention, from the person they love, once in a while. It is what makes them adorable and really asking for attention in moderation is okay. But if your dog is asking to be petted and played with all the time, it is a problem.
Here’s Why Your Dog Wants Constant Attention
Certain breeds are predisposed to attention-seeking behaviours. Friendly dogs that enjoy the company of other people and other dogs are far more likely to paw at you for attention.
Secondly, attention-seeking is a trained behaviour. Though you may not have intentionally trained them to seek your attention, you have given them some response (either negative or positive) whenever they do something, you don’t like for your attention.
So, they know if they bite the sofa, or paw at the door, they will get your attention. Now the solution to this is not so simple. Because ideally, you should stop paying attention to them, but then you also don’t want to ruin your perfectly good sofa because of their tantrum.
But why does your dog ask for constant attention? They are probably doing it for the following reasons:
1. They Still Have A Lot Of Energy
Do you have a high energy dog? It might be that they aren’t getting the amount of exercise they need throughout the day. Ask yourself, how many walks are they going on throughout the day and are they having one on one play sessions with you?
If they aren’t getting enough play breaks, they have every right to demand attention. Usually, if you increase the duration of a walk or add another walk in the day, it usually stops the unwanted attention-seeking behaviour.
2. They Are Still Young
Puppies and young dogs have much more energy than their adult counterparts. This is also the time when they learn attention-seeking behaviours if they are encouraged so, it is important to not indulge in this behaviour with them.
To avoid any kind of bad behaviour you can keep them in a baby gate when you are not home or not in the same room. Though you can spray deterrents on the fence to avoid puppy biting, it is best not to give them any kind of attention for it.
The thing about puppies is that they have short attention spans just like human children. So, if they have started indulging in unwanted attention-seeking behaviours, you can introduce short play sessions throughout the day.
Short indoor play sessions like indoor fetch or short and simple training sessions in the yard, or at home, throughout the day may be what they need to stop the attention-seeking behaviours.
3. You Have Guests Over
This is another common reason for dogs to seek attention; especially if you have a friendly dog who loves to be around people.
Most of the time, these dogs really just want to interact with people and they don’t know-how. Sometimes, they want to play with the guest but the guest ignores them, so they indulge in unwanted attention-seeking behaviours.
The same rules apply here. Ignore attention-seeking behaviour unless it becomes too risky for your guests. Behaviours like nipping and mouthing guests or playing too roughly with kids, are risky behaviours and should not be tolerated.
In the above cases, you can safely remove them from the situation and put them in a baby gate to discourage this behaviour.
4. You Don’t Appreciate Good Behaviour
You can do everything to get rid of attention-seeking behaviour but unless you praise them for their good behaviour, some kind of bad behaviour would seep back in.
When we dismiss them for bad behaviour, we tell them what they shouldn’t do which solves only half the problem. While you tell them what they shouldn’t do, you must simultaneously tell them what you should do as well – that makes for a good training session.
So, the next time they settle down and behave favourably, make sure to give them a lot of praise for it.
Psychological Reasons For Clingy Behaviour
Now, let’s say your dog paws at, nips, licks only one member in the family. They follow one family member around. Usually, this behaviour is accepted up to a certain point. If the behaviour is making it difficult for you to work or do daily chores, we can understand why you want to address it.
Dogs are often clingy with one family member because of their lack of confidence without that person. These dogs are also more likely to have separation anxiety when that person is not around.
Dogs usually behave like this when they lack confidence. Though this behaviour can sometimes be breed-specific ask yourself if you have done something to break their confidence. Things like picking them up to protect them from other dogs or picking them up the stairs instead of letting them try it on their own can affect their confidence.
In situations like these, you must actively work to build their confidence once again. It will take time but once you get started you will start to see positive changes in their demeanour.
Here’s What You Should Know About Training To Get Rid Of Attention Seeking Behaviour
Attention seeking behaviour gets engraved in our dogs once they know they can have their way with it. The longer we take to address it, the worse it gets.
When the behaviour no longer worked in their favour, the behaviour will temporarily get worse. They may throw tantrums for not getting things done their way, much like children.
This may be severe in rescue dogs because they used to do something to get their way in the previous environment which is no longer working in their new environment.
One of our team members adopted a street dog. Her puppy has been a joy to her for all these years, but when she was newly adopted, she had picked up some unwanted behaviours from the street.
Begging for food was one of them. She began by whining for food; we predict that whining on the streets usually got her food from passerby’s on the streets. When that did not work, she started scratching feet, pawing at furniture, ruining cushions and ultimately peeing on the floor during meal times. It escalated for the next few weeks.
After weeks of ignoring her during meal times, she finally understood that begging for food was not going to give her any food.
It is hard to get rid of constant attention-seeking behaviour even after all their needs are met and it will test your patience but if you respond with silence they may pick up on it, fairly quickly.
Does your dog want constant attention? What are some attention-seeking behaviours in dogs that you find tolerable and what are the ones that are unacceptable? Let us know in the comment section below.