Attention-seeking behaviour in dogs is actually quite common.
Every pet owner has seen their dog demand attention from their loved one from time to time.
This is what makes them adorable, and indeed, demanding attention in moderation is fine.
But if your dog is constantly demanding to be stroked and played with, that’s already a problem.
Love them. While all dogs need plenty of attention to fulfil their needs as social animals, they don’t need your undivided attention 24 hours a day.
It is usually fairly easy to wean a dog off the constant demand for your attention; the key is to learn not to reinforce the behaviour.
Attention-seeking behaviour – Why do dogs need attention
Your dog may be trying to get your attention in a variety of ways.
Common tactics include pawing, trying to stick his nose under your arm, jumping, barking, howling, whining, scratching at doors, stealing or chewing on objects.
While this behaviour, displayed on rare occasions, may seem like a reasonable way to communicate with you, reacting to it can reinforce the behaviour and make it worse.
Some breeds are predisposed to attention-seeking behaviour.
Friendly dogs who enjoy the company of other people and other dogs are much more likely to paw you for attention.
Secondly, attention-seeking behaviour is a trained behaviour.
While you may not have trained them specifically to seek your attention, you have given them a certain response (negative or positive) whenever they do something you don’t like in order to get your attention.
This way, they know that if they bite the sofa or paw at the door, they will get your attention.
The solution to this problem is not easy. Because ideally you should stop paying attention to them, but at the same time you don’t want to ruin your perfectly good sofa because of their tantrums.
Why dogs seek constant attention
Have you ever wondered why your dog demands constant attention? Chances are they do it for the following reasons:
They still have lots of energy
Do you have an energetic dog? Perhaps they’re not getting the amount of exercise they need throughout the day.
Ask yourself how many walks they take during the day and if they’re playing one-on-one with you?
If they don’t get enough breaks to play, they have every right to demand attention.
Usually, if you increase the length of the walk or add another walk per day, it usually stops unwanted attention-seeking behaviour.
They’re still young
Puppies and young dogs have a lot more energy than their adult counterparts.
It’s also the time when they learn attention-seeking behaviour if they are encouraged, so it’s important not to indulge them in it.
To avoid any kind of bad behaviour, you can keep them in the nursery wicket when you’re not home or you’re not in the same room.
Although you can spray the fence with deterrents to avoid puppy bites, it’s best not to give them any attention for it.
The fact is that puppies, like human children, have a short attention span.
So if they begin to display unwanted attention-seeking behaviour, you can introduce short play sessions during the day.
Short indoor play sessions, such as a ball game, or short and simple training sessions.
You have guests coming over
This is another common reason why dogs seek attention; especially if you have a friendly dog who likes to be around people.
More often than not, these dogs really just want to interact with people and don’t know how to do it.
Sometimes they want to play with a guest but the guest ignores them, at which point they will engage in unwanted attention-seeking behaviour.
The same rules apply here. Ignore attention-seeking behaviour unless it becomes too dangerous for your guests.
Behaviour such as biting and name-calling of guests or playing too roughly with children is risky behaviour and should not be tolerated.
In the above cases, you can safely remove them from the situation and put up a baby gate to prevent such behaviour.
You do not appreciate good behaviour
You can do anything to get rid of attention-seeking behaviour, but if you don’t praise them for good behaviour, the bad behaviour will trickle back.
When we reprimand them for bad behaviour, we tell them what they shouldn’t do, which only solves half the problem.
While you tell them what they shouldn’t do, you should simultaneously tell them what you should do – it makes for good training.
So next time they calm down and behave, be sure to praise them for it.
Let’s say your dog paws, pinches, licks only one family member. They follow one family member.
Usually this behaviour is acceptable up to a certain point. If this behaviour interferes with your work or daily chores, we can understand why you would want to address the problem.
Dogs often become attached to one family member because they don’t feel secure without that person.
These dogs are also more likely to experience separation anxiety when that person isn’t around.
Dogs usually behave this way when they lack confidence.
While this behaviour may sometimes be breed-specific, ask yourself if you’ve done anything to break their confidence.
Things like picking your dog up in your arms to protect him from other dogs, or lifting him up a ladder instead of letting him try to do it himself, can affect his confidence.
In situations like this, you should actively work on building up their confidence again.
It will take time, but once you start, you will see a positive change in their behaviour.