Are dogs attention seeking? Let’s Explore

How to deal with attention-seeking dog behaviour

First of all spend some time thinking if your dog’s behaviour is warranted. Are they getting enough exercise? Is the exercise they are getting giving them outlets for their hardwired breed behaviours and energy levels? Do they have plenty of mental stimulation – especially for smart working breeds? Do you spend enough time with them?

If you don’t provide your dog with what they need in terms of physical and mental exercise and social interactions, they can hardly be blamed for going self-employed!

Once you are sure your dog doesn’t have every reason to seek your attention, you can start to work on reducing their excessive attention-seeking behaviours.

What is important however is to reward your dog when they are doing what you want them to do. A sad fact for many dogs is that the only way they can get their owner’s attention at all is by doing something their owners thinks is ‘wrong’. Many people totally ignore their dog when they are sitting or lying quietly, doing exactly what they want him to do, and the only time they are the focus of their owner’s world is when they do something they don’t want them to – like barking at them, jumping on them, chewing things they shouldn’t, running off with something valuable… Anything to get their beloved owners to pay some attention to them.

And of course our attention is rewarding for our dogs, and so once they work out how to get attention, they will keep doing it – because it works!

To prevent or stop attention-seeking behaviours:

  • Don’t ignore your dog when they are being good. Give them your attention when they are doing what you want them to. Reward good behaviour so they are very clear about the appropriate ways to get your attention. In general, if a dog is seeking your attention at the wrong time, it is because you are not giving them enough of it at the right time.
  • Once you are sure your dog does not have every right to expect more attention from you, if they do something you do not want them to do, totally ignore them (if it is safe to do so). Don’t interact with them, talk to them or even look at them until the behaviour stops.
  • If you ignore these behaviours, they will stop (although they may escalate first!) because they aren’t achieving the desired effect ie getting your attention.
  • When the behaviour stops you have to be very quick to reward its absence. Reward what you like, ignore what you don’t. Don’t be tempted to tell your dog off or push them away – that is giving them attention!
  • If the behaviour is not safe to ignore (nipping guests, jumping on children, terrorising granny etc), make use of house lines and baby gates to remove your dog from the scene without any kind of interaction from you.
  • At times when you know your dog is likely to pester you, you can give them a chew or a toy stuffed with food to distract them and give them something to occupy them instead and break the habit
  • With some patience, understanding and management, you can prevent attention-seeking behaviours but if you are struggling to get this under control, seek advice from an accredited and experienced behaviourist.

    Attention-seeking dog behaviour is common – and normal – in puppies. After all, they’ll want their mother to dote on them, will love playing with their littermates and will still be learning their rights from wrongs!

    Attention-seeking dog behaviour is common – and is a totally normal survival mechanism in puppies who rely totally on the care of their mother but as adult dogs, excessive jumping, pawing or barking is difficult to live with and can become annoying.

    Be diligent about giving attention to your dog when he does something that you approve of (e.g., sitting, lying on his bed) to make sure that he doesn’t practice every “naughty” behavior in the book – raiding the trash, barking, pulling your pant legs, chewing the furniture, etc – to get your attention. That way you will have a courteous canine in no time.

    If you would like information from an Anti-Cruelty Society Behavior Specialist regarding this behavior topic, please call 312-645-8253 or email [email protected].

    If your dog is engaging in an undesirable behavior to get your attention, the best thing to do is ignore him. This teaches him that his behavior has the opposite effect of his intentions. Yes, this can be difficult to achieve, especially if your dog tries to get your attention by standing in your lap. Move away from your dog or put him in another room for a minute or two if you feel yourself losing patience. Again, dogs are pretty smart, so your pet will soon learn that certain behaviors don’t work.

    Finally, should you find that your dog is seeking your attention several times a day or in increasingly mischievous ways, the answer isn’t necessarily more attention, but rather structured attention. Schedule two or three play sessions a day (to total 30-45 minutes) and a couple of short “quiet-attention” times for cuddling, petting, massage, grooming, etc., as long as your dog enjoys these activities. Your dog will be less likely to demand your time if he knows that he will be getting it at regular times each day.

    Dogs are social animals that enjoy our company. They are also pretty smart. Put those two facts together, and suddenly you have a dog that quickly learns how to make you heed his call. Responding to your dog’s pleas for attention isn’t always a bad thing. For instance, you should take your dog outside to eliminate when he barks at the door. However, if your dog always seems to want to play every time you are on the phone, you probably need some help.

    Attention Seeking Behavior In Dogs

    Remember how adorable it was when your new, tiny puppy wanted all your love and attention? Well, now they’re fully grown, and it’s not quite so cute. Or perhaps you adopted your new friend from a shelter, and they can’t seem to leave your side. Dog parents need a break from their fur babies every now and then, but it’s difficult when your pet is overly dependent on you. If your dog’s persistent need for play time or affection is getting you down, they may be an “attention-seeker.” And don’t rule yourself out as the cause, sometimes we all love our pooches just a little bit too much.