Attention Hogs

Many dog owners enjoy the abiding presence of their canine friends. They follow us as we move about our homes and calmly and quietly watch us perform daily tasks. These dogs are interested in sharing space and, simply, being near us. They are not looking for direct engagement or extended interaction.

Fearful dogs often look to their owners for reassurance and engage in behaviors to solicit this. However, there is a much different tone from that of attention hogs.

Is My Dog…….A Hog?

An attention hog…dog interjects into as many moments and activities as possible. His presence can feel like an intrusion, because, it is. He excessively solicits attention with pawing, barking and other behaviors that are hard to ignore. She intrudes on your space and time. It may be challenging to have a phone or in-person conversation. She displays pushy behaviors. For example, after a reasonable playtime, you end the game. Your dog wants to continue, though, and becomes a nuisance in pressing this point. It seems that he can’t settle contently and leave you to your own activities.

Remember that dogs learn quickly which behaviors work to obtain what they want and need. Obtaining owner attention is paramount. Other “good stuff” usually follows.

Exit Center Stage

Fitting into family life in a balanced, harmonious way is the goal of a solid dog training and behavior management plan. No one should have the sense that inordinate amounts of time and energy are spent meeting the demands of the dog. Owner behaviors and routines must change in order for the dog’s behaviors to change.

Dogs do what works for them, so assess how you are responding to your dog’s behaviors. For change to occur, would it be most effective to ignore or re-direct a specific behavior? Perhaps a de-sensitizing program would be useful, as in the “dog barking when I’m on the phone” situation.

Set a few boundaries and be clear about who determines the rituals in the household. (Yes, it’s the humans.) Teach your dog to accept confinement and use it to foster independent activities, which can also boost confidence in a fearful dog. Coping with quiet, alone time must be learned and is difficult for many dogs. The best time to start this training is during puppyhood. Changes are possible with adolescents and adult dogs.

Other Factors at Work

Other factors are at work here, but setting up for less intrusion by the dog is appropriate and healthy for the human/dog relationship. All dogs can benefit from a “learn to earn” lifestyle. It’s never too late to institute one. Consider it your dog’s job to “think and work” for what he wants and needs. It’s a strategy that can really help to shift the human/dog dynamic to a more manageable and enjoyable balance. Ultimately, behavior issues become less likely.


Copyright © Kimberly B. Mandel   CPDT-KA, 2017 all rights reserved

Kimberly Mandel Canine Behavior and Training LLC