Dog Behaviour

Sue Gilmore MA FCFBA

Attention Seeking – Are You The Problem?

There is an argument that dogs suffering from separation anxiety are blameless and that we, the owners, are the cause of the problem. It is a valid proposal: the problem is complex, but in my experience when dealing with dogs and their owners over many years, I have observed that we inadvertently condition our dogs for our own psychological comfort and to fulfil our needs. We may not notice or recognise changes that occur in our homes that alter the dynamics of how we go about our daily lives, for example, changing jobs, acquiring a new partner or bringing a new baby into the home. This affects the pet dog in many ways.

The amount of attention and affection given to the dog may be substantially diluted, so she has more time to get up to mischief; more time to spend home alone and more time to experience boredom. In other words, the dog is not needed as much and reacts to the new circumstances by attention seeking; it is also the classic scenario for separation anxiety to develop.

Insecure dogs enjoy company and attention on demand. They follow the owner around the home, paw when the owner may be relaxing or involved in a sedentary task; when frustration reaches the point of exasperation the dog may also bark incessantly to gain attention, even being shouted at or punished, which are forms of attention, may be worth the risk.

When we comply with the dog’s demands, the successful action becomes a habit embedded in the dog’s repertoire of methods to get attention. It works!

When the dog is left alone for any period of time – the owner may be at home in another room – attention seeking becomes a behaviour, which has the potential to develop in separation anxiety. When the owner is getting ready to leave the home, the dog may become boisterous, excessively excitable, quiver or nervously shake and once she is left alone barking and destructive behaviour are common responses.

Problem Solver: Be a Balanced Leader

1            Ignore attention seeking

2            Tell the dog to wait until you are ready to interact with her

3            Ration strokes and cuddles. When your dog demands attention, send her away from you; after a short time call your dog to you for a fuss.

4            Attention should be earned, so simply by calling the dog to you means that she has responded positively to you and can be rewarded with    your affection.