Attention Seeking Hounds

LOOK AT ME- How to deal with Attention Seeking Dogs

We all have an idea about our perfect dog. The dog who gets their walk, a fuss and settles quietly in the corner (or on your lap!) But what do you do when your dog is running around barking, chewing, nipping, whining and doing ANYTHING to get your attention? Far from the dog owning experience you were expecting I am sure!

So why does a dog behave like this? Alot of people will quickly respond that their dog is attention seeking. In some cases this can be true, and is a reflection of a dog who has not learned to be independent and may be demonstrating signs of anxiety. However alot of the time you have a dog exhibiting these behaviours because they are simply bored and have not been taught an acceptable way to channel their energy and busy mind. This is often very true of the teenage dog with hormones rushing around! So what do we do about these dogs? Do we cater to their every whim , giving them attention whenever they want it? Or do we ignore them for the majority of the day, teaching them being high energy gets them NOTHING…

The answer lies somewhere inbetween. There is no use ignoring a dog who knows no alternative behaviours, you are just ignoring a dog because you have not taught him what you want him to do. A dog doesn’t come pre programmed to know what we want, depending upon breed and individual differences our dogs have different instincts and relationships with people. Its important to ensure that your dogs needs are met before deciding simply to ignore the behaviour. Ignoring *can* be effective if you ignore that behaviour forever pretty much, eventually your dog may stop…but be sure not to react when your dog pops up with it again during an extinction burst! Ignoring a dog scratching at doors, crying, whining, barking…not ideal living for us, never mind the dog getting themselves into a state! Chances are we cannot forever ignore dogs who “attention seek”, so we need alternatives but giving them attention each time they ask for it can create dogs who struggle to relax.

We need to make sure we have met our dogs needs before we begin looking at attention seeking. How much walking does your dog get? Is it a good walk with onlead and offlead time? (where appropriate) Is your dog exhibiting these behaviours at a certain time everyday?
Its important to re examine what is working and what needs help when a dog begins to display these behaviours, often a lot of the time the dog NEEDS something else to do within the home, which is why they are displaying these behaviours we would deem attention seeking. They are bored. Often the best course of action is rewarding calm behaviour AND giving alternatives to any disruptive behaviours. When my Whippet was having issues with similar behaviours i was told to ignore him…well we got a scratched up door and he learned i would ignore him, so he ramped up behaviours he wouldn’t usually bother with. Excessive digging up of furniture, stealing items,  barking at us. The initial issue was him wanting to go outside every 5 minutes but not needing to pee, but we ended up with lots of problem behaviours unrelated! If your dog is “attention seeking” it is likely that they are a high energy, highly intelligent dog who is bored. Give them something else to do and ensure their day to day needs are met.

So what are Wagging Wonders top tips for preventing disruptive behaviours?

1. If you feed your dog in a bowl, change that. There are many slow feeders and puzzle toys on the market to feed your dog their food in. This will help to tire your dog mentally. If a dog isn’t mentally and physically tired then they will exhibit other behaviours to keep themselves busy. Look at what you are feeding your dog, often dogs exhibiting the types of behaviour we are referring to are on food that is packing them full of sugars! Check out http://www.allaboutdogfood.co.uk/ to see how your dog food rates. What goes into your dog has a big influence on their behaviour.
2. Look at their walks. Do they need longer walks? More enriched walks? Or even shorter walks in case of the frantic onlead and offlead? In all of the above be sure to give your dogs varied walks, letting them sniff and meet new dogs (where reactivity is not an issue)
3. Teach your dogs to relax. Some dogs just don’t naturally have an off switch. Reinforcing calm behaviours is needed to ensure these dogs learn to have that off switch they may not naturally possess. Ensure you teach your dog to be able to relax away from you as well as in your presence, time apart is good for building confidence and independence. If your dog has a safe space give them something tasty there to have a good chew on. Kikopup has a great video on this! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wesm2OpE_2c
4. Provide your dog with plenty of environmental enrichment. Kongs. Snuffle Mats. Nina Ottosson puzzle toys. Kongs and similar are a great way to teach your dogs how to relax and focus on a task rather than look for other more disruptive alternatives. You can freeze Kongs and they now come in a wider range of variety than just the red or black ones. You can now get Kong Quest toys in a variety of shapes and sizes to suit different dogs. As well as this natural chews such as stagbars and fish skins.
5. Play with your dog! Play builds a stronger bond with your dog and ensures that they are using mental and physical energy in one go. Flirt poles are a great way to train and play for dogs finished growing. Be sure to rotate toys and enjoy time with them. The more your dog enjoys your presence the more confident they feel with you.
6. Build a stronger bond with short training sessions. Simple obedience, lead walking, tricks, there are many things you can do to build that bond. Its not about creating a robotic dog who will listen to your every command, but building a relationship where your dog is happy to be around you and listen. This will help tire them mentally.
7. Try to stick to a routine, a dog who knows what is going to happen in their day will be more likely to be relaxed and calm.

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