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What to Do About Attention-Seeking Dogs?

All dogs look for attention, and all dogs need it.  But there are some dogs that go way overboard.  It doesn’t necessarily reflect poorly on your pooch.  Attention-seeking happens for a lot of different reasons.  Sometimes it is an abrupt change in your availability (maybe you adopted your dog over a vacation, and now you’re back at work).  Other times it could reflect on your dog’s past. 


Regardless of the why, excessive attention-seeking behaviors can easily drive you crazy.  Barking at all hours, waking you up in the night, jumping on every person who walks through the door … of these can make you feel overwrought. 


So what can you do about them?  Here are some tips and tricks.


Jumping on People


Jumping can come from all kinds of motivations.  Sometimes a dog jumping up on you is challenging your dominance.  Other times, she is just excited.  Oftentimes, jumping becomes a learned habit because initially, it is greeted with mutual enthusiasm.  When you first got your dog, jumping is something you might have let go because you thought it was cute.  But now it’s just annoying—especially when it happens to house guests.


Remember, if your dog is after attention, any attention can be interpreted as a reward, even negative attention.  For that reason (and because negative reinforcement is not the way to go), do not yell at him or do anything else to try and punish him.


What you can do is stop rewarding the behavior by responding to it.  As difficult as it may seem, what you need to do is turn your back when he tries to jump on you, and refuse to respond to him until he is sitting was standing with all of his paws firmly on the floor. When that does happen, you can use positive reinforcement by talking to him in a low voice, petting him, or giving him a treat.


The hardest aspect of this usually is getting other people to go along with it. Make sure that everybody you bring over knows exactly what you are trying to do, and request that they follow your lead.


Excessive Barking


Dogs bark for a lot of reasons, many of them helpful. Your dog wants you to know when there are strangers nearby, or when he is scared or frustrated. But some dogs bark for attention, because at some point you were somebody else rewarded that behavior.


Like the jumping, you must not respond to the barking when it serves no real purpose. Do not yell; your dog interprets this as human barking. When your dog is making demands, ignore those demands until he decides to be quiet. When he does choose to be quiet, you can reward him immediately. Gradually, he will replace the barking behavior.



Chewing Through Everything in the House


This is probably the most tedious and destructive form of attention seeking behavior. If you catch your dog chewing something, the best approach is to hold out an alternate object like a toy. If he relinquishes the object he’s chewing, give him the toy and reward him in some way. If you do not catch them in the act, there is really nothing you can do about the specific incident.


You can prevent chewing by exercising your dog to run through excess energy. You should also be aware that chewing can point toward separation anxiety. If you need to leave the house, turn the television set or radio on. Make sure that your dog has plenty of comforting and fun indestructible dog toys to provide entertainment and company in your absence.


It can be a challenge to retrain attention seeking behaviors in dogs. But generally speaking, behavioral problems like these were learned at some point in the past, whether from you or another owner. As such, it is possible to change these behaviors by rewarding the right behaviors instead of responding to the wrong ones.