How to Stop a Dog’s Ten Attention-Seeking Habits Instantly!

We all love our dogs to bits; but aren’t there just some habits – like jumping up – that can get a bit annoying after a while? (Imagine how your guests feel!) Then there are the attention-seeking habits you don’t even realize are happening.

Does your dog have your attention ‘on tap’ every waking hour of every day? Who exactly is living on whose terms?

Why do we accept some attention-seeking behaviours as just part of our dog’s personality? And when do those attention-seeking habits turn into truly “bad habits,” usually causing a dog owner to seek out professional help? Why do dog owners wait until they are at “the end of their rope” to start talking about changing or stopping these unacceptable habits?

Let’s take a closer look at some of our dog’s attention-seeking patterns that can often turn into habitual and challenging behaviours.

What is a habit? Here’s how “habit” is defined in the Dictionary.com:

hab·it

1 [hab-it]    Show IPA noun

  1. An acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary: the habit of looking both ways before crossing the street.
  2. Customary practice or use: daily bathing is an American habit.
  3. A particular practice, custom, or usage: the habit of shaking hands.
  4. A dominant or regular disposition or tendency; prevailing character or quality: she has a habit of looking at the bright side of things.
  5. Addiction, especially to narcotics (often preceded by “the”).

A lot of our own habits, as well as those of our dogs, fall under one of the five definitions above.  When we focus on teaching our dog ‘good habits,’ we are aiming for the first definition. For example: when teaching a dog to “sit,” we repeat this behaviour repeatedly, usually with food rewards, until the dog starts doing it without thinking about it anymore. This pattern of behaviour has now become involuntary. This is what true “training” is all about. But what if demanding your attention on a 24/7 basis has become your dog’s new pattern of behaviour or habit?

Well, your dog is now addicted to your attention and will do ANYTHING to get it! (See definition #5 above!)

The Top 10 Dog Attention-Seeking (or addictive) Habits (some obvious ones are first):

  • Jumping up on you (or others)
  • Barking or whining at you
  • Pawing or nosing you
  • Bringing something to play with to you and demanding you join in
  • Rolling over to get their belly rubbed (oh yes, it works every time!)

Below are some of the more subtle habits which – at first glance – might not seem to be about you at all or even attention-seeking. But each of these habits were developed or encouraged while giving your dog attention (either positively or negatively):

  • Sitting on your feet, leaning against your leg or placing their head in your lap
  • Playing or chewing something they are not allowed to have, turning it into a game
  • Chewing or licking themselves (sometimes loudly)
  • Chasing their tail or chasing light or shadows
  • Barking at something when there seems to be nothing there

Now, these latter behaviours may start out as attention-seeking behaviours; but did you know that most of them can turn into almost neurotic behaviours if:

  1. Your dog is encouraged to continue the behaviour; or
  2. Your dog is under a lot of stress and uses one of these habits to cope with that stress?

I could go on and on with this list as dogs are highly intelligent creatures and know us inside out (sometime better than we know ourselves!). Where and whenever they received your attention, they will probably use that exact same behaviour again if something else doesn’t work to get your attention!

How to Stop these Habits

Well I may have already given this one away when I said “Instantly” in the title; because the easy answer is to just Ignore It!

The hardest part in stopping these habits is to be aware of them in the first place!  Once you are more aware of your dog’s behaviour, ask yourself, ‘Is my dog trying to get my attention on their terms or mine?’

If the answer is “on their terms,” then look away instantly; moving your whole head, not just your eyes. Remember, they are trying to get your attention! So moving your eyes is good, but if your dog is a pro at this (and most are), they will simply move back into your line of sight. By moving your head away (along with your eye focus) you are delivering a stronger message to your dog that you do not want to interact at the moment. Try it! You will still be able to see your dog in your peripheral vision. Just do not look at him or her directly … doing so means “attention” to your dog.

Some of your dog’s behaviours are also about personal space. We all have personal space, humans and canines. Our dogs need to understand when we want our personal space back. You can use the technique of looking away (as you learned above) for more annoying attention-seeking habits as well … like jumping up on you. If your dog begins jumping up on you, either move away from the dog (if you are standing up) or gently (but quickly) push your dog out of your space and let go. Do not speak to them. If you’re still holding onto your dog’s collar at this point or if your hand is still lingering on their body, your addicted dog may very well misinterpret your real intent and enthusiastically try to make this into a fun new game! Keep your actions calm, assertive, yet gentle, so your dog doesn’t see your actions as exciting and engaging like when you DO want to interact with your dog.

Quiet confidence will effectively get your message across. If you do forget and speak to your dog, just watch how quickly your dog gets excited (or even overexcited)! (Translation: Woo Hoo, I just got their attention!)

You are now teaching your dog that attention on your terms is about Quality not Quantity.

For habits that are more subtle (but can still turn into more serious behavioural problems if allowed to continue) or if you are having trouble discouraging unwanted attention-seeking behaviour, seek a professional’s advice.

Did you find this article interesting? Let us know by leaving a message below and sharing it with other dog owners too!

For more information about the Dog Owners Coach, or to book a consultation, please visit my website at www.4dogenterprises.com/coaching or find me on Facebook at The Dog Owners Coach.

 

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One response to “How to Stop a Dog’s Ten Attention-Seeking Habits Instantly!”

  1. replica plants says :

    Thanks for finally writing about >How to Stop a Dogs Ten Attention-Seeking Habits Instantly!
    | 4dogday <Liked it!

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