I regularly have discussions with dog owners about their dog’s behaviour being demanding, or attention seeking, as opposed to their behaviour expressing some physical need, such as needing to go out to toilet.
And so called ‘attention seeking’ behaviours, whatever that means, are commonly listed as behaviour problems by pet owners, potentially affecting their relationship with their dogs (Hoffman et al, 2013).
Behavioural needs are just as important as physical and should not be viewed as some luxury dogs only get upon our whims.
Framing behaviour as “attention seeking” or “demanding” is a human hang-up! Behaviour functions, as in, dogs, like other animals, do behaviours that work. If you reinforce behaviour, such as sitting, by feeding your dog, does that make sitting “demanding” or “begging”? It’s just behaviour, whether you like it or not!
Indeed, we have selected for attention seeking behaviours, communicating with us (Persson et al, 2015).
A lot of the behaviours that work for dogs are directed at us. They are communicating with us, communicating their needs. They are not “manipulating” us to get what they want; there’s no need for negative connotations or sensitivity.
Dogs have no ways of providing for their own needs. WE control everything.
I LOVE when a dog becomes an even better human-trainer and indeed that’s what I strive for…to become really easy for my dog to teach.
We learn together, we develop a dance of communication, we build a relationship.
What’s so wrong with your dog seeking attention?
While I do quite like a reframing of these concepts as “connection seeking”, for example, what’s so wrong with your dog seeking attention?
Connection, contact, interaction, acceptance and yes, attention, are all fundamental needs of social creatures. We live for it!
There’s nothing ”wrong” with seeking attention. Of course, there’s no “bad” behaviour at all but WE are the demanding ones…seeking to command & control.
Your dog’s behaviour is information. Your dog only has you. You are their world.
Their attempts at communicating should not be ignored or dismissed. They have limited means to inform us of their needs and meet them for themselves.
Give Attention. Freely.
You might not always be able to attend to your dog. That’s ok. I am not coming down on you because you have other things to do, or simply don’t want to engage right at that moment. You’re human.
And sometimes, if you dog isn’t able to settle themselves, isn’t able to be ok without your attention, they might need some extra support.
You can always get in touch should you be concerned.
What do the pictures involving ‘attention seeking’ behaviours look like? Identify those pictures.
- give so much attention, freely, in every other picture
Your dog doesn’t have to earn your attention, interaction, connection or affection.
- Learn to recognise their requests.
Do they need your time, attention, contact, food, your help? Are they asking to go out, come in, be comforted, for play & fun…?
All are legitimate needs that must be met.
- In which pictures do these behaviours occur? Predict & prevent!
Provide your dog with alternative outlets for their needs before this picture/context starts. Help them work through these contexts so that they can engage in more independent behaviour.
- It’s OK to not be able to provide all the attention all the time. Make lots of fun, attention & interaction available at other times.
- Actively teach your dog to JUST BE
Your dog doesn’t need to be doing things all the time. They need time and space to be bored, to muse, to stare into space.
Do you do #100DaysOfEnrichment? Start today…it’s free and fun!
So what if they ARE attention seeking?! Give it. Freely.
2 thoughts on “But so what if they are attention seeking?”
LOVE THIS. That is all I can say ❤️
Well I love that you are saying that!! Thanks so much!
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