Improper Attention Seeking in Dogs
Cats and dogs are social animals that like our company. They are also pretty smart. Put those two facts together, and suddenly you have a pet that quickly learns how to make you heed his call. Responding to your pet’s pleas for attention isn’t always a bad thing; for instance, you should take your dog outside to eliminate when he barks at the door. However, if your cat decides that 4:00 a.m. is the best time for cuddling, or your dog always seems to want to play every time you are on the phone, you probably need some help.
If your pet is engaging in an undesirable behavior to get your attention, the best thing to do is ignore him. This teaches him that his behavior has the opposite effect of his intentions. Yes, this can be difficult to achieve, especially if your cat tries to get your attention by standing on your head. Move away from your pet or put him in another room for a minute or two if you feel yourself losing patience. Again, cats and dogs are pretty smart, so your pet will soon learn that certain behaviors don’t work.
To make sure that your buddy doesn’t run the gamut of “naughty” behaviors to try to get your attention (e.g., raiding the trash, meowing or barking, pulling your pant legs, scratching the furniture, etc.), be diligent about giving attention to your pet when he does something that you approve of (e.g., sitting, rubbing against your leg, lying on his bed, scratching the scratching post). That way you will have a courteous kitty or canine in no time.
Finally, should you find that your pet is seeking your attention several times a day or in increasingly mischievous ways, the answer isn’t necessarily more attention, but rather structured attention. Schedule two or three play sessions a day (to total 30-45 minutes) and a couple of short “quiet-attention” times for cuddling, petting, massage, grooming, etc., as long as your pet enjoys these activities. Your cat or dog will be less likely to demand your time if he knows that he will be getting it at regular times each day.