Dogs are social animals that enjoy our company. They are also pretty smart. Put those two facts together, and suddenly you have a dog that quickly learns how to make you heed his call. Responding to your dog’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 dog always seems to want to play every time you are on the phone, you probably need some help.

Ignore your dog

If your dog 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 dog tries to get your attention by standing in your lap. Move away from your dog or put him in another room for a minute or two if you feel yourself losing patience. Again, dogs are pretty smart, so your pet will soon learn that certain behaviors don’t work.

Reward the behavior you do want

Be diligent about giving attention to your dog when he does something that you approve of (e.g., sitting, lying on his bed) to make sure that he doesn’t practice every “naughty” behavior in the book - raiding the trash, barking, pulling your pant legs, chewing the furniture, etc - to get your attention. That way you will have a courteous canine in no time.

Structured Attention

Finally, should you find that your dog 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 dog enjoys these activities. Your dog will be less likely to demand your time if he knows that he will be getting it at regular times each day.

If you would like information from an Anti-Cruelty Society Behavior Specialist regarding this behavior topic, please call 312-645-8253 or email behavior@anticruelty.org.

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