My Dog Wants Attention All the Time
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Many dog guardians talk about their animal companions as if they are their children. This is because the devotion, loyalty, affection, sensitivity and joy inherent in their being makes them feel part of the family. We often idealize them over actual blood relatives. As with family, however, boundaries are important. Developing a strong bond with our dog is important, but when they become too dependent or demanding, problems ensue.
In this AnimalWised article we look at what happens when my dog wants attention all the time. We ask if this is normal behavior, how it can be related to issues such as depression or behavioral problems. To understand how to stop attention seeking behavior in dogs, we also look at the causes of their over-dependency.
Is my dog very dependent on me?
All companion dogs are dependent on their human guardians. By adopting them into our family, we take on the responsibility of providing for their every need. We feed them, provide shelter, take them for exercise and maintain their general well-being. Problems arise when this dependence leads to constant attention seeking from their guardians.
The reasons your dog wants attention all the time can be difficult to determine. It can occur when:
- The dog is insecure about any of their basic needs.
- A family member has inadvertently or purposefully made the dog overly dependent on themselves or another.
- Premature weaning due to early removal from their mother leads to over-dependence.
- They receive inadequate education and training.
- The dog lacks a consistent and healthy routine.
Early experiences are an essential element on an animal's behavior as an adult. For this reason, dogs which have been adopted as adults or have an unknown history may develop attention seeking behavior for unknown reasons.
Symptoms of dependence in dogs
As each dog is an individual with a unique personality, there are many symptoms which indicate over-dependence. The dog will want to attract a family member's attention in various ways, but other behavioral problems can occur. If you want to know whether your dog's attention seeking behavior is unhealthy you can look out for the following signs:
- Excessive barking or similar vocalizations, especially when they are alone.
- Display signs of separation anxiety.
- Destruction of property or scratching at doors when left alone.
- Pushy behavior.
- Fighting with other pets or family members, other than the one to whom they give attention.
- Aggressive behavior towards anyone.
Excessive demand for attention and possessiveness should not be ignored or considered harmless behavior. In addition to causing behavioral problems, it can lead to a decreased bond between human and animal. In acute cases, a ver dependent dog can even become a danger to others.
At this point it is important to note that a dog's behavior is not only determined by their breed or genetic inheritance. It depends largely on their on their development, education and environment providing by their tutor. Although there are breeds which are generally either more independent or more attached, the type of relationship between a human and dog is greatly influenced by socialization, training and routine.
Why is my dog so needy for attention?
If you have a dog in the family which wants attention all the time, it can be difficult to find the underlying cause or causes. Before explaining these causes, let's look at the behaviors dogs employ to get attention from us. They include:
- Taking their toys
- Excessive licking
- Jumping up
- Scratching you with paws
- Walking back and forth
- Chasing their tail
Not all attention seeking signals are completely negative. A healthy dog will want affection from humans. An overly-dependent dog can seek affection too much and become stressed when they do not receive what they believe is a sufficient amount. It is very important to learn a dog's communication signals so you can understand what is and what is not healthy attention seeking.
Here are the main reasons your dog constantly wants attention:
My dog wants attention due to lack of love
One of the most logical reasons for seeking attention all the time is not receiving enough love to be happy. To determine if this is the case, audit the time you spend together. See if you have spent enough time with them, petted them enough or shown your love towards them.
Dogs are sociable animals and require a certain amount of attention to stay balanced. If we do give it to our dog, they may come looking for it. How much healthy attention a dog needs will depend on the individual.
My dog wants attention because they are bored
A lack of affection is not the only motivation for a dog wanting attention all the time. Boredom may be the cause. This occurs frequently in dogs with poor environmental enrichment. If the dog does not have enough around them to provide sufficient stimulation they may look to us to be entertained. Boredom is very dangerous for dogs and can lead to unwanted behaviors, especially if they are particularly intelligent and active animals.
My dog wants attention because they are hungry or thirsty
With busy lives it can be easy to miss the odd feeding for our dog. However, this is unlikely to lead to serious behavioral issues unless it happens regularly. Similarly, a lack of sufficient quality or quantity when we do feed them can be at fault. If your dog is constantly hungry or thirsty all the time they will seek attention from you because you are the one who provides this for them.
My dog wants attention because they are jealous
Dogs can become jealous for various reasons. One of the most common reasons is when a new family member arrives, whether human or animal. Even a dog which has otherwise seemed very stable can become jealous when they see another get attention they previously received.
My dog wants attention because they are unwell
A dog which experiences pain, has an upset stomach, is drained of energy or has any health problem may come to you for relief. You provide everything else in their lives, so they may bark, whine, lick or demand attention in any way because they want to feel better. You will need to look for signs of pain in your dog and any other symptoms which may indicate a health issue. Take them to the veterinarian for diagnosis.
Attention seeking due to poor health can happen at any age, but it is most common in senior dogs. Elderly dogs generally demand more attention because they lose their independence necessarily.
What do I do if my dog demands a lot of attention?
Identifying the cause of your dog seeking attention all the time is the first step of treatment. As we have seen, there are many reasons why this may happen. Those which involve a deficiency in basic needs (i.e. not enough food, mental or physical stimulation, environmental enrichment, etc.) should stop seeking attention all the time if they have these needs met.
Dogs are also active and curious by nature. They need plenty of exercise and to engage in activities which keep them entertained on a daily basis. Each dog is an individual and will need a certain amount of exercise based on certain needs. In general, it is not enough to take them out for 20 min walks on the street. They need to run, play, explore, chase scents and meet other dogs.
By incorporating more outdoor activities, you may reduce attention seeking behavior. Particularly when a dog is suffering boredom, intelligence games can be a great way to keep them entertained and satisfied. A lack of activity and mental stimulation may not only lead to attention seeking behavior. They may also develop other problems such as obesity, destructiveness, anxiety, stress or general frustration.
Hyper-attachment in dogs
When dependence grows to an untenable degree, the problem will be hyper-attachment. This is more than just attention seeking all the time, although this will be part of it. A dog which has become hyper-attached will display various negative emotions when we do not give them attention. The first thing we need to do is not reinforce these negative emotions. If we give them attention every time they ask for it, they will become expectant and can act out when they do not get it.
We need to manage the dog's emotions in a positive way. We can do this by socializing them with other dogs, animals, people and environments. These are important steps to help them relate correctly with others, including yourself.
Maintain a calm attitude when the dog wants attention and ignore them until they calm down themselves. When they do, you can reward them with a treat or a little bit of attention to show them the ideal means to get your attention. This is called positive reinforcement and it is vital for any canine education plan. Likewise, basic obedience will also help them to become more independent.
On the other hand, we will also need to promote a calm physical environment. The dog needs to feel comfortable and have any potential stressors removed. We also need to set up healthy routines which cover all of their physical and emotional needs. Even synthetic pheromones can help the dog to feel more relaxed in their environment.
Finally, many dogs will find themselves in a more complex situation. There are many factors which may be combining to lead to their seeking attention constantly. In this case, the best thing we can do is to contact a canine ethologist. They will be able to assess the individual dog's situation and provide some practical guidance on what can help them become less attached.
If you want to read similar articles to My Dog Wants Attention All the Time, we recommend you visit our Behavioral problems category.