Do you ever imagine what dogs could say if they could talk? (I know I do.) It would probably help explain some of their behaviors. Sometimes even the cutest dogs do things that are really perplexing for many owners. "Why is she barking", "How come my dog jumps so much?" and "What do they want from me?" might be easier to answer if they could just tell us!
Well, what all these behaviors sound like to me is good old attention seeking. Both humans and our dogs engage in these kinds of behaviors from time to time, and there's nothing necessarily wrong with that - as long as the behavior stays within reasonable limits. Did you know these can be signs of attention seeking behavior?
- Feigning lameness
- Chasing lights or shadows
- Snapping at "imaginary" flies
- Strange bodily contortions and posturing
Gosh - they really can be just like children!
In the right context it's OK for your dog to let you know they need your attention. If a dog barks at his owner as if to say, "Hey you! Over here!" - that's perfectly acceptable communication provided your dog has something to convey (like a stranger at the door) and is otherwise being ignored. Likewise, if you are engrossed in conversation and your dog paws at your leg to solicit your attention, or to be petted, it's no big deal to respond if you're up for it.
But what you have to remember is that your dog will quickly learn what works and what doesn't according to how you respond. The old saying "give them an inch and they'll take a mile" is especially true with some dogs; once they learn that a behavior gets them attention, they won't stop until they get it again.
If you always (or even worse, sometimes) cave in to unreasonable requests, you will get even more of the obnoxious behavior in the future. Little dogs in particular are susceptible to this; they get lots of attention for being cute but then you have to live with the bad habits. The principle involved is "positive reinforcement," in which your dog gets a reaction out of you whenever they do something. Even telling your dog to stop, or reprimanding him, can be rewarding for some dogs - after all, you're paying attention to them. For these dogs some attention, even negative attention, is better than no attention at all. While you might be saying "No, bad dog!", they understand only that their behavior got you to respond.
This information is from my good friend (and a wonderful behaviorist) Nick Dodman. I love helping dogs and so does Nick. We teamed up to bring you some good tips on how to handle these behaviors in dogs. Go to: Attention Seeking Behavior in Dogs
Attention seeking behavior can reach serious proportions. Make sure to nip it in the bud before it becomes a problem.