Why Does My Dog Need Attention All the Time?

Barking or howling is just one way your dog might ask for attention.
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Dogs who are always seeking attention can get on your last nerve, no matter how much your love them. While all dogs need an adequate amount of attention to fulfill their needs as social animals, they shouldn't require your undivided attention 24 hours a day. It's usually fairly easy to break a dog of needing your attention all the time; the key is to learn not to reinforce these behaviors.

Attention-Seeking Behaviors

Your dog may try to solicit your attention by using a range of behaviors. Common tactics include pawing at you, trying to stick his nose under your arm, jumping up, barking, howling, whining, scratching at doors and stealing or chewing up items. While these kinds of behaviors, exhibited sparingly, might seem like a reasonable way to communicate with you, responding to them can serve to reinforce the behavior and make it worse.

Why Dogs Seek Attention

You need to understand why your dog is seeking your attention. Make sure that he's getting enough exercise -- all dogs need at least 20 to 30 minutes of walking a day, but larger and more active ones need more, in some cases, a couple hours of exercise daily. Besides exercise, consider whether you're spending enough time with your dog, petting him and generally hanging out -- dogs are pack animals who need social contact to stay happy. Some dogs also require a fair amount of mental stimulation, such as obedience training, trick training or regimented activities like dog agility.

Give Him the Silent Treatment

The best way to get your dog to stop displaying attention-seeking behaviors is to ignore him when he does display them. By giving in and fussing him, or even by telling him off, he's getting what he wants -- your attention. The behavior is likely to get worse before it gets better. For instance, he might start barking more loudly and urgently but, once he realizes it's not getting the desired effect, he gives up. Once he's calmed down and stopped seeking attention, pet him and praise him. This way you're reinforcing the positive behavior rather than the negative one.

If All Else Fails

If making lifestyle changes -- such as increasing the amount of exercise he gets -- and ignoring his attention-seeking behaviors have no effect, it might be time to bring in the big guns. Go to see a canine behaviorist or psychologist, who should be able to give you some insight into why your pooch is acting this way, and what you can do to stop him.