In the Doghouse: A Guide to Behavioral Problems in Dogs

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Attention Seekers

Both we and our dogs engage in a little attention getting behavior from time to time, and there’s nothing particularly wrong with that — as long as the behavior stays within reasonable limits. If a dog barks at his owner as if to say, “Hey you! Over here!” — that’s perfectly acceptable communication if your dog has something to convey 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. If you always (or even worse, sometimes) cave in to unreasonable requests, you will get even more of the obnoxious behavior in the future. The principle involved is “positive reinforcement,” which effectively ensures that you reap what you sow. Even telling your dog to stop, or reprimanding him, can be rewarding for some dogs. The principle here is that some attention, even negative attention, is better than no attention at all.

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