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Puppy Training: Why You Should Ignore Attention-Seeking Behaviors

It’s safe to assume that everyone understands how frustrating it can be to come into contact with dogs who exhibit attention-seeking behaviors. Perhaps the most common and annoying attention-seeking behavior exhibited by dogs is loud, persistent barking. Even owners who love their dogs dearly can become disheartened and irritated by their dog’s behavior, but what they may not recognize is that they taught their dog to act this way–by refusing to ignore these unwanted behaviors.

Ignoring Attention-Seeking Behaviors Early On

There is nothing wrong with dogs who bark, as long as they are barking for a good reason. A dog who barks at an intruder, for example, is doing his job. However, a dog who barks at his owners, neighbors and even strangers constantly and all day long is not barking for a good reason. He is barking because he has learned that this is how to get attention.

Preventing undesirable attention-seeking behaviors and fostering calm obedience in adult dogs begins with how you train your puppy. This is not difficult to understand when one considers that how children are raised affects how they behave as adults. Preventative measures taken during a puppy’s formative years can make for a far more pleasant relationship during their adult years.

One can have enormous success with their puppy’s training if they simply ignore unwanted behaviors, which effectively fails to reward the puppy and therefore makes the behavior less interesting to pursue. Some of these unwanted, attention-seeking behaviors include jumping, barking, pushiness, mouthing, stealing and pawing. Many dog owners unintentionally reward, and therefore reinforce, these behaviors by giving their dog attention. Perhaps the attention given is yelling at the dog, or telling them to stop, but the bottom line is that any sort of attention is enough reward to tempt the dog into persisting with that behavior. That said, an owner would do well to dig deeper and discover the root cause for their puppy’s attention-seeking behavior.

Many dogs who exhibit attention-seeking behaviors do so because they are anxious. They may not have enough social relationships or structure in their environment, and so will resort to attention-seeking behaviors as a way to ease their anxiety and stress. They may need more social interaction with other dogs or humans, or they may need deeper training to help them relax into a calmer, more obedient behavior pattern.

Breaking attention-seeking behaviors can be a long and difficult, albeit extremely rewarding, process. First off, one must understand that any engagement with their dog, including eye contact, turning toward them, saying “No!”, pushing them off your body or talking to them, counts as rewarding attention, and will not lead to an elimination of the undesirable behavior. One must be silent and turned away from their dog. If your dog cannot see you when the behavior begins, as in frantic barking, one must not become visible to their dog while the behavior continues, as this alone will be a reward. If this attention-seeking behavior was ever rewarded in the past and is now suddenly not rewarded, the dog will likely increase the intensity and frequency of the behavior in an effort to achieve the sought-after reward. It is vital that one continues to completely ignore the behavior for as long as it lasts.

Finally, one must always reward positive behavior. This means looking for a break in the undesirable behavior, when the puppy is doing something one wants–like sitting quietly. This can be rewarded by any sort of attention, which will reinforce this desirable behavior. With time and plenty of patience, ignoring the undesirable behaviors and rewarding the desirable behaviors will lead to the pleasant, calm relationship one desires to have with their canine companion.

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