A Novel Way to Approach Constant Attention-Seeking
Cocker Spaniel Buddy wants attention all the time. When they take no notice of him he jumps the stair-gate, rushes upstairs and raids the bedrooms for something to parade. It always ends in a chase with Buddy hiding gleefully under the daughter’s bed, ‘Catch me if you can!’
I asked the lady to shut the bedroom doors. As we sat talking, doing our best not to react to the jumping and barking, Buddy leapt over the gate and rushed upstairs. We took no notice! I then opened the gate and left it open. He ran up and down a couple of times before settling down on the floor near us. I expect he was figuring out what he could get up to next!
I went to see 9-month old Cocker Spaniel Buddy about six weeks ago, but the situation then was very different http://www.dogidog.co.uk/?p=10932 . He already had been trying the lady’s patience to the limit when she took on Golden Retriever Ollie. Buddy and Ollie exhausted each other, but the previous people changed their mind and wanted him back which was actually rather fortunate. The lady had hoped that another dog would calm Buddy down, but now she had double trouble.
I came up with a plan using a bit of reverse psychology. ‘Let’s shower him with things to do under our own terms and keep him busy’. So I called him over which meant he had to get up. He ran over eagerly – it looks like something is going to happen! I quietly asked him to sit which he did instantly, and treated him. I experimented to see if he understood ‘Down’ when asked the once and gently. Yes. Treat. I then left him and went and sat back down again. Buddy settled once more.
I didn’t leave him for long. I repeated the process every five or ten minutes, adding variations to the ‘tricks’ and teaching him to roll over as well – a thing he does when he wants to be uncooperative so that now he’s doing it upon request instead. Again I let him rest and we continued talking. Next I called him and we did a couple of minutes of lead work around the room. Once more I went and sat down and Buddy settled. The lady can gradually add play and games and teach him all sorts of fun things. I feel certain that when he is almost overdosed with attention he will stop looking for it so desperately. He is a clever working dog and needs frequent sessions of activity.
If at those times when he is most demanding, two or three bouts of constructive attention is lavished on him but under their control – not petting but by getting him to work for it – Buddy will become a much happier and more fulfilled dog. Gradually the intervals between sessions can be lengthened and Buddy will learn to be patient and wait – knowing that his turn will come when the lady is ready – because it always does. He really does want to please given the chance. He will bond better with his humans and he should no longer feel the need to pester.