Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Needy Dogs – Why To Much Attention Is Bad.

I have chosen this topic because as of late my doggies have become even more needy for attention. I evaluated how we interact to see if there is something in our relationship that is causing this issue. I can only think that I have been at home more than I used to and therefore they have come accustom to the increased interaction that we have. Now that I am getting out of the house more, the attention has dropped and that is causing an emotional response. I have begun to slowly get them back to the level of attention that I have given in the past based on my schedule.

As many of you know, rewarding needy behavior with love obviously is more detrimental to the dog. Dogs work best in a structure environment. This environment must include a management of attention. A dog trainer told me once that his dogs wait for him to tell them they are allowed to come and receive attention. Now I am not sure that this is the extreme that we need to go to as dog owners, but we must realize that needy behavior is detrimental to a dog’s mental and ultimately their health. Dogs that are constantly receiving attention expect to receive this attention 100% of the time. When they do not get, what they assume is the level of attention that is to be provided, they become nervous/anxious and that of course can have a negative impact on their health. I have asked a trainer to provide a brief example and a solution that we all can benefit from below.
What I want all of us to get from this blog is that we must provide love and attention to our dogs in a consistent way and avoid doodting over them. Remember that our lives change (demands at work, new relationships, increase in travel etc.) and these changes have a direct impact on your dog’s mental state. As loving owners we must realize that by providing them attention by our permission is the method in which the dogs can handle our lives and still feel loved.

Molly Feeney
Owner: Just Paws Training LLC

I work with many clients who have attention anxiety. One weekly story we see in our socialization puppy groups is a 3 year old yorkie who absolutely can NOT tolerate his Mom leaving for even the shortest time. Even if his Mom steps out to get a cup of coffee or grab some treats for her pup and he will go crazy, pacing, crying, panting etc...

What we have been doing is having her step out for 30 seconds then 1 minute then longer. This can teach the dog their owner will return and help desensitize them to the situation. We also try to recognize the triggers and cues which promote this behavior. If you cannot pay attention to your pup or do things differently each time you leave, that will promote needy behavior.
Another remedy we have been using is something called Rescue Remedy: http://www.rescueremedy.com. It is an over the counter product you get a natural food stores. The remedy is safe and easy to use for both animals and humans.
If owners work on this behavior with a positive and persistent approach dogs can learn to overcome this problem in time.

Thanks for reading and please comment or provide stories, because it helps us all.




Bitsy said...

My Jack/Corgi mix, Pearl, was always by my side when I was not at work. I stayed home most of the time. Now, I am in a new relationship, we are active in the evenings and weekends, and consequently, I am away from home quite a bit.
I feel sad, guilty, and like I'm a bad mom. When I do get home (about 3x a week)Pearl is of course very excited. I take her with me to run errands or over to my boyfriends house on some weekends.
My daughter lives at my house with her toddler and 5 other dogs, so Pearl isn't on her own, but I'm told she stays in my room for most the day. When I am there and she calms down, I notice she is "digging" at her butt a lot. I've had her checked at the vet, and they've expressed her gland, but her behavior has not changed. I am thinking this is some sort of stress release for her? But it's odd she does it when she is with me. I may be moving in with my boyfriend in the future and Pearl is welcomed, but she will be the only dog in the house, she will be there by herself when we are out. Would it be better for her to stay with the rest of the dog family? It breaks my heart to leave her, but I want what is best for her.

Lorie Huston said...

Another point which is important in treating separation anxiety is not to reward the anxious behavior. Don't say long good-byes before leaving the house, just pick up your keys and go. Give your dog something to distract him right before you leave, like a favorite toy or food puzzle.

When your dog is acting anxious or nervous, don't pet or calm him. It'll only convince him that he has a reason to be scared. (I know that sounds counter-intuitive but it is true.) Just treat him as you would under more normal circumstances when he is calm.

When you get home, don't acknowledge your dog until he is calm and quiet. Ignore the excited behavior and walk away from him, into a separate room if you have to. An important part of this step is giving your pet a place to retreat, like a favorite dog bed or blanket, and encouraging him to go there and be calm and quiet. Reward him with food treats or toys when he does this.

Don't let your dog dictate to you when you should pay attention to him. If he nudges you looking for attention, ignore him. Attention should be given at your discretion, not when your dog demands it. That's not say you should ignore your dog completely, just make sure YOU decide when he gets attention, not him.

Another remedy which can work well to calm nervous or anxious dogs is DAP, a dog pheromone. It is available as a collar, a diffuser, or a spray. Diffusers and collars work well while the dog is in the house. The collar has the advantage of always being with the dog.

If you are using drugs like Reconcile or Clomicalm to treat separation anxiety for your dog, don't rely on the drugs alone. These drugs need to be used with a behavior modification program to be successful. In other words, your dog needs to be retrained to be calm, quiet and comfortable rather than anxious and nervous.

Thanks for blogging about this very important topic in dog care. Separation anxiety and the destruction which sometimes accompanies it can be frustrating to deal with and can lead dog owners to consider giving their dog up or worse.

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