Celia Haddon - Cat Expert

Understanding animals through their behaviour


Dogs develop little tricks to get their owner’s attention — watching TV, howling (sometimes to TV or radio), whirling round in circles, eating unsuitable things, grabbing unsuitable items, picking up stones, barking for walks etc. Some of these tricks — tail chasing or eating odd things — can become dangerous habits.

If it is not clear whether a behaviour is attention seeking, keep a diary for a couple of weeks noting down when tricks happen, any possible trigger setting it off, how you and other people react. Attention-seeking behaviour will happen when there is somebody there to give attention or (in the case of night-time howling) when somebody will come to stop it.

If the behaviour happens when people are not there and there can be no response, then it is something else. The diary will come in useful later if you need go to an expert. If a dog is grabbing items or eating items, put on a Baskerville muzzle as a diagnostic tool. When the dog can no longer do this because of the muzzle, you will see it will engineer attention some other way.

Sometimes attention seeking is just a persistent demand for petting. This is unconsciously encouraged by owners who respond to the demand. In this case do not respond. Instead offer petting when the dog is not demanding it. It will learn that to get petting, it must not ask for it.

Other forms of attention seeking are rewarded every time you tell it to stop or shout at it. When dogs seek attention, even being shouted at or being hit counts as attention. It can see that the whole family turn their attention to it! So the way to cure it, is to refuse all attention — turn away your eyes and your body, and (if possible) just leave the room. You will have to do this every single time and every single person in the household must act with total solidarity on this. If you can’t do it consistently, you might as well not bother to do it at all.

If your dog is an attention seeker, teach it how to settle down see the article on this website.


These notes are my copyright. I am also usually happy to have the exact words reproduced on websites, in return for a link, my name, and if permission is asked beforehand. I like to check the websites where it might be used. Email me via this website for permission which will usually be given. Organisations wishing to use them in print should contact me via this website. Copyright © 2007 Celia Haddon. All Rights Reserved.

Safety notice.

All normal safety precautions should be taken when dealing with animals. The advice in this section should be taken only at the owner’s own risk. All sick animals should be seen by a vet.

General advice of the kind found in this website is no substitute for an individual consultation with a vet or qualified behaviourist working on a vet’s referral.

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