Barking for Attention

By Sally Bradbury

This is best resolved by giving the dog attention before he has to ask for it. Contrary to popular belief, ignoring a dog that has a genuine need just makes them try harder. It’s very frustrating and stressful for a dog that is trying to communicate with you.

Probably the first thing to address is that your dog gets enough interest and enrichment in his life, which will help him to rest and relax while you’re busy with other things. So, have a look at his schedule. Does he get enough exercise appropriate to his age and needs? I don’t mean does he get miles and miles every day – that just gives you a super-fit dog with more energy for you to divert. Regular daily or twice-daily walks are important for most dogs.

Does he get some training/play (should really be the same thing, all training is best done by play) in regular small doses to tire his mind? Does he get time to just mooch and be a dog?

If you have been at work all day, or crated the dog for a good while for some reason, he can’t be expected to also do nothing all evening.

So, make sure his needs are met. If he isn’t hungry, has water, doesn’t need to go out for a pee, has had a walk, then he may simply need your attention, just as a toddler would. If he’s persistently barking for attention, it may be necessary to assess your dog’s routine. Does he have enough enrichment in his daily routine? Is he able to relax when everyone else is? See Guide 2: The Lounge is for Lounging.

For more ideas on how to keep a dog happy and entertained, join Beyond the Bowl – Canine Enrichment group on Facebook.

Teaching a dog to bark on cue so you can teach a ‘quiet’ is often suggested, but not something we would recommend. Rewarding a dog for stopping an unwanted behaviour sounds fine in theory, but in practise the dog must do the behaviour first in order to stop. It’s always best to reward the absence of the barking.

If Your Dog Barks When You’re Trying to Eat

When you sit down to eat, have a bowl of treats available for him and a
strategically placed bed by your feet, under the table, or across the room.
Before he barks, toss a treat onto his bed for him and continue to do this
at a pace that keeps him on his bed and not barking. If there are two of
you, then it would be a good idea to eat in shifts so that one person can
concentrate on teaching him to stay on his bed while you eat. This will
only be necessary in the beginning.

If He Barks When you Relax to Watch TV

Do pretty much the same, but while sitting on the sofa. Keep this one as calm as you can. The Lounge is for Lounging is an excellent rule to adhere to. Lounges are for lounging in. If you never play with your dog in the lounge, he’ll learn not to expect it, and will realise that in that room, he must settle quietly.

If He Barks When you’re Trying to do the Housework

Keep the treats in a pocket and scatter a few on the floor to keep him occupied for a short while, then again when you move to the next cleaning spot. Alternatively, if you know he is bored and really does need attention/play, try multi-tasking and use one hand to play tuggy and one to dust – this may extend house-work time!

I’m sure you get the picture. Just adapt the technique to whenever your dog looks for attention. It might mean that he has his dinner this way. There’s no problem with that. There is no rule that a dog’s food has to be in a bowl. In time, your dog will see you busy with eating, housework, etc, and go to his bed. Bingo! Give him a few treats to reward, or have a Kong ready stuffed with his meal. As long as settling on the bed is rewarding, you should have the result you want.