Now That We Have Your Attention… Using Time-Outs for Attention Seeking Behaviors

From incessant whining and barking to nosing and jumping up, it seems a lot of people are dealing with attention seeking behaviors from their dogs. We often encourage these acts without meaning to, believing we are doing our best to stop them.

The dog is rewarded with our eye contact, touch, or the sound of our voices. Even if you think you sound frustrated or angry, the dog only knows you are finally acknowledging his presence. The behavior works, so it goes up in frequency.

This is easy to solve as long as you stick to a simple but rigid plan.

Dogs begging for attention often whine and paw at you. Give them something better to do with their energy!

First, give a warning cue such as “Quiet, please” if the dog is barking or whining, or “Off” if he’s jumping up on you or nosing at your elbows.  If the dog happens to stop, reward with an energy-burning treat such as a stuffed Kong or a bully stick or even a quick game of fetch.

If the dog continues to “misbehave” after you’ve given the cue (which is normal because the dog doesn’t know what this means yet!) you can either take yourself out of the room and shut the door behind you, or gently take the dog into another place like a bathroom and shut the door. You could also use a crate. This is a time-out, which should only last until the dog is quiet. Whining, pawing and barking must be ignored. Immediately let him out when he stops.

Repeat every time this happens. This is the hard part. Usually the behavior goes up before it gets better.

Don’t forget to have those special chews ready as rewards when the dog hears “Quiet, Please” and stops the noise!

Tips and troubleshooting:

If you are moving the dog into a time-out area instead of taking yourself out of the room, you should probably have a very short leash (grab tab) attached to the dog to make this easy. Keep it on only when the dog is supervised.

Don’t worry that the dog won’t like the crate if you use that as time-out. Does a child hate his room if he is sent there for punishment? Only for that short amount of time. Also, if you use the “Quiet, Please” only before time-outs, other crate time is not punishment, provided your dog liked his crate in the first place.

Roger sits in a designated time-out area, waiting to be released for good behavior

Be strict with this training.  No empty threats. “Quiet, Please” is said once as a warning, and after that you MUST follow through with a time-out.

Some dogs whine and bark out of boredom which can be solved with better toys and more exercise. Teaching a down-stay on a mat that gets him good things to chew on is an excellent alternate behavior to whining while you are trying to eat or watch TV.

Roux occupies himself with a plush toy. If your dog has toys or chew things he enjoys, he will be less likely to whine or bark out of boredom 

Occasionally dogs whine out of anxiety that may need medication. If your dog exhibits other signs of stress such as sweaty paws, lip licking, excessive yawning, pacing and fearful body language, talk to your veterinarian. But if the whining stops when you give your dog attention, stick to the time-out plan.

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