Attention Seeking Behaviour in Cockers

Although we love our pets dearly, constant attention seeking behaviour can soon become annoying and embarrassing! Understand the signs and causes and learn how to stop your Cocker Spaniel demanding your attention!

What Are The Signals?

When a puppy seeks your attention it's often cute and endearing, but when your puppy grows up and wants you all to himself, it can become a very different matter altogether.

Happy golden and white cocker spaniel sitting in grassy field, begging. Cute!Pleeeease!

Very often we give in to our dogs attention seeking behaviour, either because we love them and can't bear to ignore them or because we sometimes just want a bit of peace and quiet...so we just give them what they want!

Unfortunately, this only teaches them that their unsociable antics work and they'll do it more and more.

What behaviour you accept from your Cocker Spaniel (or don't) is entirely down to you; it all boils down to personal choice.

And just in case you're not sure what I'm talking about, check out the following:

Attention Seeking Behaviours I'm Okay With

There are some attention seeking behaviours that I'm happy to accept, such as;

  • when my Cocker brings me one of his favorite toys and places it on my lap;

  • when he picks up a toy and circles just out of my reach, hoping I'll chase him.

  • when I'm taking some time out to relax (reading or simply enjoying a leisurely cuppa) he'll saunter over (head slightly lowered and tail wagging) and will nudge or give me his paw.

    Sometimes he'll put his head on my lap and look up at me appealingly with those big, brown, liquid eyes as if to say, 'Pleeeeeease'.

    Now who could resist that?

Unfortunately, there are other attention seeking behaviours that I'm not so happy to go along with. Take a look below, I think you'll agree with me that these behaviours are simply not acceptable. 


Unwanted Attention Seeking Behaviours 

  • when your Cocker Spaniel is so pleased to see you that he forgets his manners and jumps up just as you're trying to get through the door with your weekly shopping;

  • he barks constantly to get your attention, especially if you're busy on the phone;

  • he jumps on and off the furniture and runs around in circles. That's one attention seeking behaviour I can live without!
Orange and white cocker spaniel jumping up at woman with shopping bags.Oops! Looks like this cocker spaniel has forgotten his manners!
  • he steals one of your socks, or something else that doesn't belong to him, and runs off with it in the hope that you'll chase him;

  • your pet sits on your toes or leans against you;

  • your dog begins licking you to get you to pet him;

  • he resorts to pooping and peeing in your home...now that definitely get's my attention!

  • your dog whines for attention (Max used to do this constantly, but by ignoring him, he soon learned that it didn't work!);

  • I've even heard of dogs actually vomiting for attention!

  • begging for food is another attention seeking behaviour that I don't particularly like;
Black cocker spaniel sitting on hind-quarters, begging, on the beachThrow the stick please!
  • feigning lameness? (oh, they can be really devious!);

  • your Cocker chews and destroy objects around the house knowing that this always gets a reaction from you;

  • he pulls at your clothes;

  • biting and nipping is another way of grabbing your attention;

  • in extreme cases, some dogs may become aggressive to get what they want;

Do any of these sound familiar?  I'm betting that at least some of them do!

In all of the above, your Cocker Spaniel is using attention seeking behaviour to get what he wants from you. Clever eh?

Important Point:

Never try to resolve Cocker Spaniel aggression problems yourself. If your pet's attention seeking behaviour turns to biting or aggression, I strongly recommend you seek professional advice and assistance from your vet or an animal behaviourist.

What Causes Attention Seeking in Dogs?

If your Cocker Spaniel's attention seeking behaviour is getting worse and becoming a problem for you, there may be a couple of reasons for this:

  • Boredom: your dog is often left alone for too long, causing excessive attention seeking behaviour when you return home;

  • Excess energy: he may not be getting enough exercise, resulting in way too much energy.  And don't forget, as well as physical exercise, dogs need mental stimulation too.

  • Need: your Cocker Spaniel wants something from you and has learned that all he has to do is use one of his attention seeking antics. It's as simple as that!

Keep Boredom At Bay!

You can relieve the boredom, or stop it happening in the first place, by making sure you Cocker has lots of stimulating toys as well as chew bones to keep him occupied.

Give Your Cocker Spaniel Lots of Exercise!

Physical exercise and mental stimulation will have a calming, relaxing effect on any dog, so the best thing you can do to help stop your Spaniel becoming bored is to burn off his excess energy and tire him out. 

Make sure he has a regular routine of exercise, play, and training (this is a good idea regardless of whether he's displaying attention seeking behaviour or not) along the lines of the following:

Liver and white cocker spaniel standing in water, smilingI love running on the beach and in the sea!
  • take your dog for a brisk one-hour walk each day or walk him twice a day if you have the time;

  • play a few games with him for 15-20 minutes each day or throw him a ball or a Frisbee to help him to burn off all that excess energy;
  • reinforce his basic obedience training for a few minutes each day to help stimulate his mind (and reinforce his training). It's easy enough to do and takes no time at all. For example, I ask my Cocker Spaniel to sit and wait before I feed him, before I put his collar on, and always before I open the door to let him in or out - in other words, I make Max work for what he wants and for the attention I give him!
  • I'm sure your Cocker's diet will be healthy, but did you know that hyperactivity can sometimes be caused by certain foods in his diet? If you think your pet may be hyperactive and you're concerned about it, I recommend you have a chat with your vet.

  • give him a job to do - work him! Satisfy his basic hunting instincts by letting him sniff out some hidden treats around the home or in the garden. Encourage him to find them and watch that tail wag!

Making sure your Cocker gets plenty of exercise and play may be enough to curb attention seeking behaviours and you could see an improvement within a week or so!

He Needs or Wants Something

Don't always give your dog what he wants just because he's 'asked' for it,

However, your dog may be hungry, cold, hot, thirsty, and you can't deprive him of any of these, so the best way to deal with these situations is to make sure his water bowl is always full, that he's fed at his regular meal time(s) and that he's otherwise comfortable.

How To Stop Your Dog's Attention Seeking!

If your Cocker's manners don't improve as much as you'd like.......read on for more help and advice!

Don't Give Him What He Wants!

As we've seen, our pets will try to attract our attention in many different (and sometimes imaginative) ways and our response will usually vary between:

  • giving them what they want, 
  • pushing them away,  
  • shouting at them to be quiet!

All of which are the wrong thing to do - and I bet we're all guilty of doing the same at some point!

What we often don't realize is that by using our pet's name, or speaking to him (for example, asking him to get down, or to be quiet) or by simply touching him (moving him out of the way), in his eyes we are rewarding him for his behaviour; we’re giving him the attention he's seeking!

Our dogs soon learn that they can get what they want by behaving in a certain way and that's when this (unwanted) attention seeking behaviour becomes habitual...because your dog has learned that it works!

Unfortunately, if his behaviour isn't managed properly, before you know it, your dog may develop behavioural problems which you can no longer handle and which may begin to drive you crazy!

Unfortunately, there are many Cocker Spaniels currently sitting in rescue centers because of this lack of understanding.


"The recommended response is to ignore him altogether:
don't speak to him, don't look at him and don't touch him
- in your dog's eyes, these actions are all forms of reward"


The Key Is Not To React

When our dogs display attention seeking behaviours we know that always giving them what they want, when they want, is inadvisable, however as I said earlier, it is subjective and if you think it's okay to give him a cuddle when he 'demands' it...that's fine.

The objective is to give your Cocker Spaniel lots of attention on your terms; in fact, the same attention as he gets now, but give it to him only when he's good!

But there are other attention seeking behaviours that we don't want and shouldn't tolerate at all, such as jumping up, constant barking or whining.

If we react to our dog's behaviour, we're not only confirming that their antics work, but we may also be (inadvertently) helping to increase their dominance by following and not leading our dog!

My advice is to always ignore your dog's attention seeking behaviour and reward him only when he's well behaved, or when he's quiet.

Reward Good Behaviour

It's Ironic that we tend to ignore our dogs when they're quiet, and (unwittingly) reward them (with touch and the sound of our voice) when they're not - the exact opposite of what we should be doing!

So, the next time you see your Cocker Spaniel behaving well, or resting quietly, why not go over to him and stroke him gently and tell him he's a good boy?

Rewarding your dog when he's quiet will help teach him that when he's good or quiet, nice things happen to him, like belly rubs or cuddles!

Ignore Your Dog's Antics!

The worst punishment you can give an attention seeking dog is to deprive him of your attention and affection, so the next time he's making demands the best thing you can do is ignore him. 

Yes, I know that it can be easier said than done, but trust me. Have patience and you'll see that it really does work.

Don't react to your dog's demands. Whatever his behaviour, remain calm, don't speak to him, don't touch him, and don't make eye contact (your dog views these as forms of reward).

Buff colored cocker spaniel running through field of dry grassI just love to run...!
  • So, for example, if your dog is barking for your attention, ignore him and continue with what you were doing (unpacking the shopping or reading).

    I know it doesn't make us feel good to ignore our dogs, but we must teach them to wait quietly until we're ready for them. Besides, if left alone, this behaviour will only get worse over time;
  • Ignoring him probably won't work the first time round - let's face it, our dogs can be very persistent!) so if he persists, or becomes boisterous, take him into another room and leave him until he's calmed down.

    Don't show annoyance or anger, just be in control and remain calm and unemotional. 
  • Don't allow him back into the room until he's quiet for at least 10 seconds (the trick is to wait for a lull in the barking and only let him into the room when he's stopped) otherwise he'll learn that barking for attention eventually works!

    Make eye contact with him and put him into the submissive 'Down-Stay' position for a few seconds before letting him back into the room.

  • Once your boy is quiet, praise him and give him a stroke or a pat, but then carry on with what you were doing;

  • If he starts barking again...rinse and repeat. Above all, be consistent!

What If That Doesn't Work?

If moving him to another room fails, and he continues barking, you may want to consider using a stronger barking deterrent, such as a water pistol or an air spray (this is compressed air used to clean computer keyboards and cameras).

Please don't use it anywhere near his eyes.

Either of these may be used each time he uses barking to get your attention. They will startle him into silence, interrupting his behaviour and you should be able to manage him.

If you'd like more information on how to stop your dog barking, you'll find lots of help and advice here.

Attention Seeking Behavior: Summary

As the saying goes, 'There's no such thing as a free lunch', so make your dog work for anything that you give him and...

  • Ignore any constant demands for your time and affection,
  • Make sure he has plenty of exercise,
  • Organize daily play sessions with your dog,
  • Practice basic puppy obedience commands regularly, and reward him each time he gets it right,
  • Reinforce your dog's good behaviour by rewarding him for it and never reward his attention seeking behaviour.

The bottom line is, if your dog wants attention, give it to him, but do so on your terms - not his!

When your Cocker Spaniel responds in the way that you want him to, you can give him what he was asking for (food, affection, etc.) because you will be rewarding him for following your commands; you're rewarding his good behaviour NOT his attention seeking behaviour!



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