Attention Seeking Behaviour in Dogs

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!

Is Attention Seeking Behaviour Cute?

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.

Attention seeking behaviour from a golden and white cocker spaniel sitting in grassy field, begging. Cute!Pleeeease!

We often give in to our dog's 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, giving them what they want only teaches them that their unsociable antics work, so they do it more and more because they know it works!

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:

What Is Attention Seeking Behaviour?

Attention seeking comes in many forms, some endearing and others not so charming.

We must decide which behaviours are acceptable and which are not. Those behaviours listed below are my idea of good or non-acceptable, but you should choose your own.

Acceptable Attention Seeking Behaviours

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

  • when my Cocker brings me one of his favourite 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 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?

Unwanted Attention Seeking Behaviours 

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 that these behaviours are simply not acceptable. 

  • 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 constantly barks 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.This is attention seeking behaviour!
  • 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 that definitely gets 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 to get their owner's 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 beach.Throw the stick please!
  • feigning lameness? Really? (oh, they can be so devious!);
  • your Cocker chews and destroys 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 examples, your Cocker Spaniel uses attention seeking behaviour to get what he wants from you. 

Clever eh?

Important Point:

Never try to resolve issues of aggression in your Cocker Spaniel.

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 unspent energy. And don't forget, as well as physical activity, dogs also need mental stimulation.
  • Because he gets away with it: 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 from happening in the first place by making sure you Cocker has lots of stimulating toys and 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 from 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, smiling.Come on in, the water's lovely!
  • 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 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!

Don't Always Give In To His 'Demands'

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 these. 

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.

If he's still demanding your attention, simply grit your teeth and ignore him.

How To Stop Your Dog's Attention Seeking!

If your Cocker's manners don't improve as much as you'd 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 is the wrong thing to do, but I'm willing to bet that we're all guilty of doing the same!

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 always works!

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

Unfortunately, many Cocker Spaniels are currently sitting in rescue centres 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 aim 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 his behaviour is good!

But there are other attention seeking behaviours that we don't want and shouldn't tolerate, 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 quiet.

Reward Good Behaviour

Ironically, 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 gently stroke him and tell him he's a good boy?

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

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 unacceptable behaviour your dog displays, remain calm, don't speak to him, don't touch him, and don't make eye contact with your dog (he will view all these as forms of reward).

Is Your Dog Is Barking For Attention?

Buff coloured cocker spaniel running through field of dry grass, running towards the camera.I just love to run...!
  • So, for example, if your dog is barking for your attention, simply ignore him. 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 not addressed, this behaviour will only get worse over time;
  • Ignoring him probably won't work the first time around - 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 stay 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).

Be careful to avoid his eyes.

Either of these may be used each time he uses barking to get your attention. The action 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 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!

Photo Credits for Attention Seeking Behaviour:
Pailoolom at
2. Visitor photo
3. Robert Hackett at
Paul Morriss at  -
Tim Rhodes at -