Puppies Acting for Attention – Adorable Problem or Sign of Danger?

When dogs throw little canine tantrums, it’s kind of cute.  Ridiculous even.  It’s hard not to chuckle.

But puppies acting for attention – is this a sign of danger?  Will you have problems down the road when it comes to training?

Well – it depends on a lot of things.  It depends on the puppy, since every dog is so different.  It also depends on the owner’s reaction (do you give into these tantrums or not?)

Remember that canine tantrums usually highlight an underlying flaw in the relationship.  Your dog believes that by acting for attention, it will get what it wants.  This is a learned response that we often see in “spoiled” children as well.  The tantrum itself isn’t the problem.  It’s the mentality that leads to the tantrum.

Tantrums are simply a symptom of a larger problem.  Your dog believes that it can behave this way and get what it wants.  Future training will be much harder as a result.

The Truth about Puppies Acting for Attention

There are many different causes behind this acting out.  Some of the more common triggers include things like:

  • He wants his favorite toy (and can’t have it)
  • You have a new baby in the home (he’s jealous)
  • He’s hungry and wants food – NOW
  • He wants to play fetch with his best friend (i.e. you)
  • You’ve been gone all day at the office and he’s lonely

The point is, your puppy wants something and can’t have it.  And he’s learned that by acting out, he can get the attention or food or toy that he craves.

It’s adorable sometimes.  But…

Don’t Give into the Cuteness

Below are some solutions for dealing with canine tantrums.  We recommend combining all of them for optimal results.

1.  Exercise & Stimulation

If your dog is bored or under-exercised, this will often lead to uncontrollable behavior.  Like children, puppies have a ton of energy.  They need constant exercise to blow off steam.  They also need new challenges to keep boredom away.

Lots of exercise.  Lots of games.  These 2 things can help dramatically reduce puppy tantrums.  A tired dog is an obedient dog.

2.  Reduce Tantrum Triggers

Growing up, mom never ever took us to the toy store.  EVER.  She knew that doing so would only create problems.  We’d see something we liked and make a fuss if we didn’t get it.  So instead, she’d go toy shopping without us.

Adopt this same strategy with your dog.  Isolate those triggers that set him off.  Toys, people, environments – whatever it is.  And try to reduce these triggers as much as possible.

3.  Ignore Tantrums Altogether

When puppies act out, the best reaction is NO reaction.  By ignoring tantrums, you remove their power.  The same holds true in the human world.  A spoiled kid needs an audience for his tantrum to work.  Remove that audience and the tantrum will go away.

When your puppy starts whining, barking, or zipping around – just remove yourself.  If you engage the puppy at all (including scolding and reprimands), he wins.  You’re giving him exactly what he wants – attention.

4.  Set Clear Boundaries

You’re the parent.  He’s the puppy.  This means that:

  • Walks happen when YOU say they happen
  • He eats when YOU say he can eat
  • He plays with a toy when YOU say he can play

Get into the habit of giving and taking away privileges on your own timetable.  Better yet, create a routine so that he knows when playtime and walks will happen.

The following is very important.

Never give walks, toys, or anything positive immediately after a tantrum.  Doing so will reinforce the connection between “acting for attention” and “getting that attention.”

Instead, wait until your dog is 100% calm and relaxed.  Then (and only then) can you shower him with love and affection.

Attention is earned with good behavior.  That is the lesson you want to instill in your puppy.

For more canine training tips, check out our expert resources.

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