Dogs have clever ways of communicating with us, even though we don’t speak the same language. We know our dogs love us by the way they look at us, cuddle with us, and show unconditional loyalty. But as well as you know your dog, do you know the signs your dog wants attention?
In order to love and care for your dog in the best way possible, it’s important to understand what he or she is trying to communicate. This can sometimes be difficult. After all, in addition to the language barrier, dog’s have their own instincts and logic that don’t always make sense to us humans.
Fortunately, if you know what to watch out for, it’s easy to spot the signs your dog wants attention. By learning these signs, you’ll be able to better meet your pup’s needs, and you’ll both be happier with your special relationship!
What Are the Signs Your Dog Wants Attention?
According to veterinarians and pet behavior specialists, there are 7 major signs that your dog wants your attention.
Some dogs may exhibit all of these signs while some dogs might show just one. What behavior your dog engages in can be influenced by its breed, age, training, and upbringing. Here’s what to watch out for:
- Barking. Dogs bark for a wide variety of reasons. Most often, they bark when the doorbell rings or when they sense the mailman is present. Why? Because dogs are pack animals and they are trying to alert you about potential danger.
However, if your dog starts barking at you for no reason, it could be a sign that he or she wants your attention and doesn’t know how else to get it. Perhaps your dog needs to use the bathroom again. If this is the case, it’s likely your dog will bark at you while also trying to draw your attention to the door or its leash.
Dogs are also very sensitive to time and enjoy sticking to a routine – so if they know it’s dinner-time or time to go to the dog park, they might bark at you if they think you’re running late or that you have forgotten the routine.
You can expect your dog to stop barking once it gets what it wants. For example, if your dog is barking because it wants to go outside, then it should stop barking once it comes back inside. This is a telltale sign that you’ve listened to your dog’s needs and have successfully given it the attention it needs.
On the other hand, if your dog keeps barking for no reason, you may want to consider a mini dog shock collar to prevent unwanted barking. Barking is the most natural way for dogs to communicate, but they should also learn when it is and isn’t appropriate to bark.
- Nipping and play-biting your fingers. It’s normal for puppies to nip and play-bite. This is known as puppy “mouthing.” Most puppies grow out of this or are taught to use their energy on chew toys and bones.
Similar to how we use our hands to interact with the world, your puppy will use its mouth to learn more about its surrounding world. With that being said, if your pup randomly starts nipping and nibbling at your fingers, that’s one of the signs your dog wants attention. It usually means that your dog wants to play.
In the wild, it’s not uncommon for puppies to nip at their mothers when they want attention. Think about it: the average litter size for dogs is 5-6 puppies at a time. That means that each pup needs to fight for attention, and the easiest way they can achieve that is through play-biting.
It’s not uncommon for mothers to “bite” their dogs back. When mothers bite their puppies, it’s not to be mean. Rather, it’s because she’s letting them know that they are biting too hard. Her “bite” is harder to let the pups know that their biting is inappropriate or too hard. But just because this is a natural instinct, it doesn’t mean that it’s appropriate in human homes.
Of course, this isn’t to say that you should bite your small pup! A training collar can help you communicate with your dog that nipping and play-biting is inappropriate. Just be sure that you are giving your pup enough time and plenty of toys to play with!
- Destructive behavior. Destructive behavior can mean many things. In most cases, it’s a sign that a dog has separation anxiety. For example, if your dog has separation anxiety, he or she may find a piece of clothing that smells like you when you go to work so that it still feels you nearby. Your pup may even start chewing your clothes or tearing them apart to try to find more of your scent.
But if your dog starts destroying the belongings while you're at home, then your dog likely wants attention. In most cases, this means that your dog has extra energy and doesn’t know how to get rid of it.
Ask yourself the following questions: Are our morning walks long enough? Do I take my dog outside frequently enough? Are there enough toys and bones at home to keep my dog entertained?
Try addressing those questions and concerns first. If your dog is exhibiting unwanted behavior because it’s bored or has too much energy, then destructive behavior should stop immediately when it gets enough playtime.
PRO TIP: Don’t forget that some chewing is normal, especially for puppies, so if you have a young pup, it might take a little bit of patience until your pup is fully house-trained.
- Pawing and nudging at you. If you have a small dog that constantly paws and nudges you, then you’ve probably asked, “Why does my dog want constant attention?"
While it’s cute that your dog loves you and wants to be with you, it can be a hindrance when you’re working from home or trying to complete household chores.
Context is important here. For example, if you have a brand new dog, pawing and nudging might be normal for the next few weeks or months. This is especially true with rescue dogs. You never know if the dog was abused, neglected, or swapped between multiple caretakers. This can result in a lot of trauma, which is why people note that rescue dogs want constant attention. It’s a way for them to reassure themselves that you love them.
If you are giving your dog enough attention, playtime, exercise, and bathroom time and he or she is still pawing at you, then you may need to ignore your pup. This may sound cruel, but by giving your dog attention every time it paws at you, you’re conditioning it to understand cause (pawing) and effect (attention).
Instead, try ignoring your dog the next time it paws at you, especially if you’re busy working. It will eventually learn that bothering you isn’t the appropriate way to get attention, especially if your pup is just being clingy.
- Howling or whining. Similar to barking, howling and whining are ways that dogs can vocalize their thoughts. In most cases, the reason for howling or whining will be obvious.
For example, if your pup has to use the bathroom, he might be whining by the door or trotting back-and-forth while he whines. After allowing your dog outside to relieve himself, the whining should stop.
Or perhaps your dog’s favorite toy is stuck under the couch. If you’re busy working, then your dog might howl or whine to let you know that it can’t reach its favorite toy. Again, this behavior should stop once the issue is solved.
But what happens if your pup is still howling or whining without any obvious reasons? If you can’t determine a reason for why your dog is vocalizing this way, try acknowledging your dog when it is being good and quiet, not when it is vocalizing. Why? Because if you only pay attention to your dog when it’s vocalizing, you might be inadvertently teaching it that that is the only way it can get attention and affection from you.
On the other hand, if you randomly take time throughout the day to show love to your dog, then it won’t feel the need to seek out attention from you in the form of whining and howling. If this strategy doesn’t work, you may want to try a small dog shocking collar to stop unwanted behavior and vocalization.
- Changes in body language. There is nothing “wrong” with your dog rolling on its back. It’s a simple way for your dog to let you know that it would like some more pets on its belly. If your pup rolls over next to your feet while you’re working, this likely means that it wants your attention.
Unlike other signs your dog wants attention, this one is relatively innocent and isn’t causing any damage. For example, your pup isn’t chewing your belongings or creating noise with unwanted barking. If you find that your dog constantly wants attention, make sure that you’re giving it enough attention throughout the day.
Also, make sure that your dog has ways to keep itself entertained. Does your dog have enough toys and does it know where those toys are? Are you getting new toys for new stimulation? You can even rotate through toys (keep some toys out for 2 weeks while the others are hidden, then once two weeks are up, swap the toys in storage for the ones being used). This is an excellent way to provide variety and keep your dog’s mind stimulated.
- Pacing back and forth. Since dogs can’t verbalize their thoughts into words, they’ll try to do it through motion. If your dog is pacing around, pay attention to which direction it is pacing. For instance, is there a clear pattern to the pacing or does it appear to be random? If your dog is hungry, it might pace around its food bowl or the kitchen. If your pup needs to go outside, it might try pacing around the door.
On the other hand, if your dog tries to sleep, then gets up, roams around, and then lays down somewhere else, it could be a sign that your dog is having a hard time getting comfortable. This can be for a wide variety of reasons such as finding the right temperature or having a hard time falling asleep (just like humans sometimes do!).
If this restlessness and discomfort continues for several days, though, it might be a sign that something is wrong and that your dog needs to see the vet, so be sure to keep a close eye on your dog’s behavior!
By knowing the signs that your dog wants your attention, you’ll be able to provide love and comfort to your dog!
Dogs provide us with so much love and companionship, so it’s only right that we try to understand what they’re telling us!
But now that you know the signs, you may still be wondering: Why do dogs want so much attention? Let’s explore that a little more in-depth below.
Why Does My Dog Want So Much Attention?
Some of this can come down to breed. Smaller dogs, such as toy dogs, have a tendency to be more “needy” compared to larger dogs. Chihuahuas, for example, are known for being “one-person dogs,” as they’re extremely loyal to their owners. Since they can be distrusting of other people, this means that they want all of the attention they receive to come from their owner.
This isn’t exclusive to toy breeds. Australian cattle dogs are much larger and are also known as “velcro dogs,” because they follow their owners everywhere. So if you’re wondering why your dog wants attention all the time, it could simply be because of its breed.
However, if the attention issues can’t be explain by breed, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I take my dog on a walk every day?
- Does my dog get enough stimulation through play and exercise?
- Does my pup need to relieve itself and use the bathroom?
- Have I been socializing my dog with other dogs and humans?
- How old is my dog? Is this behavior normal for its age (puppy vs. adult vs. senior)?
- Has my dog eaten yet today?
- Is anything off about our routine? Is it time for our evening walk?
By asking yourself these questions, you’ll get closer to answering why your dog wants so much attention.
Most of the time, there’s an easy fix – you just need to know the signs to watch out for and how to fix them. In some cases, behaviors caused by excessive neediness and clinginess can be considered unwanted behavior. If this is the case, you might want to consider a training collar for small dogs.
To learn more, read our previous article on the pros and cons of dog training collars. Getting a training collar for your pup can help you put a stop to unwanted behavior, such as chewing and biting (which can be caused by excessive clinginess)!