Q: My two-year-old pooch is becoming increasingly clingy. While he’s generally well-behaved during playtime, he starts barking to get my attention if I leave him alone after. Yet, it’s almost impossible to get his attention and he doesn’t listen when I tell him to stop doing something. What should I do?
A: Playing is a great pastime for dogs. However, as with any other activity, they need to learn boundaries. Fido needs to understand that playtime (or any other time) isn’t on-demand.All dogs need to learn that being alone is okay. They need to understand that when you are around, they can be by themselves and it isn’t scary. To start off, you can practice leaving your dog in his crate or playpen even when you are home. Keep him occupied with a variety of accessories, such as chews and treat-dispensing toys. If he starts barking for your attention or wants to be let out, you should ignore him. Wait until he is quiet and calm, then you can either release him from his area or walk over to praise him. We are so used to focusing on the negative that we emphasise only on the naughty things our dogs do and punish them for it. In actual fact, they learn much faster and better if you reward the good behaviours instead and ignore the bad. From your dog’s point of view, he only gets your attention when he is doing something unacceptable. When he is lying quietly on the floor playing with his toys and being good, he gets completely ignored. With that logic, what do you think your dog would choose to do: Bark his head off or calmly lie down and be by himself?To tackle your pooch’s attention-seeking behaviour, make training a part of his playtime. If you can teach your dog basic commands such as going to his mat and lying down, or perhaps some trick training, it will stimulate him mentally and quell his boredom. It will also be fun and challenging for the both of you. Keep playtime short and break it down into segments (25 minutes each session, five times a day), so that your pooch will not expect playtime whenever you are around. When you end playtime, make sure you give Fido something to do so that he will not be bored and start barking for your attention. A dog that is bored and craving for attention will always find something else to do, but it may not always be something you approve of.