The Dog Charmer: Tackling One Dog’s Need for Attention, Another’s Need To Explore

The Dog Charmer

Tackling One Dog’s Need for
Attention, Another’s Need To Explore

It is not unusual for dogs, like Duncan, to be stubborn in their demands for attention.

Dear Tom

When you look at the picture, it’s hard to believe that this dog can be so frustrating for me. He is good when we are here alone, but when guests come, he becomes so hard to manage. He wants to be the center of attention and won’t leave people alone. I filled a hollow bone with meat today when a friend stopped by and that occupied him for about a half hour. For the next 1-1/2 hours he was stubborn, wouldn’t listen or stay off, and downright obnoxious! It adds so much stress to my life right now. I’m not sure what to do.
Looking forward to our next session.

Thank you, Sue

Dear Sue,

Some dogs are like politicians, always wanting to be the center of attention. So, when you have the audacity to invite a guest and pay attention to that guest, Duncan feels the need to compete for the attention and, at 95 pounds—with the potential stubbornness of a Chesapeake Bay retriever—we’re talking about World Cup competitive intensity.

Having met Duncan and experienced his pushy persistence, I suggest the following. When your guest is at the door with Duncan also at the door standing on his hind legs, tell the guest to wait a second as you lure Duncan a few feet away from the door with a great treat, to a spot where he can be tied down, unable to reach and jump all over the entering guest.

Then give him a “special” toy like a Kong with peanut butter or hollow marrow bone with meat wedged in the middle to enjoy while you and your guest relax. When Duncan appears calm, he can be released and introduced to the guest with (where feasible) the guest having him sit for a small treat. If, after sitting for the treat, Duncan proceeds to become overbearing with the guest, he immediately gets lured away to another tie down, in the loop of activity, again with a re-directing special toy.

In order for you and your guests to enjoy your visitations, Duncan will need to be physically restrained from harassing you and your guests until, with proper training, he develops the manners necessary to be a cooperative gentleman.

Sue, keep the faith. I’ve met my share of dogs like Duncan, and sooner than later he will come to appreciate the benefits of being a cooperative gentleman.
Dog Charmer Tom

Dear Tom,

I have a 16-year-old mini-pin who has to be on a leash at all times. It’s frustrating, because I would like to let him play outside but I can’t trust him. He takes off running to explore every time without regard to his own safety. I’ve tried to stop this behavior over the years with no success. Is it just in his nature? Any advice?

Josh Bennett

Dear Josh,

I often refer to what you’re talking about as the “stickin’ around” command, which needs to be coupled with the “recall.” First thing—“people food” treats ONLY when Nicky’s outdoors, off leash. Off leash means he’s wearing a harness and dragging a 25-foot-long, light rope attached to the leash.

Start calling Nicky to come when he’s in the house, and every time he arrives he gets a tiny treat. If you have to, start him off smelling the treat in your hand as you back up while calling him to come. After a few days he’ll be quite “conditioned” to come when called.


Then to outdoors, where it’s the only time he gets people food treats for coming. Twenty-five feet of a light line should give you adequate time to step on the leash and stay in control, should he decide to flip you the bird and take off.

Especially since, at age 16, he’s not the athlete of his youth.

Give Nicky a kiss for me.

Dog Charmer Tom

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