Why is my dog competing for attention?


A reader worries about how her dog reacts to other people's dogs when socialising. Your Dog expert Tony Cruse advises.

Q When we meet people with dogs on walks, our six-year-old Lhasa Apso goes to the owner for a stroke or fuss, and if that person’s dog comes back, she will snap at it. Also, if I give attention to another dog, she’ll come over and push between us. What is the reason for this behaviour and how can I train her not to react in this way?

Fiona Packer, Bedfordshire.

Tony says: Some people would call this jealousy, but the concept of jealousy is complex, especially in animals. I would simply describe the behaviour as competing for attention.  

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You can teach your dog that she only gets praise and attention when the other dog is present and always after the other dog has a fuss. This way, the other dog receiving attention predicts good things for her over time.  

To start this learning, ensure both dogs are on-lead. Briefly fuss the other dog, stop, and instantly fuss your dog, always in that order so one event starts to predict the other.  

You can boost this training by giving her a treat after giving the other dog attention, although be careful not to drop it. You could even toss the treat in the opposite direction to the dog so that she also moves away. Similarly, if she is receiving attention from the other dog’s owner, call your dog to you and give her a treat as soon as the other dog returns. The other dog returning soon reliably predicts a treat from you, not an opportunity to compete for attention.