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dogs competing for attention

Dogs Competing for Attention

How to help with competition between dogs for human attention? Rosebud acts like she owns me and Helmut (new dog) acts like he owns my husband. How to reduce this behavior?

Dr. Nichol:
Rosebud and Helmut believe that access to their leaders is limited. What? Why that’s ridiculous! Love and affection for your dogs is boundless – from the human perspective. But they think differently. Their species has scraped by for thousands of years believing that resources, like food and interactions with leaders, are scarce. Rosebud and Helmut are genetically programmed to assume that their sustenance and their people could evaporate anytime.

Each of your dogs has picked their person. Rosebud cannot allow Helmut near your highness because if she doesn’t get all of you she’s sure that she won’t get any of you. There is no way to change her hard-wiring but you and your husband are smarter than your dogs. You can learn canine leadership.

Leave a leash attached to each dog’s collar whenever they are inside. If they compete for either person’s attention or get pushy with each other both of them must be immediately ignored. Pick up either leash and lead that fully ignored dog outside or to another room and close the door. You can then return to the other dog and lavishly enjoy his/her company.

Hey – wait a minute. That’s not fair! Fuggedaboutit. Rosebud and Helmut live in the moment. If one dog doesn’t see his competitor getting a brand new car and a dream vacation there will be no recrimination. They don’t get jealous. That’s a human shortcoming. Rosebud and Helmut are not little people in furry suits.

Avoid correction or reprimands or sharing your affection or snacks with each of dog equally. A canine hierarchy doesn’t recognize the human concept of equality. Rosebud and Helmut believe that a response from their exalted rulers is never gratis, but must always be earned. Whatever your reaction they will think that their behavior of the moment has been validated. Ignore what you don’t want, set your dogs up to succeed (putting one of them elsewhere), and then love the dog you’re with.

Dr. Jeff Nichol provides pet behavior consultations in-person and virtually by telephone and Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week he shares a blog and a Facebook Live video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at Post pet questions on behavioral or physical concerns on or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.