All About Marie

Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register from 1992-2016; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor/Co-host of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 19 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of two baby boys and one baby girl, and pet parent of two cats, one dog, many fish, and a cockatoo.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Needy (Demanding) Pet

Dear Marie,
I have a five-year-old dog who loves me very much and I love her too. I spend a lot of time with her every day. We walk together and play together. But, every time I try to do my own thing, she constantly jumps up on me and tries to get all my attention again. I don’t mind spending time with her, but I need time for myself too. Do you think she needs another dog around to be her companion?

Dear Joanne,
I am not sure getting another dog will solve your problem. It may compound it. Your dog may teach the newcomer that this behavior is completely acceptable. Then, instead of having one dog mug you when you need quiet moments, you’ll have two! Further, two dogs mean a whole lot more of your time. It seems that time is the one thing you need…not a new dog.

I think what you really must do is set down some ground rules for your pet. Don’t cut down on the playtime and affection you want to give her. However, when you need your own space, you need to let her know what you want in no uncertain terms.

I suspect you may be sending her mixed signals. If you tell her “no” and then allow her to continue pestering, she will assume you don’t really mean it. She has come to expect that she can have her way because you won’t be consistent and firm.

There are a number of things you can do. First, re-establish yourself as the “alpha” or head of the family by taking a refresher dog obedience course together. Especially practice “down, sit, and stay.” Remember, dogs love to please their people but need their guidance to get on the right track. Don’t ever let her get the upper hand or you will lose your credibility.

When you decide it’s time to be on your own, firmly call out these commands. Be sure and praise her when she follows through with the correct behavior. You can also give her a little toy or treat to keep her busy while she is in her “stay.”

You should also temporarily introduce her to kennel time. Kennels are useful in many areas of dog training. It seems as though a kennel would be especially useful in your situation.

After a long walk or play, send her to a large, comfy dog crate or kennel. Make sure she has a toy and a blanket to snuggle with.  You might also give her a treat when she goes in. Turn on a radio and tune it in to soft music or talk radio. After she has settled in, go about your business. Dogs generally don’t mind being in kennels. They are like little dens, which for dogs are actually quite comforting.

When you are ready to spend time with your pet again, let her out, but don’t fuss over her too much. Wait ten or fifteen minutes before handling her. This will reduce the frantic, “so happy to see you” energy dogs sometimes get when their owners return.

If you have friends who are willing, send her out with them for walks and playtime. This way, she will not depend solely on you for fun and affection. In fact, if there is a regular time each day that you need for yourself, you might enlist the help of a dog walker (a responsible teenage neighbor who wants to earn a little money, perhaps) to take your pet for a nice long jaunt through the neighborhood.

In a nutshell, with regular, consistent obedience training and a little more variety of human interaction, your pet will probably become very well-mannered. You don’t need to introduce another dog because I don’t think your girl is bored or lonely. She just needs to know what is expected of her and what she can expect in return.

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