Why Dogs Want Attention



There are hundreds of different dog breeds out there all with different personalities, quirks, and needs. Although all canine companions seem to share a few key desires that most owners can recognize on a daily basis, their desire for attention is undoubtedly one of the strongest ones. Whether it is demanded through your furry buddy’s barking, gained by his persistent pawing, or earned through patience and good behavior - all dog owners can agree that their attention-loving dogs can be too much sometimes. So why do dogs want attention and how much of it should their owners give them on a daily basis?

The Root of the Behavior

Although there can be a variety of underlying reasons why your dog might want attention, some related to his emotional state while others associated with the present circumstances, most often than not dogs just want attention because they are social animals. Since our canine companions descended from wolves, they have inherited a multitude of their traits, preferences, and characteristics. It is only logical they have also inherited the pack mentality and need for social interaction. However, due to the domestication of dogs and the growing human-canine bond, that social interaction can no longer be satisfied through pure dog on dog relations. Our four-legged family members not only crave but also need human interaction, especially their owner’s attention, affection, and approval, to remain mentally healthy and happy. Unfortunately, many dog owners don’t realize how important that social aspect is for a dog and often neglect it. Some people even get annoyed by their tail-wagging, over-excited four-legged buddies when they greet them home. After a long day at work, it is only natural to want some peace and quiet, right? Well, sometimes it is important to see things from a different perspective. Most dogs spend 8-10 hours at home, completely alone with not much mental stimulation or things to do. It can be really distressing and unhealthy for a dog to be shooed and rejected by the one person they were waiting for all day. 

While all dogs share this need and desire for attention, some breeds are more social than others and require more attention to remain happy. Terriers, Labrador Retrievers, and English Springer Spaniels are great examples of friendly, attention-loving dogs that make excellent companions. On the other hand, they don’t do well with being left alone for extended periods of time and are also prone to separation anxiety. While they might need a bit more attention than the average dog, we have to remember that all dogs need regular human interaction to remain sane and happy. Make sure to dedicate enough time to your furry best friend on a daily basis by taking him on long walks, playing with him and including him in your activities as much as it is possible. 

Encouraging the Behavior

Though it is completely normal and common for dogs to want attention, it is important to differentiate between their actual needs and unhealthy whims. The latter can often unintentionally lead to over pampering and rewarding neediness. Demand barking is one prime example of dogs extorting attention in an unhealthy way that should never be encouraged or given in to. In those cases, as hard as it may be, it is best to ignore the behavior entirely - even if sad puppy eyes and whimpering are involved. 

Pawing, on the other hand, is an important communication tool that dogs use to get their needs across and those should not be ignored. Many owners find that the pawing behavior usually occurs when the dog actually needs something, though some dogs do overuse it from time to time. If your dog is patiently pawing you, make sure to check if the food and water bowls are filled or consider taking your dog for a walk, especially if the last trip to the bathroom was more than a few hours ago. Most often than not, your canine companion might actually be trying to tell you something important - for example, that he doesn’t want to stain your carpet.

Other Solutions and Considerations

If your dog’s pawing leads you to an empty water bowl, chances are that is his method of communicating his priorities to you. On the other hand, if you hold up his toy over your head and he barks at you for it, that is his way of letting you know he demands it back. Both scenarios are centered around attention except they have different underlying reasons. It is important to try your best to understand your dog’s body language and behavior to be able to differentiate between the two. Giving in to excessive pawing or demand barking can lead to serious behavioral issues so it is also important for all owners to remember that they should not give attention to their canines everytime it is demanded. Though dogs do need attention on a daily basis, it does not have to be initiated by them. Quite the opposite, it is good to reward your dog when he doesn’t demand attention and initiate playtime before he does from time to time. This creates a balance and shows him that he should adjust to you and not the other way around.


All dogs need attention to remain healthy and happy but it does not need to be given to them on their terms. Walks, playtime, and petting are not the only ways to give your dog what he needs. Spend time together by allowing your dog to be involved in your life as much as possible. From grocery runs to letting him watch you do laundry, at the end of the day, your canine companion wants just that - companionship.