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Canine Behavior/Canine Attachment

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Question
I have a seven year old Doberman.  He's a wonderful dog and I'm grateful that he is so attached to me.  My concern is that wherever I am, he wants to be within three feet of me and if I'm seated he insists that I pet him.  I adopted him several years ago and don't know how he was treated before he came to me.  He's my fourth Dobie in the last fifteen years ... all of them have been "needy" but this one is ridiculous.  Help!

Answer
The dog is seven years old and, in Doberman years (at least in the majority) that is "old".  "insists that I pet him" is your interpretation.  You are rewarding whatever "insistence" the dog is actually offering.  You DO NOT HAVE TO PET HIM because of your perception.  If you want this to stop simply get up and walk away for fifteen seconds, and re-seat yourself.  The dog gets attention when YOU are willing to give it.  This sounds cruel but, in the dog culture, this is the way of social hierarchy and the dog will "get it" and stop "demanding".

A dog from a former life can be a problem (if there are seriously acquired negative behaviors) but this "neediness" is REINFORCED by your response, which only makes the dog MORE "needy" because, in the dog culture, a dog is not able to make demands for attention on those higher in the social hierarchy.  So therefor, the "neediness" is enabled and it goes against the dog's own nature.

If he wants to be near you, that's fine.  So does my dog.  I'd much rather a dog that chose to be near me (because I am higher in social hierarchy) than one who doesn't "care".  How you respond to YOUR perception of his further "needs" is defining your relationship.

You do not have to "pet" a dog because YOU perceive the dog wants/needs to be petted.  A brief scratch behind the ears and then ignoring the dog's further attempts will work and will make the dog more relaxed and secure (since you are now behaving as one higher in social hierarchy, approachable upon "invitation", not "demand".)

Your dog might also be demonstrating a biological problem: perhaps he is in pain (orthopedic), perhaps he is suffering some loss of cognition, etc.

I suggest you find a veterinary behaviorist who can do an overall assessment of your dog.  Should the dog be suffering from some biologic cause, this professional will be able to give medication to help the dog.  You should be able to find one in your area from the following sites or by calling the veterinary college in your area:

http://www.veterinarybehaviorists.org/
http://www.avsabonline.org/avsabonline/  

Canine Behavior

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.

Expertise

I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.

Experience

30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for ThePetChannel.com for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, K9Shrinks@egroups.com. Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Organizations
Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Publications
Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Education/Credentials
Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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