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Canine Behavior/Dog Seeking Attention


Hello Dr. Connor; I read your response to Over Zealous dog ( ) and I have a similar issue.

My collie mix is a gentle sweet dog who dotes on human attention.  She has a very appealing shaggy dog look and she will lay her head on the knee of her ''mark'' and gaze at them until they pet her.  If they stop she nudges and paws or if ignored, will flop down on their feet.  I have to draw her away but she will quickly seek out the same person who falls for her charms and continues to pet her, even if they are done.  

I have her in training to get her CGC and ultimately hope to certify her as a therapy dog.  What I need to start teaching her is to disengage from a person on command or to start engaging on another command.  In short, I want to use her natural desire to be with people but I want to be able to direct it.  I need to be able to do this in spite of the fact that due to her appealing looks, most people cave into her and pet her when she demands it so she has learned that she gets the attention if she sits quietly which is good but I struggle with getting her to leave that person since they both are willing participants.  

Do you have any suggestions that can get me started towards my goal?  Thanks very kindly.

Put the dog on a simplified version of NILIF (nothing in life is free) for about six weeks.

Teach her not to "demand" attention by removing yourself, and telling visitors to remove themselves (by turning their heads away, raising arms over their heads, or simply getting up and turning their back to her) for five seconds, then turn to the dog and ask for "sit" and reward with affection (keep it brief).

If she has to "earn" everything (everything) for a few weeks, she will soon understand that this demand for attention is not only unrewarding, but in fact "punishing" since it results in the immediate withdrawal of the individual.  Advise your visitors that they are not helping the dog by caving in to her attention getting behaviors.  The CGC is not as easily earned as it appears.  If a dog is "manipulative", the dog is possibly in some way insecure; part of the CGC test is to leave the dog in a sit/stay and walk a substantial distance away.  A dog that is insecure will (at least) keen/whine and is more likely to break, and therefor fail.  A therapy dog must be absolutely loving and friendly but not overly "pushy", so the dog needs an "invitation" and the NILIF program helps the dog to recognize that invitation.

You don't want to demote this dog psychologically into depression (although at first she might APPEAR "depressed").  You aim to make a firm statement of social hierarchy that she can, and will, easily comprehend because it is part of her culture.

Canine Behavior

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.


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.


30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, 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.

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

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

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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