I currently have my dogs on an "attention diet." That means "no touch, no talk, no eye contact," as Cesar Millan would say (and I promise you, this is both the first and last time I will ever quote Cesar!). Why do my dogs need an attention diet? Well, they've received way too much attention indoors, been completely anthropomorphized, overstimulated, over-pet, overly coo-ed to, and in a fairly co-dependent relationship with me for most of their lives. It's only day two and so far, so good. I've been able to practically go "cold turkey" and my dogs are snoring soundly while I type this blog post. They're a LOT less vocal at mealtimes, and much more calm around the house in general.
Here are 7 signs that could indicate your dog will also benefit from an attention diet:
1. Does your dog lose his head (become overly excited) every time you come home, even when you have only been gone a short period of time? And more importantly, do you enjoy seeing this over-the-top display of what you might think is "affection"? Do you believe it is a sign that your dog loves you and misses you when you are away from him? If you answered yes to any of these questions, your dog could use an attention diet.
2. Does your dog follow you around the house all day long, in and out of every room, not because he needs to be fed or let out, but simply because he *needs* to be with you every minute of the day? Do you enjoy this? Do you believe it is because your dog loves you, protects you, and is completely loyal to you?
3. Does your dog have separation anxiety?
4. Does your dog destroy or chew things up while you are away from the house?
5. Do you ever feel guilty that you are not giving your dog enough attention? Or that his quality of life is somehow lacking because you don't do enough for him, such as exercise, socialization, play dates, classes, activities, outings, mental puzzles, etc.? If you are concerned that your dog is bored and needs more stimulation/love/affection/attention, then what he probably needs is an attention diet.
6. Does your dog seem tense around you? He can't ever relax while you are awake and moving around the house? Is he alert to every move you make? Does he whine when you are on the phone or talking with house guests? If your dog finds it difficult to just chill out in the house during waking hours, he most definitely needs an attention diet.
7. If the thought of putting your dog on an attention diet strikes you as a bad/scary/horrible idea, you immediately feel pangs of guilt, or find it impossible to stop talking to, petting, or gazing into your dog's beautiful eyes, then you BOTH need an attention diet, and you might also consider attending a CoDA meeting (Codependents Anonymous). :)
Most dogs today are not allowed to just be a dog. They are surrogate babies, surrogate partners, expected to be as soft and squishy as a teddy bear, never allowed to express their drive, and then admonished for getting into the trash, chewing the couch cushions, jumping on house guests, and other mischievous (if not worse) behaviors.
We can change this. We can respect the nature of the dog. Let's give them long walks in the woods, something prey-like to bite and carry, and then leave them alone in the house (den) where it's completely unnatural for them to be the object of our (predatory) attention.