How do you break a needy dog?

Answered by Douglas Hiatt

As a certified dog trainer and behaviourist, I have encountered many dogs with needy behaviour, and I understand how frustrating it can be. Fortunately, there are four simple steps that can help you break this behaviour and create a more balanced relationship with your dog.

1. Meet your dog’s need for attention: Needy behaviour often stems from a lack of attention or stimulation. Make sure you are spending quality time with your dog, engaging in activities they enjoy. This could include daily walks, play sessions, or training exercises. By fulfilling their need for attention in a structured and consistent manner, you can reduce their clinginess.

2. Talk to them before they exhibit needy behaviour: Dogs are incredibly perceptive and can pick up on our moods and routines. If you know that certain situations trigger your dog’s neediness, such as when you’re about to leave the house, preemptively address their concerns. Engage in a calm and reassuring conversation with your dog, using a soothing tone of voice. This can help alleviate their anxiety and reduce their clingy behaviour.

3. Distract them before they become needy: Dogs often exhibit needy behaviour when they are bored or seeking attention. Instead of waiting for them to become clingy, proactively engage them in activities that keep their minds and bodies occupied. Provide them with interactive toys, puzzle feeders, or engage in training exercises that stimulate their mental faculties. By redirecting their energy towards constructive activities, you can prevent them from resorting to needy behaviour.

4. Gradually increase independence: Needy dogs often struggle with being alone or separated from their owners. To help them become more independent, gradually increase the duration of time they spend alone. Start with short periods and gradually build up their tolerance. Provide them with a comfortable and secure space, such as a crate or designated area, where they can relax and feel safe. This will help them learn that being alone does not mean they are being abandoned.

It’s important to remember that breaking a dog’s needy behaviour takes time, consistency, and patience. By addressing their needs for attention, preemptively addressing their concerns, providing distractions, and gradually increasing independence, you can help your dog develop a more balanced and secure mindset. If you find that the behaviour persists or worsens, it may be beneficial to consult with a professional dog trainer or behaviourist for additional guidance tailored to your specific situation.