The dog charmer: meeting one dog’s need for attention and another’s need for exploration

The dog charmer

Respond to a dog’s needs
Watch out, another one needs to explore

It’s not uncommon for dogs, like Duncan, to be stubborn in their demands for attention.

dear tom

When you look at the photo, I find it hard to believe that this dog could be so frustrating for me. It’s good when we’re here alone, but when guests arrive it becomes so difficult to deal with. He wants to be the center of attention and won’t leave anyone alone. I filled a hollow bone with meat today when a friend passed by and it kept him busy for about half an hour. For the next 1-1/2 hours he was stubborn, didn’t listen or stay away, and downright obnoxious! It adds so much stress to my life right now. I do not know what to do.
Looking forward to our next session.

Thank you Sue

Dear Sue,

Some dogs are like politicians, always wanting to be the center of attention. So when you have the audacity to invite a guest over and pay attention to that guest, Duncan feels the need to compete for attention and, at 95 pounds – with the potential stubbornness of a Bay Retriever of Chesapeake – we’re talking competitive intensity World Cup.

Having met Duncan and experienced his insistent persistence, I suggest the following. When your guest is at the door with Duncan also at the door standing on his hind legs, tell the guest to wait a second while you lure Duncan a few feet from the door with a large treat to a spot where he may be tied down, unable to reach and jump all over the incoming guest.

Then give her a “special” toy like a Kong with peanut butter or a hollow marrowbone with meat stuck in the middle to enjoy while you and your guest relax. When Duncan appears calm, he may be released and introduced to the guest with (if possible) the guest sitting him down for a small treat. If, after sitting down for the treat, Duncan becomes bossy with the guest, he is immediately drawn to another tether, into the activity loop, again with a special redirect toy.

In order for you and your guests to enjoy your visits, Duncan will need to be physically restrained from harassing you and your guests until, with proper training, he develops the mannerisms necessary to be a cooperative gentleman.

Sue, keep the faith. I’ve met my share of dogs like Duncan, and sooner or later he’ll come to appreciate the benefits of being a cooperative gentleman.
Tom Dog Charmer

Dear Tom,

I have a 16 year old mini pin who must be on a leash at all times. It’s frustrating because I’d like to let him play outside but I can’t trust him. He goes running to explore every time without worrying about his own safety. I have tried to stop this behavior over the years without success. Is it just in his nature? No advice?

Josh Bennet

Dear Josh,

I often refer to what you’re talking about as the “stickin’ around” command, which needs to be paired with the “recall”. First thing: “People’s Food” is ONLY enjoyed when Nicky is outside, off leash. Off-leash means he wears a harness and pulls a 25-foot-long lightweight rope attached to the leash.

Start calling Nicky to come when he’s in the house, and every time he comes he gets a little treat. If you have to, start by feeling the treat in your hand as you step back while calling for it to come. After a few days, he will be completely “conditioned” to come when he is called.


Then outside, where it’s the only time he gets treats to come. A bright twenty-five foot line should give you plenty of time to step on the leash and maintain control, should he decide to turn the bird over to you and take off.

Especially since at 16, he is not the athlete of his youth.

Kiss Nicky for me.

Tom Dog Charmer