A Very Interesting Way How Dogs Learn To Seek Attention

Did you know that your dog is capable of actually faking an injury in order to get extra attention? Think of children in that aspect. Regardless if you have kids or not, we all have seen an example of when a child will cry extra loud or scream about something that is “wrong” in order to – yep, you guessed it – get attention. But how can your dog do the same?

It is to be noted that this is a learned response that a dog must have picked up. For example, I recall a miniature poodle that required knee repair on the right rear knee. The surgery went well, and the dog recovered from anesthesia and was sent home the following day. At the one-week recheck the dog was still holding up the right rear leg, but this is not uncommon after only one week. Upon manipulation the knee felt strong, and a recheck appointment was scheduled for two weeks later. At the three-week post examination the dog was still holding the leg in the air and getting around on three legs. Again upon palpation the knee felt strong. X rays were taken to ensure that the surgical correction had not broken down. The radiograph confirmed that the knee was stable, but still the dog limped around on only three legs.

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The doctor then questioned the owners about allowing her too much activity or letting her run on slippery floors, but the owners were conscientious about such things and had been extremely careful. Further discussion revealed the problematic behavior of her owners. It seems they had been lifting and holding their poodle a lot to “help” her out. They were very accommodating, and when she limped into a room they basically waited on her as if she were a princess. The doctor counseled the owners to stop paying so much attention to this limping and begin to treat her normally. The owners complied but still she held her right leg up in the air.

Finally the doctor decided to bandage up her left rear leg to evaluate if she could actually bear weight on it. The dog was able to and showed no sign of pain or apprehension. The good leg remained bandaged for one week, and upon removing the bandage the dog was four-legged again. Basically, the owners trained this dog to limp and had no idea that she could do so in an attempt to gain attention. It was a fascinating lesson. The moral to the story is: Be careful what you reinforce – you may get it.