Attention As A Valuable Resource

Why is it that Shiva’s energy always gets a boost when the temperatures start lowering and the skies are darkening? Why can’t she exhaust herself in the warmer, lighter months and then hibernate like the rest of us? It’s not fair that she seems to pick up speed the second the mercury drops close to zero, when rational humans stay inside and make hot chocolate.

Call it paranoia but I am not comfortable taking her to the dog park when it’s so dark out. Even with her fancy high visibility vest I worry about letting her run around in the woods. It’s not just coyotes – though they are a concern – but I don’t like it when I can’t see what’s coming. It doesn’t feel safe for either of us. The other evening all I could hear was an owl and the crunching of gravel beneath my feet. Every rustle of leaves had me jumping.

Back on the leash Shiva went.

Unfortunately, leash walks aren’t enough to tire out this crazy pooch. She makes it pretty clear that forty-five minutes of meandering around on the sidewalk on a weekday night isn’t going to cure her of cabin fever. Last week on Facebook I shared some of Shiva’s more frequent attention-getting antics.

First, she typically starts with a stare. She’ll stand directly in front of me, brown eyes solemn and boring into my guilt complex. If that doesn’t work, she’ll start licking whatever surface of my skin is available. Hands, feet, even pants if that’s all she can reach. When that doesn’t get her what she wants she might try a light whine followed by leaping onto the book or keyboard that is usually preventing me from looking at her. The nerve.

To combat this I turned my back to her, showing her that jumping on me isn’t the way to earn my attention. Naturally, this only drove her to up the ante. Once hitting all the keys on my laptop only gets her silence, Shiva is forced to switch her tactics to something less subtle. This is the point at which she will find a toy, such as a good heavy antler, run around with it, and then smack it heavily on the floor. On Friday this toy happened to be a Kong and she replaced the floor with my foot. There is nothing like hard rubber on one’s toes.

I really had to congratulate her on her aim.

Is it cruel that I continued the game after this point? With all the effort she had put in already, I couldn’t help but be curious as to what she would try next. I figured it had to be one of either two things. When normal loud noises and licking doesn’t work, she often resorts to activities for which she knows will get her in hot water. Such as counter-surfing, or the always popular game of chase the cat.

Both of these would normally get me responding, the former more than the latter. The Cat, after all, can defend himself just fine. Shiva often punishes herself by continuing the game longer than he likes, no human intervention required.

I decided to wait her out, just to see what she would try next. Regrettably, my PH chose this moment to walk in the door so I never got to find out what comes after feline wrangling on Shiva’s list of “things that get the human’s attention.”

There is always next time. And with winter only beginning, there will definitely be a next time.

Does your dog have a list of techniques to snare your attention? Do they amuse you as much as they do me?

17 thoughts on “Attention As A Valuable Resource

  1. Hahah, lol. She has every moment access to the cat, huh? I restrict Elli’s access SO much, basically making the opportunity irresistible when it does occur.

    My favorite attention-seeking regime begins with chin on my leg with hungry-eyes. And then maybe some drooling on my pant leg. And then she’ll pick up a toy she hasn’t touched in ages and swing it around and throw it at the ceiling. And then she’ll bring it over to me, muzzling punching my leg. Then the whining. Then the barking. If none of that works, she’ll jump on my lap and stare at me from there, completely blocking my view of the laptop altogether. She’s a clever one, indeed.

    Then we go for a walk. Haha.


  2. Do you think it interesting that dogs all over the world exhibit this same(ish) behaviour when seeking attention? Georgia doesn’t lick (thank god) but she loves (from Step 1) staring, looking forlorn, nudging/blocking/pushing my hands away from the keyboard, tossing toys around, grumbling and finally BARKING BARKING BARKING! You might have seen pictures of her telling us off? When everything fails, BIG SULK. Nobody loves me, you see.


  3. I always break things up at the “whine through my noise as high pitched as I can” stage, because it just drills through my skull. Elka does spend a lot of time bringing me things, of varying acceptability. Once when she was much younger she brought me a penny! I’m still not sure how she picked it up.


  4. I’m always dismayed that the expensive antlers I buy sit on the floor while they prefer to chew plastic pens and pencils. Of course they know that the crunching of plastic always brings me running so i guess it’s no mystery as to their choice of chewables.


  5. Hurley likes to bring us every single toy in the house and drop them (mostly wet and muddy) on our laps.

    Maggie does her “pay attention to me” dance, which is the same as her “I’m hungry” dance and her “I gotta go” dance. So we’re always confused as to what she really wants.

    Sadie just sits and rests her head on my lap. It’s all sweet and innocent until she moves and I notice the pool of drool she’s been so kind as to deposit on my pants.



  6. Max has the whole attention getting thing down to a science. First the head on the lap, then he backs up and starts to talk to us(typical husky fashion). He’s careful not to actually bark because he knows that would get him in trouble. If that doesn’t work he finds a toy to start to throw at you. When all else fails he was start to stalk you if you move and lay down when you stop moving with a loud exhal to ensure you know he is there. Its like being herded by a teenager, “if I have to I will, but I’m not impressed that you let it come to this. He likes to be dramatic.


  7. Hi Kirsten, we all line up and stare at my dad. He tries to avoid looking at us but one of us will paw him or give him a gentle shot of our paw. I’ll put my head on his lap (usually works) and then he gets up, gives us a treat and runs into his home office and closes the door muttering.


  8. It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.


  9. Song would just come and stand in front of me and that was her way of saying I should make a fuss of her:) Polly will come and put her head on my lap or when I am at the desk typing on my arm. She will stand for ages whilst I make a fuss of her.


  10. LOL! I can feel your pain about the dark nights and dog parks and fear of not being able to see them. Our favorite dog park has no lights on in the evening, so I go there less and less in the winter. The other one I will only go to when the pond is frozen over because I don’t want my dogs getting giardia or worse. Since it isn’t frozen over and we can’t hit the other one we have been taking walks in the neighborhood. It is not enough either.

    Jasper tosses his bouncy ball (the only one he can have in the house) over and over again. Daisy paces and wags her tail. Cupcake barks at me.
    It is time to break out the trick training session I think. 🙂

    BTW – Jasper once dropped a tennis ball on my foot for over an hour while I was on an important conference call. That is why tennis balls are no longer allowed inside the house. 🙂


  11. I feel your pain. Delilah will sit in front of me and bark. I hate having to take around the block walks, but it’s not like I have a big choice. Couple that with Sampson having to go easy on his leg and even weekend walks aren’t probably as long as Delilah would like.

    I will often times hide food for her to find, the other thing that tires her out I don’t like to do is the laser. She will chase the laser light/flash light for quite some time, but then she becomes obsessive about it and won’t settle down. We rarely resort to that.

    Maybe you could teach Shiva some new tricks? Is she confident enough to go to daycare? Sometimes that can really help tire them out.


  12. I get the stare. She’s very good at it! Thankfully Blueberry isn’t much of an attention hound – she is happy enough if I am just in the same room with her – but when she wants a treat or is ready for her nightly walk, that’s when the staring begins. I have burn marks on the side of my face from her penetrating gaze. 😉


  13. Ha ha ha! That’s quite an entertaining array of activities Shiva’s come up with.

    Honey will grab her loudest squeaky toys and dance around with them until our eardrums shatter. And she’s also developed an amazingly high pitched bark when she’s ready for her morning walk. You’d think the sound was coming from a 3 pound dog instead of a 50 pound dog. It’s almost high enough that she can’t hear it. 🙂


  14. having a bloodhound was pure HELL when the weather changed. Fred turned into a diffrent dog. He could smell the weather coming and the change of seasons (only hot and cooler are the seasons here in Texas). The cooler temps turned him into a crackhead. It was so frustrating. every evening was spent with him pacing in and out the doggie door sniffing in the air and on alert – never could figure out what he was looking for but its like something in his body was telling him to run and travel and smell the world, I used double leashes when I walked him in the cooler temps in fear he might break free we would also have to make extra sure he didnt dart out the door. The summers when it was hot was hell because he would annoy us with pawing at us or sitting and baying at you to his hearts content, needless to say he was a tad bit needy. My labs are much less needy and dont react much with the weather.


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