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How can I stop my Yorkshire Terrier from continually giving his paw to me to elicit attention? He never seems to settle, and this behaviour has become quite tiring in the home.

Nick Jones advises...

Dogs tend to repeat behaviours they know are beneficial to them in some way, resulting in an outcome they enjoy or find rewarding. If your dog is constantly offering his paw, then it is likely that at some point you, or someone else, has been holding it and rewarding him for such behaviour. As a quick aside, this is one reason why I personally avoid teaching this exercise. It can be frustrating when some dogs use it to get constant attention – and larger dogs can scratch or even break the skin.

So, how can you stop your dog pawing at you? Put simply, by strictly ignoring this behaviour over a one- to two-week period. Do this and you should find that it reduces greatly, if not stops altogether. Importantly, all members of the family will need to do the same and be entirely consistent. Because the Yorkshire Terrier is a small breed, a strict ‘ignore’ could be sufficient, but if he is still demonstrating an unacceptable level of pawing after a week of being ignored, then you can try one of two things. Either immediately stand up and walk away from him as soon as he starts pawing, or take him out of the room and put him somewhere else for a brief timeout. Timeouts should be calm and controlled, and the dog doesn’t need to be left for any longer than 60 seconds.

He should quickly learn that each time he paws at you, it results in a simple negative outcome of either you walking away, or him finding himself alone for a short period. I would start with the walking away method, and if this doesn’t prove fruitful, try the timeout.

On a general note, ensure that you always give your dog affection on your terms, not his. Constant pawing is indicative of attention-seeking behaviour and I wouldn’t be surprised if he tries something else once the pawing stops working in the way he’s come to expect!

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