Space Invader Syndrome: How spoiling our dog in the WRONG ways can create a pushy pup


Do you have a dog who constantly paws or barks at you for attention? Have a pooch who jumps up at your knees to tell you she’s hungry or needs to go out? This is what we call “Space Invader” Syndrome: a dog who pushes into your space to tell you they want or need something. Wondering what you can do to help your demanding dog stop being such a pushy pup?


Some people feel that they are spoiling their dog by giving them whatever they want, whenever they want it. However, doing so doesn’t spoil our dogs, but rather can create significant anxiety and behavioral challenges. Here’s a warning of what spoiling your dog in the WRONG WAYS can do…


Giving in to every demand creates pushy personalities in our dogs. You become a button that your dog can push. Then, if you ever don’t allow your dog to push that button, they will act out in frustration, much like a toddler throwing a temper tantrum. Let me paint the picture of your dog’s behavior: “Hey human!” [scratch, scratch, paw, paw] “Pay attention to me!” [whine, whine, nip, nip] “Hey, you’re not giving me what I want!” [jump, jump, bark, bark] “Finally, I win! I’m going to do all of those behaviors next time I want something, because it worked!” End scene.


“Spoiling” decreases compliance. Think about – if you get everything for free, why would you work for it? Dogs who are spoiled in the wrong ways often do not have good compliance with obedience and basic commands. This can create unruly dogs with no manners, and can make training very challenging.


Serious anxiety issues can develop, especially when separated from owner. There is an increased likelihood of “spoiled” dogs developing separation anxiety when left alone. If the owner gives in to every demand, the dog panics when the owner is not present because the dog can no longer control and push that “button”.


Increases likelihood of aggression and resource guarding. Allowing your dog to be pushy for attention teaches your dog that being demanding can be advantageous. The “That’s MINE!” mentality is encouraged, and this increases the likelihood that your dog could show aggressive behaviors during conflict control.


So now that you’re aware why it’s so important not to spoil your dog in the wrong ways, let’s discuss how to spoil your dog in the RIGHT WAYS…


Train your dog, so you both know how to communicate with one another. As a professional dog trainer, this is often the first hurdle we address. If you don’t understand your pooch, peacefully co-existing will be more challenging. Learn to communicate with your dog, understand the differences in our species, give them appropriate direction, and be an advocate for your pet.


Provide mental and physical activities daily. Dogs are intelligent creatures who need daily activity to keep them happy and healthy. Don’t have the time? Hire a professional dog walker to help burn out some of your pup’s excess energy!


Feed a high-quality diet, and provide adequate veterinary care. If you can’t afford the vet, you can’t afford the pet! Part of spoiling our dogs the right way is providing adequate nutrition and medical care. Always read the back of the food/treat bag, and educate yourself about ingredients to avoid. Put away an allotted amount of money every pay check towards a “Pet Emergency Fund” to avoid panicking when you get the bill for those unexpected vet visits.


Giving clear boundaries and consistent rules will help reduce anxiety, by helping your your dog understand exactly what is expected of him/her. A little bit of tough love goes a long way with our pet dogs. Oddly enough, giving clear and consistent direction LESSENS anxiety in our pups, as they find predictability comforting. Don’t just tell your dog what not to do, teach them what to do instead!


Follow these tips to turn your demanding diva into compliant companion! Happy tails to you!