Understanding how our emotional energy paired with body language influences our relationship with our dog (and its environment), is probably the most important concept to be aware of in regards to raising an emotionally stable dog, and to ensure a harmonious relationship within the family. I impress this upon all of my clients. A dog is constantly assessing our energy and body language to help it understand our current state when interacting with us. Not only do we need to be aware of our own emotional state and energy when interacting with our dog, we also need to be fully aware of our dogs. This awareness needs to be 2 way communication between us and our dog, for there to be a harmonious and well balanced relationship. A dog is always aware of its current state, and is constantly reading ours. Dogs do this instinctively. Humans understand this concept at an instinctive level when interacting with and observing other humans, however, for most people, its not so natural to also consider this when interacting with a dog.
Way too often I observe people dropping their assertive energy and offering affection when the dog is assertively demanding their attention. Allowing a dog to invade personal space with this 'attitude', is virtually indicating to the dog that the person is being subservient to it, whether the person feels that way or not.
Compare this type of interaction in regards to human to human interaction. If a person assertively invades your personal space, gets in your face, and you drop your energy and body language, what are you indicating to that person? Your dog is no different. Your dog however, will instinctively act upon it. If I walked toward you and assertively invaded your personal space, not being aggressive, but "assertively" demanding your undivided attention no matter how nice I was acting, you would have little respect for me, and certainly would not be openly affectionate towards me. Yet if I had a dog with me, and my dog rushed into your space and assertively demanded your undivided attention, in most cases, you'd offer the dog affection, and yet my dogs attitude and intent would have been no different to mine when I entered your space.
Offering a dog affection when its not respecting your personal space, from the dogs perspective, is obviously indicating you are willingly giving up your personal space to it. No different to human to human interaction. By allowing this from your dog, and also allowing it to react this way around other people, is indicating to your dog that this is normal behaviour, which can then even cause your dog serious issues around other dogs.
Also, by not teaching a dog to be respectful of personal space, we are not conditioning impulse control around people, and possibly even other dogs. With no impulse control, we are more than likely triggering an emotionally anxious state in the dog when around people, and again possibly even other dogs. I attend many homes and observe dogs that either find it difficult to calm their mind when people arrive, or even when people interact with the dog no matter how calm the person maybe. So many behavioural issues can arise when dogs are not conditioned to be respectful of personal space, and therefore tend to have little to no impulse control around people, and therefore tend to be highly anxious. We also need to be aware, that a dog in a highly anxious state is a dog that is in an emotionally distressed state.
No matter how much we enjoy giving affection to a dog, what makes you and I feel good is not always whats best for the dog. Our dogs emotional state, should always be our number one priority, over and above how we want to feel in that moment.
Always indicate by your actions that you and only you control your space, and will not tolerate disrespectful behaviour within it. By doing so, and no matter how much you may dislike acting this way around your dog (or any dog), you are doing whats best for the dog on so many levels. Also please, have the same consideration for other people your dog interacts with, don't only control personal space, but also your social space, if your dog is being disrespectful. Step in and take action! Your dog should never interact with other people, or even other dogs, unless your dog is respectful. Remember, this behaviour from you, is what your dog needs to be all round emotionally stable, and to ensure a harmonious and well balanced relationship. Affection towards dogs is handed out way too freely these days, with no consideration ofr the consequences for the dog at an emotional and therefore behavioural level. Its more about how the person feels with little regard for whats best for the dog..
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