Dogs don’t speak English, Spanish or French.
Dogs speak spatially.
They interact with each other by moving into or away from another dog’s space (pressure on/pressure off). How they enter that space is their correct or incorrect understanding of social dynamics, respect of space issues, and their ability to interpret intent accurately.
Respect is everything in a dog’s world.
A dog may love you, but may not respect you. Conversely, a dog may fear you, but may not respect you. Earning a dog’s respect is critical for developing and maintaining a balanced relationship. Respect is a precursor for trust, a calm state of mind, and for the ability to make good choices.
Respect of space and acknowledgement of the pack leader are essential first growth steps for you and your dog. It is up to you, the pack leader, to establish that relationship immediately upon welcoming a new member to your pack. A dog processes his world through his nose, eyes, ears, and most especially through recognizing the energy that a pack member is directing toward him.
I use very few words when I begin working with a dog. I’m not concerned with obedience to a command at this point. In a calm, firm manner, I have a very directed intent on a dog.
Believe me, a dog will sniff out insincerity or lack of conviction in a millisecond. The only state of mind I am interested in is a calm, compliant, and accepting one. It’s the only state of mind that gets any attention from me at all. Good things come to those dogs that choose calm!
I always envision that I have a Hula-Hoop around me (the size of the hoop is up to your imagination), and a dog may not enter my Hula-Hoop until invited. I picture my Hula-Hoop at every door, every chair, every stair, every entranceway, every elevator—you get the idea—and that dog may not proceed until I give him the go-ahead. If he infringes upon my Hula-Hoop space, I move into him, applying indirect pressure until he yields and stops the forward progression. And then, when the dog does move, he must move in a controlled fashion, not an overly excited leap into me. Dogs and pups can approach respectfully!
Here’ a tip for a puppy or dog that is coming in ‘hot’ toward you– get your hands down low (like the reverse of a High 5!) and get your hand on the collar of the incoming dog. That way, with your hands down low and on the collar, you can help the dog control his forward motion and even mold a sit in the process.
Door Manners Reinforce Respect of Space for a Dog
Doors are a perfect opportunity to enforce and reinforce respect of space and to create space boundaries! How many times do you go in and out of a threshold in one day? Yep, you guessed it—tons! (Creating threshold respect is a safety issue as well, as a door-bolting dog could become a dead dog.) You have many opportunities to establish a calm mindset in your dog just by moving around your house. Ask your dog to sit, wait for a polite pause, and create that respect of space at the door. You establish the state of mind your dog will be in on the other side of the door before you even walk through it! When teaching this concept, you should work your door manners for two weeks at a minimum of 25 repetitions in a day. Break it up into small five-minute sessions, five times a day. Walk up to a door. Open the door, Get a sit. Gently praise your dog, give a treat. Walk away and do it again.