Gimme Space

Even the most energetic and social among us benefit from quiet time.  We all need an occasional escape from the barrage of demands on us.  Dogs and especially, puppies, are no exception.  It is a myth that dogs universally love petting.  Sometimes, they do not welcome it.  Being part of a group also means having a bit of non-interactive space within it.

Various behavior displays occur when a dog has reached his limit and needs a break from interaction.  It’s best not to push until we tread upon our dog’s last nerve.  Observe his signals.

Picking Up the Dog

Dogs have four feet and really do prefer to walk on them.  Picking up the dog is often unwelcomed by him.   Pick your dog up when his safety is at risk.  (A common response to fearful dogs’ behaviors is picking them up.  This practice does nothing to change a dog’s conditioned emotional response or train in skills, but often has just the opposite effect.  Fear behaviors escalate.)  

Your dog will tell you that he doesn’t appreciate your picking him up.  He may become squirmy, overly excited, or shut down, resigned.  When you approach your dog, and he moves away from you, he’s telling you something.  He anticipates being lifted off his feet.

If your dog solicits being picked up, it’s on his terms.  His behavior in your arms will be relaxed and content.  Wait for him to ask, but don’t make it a habit.  

Snuggling/Hugging the Dog

Most dogs enjoy a certain amount of snuggling, but not hugging.  What’s the difference?  Snuggling means sitting close to the dog, with some, but not excessive petting.   Both parties are relaxed and comfortable.

Hugging lacks the mutuality of snuggling.  With our arms and some of our body weight against the dog, it can feel confining and smothering to him.  It is not a demonstration of affection as it is among us humans.  Do a YouTube search that shows kids and adults hugging dogs.  Observe the dog’s facial expressions and body language.  Some of these videos are scary.

If your dog expects an interaction with you to be unwelcome to him, he is likely to avoid.  When we humans press on with our intentions, the dog can respond with an undesirable behavior, such as an aggressive display.

Quiet Time, Please

Puppies and adult dogs often choose a spot where they are comfortable and can rest and relax.  Families with young children find a crate useful.  It’s a physical space that is easy to designate as a “the dog is resting, leave him alone” zone. 

An adolescent dog absorbs a barrage of stimuli at every turn.  A quiet space with little distraction and interaction can help decompress him.  Using a “relax” protocol is helpful, too.

Copyright © Kimberly B. Mandel   CPDT-KA, 2019 all rights reserved

Kimberly Mandel Canine Behavior and Training LLC