It’s the small details that make the big picture, and that couldn’t be more true when talking about body positioning. Where your dog is sitting, or hanging out at, tells a story. If I’m having a conversation with you, and my dog positions himself directly in front of me, this is a big time problem. It seems so insignificant, because a mistake hasn’t happened, but as we know there is never a problem, until there is a problem.
You have to remember, dogs do not speak English. They speak through body language and energy. Every move is a sentence in the story. When a dog places themselves in between you and someone else, it will not always mean that my dog is trying to hurt or attack someone, far from it. However, it does put my dog in a position where they believe the can make decisions, and it puts them in a position of control. I’ve heard hundreds of stories in which this was the beginning, and the story ends with the stranger moving closer to the owner and their dog lunged and nipped. Here is the question. Why wouldn’t they? Once again, they’ve been in a position of protection and control through the entirety of your conversation with this stranger.
This doesn’t apply just to protective or aggressive dogs. Over friendly dogs are more likely to jump when standing in this position, then they would be in a heel next to their owners. Nervous dogs tend to let off low nervous growls in this position, and will absolutely nip to say back the hell off if someone comes too close. Your job, for all behavior types, but especially as the owner of a nervous dog, is to put them in a position to succeed. Put them in a position where they understand what they should and shouldn’t be doing. Where they understand that they do not have to make decisions, and you, their owner, are in complete control of not just them, but the entire environment. The more confidence your dog gets with you as a leader, the more confident they will become throughout their life.
If you are practicing putting your dog in a sit when other dogs are nearby or walking past, do so with them next to you and you closest to the other dogs. Use your body and space to your advantage.
Body positioning doesn’t only equal outside behavior. Once a week I meet dog owners who have dogs that will nip their spouse when they move to close to them in the TV room, or when they try to get next to their spouse on the couch. I ask where the dog is during this sequence of events, and the dog is on their lap. Well, he’s in a position to be protective, so why wouldn’t he? He’s off the couch, ♾.
Opening up a door for a friend and having your dog in front of you, and in between the two of you at a threshold is another big time problem. Don’t open the door for your guests with your dog in this position. “But Vinnie, how do I bring the guests in then? They will be waiting outside for hours?”
You have a few options, but this is why we PREACH the place command. Having a home base for your dog to stay on while you bring guests over is so important. However, you can always use your crate as well. Never as a punishment, and I’m not anxious or angry when putting my dog in the crate after the doorbell rings. Ill take my time, and stay as calm as a cucumber. Finally, if your dog has perfect leash skills, you’re in business. You can always use your leash, and heel them to the door and throughout the house while your guests is there.
Overview: Body positioning matters, and start to pay more attention to the minor details. Continue to work with your dog, and have a tremendous amount of fun throughout the process. Remember, “Properly Trained Humans Can Be a Dog’s Best Friend”
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