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Respecting your dog's "bubble" and body language

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Why do we feel so awkward in elevators?

The “bubble” of space around our bodies is very important to most people. People will communicate boundaries about how comfortable they are to engage in conversation, touching and eye contact. Just as easy as it is to say “yes I want to have contact with you", we can just as quickly shut down and say “no thanks”. Sometimes we can feel trapped because socially it is awkward to separate ourselves from a person or a group of people or physically we are “trapped “temporarily in uncomfortable situations such as a crowded elevator, but in that case social cues such as looking or turning your attention away to something else is a coping skill.

Does your dog say “no thanks”?

Why is it that we are adept at picking up the social cues of another human and not the pets in our own homes? We are not dogs and therefore can only scratch the surface on interpreting their social cues for wanting attention or shying from it. There are plenty of studies to give us a baseline on dog body language but sometimes that is not enough. We should also base what we see with dogs in the context of the situation. Consider factors such as the person, other pets around, the familiarity of the location, if the dog has had a good or difficult experience in this place before, or are they amped up after just returning from the vet, or a long playtime, and consider that if a dog feels out of sorts or is in pain, their receptivity will vary as well.

Seek ye first

An excellent blog to follow is eileenanddogs. Her blogs are very visual and many include helpful videos, one of which is highlighted here “Does Your Dog REALLY Want to be Petted?” I challenge the average dog owner to watch the video and try to identify the numerous times that her dog Zani says “no”. You will watch the video a few times to pick up on all of Zani’s cues communicating that she is uncomfortable with the petting. To show the contrast Eileen includes in the video a dog Summer who clearly is saying “YES!”

About Eileen

I came to dog training a typical way: I got a dog with problem behaviors. This was Summer. After a brief but all too long stint with local trainers who used coercive techniques, including balanced trainers who mix aversives and rewards, I found the positive reinforcement training community on the Internet, then locally. I got turned on by learning theory and the wonderful realization that force-free training is not only humane and kind, but is science-based and shown to be extremely effective in training all animals.

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