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personal space

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personal space
  • I was told (not by anyone here) that dogs innately understand personal space, and the only issue that should come up would be with a dominant dog.  Jake is a submissive and soft dog, but seems to have no concept of personal space.  Is the concept irrelevant, or does he secretly think he's in charge (I doubt this) or did he miss some sort of socialization step?
     
    Is there anything I can do to teach him this or are some dogs just a lost cause?
  • I've met very few dogs that seem to have ever heard of "personal space".  Herding dogs, maybe. Most Danes and labs don't seem to have a clue. What about the sweet little basset hound pup, submissive as all get out, who crawls into any available lap without waiting for an invite? 
  • Every dog is a bit different about personal space.

    I think that you have to read the dogs whole body language if you want to make this type of assessment.  My pointer, Grace, is a velcro dog,  she has to be touching me all the time (unless she is outside staring at the dove nest in our apple tree).  If I would allow it, she would be in my lap everytime I sat down to relax.  Instead, I gently direct her to the floor, reward her and give her an ear scratch, and then she lays on my foot.[8|]

    You can see in my avatar, that she will do this to Trudy, too.    If Trudy has had enough, she will push her with her hind leg or go to another spot.  If Grace can't cuddle Trudy, she will touch her paw. Definitely not resource guarding or dominance. 

    My setter will bound up for a scratch and go on her merry way.  She doesn't like to be bothered if she is eating or half asleep in a comphy spot.   If you touch her, she will just look at you as if to say "gee, can't it wait, I'm busy here", and lick her lip, so I respect her and let her be.

    Maybe take Trudy's tack and when your dog smothers you, cross your arms, look the other way and clench your teeth or lick your lips.  One step more would be to direct him to sit on the floor or next to you and when he moves, look at him with a smile and reward him.  He should get the idea if you are consistant. 
  • Jake is very velcro.  Our largest problem (still and forever) is walking.  We gave up on teaching him to loose leash walk (he gets directly in front of you and pulls like a truck).  He does ok walking with a Halti and thats how we walk him.  The problem is that even if he's not pulling, he seems completely oblivious.  He will crowd into your leg.  If he brushes your leg, he will swerve away from you then swerve back twice as fast so he plows right into you harder.  Sometimes he will just turn and walk right into you.  He never looks at me.  He never seems surprised or offended by what happens.
     
    We started trying to jog with him (haha) thinking that he would pull less if we were moving faster.  Oddly it seems to work, but its so completely dangerous that I cant bring myself to do it very often.  I expend so much energy and focus trying to not step on his paws, or using the leash to pull him AWAY from me.  And even if things are cruising along ok like they were this morning, he just turned and tried to run thru me.  Fluke luck he managed to get halfway between my legs while I was in mid stride.  My trailing leg came forward and got him square in the side and I wiped out quite spectacularly.  He wasn't going after anything.  He just decided to turn.
     
    This isnt exclusive to being on the leash.  Around the house, if i walk straight away from him with something interesting I get about a 50/50 result.  Half the time he will cut me off then plow into me from the front, and the other half he will walk straight into the back of my legs.  At least in that situation I know its coming and can chalk it up to excitement.  I have no explanation for the walking/jogging thing.
     
    I need one of those Springer bike attachments for myself!  [:D]  I'm just trying to figure out if there is a way I can teach him not to be a menace or if we're just at another dead end.
  • Dogs DO develop space awareness in the whelping box, just as they develop other social skill like bite inhibition. It's wildly different for every breed what they come with, to you. Ideally it's best to show your dog as a puppy what your own expecations are. Border Collie puppies from the lines I favor are tremendously touchy/feely/follow-you-in-the-bathroom/sit-on-your-head. Unfortunately I despise that - it's why I dislike cats.

    So we work really hard to reward pup for the behavior I like, use gentle corrections to discourage space invasions (that sounds really funny!), and I uusally dictate one or two situations where I can indulge their tactile needs. I sleep with my pups, for instance, and they are allowed the "foot lean" when I'm sitting down.

    Zhi is a good example of a breed with a very inbred need for tactile interaction. I had to teach her that she wasn't allowed up uninvited, and once up she couldn't squirm, growl at other dogs, climb higher, get on my keyboard or book, or eat my food. A severe correction for her consists of simply putting her down without comment. [;)]

    What you describe is a really good application of operant conditioning. It's really, really hard for a dog to guess what the heck you want in this situation - there's just too much going on that is out of your control. I would help my dog with "warmer/colder" - I can do this verbally, usually, but I've got one dog here I recently had to clicker train to find a happy medium as he was extremely confused - he knew nothing between climbing up me and making a break for the horizon.

    In general, what seems to be going on is he's kind of tuned you out while on the walk - working with him with the clicker should help that a lot.
  • he problem is that even if he's not pulling, he seems completely oblivious. He will crowd into your leg. If he brushes your leg, he will swerve away from you then swerve back twice as fast so he plows right into you harder. Sometimes he will just turn and walk right into you. He never looks at me. He never seems surprised or offended by what happens.


    HaHa sounds like Gracie again.  Is he looking for critters?  I swear that even if she doesn't see critters, she smells them and they just take up her whole brain.  If I could ask her "Grace, do you want sirloin steak?", she would answer "There's a bird in the tree over there". 

    It's funny that you mention that If you run with him, he just might watch you.  If I skip really big and hop up and down (my neighbors think that I am totally bonkers), she watches me.  My trainer laughs and says, "But, Di, I don't think that is allowed during an obedience trial"   The head collar works the best and we keep her close and change direction rapidly if her attention strays.  

    Keep in mind that, inside, she is absolutely remarkable at "attention heeling" - what's the rub?  no critters!
  • Puppies learn a lot of social stuff in the whelping box, but it's pretty normal for puppies to sleep in a pile and play by wrestling and laying on top of eachother, etc.

    I think, like most folks, that you have to teach "personal space" by setting boundaries about what you want.
  • my adult dogs like to use each other for pillows and think bumping into each other is a normal part of life.
    I've always wondered how people get these "body blocks" to work, cause you try to "body block" a Dane and you'll probably end up on your back with a happy Dane giving you sloppy kisses.
     
     
  • Herding dogs, maybe.


    Herding dogs, definitely. [:D]  I think it has something to do with "if you're in my face, how can I see what I am supposed to herd?"

    Becca, why are you using BC's?  Maybe you should be herding your sheep with bulldogs or Salukis.  Maybe they wouldn't be so interested in your bathroom activities...
     [sm=rotfl.gif]

  • Because they mesh with my training style, on stock, and do well on my particular sheep.

    I don't body block dogs. I stopped doing that when I had the car wreck, had a leg and hip that were held together with bolts and staples, and it hurt for a year if anything made contact with that leg. I still have "issues" because I developed a fear of being trampled by sheep and the dogs can sense that distrust when we work.

    Not to mention body blocking a Border Collie running at full tilt is just about as stupid as walking into a larger dog. Maybe more so. I have friends who have had knees taken out during flyball, by collisions with their dogs.

    So I don't get why we keep talking about body blocking Great Danes. If they are as sensitive to verbal corrections as you say, then I'd just establish a reasonable and fair boundary and say "Ah-ah" if it's broken. Just like I do with Zhi. And we'd have established snuggle times, just like with Zhi.

    A super duper sensitive dog would learn a long down stay first - dogs that sensitive and clingy enjoy the sense of accomplishment long down stays give them. It's one of the first things my most screwed up rescues learn.

    ETA: We're talking about dogs being aware of personal space, not never touching each other. Just like with "bite inhibition" - dogs still play biting each other, bite their food, chew things, and use their teeth appropriately. They just learned that sometimes it's not ok to use teeth, and whelping box schooling helps them understand the signals dogs use to communicate "I don't like that." From there, they have the foundation to understand that humans may also give signals that "I don't like that." It goes for space too. Ever see a puppy yark at another puppy for careening into it, or grabbing a tail when it didn't like it? Or Mama Dog ditto?
  • well, I keep talking about body blocking because recently a lot of people have been suggesting it as a "wonderful training technique". 
  • ETA: We're talking about dogs being aware of personal space, not never touching each other. Just like with "bite inhibition" - dogs still play biting each other, bite their food, chew things, and use their teeth appropriately. They just learned that sometimes it's not ok to use teeth, and whelping box schooling helps them understand the signals dogs use to communicate "I don't like that." From there, they have the foundation to understand that humans may also give signals that "I don't like that." It goes for space too. Ever see a puppy yark at another puppy for careening into it, or grabbing a tail when it didn't like it? Or Mama Dog ditto?


    Right, I agree totally with this. But I think that the original question relied upon dogs innately having the same or a similar sense of personal space that we do. This isn't true, it has to be taught. And so, to answer the original post, I certainly wouldn't see a dog getting in my personal space in terms of dominance. I would see it in terms misunderstanding human rules.

    I don't think anyone here thinks that dogs cannot learn a polite, human understanding of personal space.
  • We started trying to jog with him (haha) thinking that he would pull less if we were moving faster. Oddly it seems to work, but its so completely dangerous that I cant bring myself to do it very often. I expend so much energy and focus trying to not step on his paws, or using the leash to pull him AWAY from me.

     
    well, you know, when I jog with dogs I put them in a body harness (so they know this is different than loose leash walking), put on a fairly long leash, and encourage/expect the dog(s) to jog out in front of me (trot on!) so there's no danger of this going on. Don't allow the dog to bodily drag me along, but leash is a little taut to keep tangles from happening. Might be a proper time to use for one of the shorter belt-line flexis, depending on how much verbal control you have over your dog. It's kind of fun, similar to driving a team of horses-- you steer from the rear with the "reins"; you can teach Whoa and directional verbal cues and speed cues this way if you like.
  • My husky gets the concept of personal space but I think it has more to do with dominance than anything else. She respects my personal space - will not sleep on my bed when I'm in it, won't sleep on the couch if I'm in it, moves out of my way if she's on the floor and I'm trying to get through, etc. She also has her own circle of personal space. When she is looking for affection, she gets close but not that close. And she won't let other dogs get that close either unless she invites them to.
     
    My puppy on the other hand, respects the husky's space but is velcro with me and I let him be.
  • I don't think "personal space" is any more innate for dogs than it is for people. We just have to look to our own species to realize that. Different cultures believe different amounts of personal space are more appropriate. Within a culture and between cultures, different sexes consider different "bubbles" appropriate (female-female interactions, male-male interactions, male-female interactions). And even more complex is of course the relationship between the two that are interacting. A husband and wife are likely to hold a more close personal space than, say, you and your boss. [;)] The concept of personal space is also quite situation-specific. If I'm standing in a line-up at the grocery store, you bet I don't want people hanging off of me or standing so close they are touching me. But if I'm up front at a rock concert, well, anything goes. [;)]
     
    Personal space is such a complex issue that it doesn't have any single source. But I do feel that it is very much learned, and also that it is very much situation/relationship specific. Some of our guys will basically lie ON each other while sleeping. Those same dogs will not tolerate other dogs lying on them. Our brother-sister littermates will "break" a lot more personal space rules with each other than they will with other dogs. Just like people learn the personal space of others, dogs learn the personal space rules of those they are close to and live with, and they even learn it quite quickly with those they aren't totally familiar with. They also learn that there is a difference in personal space with dogs, and personal space with their humans.
     
    I don't think that personal space has much to do with dominance at all, really, but rather that dogs just don't know what is expected of them until they are shown. Sometimes you don't even realize that dogs are working out personal space issues because signs can be so subtle. I know with my guys, all adolescents, once they learn how to jump on beds/couches, would be considered "dominant" at first. [:D] Because once they learn that they "can" jump up, oftentimes they will shoot at you like a rocket and not stop until you have become their mechanical brakes. *G* But once they are shown what is appropriate in jumping up on the couch, and "how" to appropriately lay beside (or on) people, and also to move when asked, then all is well once again.
     
    It's like the puppy you bring home at 8 weeks of age and you let it sleep in your lap, cuddle, you pick it up, cuddle with it on your chest in bed, until 3 or 4 months of age and one day you wake up and the "cute" stuff becomes "problem". When in all reality the dog is doing the same thing it did yesterday, it just doesn't realize it gained 10, or 20, or 60 lbs since! To the dog it is being perfectly normal, doing as you allowed since it was a wee one. That's why I try to stress the idea to treat your pup from the day it comes home, how you want to treat it as an adult, because that little body grows VERY fast, and it's better to prevent problems right away than to battle them later on!
     
    Then of course there are the "odd ones out", who for whatever reason (also leanred, and often paired with that is faulty genetics), develop their bubble to be HUGE! These are a lot of the reactive dogs (not necessarily aggressive, because that has its own roots). Or those dogs who develop bubbles only around certain things (resource guarders, such as couch guarders or bed guarders), and over time you see their "bubble" grow from very close to not even being able to enter the room. Of course these guys are the exception to the rule, and there are underlying relationship and communication problems present here, but once again most of these are almost entirely learned behaviours.