Posted : 6/5/2007 5:41:30 PM
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. [
] 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.