As science has established over the years (and we as dog owners have known for some time), dogs are incredibly sensitive creatures. As a species, they are physically and energetically more sensitive than we are and often this is how they communicate within their pack (furry and non-furry alike). When dogs live with us humans, there is often a break down in communication. I like to say, it's like we are speaking two very different languages. We use our voices and words to get our message across while dogs use their bodies and energy.
In order for dogs to understand what we want from them and for them to feel safe and secure in our confusing world, we have to establish a dialogue. We also need to set some norms and general expectations so our dogs know how to fit into and remain a healthy, happy member of our pack. Through some basic boundary reinforcement, we can communicate to dogs in a way they can understand. We are able to set those norms and expectations of their place within our pack thereby making things much simpler for everyone!
Today, we will examine two of the four basic boundaries - the physical and energetic. To start, here are some examples of a few different ways your dog can violate the physical boundary:
Jumping on you
Sitting on your feet or just you
Leaning into you
Standing underneath you
Weaving between your legs
Stepping over/on you on the couch
All of these behaviors are subtle puppy dog ways to say your physical space is not worth honoring. Being physically close with your dog is probably one of the best things about owning a dog and to enforce this boundary does not mean that has to change! By simply implementing the rule that physical closeness happens when you have requested it/you want it to, you are communicating to your dog that your physical body is not just another piece of furniture. This will save you from getting scratched and help your dog better understand their place in your home is one that requires cues from you!
Now, lets talk about the energetic boundary. Here are some ways your dog may be violating the energetic boundary at home:
Trying to play when you are watching TV/working on your computer/on the phone
Wiggling when putting a leash or collar on
Demand barking for attention/petting/play
Bringing you all of their toys
Barking when kenneled
Not going into the kennel when asked
FRAPs (frenetic random activity periods) aka the "zoomies"
Running away when you ask for a sit
Barking for dinner or treats
Obviously, there are many ways your dog can violate the energetic boundary. Basically, anytime your pup is trying to turn a calm moment into a party, they are ignoring this very important boundary. Most of the complaints I deal with come from owners who are frustrated with these boundary violations in particular. Personally, I had a dog that would demand bark at me for 45 minutes (or longer) to throw the ball for her. I did not realize by ignoring her demand barking at first and then becoming frustrated and giving in eventually, I was creating a ball crazy monster! She learned to get what she wanted all she had to do was bark and eventually, I would cave.
We often feel if our dog is wanting us to play with them, it is because they are bored. Maybe we didn't get them the long walk they needed that morning and our schedule has been hectic causing us to spend less quality time with our pup. Even when this happens, you still want to be the one to determine when it is time to party and when it is not, even if you believe your dog has a legitimate argument about needing you to throw this ball right now.
To do this, instead of giving into a game of tug because your dog brought you their favorite tug toy, ask them for a sit and to drop-it before proceeding. If they are being extra demanding for your attention, try a time-out! Without a word, calmly take your pup and put them in their crate until they have calmed down. When they have calmed down, take them out and then the play session can begin!
I hope you find these tips helpful and keep an eye out for my next blog where we will be examining the threshold and leash boundary!