The week before last I went to see a Staffy dog. I pulled up and went up the hill, to the back of the house, and went inside. Well, it was like a tsunami of dog, jumping all over me, wanting to play, mouthing my hands… She was big and chunky, a very strong dog, and she had not the slightest bit of respect for the personal space of any human being. I’d been invited to come and help her with an itch – but to be able to do that effectively, I needed to help her owners with some behavioural training, so I could even examine her without a tussle, let alone do anything else.
I see similar situations all the time – situations where the dog(s) I am visiting have no respect for their humans, AT ALL! Dogs have a very structured social life when there are two or more dogs living together. There will always be a leader of the pack. (It’s very important to realise that the leader of the pack isn’t necessarily dominant or aggressive in maintaining their position. They often simply have a presence, and all the other dogs respect their personal space.) No dog enters the lead dog’s personal space without seeking permission – they would never, ever simply rush in and lick them, or jump on them.
The funny thing is this! Dogs who are not given clear, firm, gentle boundaries by their people are actually not happy dogs, not at all happy. They are often anxious and stressed. These dogs will be continually pushing at their people, looking for an edge. So we had a chat about the itchy skin problems – and decided to treat her with homeopathy, acupressure treatments, and some cortisone spray to stop her scratching holes in herself while the more holistic treatments had time to work. Then I had to get my hands on her to do the acupressure treatment!
Well, that was a bit interesting. She wasn’t happy with me touching her at all, so I started off trying to give her some deep pressure massage to start to connect with her and settle her down. We had a rolling, wrestling, mouthing, jumping all over me kind of time for a good half an hour, all the time with me talking to her mum about how to do more of this when I was gone. She had no malice, but she was big and strong, and had never been asked to do anything she didn’t want to do in the whole of her doggy life. Finally she gave in and let me connect with her body, and I did the acupressure.
Another dynamic which is very common was going on in this family. None of the other family members were going to do anything to deal with this situation – so, as I explained to her mum, in every household, at least one of the humans has to step up and be the leader with your dog(s). You’ll never be able to get the other humans to do what you ask with the dog, a lot of the time. I set her some homework – one being that I wanted her to do the deep pressure massage technique with her dog often before I came back for their next visit, and the other was another simple and effective training trick.
I asked her to put her dog on the lead when she got home – and to have the dog on the lead, and with her, doing whatever she was up to, for at least a couple of hours a day. And also that if she started playing up and hassling her hubby, that she should pop her straight on the lead, and take her away to sit with her. The benefit of this is that her dog would have to be doing what her mum wanted, all the time she was on the lead. It’s surprising how quickly this can reset the respect for the human!
I went back a week later, and could not believe the difference in this dog- in stead of jumping ll over me, scratching my legs with her claws, and mouthing my hands, she was sitting quietly at her mum’s feet, and also allowed me to work on her body without any fuss at all. It was a great result, and clearly shows how important it is for your dogs to respect your personal space. Give me a yell if you’d like a visit with your dog to sort some of these issues out.