I want to talk about this topic because I feel it’s something most people ignore. And quite frankly, it ticks me off when people don’t respect their dog’s personal space.
Dogs are living creatures with needs and emotions. I for one want to make damn sure we keep Loki’s anxiety and stress levels to a minimum.
Over the last year, I like to think I’ve become pretty good at recognising what Loki’s trying to tell me. To tell you the truth, she’s not the most loving dog. She’s extremely independent and likes her own space.
I had visions of owning a dog where everyday was filled with puppy cuddles and kisses. With Loki, that’s far from reality.
She’s not a lap dog.
She rarely likes being picked up and only really wants to be stroked on her own terms.
But that’s totally fine with us, we don’t love her any less.
Your dog may be completely different. They may be glued to your thighs as soon as you sit down, and often roll over for belly rubs. They’ve become your shadow, but that’s not to say they don’t need their own down time.
In our case, Loki shows us when we need to back off. If we go in for a stroke and she dips her head, we don’t push it. If she backs away when we try to pick her up, we don’t force her to endure a cuddle.
She’s usually clear with her signals, but sometimes dogs give more subtle cues to suggest anxiety and stress.
For example, behaviours for anxiety include yawning, lip licking and panting. If we see Loki showing these signs when we’re petting her, we stop fussing and wait for her to come to us in her own time.
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A common space invading example
I recently watched a programme called 10 puppies and us. It was almost unbearable to watch at times.
One family in particular really sticks in my mind. They had two children and brought home an 8 week old cocker spaniel. Children will no doubt be excited to have an adorable pup running around the home, but unfortunately there were no boundaries set to stop the children and pup clashing.
We all know puppies need lots of quiet time to recharge. But in the programme, the poor pup struggled to find a space to settle. The young daughter would constantly pull at the puppy, take him out of his crate while sleeping and pull on its tail.
She even snatched a chew toy from the puppy’s mouth and threw it on the floor. That’s an accident waiting to happen.
As a result, the girl received a couple of warning nips. She’d pushed the limits too far and pup retaliated with a snap. If the girl’s behaviour continues, the family could end up with an extremely frustrated and anxious adult dog with unwanted behavioural issues.
This seems to be a running theme, but we had a similar encounter with Loki and a child recently. We often stop and let strangers meet Loki on our walks. It’s good to let her socialise and most dog lovers seem keen to meet her.
But on this occasion the woman had a young girl with her who took a liking to Loki’s tail. She must have been only 4 years old, but she grabbed hold of her tail and started pulling before I even knew what was happening.
Loki started squirming to try and pull away. It was only a couple seconds before the woman told her to stop. But I felt terrible for not noticing sooner. She’s rarely around children so we want every experience to be positive.
It would be awful if she developed a fear of kids.
Children need rules around animals just as our dogs need guidance on how to behave. And this needs clarity from the very start.
Our dog’s can’t speak to us and tell us what they’re feeling. It’s up to us to interpret the signals. When dog and human are both in sync, we form a great relationship. They learn to trust us and follow our lead.
We all want our dogs to be happy. And understanding your dog’s needs are a big part of making that happen.
I downloaded a great app recently called the Dog Decoder. It uses illustrations to demonstrate dog body language in various situations. It also includes notes to break down what it all means.
It’s extremely useful and I highly recommend it if you want to better understand how your dog’s feeling.
I’m not affiliated with this company, but I loved it so much I wanted to share.
Feel free to share your questions and stories in the comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts…