Michael Peer, Dog Behavior Specialist, Fairfax, Va: Posted on Monday, June 24, 2013 10:22 PM
Interesting twist: Dog owns the owner. Crazy but true, unfortunately. In my practice I see this each week. Everyone's dog is getting in the owner's way, owning its space. She is always walking up to, crossing the owners path, demanding upfront & personal attention. Don't confuse this with a leisurely walk in your neighborhood. Your dog should be walking ahead & sniffing about taking in all the information of other canines that have been on the beat. Back to the owning- it's about your mongrel taking your space around you & especially in front of you. This is solely to get your attention. It begins with your eyes. A dog's behavior is reinforced all the time when it interacts with us. When your dog gets your attention and is praised or petted it enjoys that. So you may wonder, what's wrong with that? Nothing IF your pup has earned your attention. Calm & submissive behavior is what all animal experts are after, and thus shape. As dog owners we want our dogs to behave, yet when we constantly give them more & more attention, they will seek, demand & provoke us- for more of it. This is when they are owning us or simply controlling us to get want they want. Reinforced behavior is a strong suit & pooches wear it well!
We as good owners need to reinforce (praise/reward) the right behaviors. Example: if your four-legged clown runs up to you and is all up in your space (smack dab in front of you, jumping up on you, climbing you, mouthing your hands, licking your legs, etc, etc); then you need to teach your hound to respect your space. Start ignoring her when she comes up on her own & begins performing her appeasing behaviors to gain your attention. Tell knucklehead to go on and direct or physically guide him away and out of your space (say a few feet from you) & enforce it. Then wait momentarily because poor neglected puppy will become distracted and move away on her own. This is the time to show verbal attention when she's moving away. Your timing will decide whether a new behavior, which can be viewed as calm and submissive, will be created because of its reinforcement by your attention. If, or should I say when, he comes pounding back over all excited again, simply turn away acting disinterested & un-engaged--choosing to ignore. Your "baby" will soon learn that it's appeasing behaviors will not be reinforced by your attention & they will become extinct! Her new behavior which is less excited & quiet will become the norm and you shall once again become the Owner :-P