Personal space can communicate so much depending on how we enter and leave it alone…
It’s a concept I’ve been observing and playing around with quite a bit, especially in the last few days. I’m having a hard time describing what I mean, but I really wanted to write about it today, so stick with me here! My goal with this post is simply to get you thinking about it too and inspire some nice, improved training with your animal.
So a great base for communication is: blocking and allowing space. I can cut off an animal’s possibilities. It displays my leadership and makes it literally impossible for them to ignore me and continue doing what they should not be doing. The word “blocking” is used because I get right in their space and block motion. How I block it and for how long depends on the situation and the point I am trying to get across. No violence, anger, frustration or aggression is used – you don’t even have to touch the animal, because all you are doing is taking their space away from them. A few examples: A dog is off the leash and is smelling something. I call their name (maybe they’re smelling trash or something I’d rather they left alone) and get no response. With a fast pace I walk over and get right in their face without bending over. So I push into their space in a way that they end up walking backwards. When I get the wished response (them looking at me), I walk away whistling and smelling flowers. Almost always, the next time you call them, they’ll stop smelling that thing as fast as they can.
Another example is when your dog sees another dog or perhaps they want to chase something. I give a warning sound (Tst, or hey) and then block their space. This has actually worked very well for me recently with a dog who was excited about other dogs. Now he looks at them but doesn’t run off towards them. I blocked his space so that he couldn’t go backwards, forwards, or anywhere (again, not hurting the dog, simply blocking his possibilities for distraction). Only when he stopped looking at the dog and relaxed and looked at me did I back off and allow space.
Those are the two options my dogs have. I allow them space where they can run and jump and sniff and be jolly. Then I can block space or take it away. Once they understand this, they become very sensitive to it because it goes in harmony with how they naturally communicate. It is very clear, dramatic body language that can be refined (pretty fast) into a subtle communication. The dogs I have now understand what a slight lean towards them means (blocking space or saying, “don’t do that”) and that when my body is in neutral (allowing space), they are free to be their happy, doggy-selves.
Play around with that and see what you come up with… I’m curious to hear your thoughts!