Stopping a German Shepherd from Invading People’s Space During Mealtime

By: David Codr

Published Date: October 2, 2021

Heidi LA GSD scaled - Stopping a German Shepherd from Invading People's Space During Mealtime

For this LA dog training session we went worked with Heidi, a four-year-old German Shepherd who is occassionally anxious, can be excitable and doesn’t respect boundaries when her guardian is eating.

We started the session by discussing the prong collar Marley was wearing and why aversive training methods can lead to stress, anxiety and frustration in dogs. Throughout the session, Heidi was on alert; anxious and sound sensitive at times – these are all classic indications of cortisol, the stress hormone, in a dog’s blood.

Multiple studies have shown that using a prong or shock collar with dogs can lead to a release of cortisol into the dog’s blood which is absolutely a contributing factor for many of her issues. Fortunately her guardian was open to the new information on the prong and infromed me she will be ditching it! Yea!

German Shepherd’s can be high strong at times and there’s a reason why they have been guard dogs for years. I learned that Heidi had been raised in a college setting without much structure which is certainly a contributing factor ato her behavior. Every dog benefits from puppy classes, but especially dogs that have guarding instincts genetically like German Shepherds.

After going over the importance of rewarding desired behaviors, hand targeting, dog consent, teaching Heidi how to ask for pets politely, creative forms of exercise and how to provide structure without punishment, we were ready to address the dog’s habit of invading personal space when people are eating.

When a dog invades someone’s personal space, it can be a way of communicating that they want something. Even though the guardian was not giving Heidi food from her plate, not disagreeing or training the dog to keep a respectable distance while she is eating can be confusing to the dog. Not saying no is similar to saying yes or agreeing when it comes to dogs.

An easy way to get a dog to stop getting too close when you’re eating food is to condition it to stay on a dog bed. Because Heidi had boundary issues with other situations as well, and likes to get excited when there’s stimulus going on around her, I thought it would be best to introduce the relaxation protocol.

The relaxation protocol is a great way to help a dog learn to relax while generating auxiliary benefits such as keeping a dog in a place while things go on around it. It’s like this exercise was custom-made for Heidi-dog!

Check out the free positive dog training video below if you have a dog that gets in your face when you are eating or have high value items the dog is interested in.

Teaching a dog to respect boundaries is an important lesson that many people fail to go over with their dog. Using the relaxation protocol to keep a dog away when you are eating is not what it’s designed for, but can be very effective. I love introducing exercises that have multiple dog behavior applications.

I told the guardian she will need to to practice the relaxation protocol once or more every day until she’s able to get through all 15 steps. At first, the exercises only take a couple minutes, but they get a little bit longer as the protocols get more complex. But the great thing about this trick to stop the dog from getting too close when you are eating is that anyone can do it. Even if you are not a professional German Shepherd dog trainer.

After we filmed the abve video, we practiced a version of the relaxation protocol near the kitchen as Heidi has a bad habit of wanting to get too close when her guardian is preparing food as well. It was great to see how quickly the guardian and dog picked up on this positive dog training exercise.

Since Heidi‘s guardian is so dedicated towards her well-being, I’m confident that this dog is going to figure out this relaxation protocol exercise in no time. Success at that control exercise will have a profound effect on Heidi by helping it practice a replacement behavior instead of barking at sounds or getting into things she’s not supposed to.

To help the guardian remember all of the dog behavior tips we shared in this in-home LA dog training session if you, we recorded a roadmap to success video that you can check out below.

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This post was written by: David Codr