Teaching a Pair of Giant Breed Dogs to Respect Personal Space

By: David Codr

Published Date: June 22, 2018

For this Bellevue dog training session we were called in to help a pair of big dogs (2 year-old Great Dane Moose and 1 year-old St Bernard mix Zeus) learn to respect people’s personal space and stop the Dane from barking and lunging at people.

Moose showed some territorial aggression when I arrived for the session so I waited outside the door for him to settle down a bit. Once his energy subsided a bit, I opened the door a crack and let him sniff me before I used a few dog behavior expert tricks to come inside without being bitten.

When I sat down to discuss the situation, both dogs were in my face, literally. At one point Moose’s whiskers were touching my nose. Due to his aggressive door behavior, I did not object and waited for him to move away on his own. It appeared as this was simply a case of not knowing to respect people’s personal space and not aggression, but when dealing with a dog who has any aggression issues, its best to go slow and be conservative.

Once he got done inspecting me, Moose moved away and it was Zeus’s turn to get in my face. The big difference was Zeus had a very friendly energy and was doing so to get attention and affection.

It wasn’t hard to see why the dogs acted this way, each time they climbed on top of the humans or invaded their space, the humans instinctively started petting them. Since anything a dog is doing when you pet it is what you are rewarding, the dogs interpreted this petting as a way of saying “thanks for invading my space. Let me reward you for doing that.” Of course this motivated the dogs to continue this unwanted behavior.

When you have a dog with aggressive behavior, and it doesn’t know how to respect a human’s personal space, this can lead to serious problems and a possible conflict.

In the free dog training video below you can see how I taught the humans to start enforcing boundaries and training the dogs to show some respect for their personal space.

Teaching a dog to keep a respectable distance unless invited to come closer is a way of helping it develop good manners. It will also allow the humans to start acting like leaders which, over time, will help flip the leader follower dynamic in the home.

As a dog behaviorist, I have found that most reactive or aggressive dogs aren’t actually mean, they are insecure and lashing out as a way of preventing others from getting too close or finding out that they have lower self esteem.

A great way to build up a dog’s confidence is to train it to do new tricks or commands. The acquisition of a new skill is a great esteem boosting activity, but there is an added benefit, it will help the dog see and respect the humans as authority figures in a wonderfully positive way.

Because of how aggressive he was at the door, Im guessing we will need to do a follow up session to help Moose learn to behave around new people without posturing so aggressively or nipping them. My hope is that by adding in structure, Moose will start to feel more confident which will reduce his insecurity and reduce or stop his aggression.

To help the humans remember all the positive dog training tips we covered in this in home dog training session in Bellevue, we shot a roadmap to success video.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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