This weekend I was in Weston installing a Dog Guard Out of Sight Fencing® system for a new client and his Australian Shepherd named Lucky. Weston is always very pretty and the yards are very lush and well landscaped. This made the underground fencing installation time-consuming, but the result was great. We went through the perimeter training with Lucky and his owner; and Lucky got the concept of “don’t walk into the street” pretty quickly. As we were finishing up, my client asked “You are dog trainers too, right?” I replied that Robin and I have trained over 3,500 dogs over the last ten years and inquired if he had a dog training question. “Lucky is great, but he is somewhat territorial at times in the house. It is normally with strangers. Sometimes he can get pretty barky and nippy when people approach certain areas. Any suggestions?”
The first thing that we all need to remember is that our dogs are social animals based on a territory. Within that territory are “safe places” where nothing bad or hurtful can ever happen to them. Let’s think of Lucky’s territory as my client’s house. Within his house are places that Lucky naturally feels safe and secure. It might be under the dining room table, a corner in a bedroom, his doggie crate, or a chair in the living room. He can go to these places and understand that whatever is happening anywhere else doesn’t matter. He is in his “safety zone”.
Some dogs take this concept one step farther and place an added level of protection around their “safety zones”. When people or other animals attempt to encroach on their “sanctuary”, they will respond. Their response is based on the level of trust they give to that person or animal. Lucky knows and trusts his owners. Because of that, he will allow them to approach. If Lucky does not know the person or animal approaching; he is not sure of their intention. He will normally respond with a bark or a nip. These are not necessarily aggressive acts, but his normal communication telling them to stay back (Private Property – No Trespassing!).
So what should we do when we have a dog with protective safe zones?
- Do not completely remove them. We may think that if we take the chair away or block access to a particular room, the problem will be resolved. These zones are important to Lucky because they are the places that allow him to unwind and feel good about the world. Taking them away removes this natural release and could cause aggression. This is because when we took away the safe zones, we took Lucky’s ability of flight and only left him with the option of fight.
- Manage the use of the safe zones. Sometimes the safe zones are in areas where we need our guests to enter. In cases like this, we must remove our dog’s ability to enter those areas when we have guests around. We might need to close the door to the bedroom or put doggie fences in the back hallway. This should only be done when our guests need to be in those areas and we should remove them when they don’t need to be in those areas. Since our dog respects our ability of keeping him safe, we need to let him see us placing and removing the barriers. This allows him to understand that everything is OK. We should also place and remove the barriers at times when we don’t have guests. This will remove any anxiety our dog may feel when guests arrive.
- Enter and Leave. With the boundaries up, we should go in and out of the safe zone. This shows our dog that our actions of entering and leaving are not directly reflective upon him. This minimizes his focus on those areas and limits any anxiety he may experience.
- Make new Safety Zones. There is no magic to a safety zone. It is simply a place our dog has determined is comfortable and safe for him. We love to use doggie crates for safety zones. They are movable and containable. We can put them where they are most convenient for us and our guests. We never force our dog into the crate and normally don’t close the door. Remember that this is a “happy place”. If we have to lock our dog into his “happy place”, it isn’t his “happy place”.
If is always important that we remember to see the world through our dog’s eyes. No matter what, they always need a place where they can feel completely safe. This is a place where they can never feel threatened or challenged. This is sometimes difficult for us (humans) to understand, but Robin and I are here to help you. Please contact us by visiting Dog Fence Training Help. You can read all the other dog training, safety, and behavior articles we have written at Best Out of Sight Fence Trainers Weston South Florida. Don’t forget we have been professional dog trainers for over ten years. You can find out more about our home dog training at Home Dog Training South Florida