After my live video yesterday on dog communication, I realised that there are always two sides to the story. In my Facebook live, I covered why it is not appropriate to let a dog persistently lick or be in another dog’s face.
To check out my live video and an explanation about why I don’t allow this behaviour click here.
The Back Story
In this particular scenario, an eight-month-old Rottweiler cross Labrador pup who was staying with me, was constantly licking the faces of all three of my dogs. My youngest dog Binti, a timid Shetland Sheep dog immediately removed herself from the situation and left the area that the guest dog was in. Pepsi, my five-year-old Labrador allowed the other dog to lick her ace. However, Yogi, my six-year-old Border Collie cross Cattle dog remained still and growled at the guest dog. The guest dog continued to lick, in which at this moment I intervened.
Most dog owners would probably say that Yogi was being rude and may have even told her off, because the guest dog was ‘just being friendly’. However, what I saw in this scenario was an older dog communicating to a puppy that the licking behaviour and invasion of personal space was not wanted. The puppy was unable to understand this cue and because of it, I removed her to show her what she needed to do.
On multiple occasions the guest dog attempted the same behaviour in which I intervened and showed her what the correct behaviour was. In some instances, after she was growled at, she left my dogs alone. In this scenario, I rewarded her with verbal praise and attention.
Many dogs lack communication skills and the ability to understand and read another dog’s cues and body language. Had the guest dog not been a puppy, I would not have allowed it to repeat the behaviour. In this moment, I believed with my intervention and reinforcing of the desired behaviour, I was able to help the guest dog understand what exactly she needed to do. This helped the guest dog develop her understanding of communication skills.
It is important to note that I am a Certified Dog Trainer, I run a day care service and work with dogs’ full time. I understand my own dogs’ thresholds and can read their subtle communication cues. This allows me to play out these scenarios in a safe and controlled environment.
Why I Am NOT Okay With This Behaviour:
There are numerous reasons why I do not tolerate constant licking and the invasion of personal space. Most dogs that exhibit this behaviour have not developed a relationship with the other dog. This behaviour is most common at a dog park or beach where dogs rush up to each other when greeting and playing. If we put this into a human perspective, would you allow another person with whom you have just met to touch you, and speak very close to your face; probably not. This same principle applies to dogs. Sniffing a dog’s face, once introduced is a part of canine communication, however most dogs will have a time limit they allow another dog to spend in their personal space.
The issue I have with this behaviour is that most dogs are unable to read the subtle cues given by another dog. The constant repetition of not understanding or being able to read the cues given by the other dog, puts a dog at risk of being bitten. Some dogs don’t have the social skills to be able to provide a warning growl or bark, they prefer to handle the situation with a bite. Not only this, but it is not fair for dog’s constantly having to show restraint and abstinence to this behaviour, which brings me to my next point.
The Flip Side:
The other side of the story that I constantly hear owners say when their dog growls at another is, “its good! I want my dog to put it in it’s place”. Whilst you could argue that I allowed Yogi to put the guest dog ‘in its place’, what I did was provide an opportunity for the guest dog to learn the desired behaviour through my intervention. This was achieved through reinforcing correct behaviour and correcting unwanted behaviour. Yogi knew that she was ‘safe’ and did not feel like she had to defend or tell off the other dog; that is my job as the leader, which is how I create a safe and controlled environment.
Unfortunately, owners leave dogs up to their own devices and are unsure where to step in. This accompanied with a dog that is unable to read body language and communication cues is an absolute recipe for disaster. Imagine trying to tell someone to leave you alone and they are constantly talking at you, yelling and invading your space. There is only so much one person can take before they reach behind the counter and pull out a shot gun. In the same respect, there is only so much one dog can take before it realises that it has to take control of the scenario to get its message across.
There is a saying that you can’t condemn for lack of knowledge, which I completely agree with. I don’t believe in a dog putting another in its place if the dog that is to learn the lesson does not have the ability to comprehend the information provided e.g. A growl that says, “get away”.
As dog owners, it is our job to understand that it is not our dog’s job to go around playing teacher, it is also our responsibility to ensure that our dogs aren’t put in any situation that may cause them harm. For this reason, it is NEVER okay to allow your dog to constantly invade another dog’s face, nor is it okay to place the pressure of having to remain abstinent or correct another dog on the shoulders of your own dog. The only time this is appropriate is under the supervision of a professional that understands dog behaviour and language and is prepared to intervene for safety and reinforce desired behaviours.
If you would like assistance with training your own dog, send me an enquiry and we can get started.