What do you do when your dog doesn’t like someone, and you have no idea why? This is a problem one reader is facing, and as I always do with behavior concerns, I asked my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker, to answer.
Q: My sweet 18-month-old cavalier King Charles spaniel comes to work with me every day. He loves other dogs and most people, especially women, but with most men, it takes him a while to warm up. There is one guy in my office who has tried so hard to befriend him, and my dog wants no part of him. He now runs and hides behind me or in a corner when he sees the guy; the other day, he scurried into the safe. Yesterday, before I could stop him, the guy cornered my baby, and my dog peed all over! He hasn’t peed indoors since he was 4 months old. Is it time for me to tell my co-worker to back off? What should I say?
A: Body language cues — directly facing the dog, leaning into the dog, looking directly at the dog or reaching out — from a person who is overly interested can be too much for a reserved dog. It’s important for people to give a dog space, allowing the dog to get to know them on his own terms, as well as to protect that needed bubble of personal space that we all, dogs included, want to have.
You can and should be clear about your dog’s need for extra space. Establish ground rules about how your dog prefers to interact with people. Your dog may be one who prefers to play hard to get and responds better to being ignored so he can make approaches when he’s comfortable.
Never be afraid to speak up for your dog. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “Please don’t come any closer.” You don’t have to give any kind of explanation as to why your dog needs space; that’s between you and your dog.
Read more in Pet Connection, the weekly nationally syndicated pet feature I co-write with Kim Campbell Thornton and my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker.