There Are No Bad Dogs Part 9: Giving Your Dog a Space
To continue to highlight the junction of human and dog behavior I will start this post of a story of a first date I had that didn't go terribly well. You always know things aren't going well when the discussion veers towards the future and how you envision your life in a committed relationship looking. It is even worse when you find that yourself and the person you're on a date with have a significant philosophical difference.
It is my opinion that if you are in a committed and loving relationship then there will be times that you need your own space. I do not think this is a radical or controversial take in any way shape or form but when this got brought up on the date I was on it was met with heavy resistance and I was informed that if two people really are in love then they should want to be around each other as much as possible. Aside the fact that I was being asked about the future on a first date this firmly solidified the fact that that first date would also be my last date with this particular person.
From a quick Google search for the phrase, "space in a relationship," I see it has a largely negative connotation but most of these articles and blog posts are talking about taking a break from the relationship and not the more common place need of personal space and alone time. Lara and I both have our own spaces in the house and do do our dogs and cat. The laundry room is the cat's sanctuary protected by a gate that Riley can't jump and it is where his litter boxes, toys, and food are kept. It is his area that he can go to when he needs to get away from us or the dogs. Likewise Riley and Sandy have a dog bed they can lay on and go to when they feel the need for alone time. Riley is good at making his own spaces. If he ever gets upset at us at night because we are having issues fitting into bed he will take himself into the back of the closet and lay among the dirty clothes.
When we first got Riley he had separation anxiety and we had to desensitize him to our coming and going. One of the first things we did with this was to give Riley a space that was his and his alone. I unfortunately decided for reasons that are beyond my own understanding that this would be our couch. I would only give Riley treats when he was laying on the couch and I'd place treats on the couch when he wasn't looking. This was obviously a very bad idea but we were in a 500 sq ft condo and there really weren't a whole lot of options.
It should be obvious to anyone that this would be much better to be done with a crate or dog bed but the principles are the same. For crate training it is especially good to go step by step. Put treats in the crate and leave the door open and make certain the crate is in a room you will be in. The crate can be moved later but for training purposes it is easier i the crate is somewhere you can be as your dog is going to more than likely want to be near you when you're home. Start off by leaving treats in the crate and just letting the dog wonder in and out of the crate on their own. Then start using treats to get them to go in the crate with a command like "go to your home" or "go to bed" or "crate up." There are a lot of commands for crate training. Pick the one you like best. Give your dog treats in the crate and perhaps throw in a favorite toy. You want them to feel as comfortable as possible and during this step don't close the door. Let them know that this is their place and they can come and go as they please. Then once they are comfortable in the crate and going in it on their own with no prompting close the door but don't leave. If the dog reacts with the door closed wait for them to stop reacting and reward the non-reaction. Eventually your dog will be happy to go in their crate and may even prefer to be in there when you're home and they have freedom to be elsewhere because that is their space.
Our relationships with our dogs aren't that different than our relationships with other people. If I didn't have my own space where I could get away from Lara for a bit I'd go nuts and I'm certain she feels the same way. I know Riley likes being with us but he as well needs his own space and a part of the home where he knows he can go and be left alone. Humans and dogs are social creatures but being a healthy member of society means knowing when you need time and space to yourself, and part of being in a healthy relationship is giving time and space to others when they need it and that includes our dogs.