If dogs were people: They would make outstanding interior designers. It may seem as though dogs move chaotically throughout the home. However, their movements are very carefully chosen and designed to achieve particular goals.
Due to their territorial nature, dogs have a keen sense of spacial layout and traffic flow. They can sense, just like us, how our furniture creates funnels and moves traffic down certain pathways in the home. As such, dogs have natural urges to control these pathways. They do so as a part of a natural parenting tendency to manage their environment.
Many dogs will chose to take a nap right in the middle of intersections within our home. They innately understand that to occupy this space impedes our movement, and, as such, sets boundaries for us. This is what I call a "covert manipulation", an influence that controls us passively, often outside of our conscious awareness.
A dog's emotional world is intimately connected to certain spaces in the home. Their memory encodes and stores every emotional experience that has occurred in every place. Only after new emotions are experienced in these areas are memories overwritten with new information. For instance, I have worked with numerous dogs that are placid and kind in one area of the home, but are violently aggressive just a few feet away. This shows the extent to which dogs ascribe emotions to spacial zones in your home.
The best parenting policy is to disallow your dog from occupation of traffic intersections in the home, and to reassign them to a "place" of your choosing. Moreover, we should be careful not to allow them to make too many decisions in areas where they harbor insecurities and negative emotional experiences. Instead, we should control them and control situations, just as a parent would for disruptive children. For dogs, this is best done via the leash.
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The leash, by its nature, is a boundary-enforcement tool. Leash-based corrections tend to be the most broadly effective method for stopping dogs from making unwanted decisions.
Consequences for violating your boundaries are important for the construction of a healthy relationship and for great canine mental health. Enforcement should be done without emotion. Afterwards, your dog should be rewarded with praise and affection.
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Aaron McDonald is a canine cognitive behaviorist, cognitive theorist, and author. He can be reached at www.ThreeDimensionalDog.com or at Aaron@ThreeDimensionalDog.com