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It has been a whirlwind since you welcomed your gorgeous new dog into your home. He’s put a smile on everyone's face and you look forward to seeing him when you come from work each day. Even your tough and usually grumpy partner goes all soft around him. However, it isn’t all plain sailing. Your loyal pooch does have one rather irritating habit, though. He doesn’t respect your personal space. He’s constantly craving attention and climbs on top of you, regardless of what you are doing. This may have been cute to start with, but now it is getting to be a bit much.
Training him to respect your personal space is essential for both of you. You need some peace and quiet every now and then. Plus, your partner wants to be able to cuddle you on the sofa in the evening, without the dog being in the middle. It will also be good for your dog. Setting boundaries will help prevent him getting separation anxiety when you have to leave the house.
Training your dog to respect your personal space isn’t always straightforward. It is particularly difficult if he’s been used to being up close and personal with you for many years. You will have to set some clear boundaries. You will also need to set a routine for him, so he knows he will still get the love and attention he needs. You may also need to make his personal space more attractive and channel his energy into something productive.
If he’s just a puppy he should still be learning the rules and you could see swift results, in just a week or two. If he’s older and always been on the clingy side then you may need a while longer. You could need up to six weeks to fully kick the habit. Succeed and you’ll both feel much better for it.
Before training can begin you will need to collect a few bits. Get your hands on some new toys and food puzzles. You will also need to stock up on treats or break your dog's favorite food into small pieces.
Try and set aside 10 minutes each day for training. Five in the morning and another five in the evening would be ideal. You may also want to look at getting him an exciting new bed.
Once you have all that, just bring patience and a positive attitude, then work can begin!
The Stop Method
Whenever he approaches you, stand up and put your hand towards your dog like a ‘stop’ traffic signal. If you automatically move towards him like this, he will instinctively halt and hesitate.
At the same time you give the hand signal, issue a ‘STOP’ command in a clear but firm voice. You can use any word or phrase you like for the command. This is letting him know that he must wait for your permission to enter your personal space.
When he stops, give him a reward and some verbal praise. Make sure you give the treat as quickly as you can to start with. This will help him understand that it is the waiting that earned him the reward.
Increase the time
Over the next few days, gradually increase the length of time you leave him waiting there before you call him over and give him the treat. Once he gets the hang of it, you can also lose the hand gesture and just use the verbal command.
Once he fully understands the command, you can use it to control whenever he wants to come into your personal space. If you don’t want him to, you can leave him there or send him to his bed. When you do want him, you can call him over. Soon enough he will stop entering your personal space automatically and always stop and wait for your approval.
The Routine Method
When you wake up, spend a couple of minutes saying hello and giving him a cuddle in his bed. This will let him know that you will regularly come to see him, so he doesn’t need to constantly pester you.
Do exactly the same thing in the evening. Give him cuddles and say good night. If his pestering you is attention-seeking behavior, this straightforward routine could put a lid on it.
Spruce up his bed
If he has a private space of his own that he enjoys and is comfy, then he won’t constantly invade your personal space. So, consider a new bed and moving his bed to somewhere quiet and relatively enclosed. Three walls around his bed is ideal.
Take him out for plenty of exercise each day. This is particularly effective if he is a puppy. He may be invading your personal space because he is full of energy. So, tire him out and he will spend his time napping instead of bothering you.
You need to incentivize him to stay in his own space. An effective way to do that is to place the odd treat in his bed. This will make him associate his own space with positive things and he’ll be more likely to stay there.
The Cold Shoulder Method
10 minutes a day
Spend at least 10 minutes each day focusing entirely on him. You can stroke him and play around with him. Give him all the love and attention he needs. Do this so you know he is definitely getting enough attention, that way you can set clear rules the rest of the time.
If he comes over to you when you don’t want him to, give a firm ‘NO’. Don’t terrify him, but make sure he understands you do not want attention. This is his warning and chance to move away of his own accord.
Lead him out the room
If he ignores your command, calmly take him by the collar and lead him out of the room. Leave him there for a minute or so and then you can open the door again. This will further reinforce that you want some space.
If he comes back again, completely ignore him. It is important he learns that pestering you won’t get him the attention he wants. If you give in, you are effectively telling him that he just needs to be consistent. So stay strong and ignore him until he gives up. You’re asserting your position as the pack leader this way.
Never punish him
It is important you do not punish him when he invades your personal space. Do this and you will just scare him. If he’s scared he may be even more desperate to please you and then pester you further. So, deal with him calmly and quietly.
By James Barra
Published: 01/10/2018, edited: 01/08/2021