We are all familiar with those dogs that enthusiastically jump and play until you get close to them, then suddenly lose their nerve. When someone gets close, they seem to shut down and lose all interest. The reason for their discomfort is that their personal space has been violated. When others are that close, they cannot remain comfortable. Fortunately, this behavior can often be rectified through training. This is how bubble theory dog training can benefit both dogs and their owners.
How to use bubble theory dog training
- Slowly shrink your dog’s bubble with you
- Train within the bubble and use strong eye contact
- Widen your dog’s personal space bubble over time
- Understand your specific dog’s needs and preferences
Reactive dog? Protect their personal space
Dogs possess an innate awareness of their spatial environment. Similar to humans, they are quite sensitive when others or other dogs enter their space. Depending on the situation, your dog might perceive other animals in its vicinity as either a friend or a foe. Other dogs instinctively understand this boundary. It is more difficult for humans.
A dog’s reactivity depends heavily on its relationship with the person or other dog coming into its personal area. Consider how you would say hello to your parents or children. You’d want to give them a big hug and kiss immediately. If a stranger did the same to you, it would be shocking.
Although the connection is present, the atmosphere in each bubble may be drastically different. While one dog may find comfort in being held close, another may be uncomfortable with the proximity. Each dog should be given individualized treatment.
For reactive and fearful dogs, the safety bubble factor has the greatest impact. Particular attention should be paid to how much personal space these animals need, as they’re very sensitive in this area.
Use bubble theory in your dog training session
1. Slowly shrink your dog’s bubble with you
This objective is to make your dog feel comfortable with you near its face. In most cases, you should be able to get within 2-3 feet of each other without having to bump noses or anything.
Important: a fearful dog may react negatively to this method! Go very slow to start!
This may be too much for certain dogs. Rescued dogs and those who are particularly fearful frequently exhibit this behavior. If your dog is frightened or uneasy, get as close as possible without causing your dog any distress.
Your adolescent dog will gradually become more accepting of you invading its personal space with time.
2. Train within the bubble and use strong eye contact
Once your dog is comfortable being near you, start the training process. To start, get close to your dog’s face and ask them to make eye contact. Making eye contact is essential for building a strong relationship with your dog, as canines instinctively understand its power.
The video above illustrates that this technique is especially effective when combined with treats and clicker training. Gain your dog’s attention by making eye contact, then reward them for acknowledging you.
Establishing strong eye contact will make it much easier to train other behaviors. Dog owners can use training and commands to create confidence and ensure the dog always has four paws on the ground.
3. Widen your dog’s personal space bubble over time
Once your dog has become comfortable with the basic training parameters, you can begin to gradually expand their sphere of influence. Keep good eye contact with your puppy as you increase the distance between you two. If you move too far away, the bubble will burst.
By introducing distance, it’s possible to do more complicated training and work in more open environments. Your dog will need to learn how to deal with both a large and small bubble to live a full doggy life.
Introducing your pup to other people and other dogs is now possible given their own personal spaces. When handling fearful dogs, move slowly and make sure your puppy feels safe. It is your responsibility to ensure that no one disturbs your dog’s personal space.
4. Understand your dog’s specific needs and preferences
It may take hundreds of hours to train your dog to be comfortable with other dogs and people. However, you may not achieve the desired result. No amount of training can alter a dog’s behavior if they are unmotivated to change.
Many dog owners, myself included, struggle to understand this. No matter how skilled of a dog trainer you are, it’s possible that your pet may remain uncomfortable around other dogs.
Providing your dog with a calm and comfortable environment is paramount. Beware that dog reactivity can be unpredictable; if provoked too much, your pup may bite or jump.
With a wise approach, you can significantly improve your bond with your dog and enhance its quality of life.