This is so good, I have to share it. Will copy below, original credit to the great trainer Deb Jones, posted here: https://k9infocus.com/elevator-behav...8I1RQx__VliYSY
by Deb Jones | Mar 17, 2019 | Uncategorized | 0 comments
Imagine this scenario: you are in an elevator at a large hotel. The doors open and a stranger steps in, looks at you, squeals in delight, throws her arms around you, and says ďI want to be your new best friend!Ē How would you react to that? Personally, I would be horrified. And I would get off that elevator just as quickly as possible! As humans, we realize that this is abnormal behavior. Yet we allow our dogs to do a canine version of this to people and to other dogs. Itís not appropriate and itís not safe, yet it is very common.
I wish I could remember to original source of the term ďelevator behaviorĒ so I could give that person credit. It was at least 20 years ago when I first heard it. The term was used in the context of describing the behavior of conformation dogs who are able to wait quietly in a group with others very close to them without reaction. Just the same as we humans can stand in elevators uncomfortably close to others and ignore each other except for a very quick nod or short hello.
I donít know about you, but I donít feel like an elevator is the appropriate place to make new friends or share my life story. If you do behave that way I honestly hope Iím never in an elevator with you! Humans have clear social norms about how to act in what might be uncomfortable situations. There are times when itís best to make minimal eye contact and ignore those around you.
Many dogs have no idea how to ignore others, whether humans or other canines. Through repeated experiences they have become ďmagnetizedĒ to other living creatures and must try to interact with all of them. Some people see this tendency in their dog and say ďheís friendlyĒ. But that actually is probably not the case at all. You donít make friends by racing up to someone at full speed and body slamming them (Labradors, Iím talking to you!)
If I ran up to unsuspecting people I didnít know well and threw myself at them, making full body contact, thatís not considered friendly. Thatís inappropriate. And it might even be considered physical assault. Weíve been taught, rightly so, to keep our hands and bodies to ourselves and to not invade the personal space of others. We should teach our dogs this same basic concept.
In case you havenít noticed, Iím a bit obsessed with dogs. I think they are all awesome. However, in public and on first meeting, I will ignore them. This is not because I donít think your dog is amazing and want to interact with him. Itís because I have enough dog savvy and self-control to simply exist in the same space with your dog unless and until interaction is appropriate.
Iíll be heading to Clicker Expo this week and lots of dogs will be there. I will keep my baby talk voice and grabby hands to myself! If I happen to be talking to you and your dog engages with me in an appropriate way then I may ask if I can greet and pet. Thatís what adults do. I do it because I have respect for your dog and your training goals.
You know what isnít helpful? Squealing at the sight of a dog across the room, racing over, working that dog up into a frantic overly excited emotional mess, and then, when you are satisfied with the interaction, heading on your merry way. How about you donít ever do that again? That is not helping socialize a dog or puppy to humans; that is teaching a dog or puppy that humans are put on earth to work them up into a state of frenzy and over arousal.
It would be really easy for everyone to help everyone else train appropriate elevator behavior to dogs we encounter in public. Ignore them unless it is truly appropriate to do otherwise. Smile at the owner and honestly say ďlovely dogĒ. Keep your hands to yourself! If a dog approaches you in an inappropriate way be neutral and allow the owner to help the dog settle down and regain his composure. You will be doing that dog and owner a huge favor by helping with this process through your lack of reaction. This isnít mean, itís polite and helpful.
Dogs are not public property for our amusement and enjoyment any more than other humans were put on this earth to make us happy at their own expense. We are not doing them any favors by teaching them that itís okay to approach and interact with all humans. Itís not. Some people are allergic, some are afraid, some are physically frail. Itís also not okay for them to approach and interact with all other dogs. Just because they are the same species doesnít mean they should be instant best friends on sight. Those others dogs may be afraid, or frail, or simply not be looking for more friends. Other people and dogs have every right to exist in the world without your dog invading their personal space. That doesnít make us, or our dogs, unfriendly. It means that we accept and respect social norms and personal boundaries.
Letís all show respect for each other and teach all our dogs appropriate elevator behavior. Itís your responsibility as an owner and it will be so much better for your dog. Elevator behavior is good! Letís make it a new normal for our dogs.
*Thanks to Denise Fenzi, Amy Cook, and all the FDSA instructors for discussing these issues and making me think more deeply about them.