This morning, while supervising play between three young dogs, one pup came to me and sat on my feet. I knew what he wanted: time out from play. He was a bit overwhelmed and was asking for my help.
I made sure I gave it to him by calmly body blocking the other pups away from him when they came over. Because I teach all pups the My Smart Puppy Mine Body Blocking game, they all understood what I meant when I stepped between them and the pup seeking shelter so both of them simply trotted away to play together.
After a few more seconds of leaning against me, my safe-harbor seeker joined back in the fun.
With stable, confident pups like these, I teach them that if they have a question or a concern to come to me. I’ll take care of it. So when he felt he needed some help, he did just that. Perfect. This is a much better choice than running off or, down the road, possibly becoming defensive because he can’t count on the humans in his world to help him.
Please note what I did not do. I did not pet him or talk to him about his choice but rather simply offered him a cone of quiet where he could regroup.
With socially-shy dogs, I teach them the same thing. Come to me and I will make sure you are not socially stressed. I’ll keep people and other animals back. Not only does this lower these dogs stress levels but I have a bigger goal. Such animals can be prone to rather blind panic when overwhelmed and I always want such dogs to bolt to me, not away from me, when scared.
If your pup constantly seeks safety at your feet, then we have a problem. Is he overwhelmed? Hurt? Tired? If I think such a pup can handle the situation but simply lacks confidence, I may stroll slowly away from him after a few seconds so the pup has to move to stay with me or will wander off to explore. If the pup has been put in way over his head and is really scared, then I encourage you to seek professional assistance both in how to help your pup gain confidence and how to help you choose appropriate situations to facilitate that.*
But constant shelter seekers are the exception in well-matched and well-managed play groups. Most often the pup simply needs a brief time out to gather himself, calm down or rest and those pups can count on me. Every time.
Be your pup’s safe harbor. It will strengthen your bond.
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* I offer cyber-sessions for one-on-one coaching.