Many a professional pugilist in the 1980s and 90s entered the ring with apprehension (sometimes masked as bravado) because they were facing the living legend “Iron” Mike Tyson. Sometimes known as “Kid Dynamite” due to his explosive power, Tyson holds the record as the youngest boxer to win the heavyweight title. Mike was just 20 years old. His first 19 professional fights were won by knockout. 12 of those fights ended in the very first round! Mike Tyson was the first heavyweight to win the WBA, the WBC, and the IBF titles simultaneously. He is the only heavyweight to successfully unify them.
Mike Tyson is well known for his ferocity in the ring. His classic “peekaboo” style, taught to him by legendary manager and boxing trainer Cus D’Amato, left many opponents punching at the air and wide open for Iron Mike’s monstrous hooks and uppercuts.
What does all this have to do with your dog or pup? Everything. This has everything to do with your dog or pup behaviorally speaking because every dog on the planet (unless they are at a feral level of fear) will get in close to their owner (like Tyson used to approach his opponents in the ring) and, over time, the dog will control who is touching who. Tyson pressured his opponents, and frankly, he scared many of them. They knew his reputation for aggression, speed, agility and knockout power was well-earned.
In the case of most dogs the loving pet owner is totally unaware that their dog is controlling touch in the relationship (which can and usually does lead to behavioral problems). You see, many dog owners assume that if a dog will do some obedience for them or if they yell loud enough at their pet and the dog offers them a quick appeasement gesture (like lowering their head and leaving the area) that they (the dog owner) are in charge. They assume that if the dog shows them it’s belly that the dog is “submissive.” These false beliefs then allow the wayward puppy or dog to continue to manipulate touch and space within the relationship and often manipulate any item the dog may desire to claim (food, bed, couch, front door, yard, the leash, the owner’s body, the dog’s body, another dog or person in the home, et cetera). Want to hear the most sinister thing about this ultra-common canine manipulation?
Most times when dogs are “Mike Tysoning” their owners or a guest they seem to be FRIENDLY about it! Please pause and consider that last sentence.
When dogs are controlling touch and spatially pressuring a person they could be being friendly but still desire to be in charge of who touches who and where that touch is applied and they seek to control how that creature is moving in the space around the dog’s environment. This is animal language, people…we’ve got to learn it if we want to see improvements. Let me clarify with real-world examples.
EXAMPLES of dogs “Mike Tysoning” their owners or others in a friendly manner:
You walk in the door and the dog MUST touch you.
You go to sit down on the couch or chair and the dog quickly beats you there, hops up, and attempts to sit down in the very spot in which you were headed.
You reach to pet the dog and the dog instantly raises it’s energy to a much higher level then they cross the distance between your body and theirs and either jump up on you, paw at you, stick their head between your legs, nudge your private parts, or lean up on your legs in a sideways position.
You try to stop petting the dog and the dog pushes back into your space to clearly let you know that the petting will NOT stop.
Dogs, of course, also can be a Mike Tyson in a myriad of unfriendly and downright aggressive ways. Those gestures are usually identified by the general populace though. In today’s post I’ve identified those more subtle yet equally rude maneuvers that many dogs pull on their owners or on a guest.
My Dear Readers, I hope you all understand that the mother or father dog or any socially skilled dog would NOT NOT NOT NOT tolerate this friendly/excited yet rude and pushy touching from another dog. Why should we? Are you no better than a puppy in your dog’s eyes? Does your dog lack all respect for your physical body and the space around it? Has the dog been happily claiming everything in sight and you’ve cluelessly sat by assuming it was just affectionate? Don’t be chump. Or you could be “knocked out” by the rapidly growing misbehaviors of the dog or pup in your care. Some dogs take it only so far while others will claim the world and everything in it. In many cases this is how aggression starts! In many cases this over-touching by the dog on the human is how fear and skittishness not only continues within the dog but grows steadily worse!
TO DO: physically block your dog from Mike Tysoning you. You have hands don’t you? Use them to gently but firmly block the animal’s entrance into your personal space! In fact, move forward into the dog’s space and act like a real parent because you committed to take this animal away from his/her natural life with their birth parents!
Think differently. Think like a dog.
For more info on dog language and behavior read Dog Myths and So Long Separation Anxiety by Garrett Stevens