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Why does a dog seem to really enjoy being petted but then suddenly bite?

Why do some dogs seem to really enjoy being petted but then suddenly snap?

To a dog, space is a serious language. We use affection to demonstrate friendliness and love, but space and personal boundary are viewed differently by a lot of dogs.

If a fearful/anxious dog is used to getting their personal bubble burst by other humans/dogs anytime without his consent, he will believe that he only has one logical response: use aggression to stop that invasion. Respect is mutual - if you don't respect my space, why should l respect yours?

Rules and boundaries need to be taught and reinforced in small moments consistently in order for the dog to respect them in big moments.

We can't live one way with our dog daily but expect our dog to suddenly act differently in one particular moment.

Respecting the dog's personal space and teaching the dog to respect our space are really important.

Respecting our space goes beyond how and when we should give affection. It is about teaching the dog not to act as a "space patrol".

If your dog looks out the window or gate all day and likes to bark at people and dogs walking by all day, he is trying to control movement in what he perceives as his space.

If your dog tries to stop certain people from coming into the house or block certain family members from hugging/sitting next to each other or always there to control where people are allowed to go and do, he is trying to patrol how space should be allocated in the house.

Lunging at other people and dogs on the walk is a way for the dog to try create more space, too. Showing aggression at a stranger who tries to say hi when the dog is sitting with his owner on a park bench is a way for the dog to control how others are allowed to move around the dog's space as well.

In all these examples, the dog is not respectful of the space that the human has assigned. He believes he knows better. He believes it is his job to re-assign.

Then when someone touches him the wrong way, he will suddenly snaps, which is in his mind just a continuation of his job - to re-assign and control how another human should move in his space.

A dog should accept the allocation of space by the human, not the other way around.

Respectful of space means feeling content about how space is occupied and assigned according to the direction of the humans; not the dog.

That is why "place", "down", "crate", "heel", "come" are all very useful commands that we need to use during the day to let the dog get used to going to - and staying at - where we ask him to until released; instead of allowing him to manipulate other people/animals to go where he wants them to.

You are either the one who assigns the space, or you are not. Your space is either being respected, or it is not. It is very black and white. Please be mindful.

Hope this makes sense.

Thank you.

Training a puppy on a school playground.


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