I have noted on a number of Posts about Ray’s unfortunate habit of going up to somebody he knows, and suddenly going through his lunge and bark routine.
We have come up with a number of explanations generally around the concept that he was demanding more treats, or perhaps was simply expecting treats, or perhaps he was more sensitive because the person was on his territory. All had, and still have, a degree of credibility.
Just recently we experienced the same with a neighbor just down the road , and we were on her property! I apologized on Ray’s behalf and explained that he was probably expecting treats which were not forthcoming, hence the reaction.
Just after that event, I was chatting with Heather (the love of Ray’s life and Humane Society dog trainer) when I decided to present her with the situation and get her thoughts. They were really interesting!
She explained that while impatience for treats could well be the cause, it was more likely because of his “comfort zone”, and she presented the following scenario.
A dogs has a comfort zone, or personal space, just as we do. Our personal space is important to us and we can feel very uncomfortable when a particular person encroaches that space. Conversely, we maybe very happy when certain people move into our space.
Ray knows that if he “says hello” to a person he will likely get a treat however, to “say hello” means that he must move close to the person. He is in fact putting himself in a position which brings the other person inside his personal space, which he justifies because of the imminent treat.
Imagine that Ray now has the person inside his personal space, but no treat is imminent. While he could be thinking “Where’s my treat?”, he would more likely be thinking “Oops (or something much stronger), she is too close for comfort. What should I do?”. His natural response is to make the person move out of his personal space, and close to 80lbs of dog lunging and barking is very effective in that context!
We were recently in a similar situation and I was watching Ray. When I saw him tense up slightly, I asked the person to just take a couple of steps backwards. No lunge! No bark!
Meeting and having a casual conversation is not a major problem because we generally have treats for him and, again, it is not difficult to monitor him for any change in his attitude. The problem is when a discussion is started which involves some degree of thinking such that Ray is overlooked for a few moments. We must remember to ensure that Ray has his “space”!