Inspiration for a blog can come at any time; this one came at around 3:30 am this morning as I tried to turn over. "Space, I need some space Elsa" I said, half asleep. She was draped across my body; making it nearly impossible to turn over. She doesn't mind all the struggling, and happily drifts back to sleep when I stop floundering. Of course then I lay there awake thinking about dogs and space; writing this blog in my head. Like us dogs are all different; so their individual need for personal space varies drastically. I have a large personal space circle; that is if you are a stranger to me. I cannot stand people who breath down my neck while standing in line at a store. It can cause me to do all sorts of oblivious and accidental backing up, bumping into and stepping on feet. ;) Of course if you are a friend or family that circle vanishes.
Dogs are the same, some have huge personal space circles; while other have none. (Penny has no personal space circle.) Most dogs have circles that vary like us; depending on who is wanting to come in their circle factors in on how big the perimeter will be. If you watch a dog closely, you can see their behavior change as someone enters into their personal space zone. How that dog reacts to someone entering into their space will depend on temperament, socializing and life experience.
Elsa met a German Shepherd puppy at the park the other day. I was very cautious as we approached. It was obvious that the dog was young but it also had it's hair up in defense mode. We talked to the woman for a while and I watched Elsa's body language. She was wagging like crazy; stopping every so often to assess the situation herself. It was clear that Elsa read this dog perfectly. The dog was displaying fear aggression; but still had a bit of puppy inquisitiveness as well. I loosened the leash and allowed her to approach while I bent down and remained between the two. They sniffed, Elsa wagged and the puppy relaxed a bit. When the puppy, who was almost as tall as Elsa moved in too close, Elsa warned her. Had the dog been just a goofy friendly puppy; Elsa would have probably allowed the very close proximity. But this puppy was displaying unsettling behaviors.
Dog space boundaries need to be respected. Many dogs are quite comfortable walking in public as long as everyone stays out of their space. Once a human or dog enters the space; things can change, so you need to know where your dog's space is and who is allowed in. Some humans tend to be oblivious to space requirements in both other humans and dogs. I don't know how many people come abruptly up to my dogs with their arms out in "I'm going to hug your dog" mode. Although both Luke and Elsa are extremely friendly; they don't want strangers coming up hugging them, neither do I.
Our dogs also display their pack space circles on a daily basis. For Elsa there is no visible circle within the pack; she likes to be on top of her pack, both canine and human. Luke must be with his pack with a little space. Although if their is too much space he is not happy. If we are all in the family room watching t.v., Elsa must be touching someone while Luke needs to be about 6-12" away. If I move further than that, then he needs to move closer. If I happen to sit in a chair where they cannot lay on or beside me; they will both take up the "dog at your feet" spot.
Personal space, it is a complicated thing.