Claiming is one of the most basic and important concepts to understand about dog behavior. Claiming is an act of dominance (control) wherein one communicates to another: “This is mine” or “That is mine.” And it’s not just dogs who practice claiming. For instance, when you take a seat on a bus or in a movie theater, that space is yours, right? And when you’re standing in line at the Post Office, you’ve claimed that place in line as yours. And while we claim using manners and laws, dogs claim by asserting themselves with confidence, and they communicate that using dominant energy, body language, and eye contact. If we use that same communication with dogs, we, too, can claim things and expect dogs to understand us.
Claiming doesn’t apply only to your own personal space: you can claim objects, areas and even other people. You can claim your plate on the table thereby conveying to your dog: “That’s mine — don’t touch it.” You can claim space at a doorway to tell your dog not to enter that room (or exit the house). You can claim another dog, your cat, a pet rabbit, and even your child, thereby communicating to the dog: “You may not approach this creature now.”
Sometimes, dogs will attempt to claim space with us.
They can do this by walking in front of us, blocking our
path, or pushing us with their bodies (all instinctively
natural behaviors for a dog). They may hover at the
dinner table, get up onto our furniture or even climb up
on us. But allowing a dog to claim things or claim our
space tells him that HE is in charge — not us — and
that’s not safe, responsible dog ownership.
Just as parents set boundaries and rules for children
(e.g. Don’t run out into the street, Stay away from a hot
stove, or Don’t bother your mom when she’s on the
phone), dog owners also need to set boundaries and
rules for their dogs. Claiming is one of the most
important rituals to practice with dogs because it is
instinctual to them. By claiming, we reinforce our role as
Pack Leader, thereby keeping our dogs safe and creating
respectful Followers within OUR household pack.
To learn more about Claiming, call us directly at (703) 489-1319.