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Canine Behavior/dog puts her face right up to my face


I have a 5 month old shih tzu female.  While sitting down on the couch she tries to get so close that she can be as close as possible to my face. I don't ever remember rewarding this behavior in fact I can pretty confidently say in the first instance I probably pushed her away. I'm wondering why she doesn't this. She isn't a dominant type. It's not after I've eaten so she isn't smelling what I've eaten. Or for attention cause I usually move her.
When I'm sitting she will actively try to get as close to my face as she can. Even staring into my eye which I thought dogs didn't like.  Not only I but my partner to.
It's like she is trying to communicate however she does this on most occasions even after being fed so I don't see it being for food.
It's not to much of a problem I was more curious as for answer than anything else.

Well, two possibilities come to mind:

1.  A dog that persists in forcing eye contact can be a rank opportunist; this means, a dog attempting to find a "place" in your social hierarchy that makes the dog most comfortable.  It has been seen by me in my practice with dogs who were attempting high status; your dog is not one of those.

2.  A dog that makes direct and free eye contact with you and does so in a manner that is not threatening is making a statement of affiliation.  Now: there may be more to this than I can see from here, but if the dog is "bidable" (follows commands trained with positive reinforcement) and the dog is otherwise calm (free of any behaviors that demonstrate anxiety), no problem.

When the dog approaches you in this manner, get up, turn your back, count to ten.  If she is ON your couch or bed at the time, direct her OFF after you have gotten up and turned your back.  We don't want this dog to lose trust but we do want this dog to know "who is who" here.

Another approach: "now for something entirely different" (as Monty Python used to say):  SAY "beee beee beee bee bee beee beee", get up, walk away.  Then call her to you, ask for "sit" praise, go back to what you were doing.

Let's try the first approach for two weeks.  Use followup feature to tell me what dog does when you get up and turn your back.  She's "in your space" and "in your face" and I would find this quite annoying actually.  You must have rewarded it, without knowing you did so, absolutely.  Let's remove any reward.  I'm going to be gone for the month of September.  Let's use the next two weeks to try the first approach; if it totally fails, try the second (I would rather not use the second, if possible).

Canine Behavior

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.


I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.


30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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