Taking it in the knee


Q: My dog pokes her nose into my knee when we’re out walking and I stop to talk with someone, or when she decides I’m not moving along fast enough. How can I get her to stop?

Harry Tannenbaum
Jersey City, New Jersey

Dear Mr. Tannenbaum,

A: Don’t respond to her cue. She’s trying to train you, and if you follow through on her lead, you will have taught her that she can get you to do her bidding.

The behavior you’re describing, by the way, is called a muzzle punch. A dog pokes her head into her guardian’s knee as a signal to move it along — but also as a sign of positive feelings toward you. It’s a gentle, even affectionate, push rather than an actual punch, and she wouldn’t do it if you and she weren’t closely bonded.

Still, if she has been overdoing it, it’s fine to stand still and not acknowledge her nudging  when she makes the move. Don’t respond verbally, either. She’ll get the message that you’re not trainable in that regard and will stop persisting.

There are lots of ways in which we let our dogs train us because we love them so much, and we want to make them happy in a world over which they have little control. But it’s okay — even important, just as with human children — to be able to hold the line. 


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