We have a three-year-old Briard who walks well on the lead and knows all his basic commands. He has an excellent temperament and gets on well with other dogs. However, over the past few months, he has developed a habit of stopping and sitting down when he realises people or dogs are coming behind in the distance. He will not budge until they have passed. We have tried to be firm, using distraction techniques and enthusiastic coaxing, all to no avail. It can be frustrating and embarrassing at times. Why has he picked up this habit and what can we do about it?
Kirsten Dillon advises…
It sounds as if he feels vulnerable when a dog approaches him from behind and would prefer to remain still and unconfrontational until they have passed. This stopping behaviour serves to allow him to offer calm body language while also gathering all the information about the other dog that he feels he needs.
Far be it from me to guess why that might be, but at three years old he has probably just reached social maturity (yes, it is this old for giant breeds), so this is a behaviour he has chosen, as a fully informed adult dog, to perform.
If he is happy to stop or sit until the dog passes, I would wholeheartedly support him in his decision.
If we try to alter this chosen behaviour and encourage him to do something other than what he wants, we can run the risk of him escalating his attempts to communicate with us, and this is often when we see reactivity occur.
It sounds as if he has amazing social skills and as the behaviour is polite and not causing any actual problem, other than embarrassment, I suggest you embrace it and tell him he’s doing a really good job.