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Most dog owners have had a moment where they are going about their business and suddenly trip over their pup, who decided to stand right in front of them. While it is endearing that they want to be near you, your dog standing in your way can get very annoying.
So why does your dog stand in my way?
Reason 1. Your Dog Wants To Be Near You
Our furry companions have been conditioned over the many centuries of domestication to want to be near us. Our dog’s bond with us is often so strong that it is natural for them to be near us, which usually means standing in our way. Even though our bond is often just as strong, we don’t show it by getting in the way! Standing in your way when you are moving from room to room in your house or stopping on a walk is a reminder that they love you and want to know where you are going so they can go too!
Have you ever noticed how some dogs are more likely to stand in your way than others?
Breed traits certainly play a role in this behavior! A dog bred to be independent like the livestock guardian dog, the Great Pyrenees, is much less likely to stand in your way than a velcro dog bred to be an indoor companion like a chihuahua. The Great Pyrenees probably loves their owner as much as the chihuahua, but they display their affection differently.
Reason 2. You Could Be Encouraging This Behavior
So what do you do when your dog stands in your way?
Do you talk to them, pet them, or gently push them out of the way? I know I am guilty of throwing a stick or ball for my border collie when she stands in my way on walks! Unfortunately. all of these actions are unintentionally rewarding a perhaps unwanted behavior. Check out this heartwarming video where this golden retriever has been encouraged to stand in his elderly neighbor’s way for attention.
You now have a dog that is seeking attention by standing in your way because you have been encouraging this behavior. So if they are standing in your way, maybe it is because they are bored, and it is time to start being more aware of your (perhaps accidental) behavior-reinforcement rewards.
Reason 3. Lack Of Awareness
I swear my dog can hear someone walking towards my house from a mile away, but she also has a complete lack of spatial awareness when it comes to keeping out of my way around the house. How often have you tripped over your dog when they snuck into the kitchen and had their nose to the ground?
Learning spatial awareness, especially in young dogs, means they are still figuring out how big and where their bodies are compared to the world around them. They are also still figuring out how to maneuver their bodies. So if they stand in your way, it might not be a deliberate behavior; they are learning where their body is compared to yours. In this video, neither the dog nor the grandad seems to be paying attention to each other’s space, the dog just wants to be near their owner!
Reason 4. Your Dog Is Waiting For You
Our dogs love being with us and are always ready to do the next thing. If they think you are walking too slow, they might stop and wait for you, and if they misjudge your pace, it could result in a collision!
Sometimes your dog might be waiting for you in the house and keeps standing in your way in the most inconvenient spots. Excited dogs do not always consider where their bodies are compared to the world around them. They stop right in front of you, so you remember them.
Reason 5. Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety and fearfulness can impact your dog’s behavior in the house and on walks. Separation anxiety might be caused by several factors in a dog’s life, like abandonment, a new routine, moving to a new home, or even genetics. But the root issue of separation anxiety is that your dog does not have the skills to deal with your being away from them.
Behaviors like furniture destruction, barking, accidents in the house, and pacing are all signs of anxiety, but does your anxious dog often stand in your way when you are trying to leave? He could be worried that you will abandon him, and is having trouble coping.
Reason 6. Fearfulness
A fearful dog might not have as much fun going on a walk as a typical dog. Let’s face it; the world has some scary things in it: cars, strange people and dogs, loud noises…. Accordingly, a fearful dog will want to avoid these things- even if they don’t always make that much sense to us.
An easy way for a fearful dog to get you to stay close to home and avoid scary things is to stand in your way. If they can make you stop shortly into your walk, they might be trying to convince you to go back to the safety of home. Remember, these fearful dogs still love you and trust you. They want to be near you since you are safe, and standing in your way is an excellent way to stay close to you.
Reason 7. Your Dog Is Being Protective
Is your dog more likely to stand in front of you if other people or dogs are around? He could be being protective. Our dogs love us and want us safe. Your independent Great Pyrenees is probably totally content being away from you when no one is around. Still, since they are bred to be guardian dogs, they will likely stand in your way if there is a person or animal they perceive as a threat.
While this might seem sweet, ensure that your dog is well-socialized so that protective behavior does not turn into aggression!
Reason 8. Physical Issues
I have listed several behavioral issues for why your dog might stand in your way, but there are also several physical reasons a dog might display this behavior, whether in the house or out on a walk.
Dogs of all ages can experience health issues or discomfort. Discomfort in a dog can range from equipment issues like an improperly fitted harness to hip dysplasia. A dog at any age can have hip or back pain, a broken toenail, be too cold or hot, or simply be overexercised. Even puppies have growing pains that could cause them to stand in your way if they are ready to go home.
If your dog is standing in your way and they also seem uncomfortable, they are often trying to communicate with you that they are ready to go home and take a nap. Always keep an eye on them in case they don’t feel better after a rest. The French Bulldog in this video clearly is uncomfortable in the snow and not only stands in their owner’s way, but runs back inside!
I try to help her by putting runners on my hardwood floors (which also helps protect them) and being patient.
Reason 9. Your Dog Could Be Herding You
Herding dogs, also known as stock dogs or shepherd dogs, are bred to move livestock together in a certain direction. This direction is normally trained by the dog’s owner and it gives the dog a sense of purpose to have this job. Basically, when a herding dog is doing its job, it is bossing the herded animals around. Dogs can herd animals such as cattle, sheep, chickens, and sometimes even reindeer.
Some members of the herding group are Collies, Corgis, Kelpies, and Heelers. But many dogs that you might not expect have also been bred to herd over the years including Rottweilers. Other breeds may have herding instincts even if they don’t fall directly into the herding group.
If you have a herding dog but your dog is not trained to have their herding instincts under control, they may herd you.
Your dog will try to force you to do what they want you to do by herding you. If your dog is herding you, it could look like biting at your heels, tugging on your clothes, barking at you, and growling. Standing in your way is a herding tactic as well to make you do what they want.
Depending on where is it they are standing in your way, they may be asking for a certain thing. If they are standing in your way by their food bowl, they might be trying to get an extra feeding. If they are standing in your way near their toys, they might be asking you to play fetch with them.
Since herding breeds are bossy, they also could be trying to control the situation. If they don’t like the idea of you walking into a certain room, they might stand in your way to prevent you from doing so. Some herding breed owners have even had their dog stand on their human’s bed preventing them from tucking in for the night.
If your dog is part of the herding group and they have uncontrolled herding instincts, working with a professional dog trainer may be beneficial for both you and your canine. They may suggest dog sports, brain games, and other activities to channel your dog’s instincts into something positive. You can check out this fun video for a more creative approach to channeling those herding instincts as this little border collie was taught to herd kids into the car for school:
Should I Worry?
There is absolutely no reason for you to worry if your dog stands in your way because it is seeking attention, has been inadvertently reinforced for this behavior, or is still developing spatial awareness. Some easy positive reinforcement tricks can help (that we will list below); or, they might just grow out of it.
However, if your dog is standing in your way because of separation anxiety, fearfulness, or pain, you might want to get the help of a certified trainer or veterinarian. A certified trainer can give you tools to help change anxiety and fearfulness into positive behavior. Things that could help separation anxiety and fearfulness include crate training, desensitization, counter-conditioning, exercise, or even working with your veterinarian to introduce medication.
You should consult a veterinarian if your dog is standing in your way because of suspected pain and health issues. If there is an underlying health issue like hip dysplasia or torn ACL, you will want veterinary intervention as soon as possible to help bring your dog back to its normal healthy and comfortable state of being.
Can I Train My Dog To Stop Standing in My Way?
If you have cleared any sort of injury or separation anxiety with your veterinarian and you want to start working on getting your dog to stop standing in front of you either in your house or on your walks, there are some easy positive reinforcement tactics you can use to help change their behavior.
Take Away The Reward
Simply stop rewarding your dog standing in your way; ignore it instead. Instead of grabbing a toy, petting them, talking to them, or giving them a treat; walk around them. If they learn that they no longer get attention when standing in your way, the behavior should dissipate on its own.
Reward The Behavior You Want
Do reward them when they do not stand in your way. This could look like tossing a treat or toy, or simply telling them what a good dog they are. They will learn to associate being rewarded with not standing in your way.
Make Your Walk More Interesting
If your dog stops in front of you while you are out walking and you are sure they are not hurting or over-exercised, you can make things more interesting for them without rewarding the behavior with food or toys. Change up your walking route, let them sniff on a loose lead off to the side of you, or change your pace to speed up or slow down.
These will all make their walk more interesting and help them learn not to stand in front of you. These simple techniques are especially helpful if your pup is quite a bit stronger than you are too.
Make Goodbyes Boring
If your dog is standing in your way because of anxiety and they do not want you to leave, one step to start changing this behavior is to not make a big deal of leaving them. The sudden rush of excitement followed by abandonment could have adverse effects on their behavior, and they might try to block your exit. So a calm goodbye and even crate-training are good tools for helping ease their anxiety when you leave the house.
We have discussed many different reasons a dog may stand in front of you. It could be a self-learned habit from you unknowingly rewarding it. Or a protective behavior from an unknown threat. They might have separation anxiety or fearfulness, which is causing them to stand in your way to physically block you so they feel safe.
Your dog could be communicating that they are in pain or at the very least uncomfortable and by standing in your way they are letting you know they are done with their walk or not feeling good. Some dogs do not even realize they have stopped in your way, they are spatially unaware and are being goofy.
Regardless of the reason, remember that even if it is annoying to have your dog stand in your way, they are trusting us enough to communicate something. Our bond with our dogs is incredibly special, and even though we can train them to learn to stay out of our path, we should always encourage them to love to be near us.