I don’t know if you have ever thought about the non-verbal information that body language and facial expressions provide? We are referring to personal space in our house as our ‘bubble’ as our boys are learning about the fact that they don’t have to accept people(well actually each other!) coming into their personal space if it makes them feel uncomfortable. Why, do you ask, am I posting information relating to personal space under ‘2 Dogs and their mum’ and how does this relate to dog walking? Please bare with me and all will be revealed.
Anthropologist Edward T. Hall described four levels of social distance that occur in different situations:
- Intimate distance – 6 to 18 inches
This level of physical distance often indicates a closer relationship or greater comfort between individuals. It often occurs during intimate contact such as hugging, whispering, or touching.
- Personal distance – 1.5 to 4 feet
Physical distance at this level usually occurs between people who are family members or close friends. The closer the people can comfortably stand while interacting can be an indicator of the intimacy of the relationship.
- Social distance – 4 to 12 feet
This level of physical distance is often used with individuals who are acquaintances. With someone you know fairly well, such as a co-worker you see several times a week, you might feel more comfortable interacting at a closer distance. In cases where you do not know the other person well, such as a postal delivery driver you only see once a month, a distance of 10 to 12 feet may feel more comfortable.
- Public distance – 12 to 25 feet
Physical distance at this level is often used in public speaking situations. Talking in front of a class full of students or giving a presentation at work are good examples of such situations.
It is also important to note that the level of personal distance that individuals need to feel comfortable can vary from culture to culture. One oft-cited example is the different between people from Latin cultures and those from North America. People from Latin countries tend to feel more comfortable standing closer to one another as they interact, while those from North America need more personal distance.
Ok, thanks for being patient…here is the link… The same can be said for dogs (and their walkers/owners). We have 2 very nervous dogs (we’re working on this!). They are extremely brave and have a false sense of security on their leads (we’re still working on this too!). However, when off lead and they come across another dog or person, they will start out all brave and then suddenly realise that they aren’t in fact equipped to handle the situation and then flee the scene. Thankfully most of the time they will come back to me and I dread the day that they don’t.
So, we were out having a lovely family walk and navigating other dogs that weren’t on their lead(and doing quite well I might add). Our dog trainer has always said to us ‘If people aren’t walking their dogs in the thick of things or stay on the boundaries, there is usually a reason for it. Or if people take a wide berth when out walking, then there is usually a reason for it’. At the very end of our walk a lady walked towards us with a very high energy dog and our girls, whilst nervous, didn’t react with their usual barking frenzy and walked straight past with my husband and 6 year old. However, I started to take a wide berth of said lady on the path when she said ‘oh he just wants to say hello’. I had our 4 year old who had just been stung by something and from looking at her handling of her dog realised that she was one of those people who thinks it’s ok for her dog to say hello to everyone – even when they don’t want her to! We passed her and she turned around and started to follow us on the verge, getting closer and closer. Thankfully our girls were already ahead and near the car as they would have been having kittens by now. But, my 4 year old and I made a u-turn when we got to the end of a fence as I was looking for dock leaves to put on his sting and she followed us yet again – now making me more nervous that she was going to insist on her dog saying hello! Finally after a bit she walked off in a different direction. During our encounter with her, I noticed that the other dog owners that she passed also started taking a wide berth or dashing off in a different direction to avoid her.
This lady clearly didn’t take note of the numerous non-verbal communications that were already taking place, but also doesn’t appreciate personal space in both humans and dogs.
Just something to think about when out walking your dogs or seeing others dog walking…