D ear Old Trainer: Zia, my 9-month-old Sheltie, lies down while she eats. She stands up until I put the dish down, then lies down and eats it. Is this a problem, and, if so, should I try to get her to stand up for her meals?
I enjoy it when one of my dogs does it. Joker, my youngest border collie, is almost 2 now and still lies down when I serve dinner. That’s fine with me.
This behavior is found in every pack. All dogs desire order in the pack, and some, like Seely, have a greater sense of decorum than others. She is trying to restore order, not attack the pack.
Dogs willingly suspend pack order when they are excited and playing games. As long as they are all playing, every member of the pack is allowed to run and play at will, but they want order restored as soon as the game is over. Every dog is unhappy if one dog is behaving outside the norms of the pack. When that happens, all the dogs do whatever is necessary to force the problem child to behave.
They do the same thing when a human in their pack is out of control. They try to distract the person and restore calm.
You see a manifestation of this same instinct at the dog park when one dog acts up and the other dogs respond by forcing the dog to behave. Dogs feel the urge to protect humans from out-of-control dogs and move in concert to put a stop to it.
Seely may just dislike the uproar or may think the rest of the pack is disobeying you, but there is nothing to worry about. She is like the serious kid in grade school who tries to get everyone to behave and pay attention.
And that “touch” when she acts like she is biting them? That’s the same device a trainer uses and it has the same purpose – to interrupt the train of thought and force the dogs to focus on what she wants them to do. Trainers adopted the “touch” after seeing how well it works when dogs use it on each other.