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Friday, July 22, 2011

Or is It Food?

by Carrie Boyko, CEB
© Carrie Boyko
Crackers and Cheese
 Works for Us!
Here I am again writing about affection. As I generally focus most of the my blogging efforts on solutions for living happily with dogs, with more space focused on mental and physical exercise and stimulation, this is a topic that only recently became of particular interest. So I suppose this has been an ignored (or avoided?) topic.  Nevertheless, here I can't help but spout off again.

Affection is clearly one of the primary reasons we bring dogs into our families.  They serve as companions when we're alone, join us as exercise partners, greet us when we return home, alert us to perceived danger, keep our feet warm in bed, and offer unconditional love at all times-even when we forget their dinner.

No other companion, roommate, or spouse would be a forgiving as our dog, and thus we return their forgiveness with scads of affection.  But does it help the dog, or us?  You know the answer to this question instinctively.  It feels good to pet, stroke, snuggle with, and hold our beloved furry buddies.  So, what's the problem with that?  Where shall I start?  How about the beginning:

Thousands of years ago when wild dogs first began partnering up with humans, it was because they realized that they could get an easier meal off our handouts and leftovers, than by hunting it themselves.

But how did they earn the right to mooch off our tables and gain shelter in our homes?  They worked for these privileges.

Most dog breeds were selectively bred to do particular jobs, whatever the owner needed.  Some hauled heavy loads, some herded, some kept our homes and barns free of vermin, some protected us or our belongings, and other assisted with the hunt for food.

The value of all these services did not go unrewarded, and thus we have the numerous categories of dogs useful for various tasks.  It was not only these jobs, meals and shelter that brought dogs and humans together. We, too, appreciated them, and the bond of affection began to form.  Particularly affectionate dogs were selected as companion dogs and probably benefited  from our early efforts at learning to train a dog to live in our homes with good manners.

Affection followed naturally, a way to encourage a dog in whatever way we wished it to behave.  In this use of affection we were productive and found our growing bond with dogs a more and more pleasant experience.

And so it went.  We enjoyed exchanges of affection with our dogs.  Dogs loved affection and quickly adapted their behavior to earn more of our kindnesses. A rover who enjoyed belly rubs made it easy for his owner by turning over and exposing it front and center. Pups who were partial to chest rubs found it successful to stand against their owners hands, a signal that worked well to elicit the desired result.

The bottom line...Dogs learn quick and we enjoy the affection more than they do.  Don't believe me?  Try this test.  Place your dog in a Stay and back up a few feet.  Put a treat nearby on the floor and signal your dog that you are ready and willing to provide his favorite form of affection: ear rubs, chin scratches, belly rubs or perhaps just a gentle stroking of his fur.  So...which did he choose?  Your affection or the treat?  I thought so.

Very few dogs will leave the treat to get even their most coveted form of loving.  So, I suppose now you get my long and laboriously presented point; dogs took up with humans initially because of food AND dogs stay with us because of food. Have we created a monster? IMHO, it all depends on whether your dog is conditioned to EXPECT the food, or whether he accepts it thankfully when offered.

Thanks for joining us for another edition of the Saturday Pet Blogger Hop. I hope you will enjoy bouncing around the blogs listed below, finding all sorts of fun ways to enjoy canines and their owners. The rules for participation by linking up are displayed below, as copied from Life with Dogs, one of the hosts. The hop is also co-hosted by Two Little Cavaliers and Confessions of the Plume.

  • Link up your pet blog name and URL using the Linky Tool below. You only need to add your link once to be seen on all the Saturday Pet Blogger Blog Hop Linky Tools for that week. Note that if your blog is not pet related your link will be removed. Also note that only one post per blog is acceptable, and links promoting giveaways that are unrelated to the pet blogger hop will be removed. This is a community building exercise and not a promotional vehicle – please treat it as such.
  • Grab the “Saturday Pet Blogger Blog Hop” button on the right hand side of this site and include it in your Saturday Blog hop post so that your readers will know what is going on. *Note – posting is optional. Feel free to just link and follow.
  • Follow your co-hosts listed in the first 3 slots of the Linky Tool.
  • Follow as many other blogs on the linky as you’d like.
  • Take a moment to comment on the blogs telling them you’re from the blog hop.
  • Follow back when you get a new follower through the Saturday Pet Blogger Hop.
  • Make friends and grow. ♥


Daisy's Mom said...

Interesting take. I suspect the food is more appealing to dogs at first. But, I wonder what the dog did right after getting the treat? Head on over to their human and seek affection? Likely so. Perhaps dogs have a hierarchy of what they want and seek. Food first and then affection.

Jasper loves a treat just as much as any dog, but when at the vet he seeks affection and skips the treat. Probably because he is nervous, but I think what dogs do is situational dependent. What do you think?

Thanks for an interesting post on the Saturday Blog Hop!

Carrie, with Tanner and Oliver said...

I believe you've hit on something, Daisy's Mom. Surely, each dog reacts differently in this same situation based on his relationship with the human. I, for one, enjoy the bond that occurs when my dog earns a treat from me and takes it, given my permission. Opposible thumbs earn us an extra level of "respect"...maybe that's not the right word. What do you think?

pibble said...

Monster? Nah. More like mooches! But I could never live without my five mooches! :)

Pup Fan said...

Really interesting post! I wonder what Bella would say if I could ask her!

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