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Friday, November 16, 2012

Dog Owners and the Behavior Equation

by Carrie Boyko, CEB
Keeping Tabs on Mom--Teamwork

I'm diving in here today. Please don't drown me before I resurface. I'm a dog owner too, and I speak for myself just as I refer to all dog owners. Our behavior affects our dogs' behaviors and their reactions to our behavior, even the tiniest of attitude issues, can be reflected in our dog's behavior that follows. We set the stage for the environment and they play it out.

Last night after a particularly distressing event I was clearly unnerved. Tanner and Oliver were not involved, yet both tuned in and made themselves available to be my therapy dogs, my comforters, my non-judgmental best friends. I was home alone with no one to share my emotions with so my dogs stepped up. Does that amaze you as it does me?

My first reaction was, "Oh no, I'm gong to create all sorts of anxieties and issues in them if they have to see me through this emotional upheaval." Looking into their eyes, I noticed that both of them were intent on watching me without looking away. Generally, they will only remain in full eye contact for a brief time before turning away. It's much like humans; the eye contact is very personal and we need to take a break. But here my boys were looking deep into my sad eyes trying to figure out how they could help me.

Teamwork kicked in. My little home team of two (Patches slept through this event) each took their positions, Oliver selecting a spot on top of my feet--very affectionately washing them--and Tanner taking a service dog's position for airline flight--sitting between my knees with his head in my lap. Tanner has never ever sat this way before, except when I taught him the position once, in preparation for therapy training. Sounds strange, right? He's far too tall to have been comfortable, yet he maintained the position for a good 10-15 minutes while I collected myself and spilled the beans to my husband by telephone.

After a hearty sigh, Tanner appeared to realize he could leave my side. Oddly enough, he immediately moved to the location which would next be at my side when I climbed into bed. Yup; there he was, right in my absent hubby's spot, ready to be my comforter for the evening. 

Okay, I know you don't all believe that dog's belong in the bed. That's a controversial subject for most dog owners and handlers. I respect both sides and have practiced both methods during various times in my dog-owning life. Currently Oliver is the only regular, taking a spot at my feet as his night time bed of choice these days. He naps in his crate throughout the day, still loving it and knowing it is his safe zone. I'm good with that.

Tanner, never one to enjoy movement in his bed, usually will abandon his position on my bed whenever I roll over the first time. Not last night; he stuck by me for the entire night and did not even budge until I opened the door in the morning for the boys to go outside for nature's call.

I have watched the dogs closely today, now being over last night's upset. They seemed quite normal and enjoyed a houseful of visitors that were in and out and all over the yard, as we're busily repairing and improving our property. Perhaps all this activity was a great distraction from last night's emotional event. Or maybe dogs really do forget what happens within a short period of time. I'm not inclined to buy that latter belief, knowing so many dogs who continue to behave with fear in a situation where they once--only once--were suddenly in a scary event. 
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The bond between Tanner and Oliver and I was so clear, so incredibly tight last night, that I feel this morning like my home is not just a place I share with my dogs. It is a home we all share together, supporting and encouraging one another whenever the need arises. We're a family.

Bonding is an amazing thing. Please join us for the Weekly Wag each Saturday when I share stories, tips and strategies for your bond with your dogs. You can sign up here to let me know you're following the series, and to be a part of the quarterly drawing for this event. If you'd like to see the Weekly Wag become a more permanent fixture here, let me hear from you. Ideas, thoughts, and more can be left in the comments section. Thanks for joining in!

Join us each week for the Weekly Wag bonding series, held during the Saturday Pet Blogger Hop. The hop is hosted by Life with DogsTwo Little Cavaliers, and Confessions of the Plume. You are welcome to link up here, or check any of their sites for their rules of participation. Happy hopping! 


Kolchak Puggle said...

Isn't it nice that sometimes our dogs take just as great care of us as we take of them? Koly & Fe always seem to know when need a furry to ease my sorrows. Whatever the reason for your distress, I hope things are better today.

Dawn said...

So sweet! It is just one of the many reasons I love dogs so much. It is amazing how much they give just by doing simple things.

Unknown said...

This is soooo true. Anytime I've had a not so good day and I am upset when I come home my critters won't leave my side. It's actually a very comforting feeling. They heal us as much as we heal them!


Dog Flea Treatment said...

We have reached a juncture where we (especially dog owners) must realize what our canine friends really mean to us. Interestingly, our general behavior at home has a deep effect on the way they behave with us, or guests coming down to pay us visits. This is primarily due to the fact that our dogs love us more than anything else. Therefore, what we do, the way we behave is what they feel impelled to follow blindly. It's necessary we treat them like a family member, ensuring they are happy with us around.

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