Doggy Pat Peeve

I'm in the midst of reading (listening to) a great book called For the Love of a Dog: Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend, by Pat McConnell. While not a dog training book per se, it is full of insight and helpful information, going deep into dog (and human) psychology, sociology and physiology. I am looking at Cabana with new eyes and much deeper understanding for how she feels and communicates.

One no-brainer tidbit the author shares is the fact that most dogs don't really like to be patted on the head. I say it's a no-brainer, because if someone gave us bouncy pats on the tops of our heads, we'd all say it doesn't feel so great. But it's amazing how automatically people perform this gesture. After reading this, I purposely patted Cabana on her head, and sure enough, her body language told me that she isn't fond of that expression of my affection. She took a few steps away from me, still wanting my affection but acting a bit stiff, rather than going limp and relaxed like she would from an ear fondling.

The worst part is that I have caught myself patting her head a few times since without even thinking about it! It's not as annoying as the pat-pat-pat shown in the image above, but just a neutral stroke across the top of her head. Another human form of affection that dogs don't really care for is getting hugs. I wouldn't say Cabana dislikes these kinds of touches, but I don't think she enjoys them either. I'd like to give Cabana more affection that actually feels good to her, rather than things she just tolerates.

Some other topics in the book include how to select a puppy from a litter, how to judge its temperament, whether dogs have the ability to rationalize, tips for dealing with anger and separation anxiety, and reading a dog's facial and body language.

Ally, Teddy and Kira  – (October 2, 2009 at 5:20 PM)  

That's awesome! I hate when people feel the need to pat a pups' head in public, doesn't help them love people at all in my opinion. I LOVE the animation, by the way!

On hugging, I've heard varying opinions on that. Much of it has to do with an individual dog and sometimes their bond. All of my dogs have loved hugs. Teddy comes and asks for me (kind of like a snuggle, resting his chin on my shoulder) and wagging his tail more when I give him a slight squeeze. Kira too will come up but her hugs are different. She puts her head down and pushes into your legs/chest (whichever is at her level) and then we wrap our arms around her shoulders and give her a slight squeeze. Not necessarily what we would do to hug one another but every dog I've raised (and some I haven't) love their hugs, just a little added affection that they don't get often. Although I have met many a dog (especially those with a dominant streak) that detest being hugged!

Deborah  – (October 2, 2009 at 5:37 PM)  

That looks like a good book! My Springer Ariel shows emotion all the time, I have never seen a dog like Ariel before, we know when she is not well, she smiles, she frowns, Crazy stuff! I have had a lot of dogs, but never one like her! I'm going to write this name down and get it! Thanks! Have a good weekend.

Becky  – (October 2, 2009 at 6:08 PM)  

That is SO interesting - sounds like a great read. Agree, Cricket is not one for getting a pat on her head and will usually turn it away. She loves hugs and cuddles. My first guide didn't - liked to lean in but not much for the affection of a hug. Interesting. Searching for a good read for our trip to San Diego next week - maybe that will be one.

Martha G  – (October 2, 2009 at 6:25 PM)  

I love Pat McConnell. I've been reading "The Other End of the Leash" for awhile and really like her opinion about "dog dominance." She also has a lot to say about dog body language and the different way primates (humans) and canines interpret the world.

Ally, Teddy and Kira  – (October 2, 2009 at 7:51 PM)  

Oh, she has a blog! theotherendoftheleash.com I really enjoy reading it!

Cabana's Puppy Raiser  – (October 3, 2009 at 9:11 AM)  

Ally, the author would agree with you that hugs depend on the dog, relationship, and type of hug. I think she's referring more to the kind of hug where you grab the dog around the middle and squeeze and don't let go even when he squirms. Thank you for the link to Pat's blog. It's a great blog, isn't it?!

Martha, I'm looking forward to reading "The Other End of the Leash" next. I noticed you read Columbine on your blog--I just read it, too, and found it fascinating (and sad).

Deborah and Becky, I highly recommend the book and would love to know what you think of it. I accidentally listened to the 2nd part of the book first (I thought she kind of jumped right in without much preamble but I didn't realize until almost the end that I had missed the whole first half, duh), so I'm looking forward to what she says in the beginning!

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