Visual though primates may be, we humans often miss the signals that our dogs are sending us. For example, in my seminars I do a demonstration in which I pet and praise my Border Collie Pip for giving me a ball back. Pip is my sleeper Border Collie, who looks a bit like a goofy Labrador cross when in fact she’s from pristine sheepdog lineage. But she loves balls like life itself, so to reward her for giving me the ball back, I coo to her and lavishly stroke her head. People watching respond to my efforts to praise Pip and seem to feel really good when I’m done. They feel so good that they give me an A+ when I ask them to grade my efforts to make Pip glad that she gave me the ball.
But I give myself a D, because although the audience enjoyed hearing my praise and seeing me pet her, Pip just wanted the ball. I repeat the exercise, this time telling the audience to pay careful attention to Pip’s face. Her reaction is obvious once you focus your attention on her. She ignores my sweet words, squints her eyes, ducks her head away from my hand, and presses forward, staring like a laser at the ball. Pip is no different from most of our dogs, who love petting and praise in some contexts but not others.
After all, even if you adore a good massage, do you want one in the middle of an important meeting or a close tennis match? Why on earth would a dog, even one who lives to be stroked, want petting in every possible context in her life? We wouldn’t, no matter how much we love a good rubdown.
Fascinating, insightful, and compelling, The Other End of the Leash is a book that strives to help you connect with your dog in a completely new way so as to enrich that most rewarding of relationships. Click here to purchase The Other End of the Leash.