Getting Over Yourself & On with Your Dog

Dexter

My husband and I recently adopted a fourth(gasp) dog.  He is a yellow lab, presumably of full breed, that was found alone on someone's doorstep in rural North Carolina in the middle of the night.  Whether he escaped from a yard or was dumped, we'll never know.  He was around 6 weeks when found, now he is coming up on 10-11 weeks.  They grow up so fast..but I digress.  We have named him Dexter.  He is adorable (that's his picture on the left).  So adorable, in fact, that I cannot control myself sometimes with the amount of puppy squishing and nuzzling I feel compelled to do.  Dexter, however, feels there should be a set limit to the amount I am allowed to actually do, which brings me to my blog title topic (derived from a blog post by Drayton Michaels, CTC found here: http://dogstardaily.com/blogs/being-denial-about-your-dog).

As owners, we are a tad selfish when it comes to our dogs and what they should or shouldn't do for us.  We feel they SHOULD want to be squished, nuzzled, and come when called.  They should not rebuke all of our kisses, blow us off at the dog park when it is time to go, or get up at 5:30am revved up for take off.  We are shocked when our pups duck away from outstretched hands, sometimes even scurrying away at top speed.

We - us humans - me - our brains are broken when it comes to understanding that dogs do not possess the, as Drayton Michaels puts it, "intellectual morality" that we do.  We constantly project emotional labels on our dogs such as jealousy, love, or hate.  It is really easy to do so, I am guilty of it myself even as a person who "knows better".  I try my best to keep in mind that my little puppy only sees things in two ways: safe and comfortable vs dangerous and uncomfortable.  As much as I want to hug him and have him understand that I am restraining  him out of pure adoration and oxytocin-highs, he really just feels like he is being suffocated, elevated abnormally, and restrained.  I can't imagine what it would be like to be picked up and held by a giant being who didn't speak my language.  "Sudden doom" and panic would be two things I most likely would think about and experience; maybe even fear of being dinner for this giant creature.  Whoops - sorry, Dexter. 

I have been proactive as much as possible, however.  I have started to pick him up, only slightly squish him, and then "yes"/treat him for the interaction.  He has gotten to a point where I will get a tail wag on the pick-up because he knows what is happening.  The last few nights he has allowed me to hold him upside down like a baby while treating him - small steps, but we are coming together.

That is the key - coming together.  I reached a happy medium for both him and I.  I squish to his comfort level, he gets paid, and we live happily ever after.  Eventually he will look forward to my squishing, but I know it won't happen overnight.  He isn't being spiteful or hateful when he squirms when I pick him up, he is genuinely concerned about his own wellbeing.

As dog owners, we realistically need to have in mind what our needs are for our dogs and then on the flip side know what our dog needs from us.  Of course not everyone NEEDS to squish their new dog, but being happy with handling and restraint should be somewhere on the list.  Dexter needs to feel safe and comfortable so I need to help him feel this way while I am picking him up and hugging him.  It really isn't that difficult or arduous of a process - I just had to get over myself, first.

 

**edited to provide credit where due!