What do you love most about having a dog? Is it the way they make you feel when you return home, to see them so excited to have you back? As rather reserved creatures ourselves, this kind of greeting can really make us feel wanted. Much more so than the humans with whom we live can make us feel! It’s no wonder so many people have them. However it didn’t used to be this way. Dogs used to be much calmer about the comings and goings of their owners. So what’s changed?
In the past…
…dogs knew their place. Not in a negative way – in a very positive way. A dog had a job, when it was needed to do that job it did it. When it wasn’t needed, it would relax and conserve its energy, and enjoy whatever affection it got offered. The human was very much ‘in charge’ of the household, so their return home was noted – but it wasn’t overwhelming for the dog. A dog lived a much more relaxed life in those days, knowing exactly where it stood and what its responsibilities were.
The nature of the human/dog relationship has altered. We no longer need dogs to perform a specific function, but we still like their company. Over the years the emphasis of our interactions with them has changed and they have become a much bigger part of our day to day lifes. This has created a shift in what they understand their job to be. From one role (e.g. herd up the sheep) to all of them. The way the average UK based human owner interacts with a dog in this country, shows that dog that it is responsible for the entire pack.
Outside of the UK…
In many countries things are still the way they were. The dog either has a specific role still, or they are a pet but there is much less emphasis on them than there is the UK. We may think that we treat our dogs better, because we show them more love, but this love can have negative consequences if its not given in a way that makes sense to the dogs. So in fact less love can be better (as long as the dog is not being mis-treated of course). For more information this, have a look at this article I wrote after watching the dogs in India.
How’s this relevant to excitement when I return home?
Firstly, I take no joy out of being the one to burst this bubble, but the excited behaviour when you return home isn’t exactly pure excitement. It’s more like a feeling of overwhelm. Your dog has been feeling responsible for you, so when you are out they are not there to look after you, and thus when you return it’s a feeling of utter relief that you are back and in one piece. The more “excited” the behaviour, the more worried your dog was. Next time you return home and your dog jumps all over you making noise imagine that they are shrieking
“Oh my goodness you are back! Where have you been? I’ve been worried SICK! Don’t you ever do that to me again!”
What should happen when I get home?
If your dog doesn’t feel responsible for you then your return home should be greeted with a curious face just wanting to check you over and make sure that you are in one piece and therefore don’t want them to step up and take over. On noticing this they should then be quite happy to go and lie down/entertain themselves and wait calmly for your invitation to go over for attention on your terms (rather than when they demand it).
But I don’t want to give them less love!
What I’ve described above might not be as much fun, but when you understand the dogs perspective, it’s a much nicer, more loving kind of affection. And it’s not that you have to give them less love, it’s just that you are aware of the right timing of that love – so it only has positive implications for them.
I am a dog behaviourist based in Essex, and provide 1-2-1 in home consultations for owners wanting to understand their best friends and get the best behaviour out of them in a way which makes everyone happy.