Ever since I read this post on No Dog About It regarding a deeper understanding of dog behaviour, I have been carefully observing the way Shiva and I interact in a physical way. It’s been an interesting process. I’ve always tried to pay attention to her signals and I feel she is pretty good at telling me when she doesn’t want to be pet. Space is something of which I am very mindful as it is something I like to preserve for myself. Being private and somewhat of a loner, I don’t appreciate a lot of unexpected touching. I like to think I respect my dog’s wishes in this area as much as possible.
Then again, with such a cute face in front of me, and such soft ears, it can be hard to put all my tactile urges aside. I am human, after all, with a need to connect with whom I love. I can’t talk to Shiva and get her to relate to me that way; touching seems to be the best alternative.
But does she always welcome this? That’s what I want to understand.
When I consider our previous interactions, I do think Shiva lets me know when she wants petting and when it is the last thing on her mind. For instance, I know she is not a fan of public displays. Anytime we are out of the house and I reach out to scratch her ears, she pulls away. In agility class, when I try to stroke her side as we wait our turn on the sidelines, she immediately leaps up and away from my reaching hand. However, at home, behind closed doors, she often seems to seek out physical affection. At least as far as I can tell.
It’s hard to be objective about this sort of thing. I can’t really separate my emotions. I get a lot out of petting my animal companions so it’s natural that I assume (hope??) they do too. When I give affection, I want it to be interpreted with all my intended love. It would be awful to think my animals would rather duck and cover.
I shot some video footage and I’d love to hear what you think Shiva is trying to tell me. The scenes in the video below were taped about half an hour after I returned home from work. Just enough time for Shiva to have calmed down but before her nightly walk.
In contrast, I will also share a video of my attempts to show my affection for The Cat. I won’t say what I think he is trying to tell me but in my opinion he is even better at setting his boundaries than Shiva. Cats are awesome that way, aren’t they?
Are your pets good at communicating when they like to be touched?