Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The bond, redefined?

Allie is very food motivated. This characteristic is often a good thing, because she's easily rewarded when I teach her new cues. But the same characteristic can also be a bad thing, because she will do just about anything to score an edible goodie. At times I have felt that Allie only loves me for the treats that I offer. Say what you will about behavioral science. I am human, and I want her to love me just because I'm me.

So what happened last night really amazed me.

Stan (a.k.a. Dear Husband) and I were eating dinner in our family room so that we could watch TV. I was trying out a new dish (which, by the way, was amazing). Just as we were about to sit down, though, I needed to use the bathroom. I asked Stan to watch my food, so that our canine food opportunist extraordinaire -- I mean, this dog once snatched a piece of Indian bread right out of my hand -- wouldn't scarf down my dinner before I could even taste it.

But to my amazement, Allie paid no attention to my food. Instead, with wrinkled brow, she followed me to the bathroom. Yes, I'm anthropomorphizing, but I had the feeling she was worried about me. (I was fine.)

So, could a definition of a strong human-canine bond be that the canine eschews tasty food to check up on the human? I should put that question to the author of this book.


jan said...

I have a habit of walking around with a cookie or cracker. My dogs follow me because I'm sure they think food materializes around me.

Susan said...

That's a great idea!

Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart said...

Lilly nibbles on me. My head to be exact. It's similar to the nibbling Ginko and Lilly do with each other. When I told our behaviorist at the veterinary school, I feared that she would tell me it was simply a very controlled bite inhibition. That would have made me sad.

It turns out that it's essentially an extreme form of affection.

For better or worse (likely worse), we also know if Lilly likes someone because she will resource guard that person (usually in an attempt to keep Ginko or other dogs away).

Because she isn't one of those pet-me, pet-me kind of dogs, I think people who meet her think she isn't very friendly or whatever.

But, we knew she had adopted Tom's mom into her circle of trust when she started resource guarding her.

Like I said, not the best, behavioral trait ...

Susan said...

Roxanne -- no, it's not the best trait, but I understand. Years ago, when Allie and I were at Camp Gone to the Dogs, a TV crew was filming. Allie and I were seated reading, and the crew asked if they could film us. I said sure -- but the camera crew couldn't get very close, because Allie growled at them when they tried. This is a dog who loves any and all people. Was she resource guarding me, or just guarding me? I have no idea. But she hadn't ever done it before, and she hasn't done it since. Of course, I haven't been filmed by any TV crews either. :)

Linda Rehkopf said...

She might have followed you to see if some better food was in the making . . . tho that seems unlikely from the description of your, um, task.
That said, my dogs also follow me, even if they have to leave food untouched and un-sniffed.
Retrievers, Susan, are borne to breathe our air.