My two Jack Russell terriers are so ecstatic when I come home that one quivers uncontrollably with glee while the other rolls onto her back and pees. It is quite the welcoming committee. They both think I’m the greatest thing since Milk-Bones.
Now contrast this to the lukewarm (if any) reception my family gives me when I walk through the door. My wife of many years has long since stopped wagging her tail at me, and my daughter, who recently moved back home after graduating from college, is just generally pissed.
This got me thinking. What do my dogs see in me that people don’t? And, most important, is there a way to make the fine qualities that my dogs sense and respect more apparent to people I want to impress? What would it take to be the man my dogs think I am?
Experts in canine psychology—yes, there is such a breed—say one of the reasons dogs worship humans is simply that we feed, shelter, protect, and pet them, providing all the necessities of life. But I like to think dogs are more than just lovable parasites. In fact, if my dogs could talk, I believe they would describe me as generous, kind, dependable, affectionate, strong, intelligent, fair, playful, forgiving, articulate, trustworthy, successful, valuable, a great cook, a born leader, impressively tall, and a terrific driver. And I bet any dog would use the same words to describe you. (Click here to find out what the breed of dog you own says about your personality.)
Stanley Coren, Ph.D., a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of British Columbia and the author of Born to Bark, says the secret to understanding canine behavior is realizing that dogs have the brain of a 2-to 3-year-old child. They can’t label specific traits, he explains, “but they can still sense and appreciate us on many levels. They’re very perceptive.”
So even though your family, friends, and coworkers may not lose bladder control when they see you, you no doubt possess many impressive characteristics that inspire loyalty. You are a diamond in the ruff. And to make these traits more broadly evident, all you have to do is start treating people like dogs. That’s right, you heard me. Your dog responds to specific behaviors that you exhibit. Act the same way around people, and soon you’ll have them eating out of your hand too.
Sound plausible? Atta boy!
1.) WHAT YOUR DOG THINKS YOU ARE – Dependable and trustworthy
MAKE SURE PEOPLE SEE IT
Be consistent – The people in your life look to you for support just like a dog does. They all want someone to be the anchor in their storm. And the key to filling this role, says Coren, is predictability. If you show up on time and deliver what’s expected of you, people will come to rely on you. Reliance strengthens bonds and promotes the illusion of control. That illusion,” says Coren, “is extremely important to their having a normal, non-neurotic life.” So establish patterns of behavior. If you’re a dad, come home at a consistent hour and resolve problems in consistent ways. Likewise, be there when your boss barks, and be sure to meet deadlines. This isn’t sucking up; it’s taking away the boss’s bite. (Fresh to the workforce? Make sure you know The Rules New Employees Must Follow.)
2.) WHAT YOUR DOG THINKS YOU ARE – Forgiving and fair
MAKE SURE PEOPLE SEE IT
Never carry a grudge – In any social pack, it’s permissible to snap as long as the disagreement is forgotten a few minutes later. If it isn’t, you risk reducing pack integrity and efficiency, at home or in the office. “There are no Hatfields and McCoys among dogs,” says Coren, “and there shouldn’t be among people.” So when someone makes a mistake, tell the person about it in no uncertain terms. (“Billy, it’s unacceptable to play dermatologist with Jessica.”) Then move on. But try to find something to compliment or reward a few minutes later. (“But I will tell Jessica’s mom about that irregular-shaped mole you spotted on her chest.”) This approach helps people accept your criticism and see you as benevolent.
3.) WHAT YOUR DOG THINKS YOU ARE – Kind and considerate
MAKE SURE PEOPLE SEE IT
Give treats – Bestow small, thoughtful tokens—an ice cream for your nephew, a shout-out for a coworker in your monthly report, a book for your girlfriend. No special occasion necessary. “We don’t do enough of that,” says Margie Ryerson, M.F.T., a marriage and family therapist and the author of Treat Your Partner Like a Dog: How to Breed a Better Relationship. She recommends “people training.” Pick a family member you haven’t been getting along with or someone at work who isn’t friendly. Compliment that person, share something, or simply show interest in what he or she is doing. “Once a week, just give them some attention,” says Ryerson. You’ll see that everyone responds to a head pat.
- Dogs are people, too (theglobeandmail.com)
- Afghan Hounds Are Smarter Than You Think! (bohmmarrazzo.wordpress.com)
- Jack Russell Terrier Dogs (dogster.com)
- Does Your Dog’s Name Affect How People Think of Him? (psychologytoday.com)