Updated: Feb 7
Can you give your dog too much love? In this case I think you can. This is because the love was not thought of as “love” from the dog's perspective. For example, there was a West Highlands Terrier, or Westie, who was adopted by a very loving and caring couple after she was done being a breeding dog for the previous 6 years. This dog, adorable, small, and white at about 20 pounds was tiny compared to one of her new pet-parents; a six-foot tall, large man with a beaming smile on his face. The smile was because he absolutely adored his new canine companion. He took every opportunity to gently pet her and rub her head or pick her up to cuddle her. After living with them for only a few days, this little Westie began growling and biting at the male pet-parent, so they called us, in utter dismay. Why did this loving dog become such a mean, “aggressive” dog? During our first visit and watching them interact, the reason became obvious; the Westie was terrified of the male pet parent. It was not because of anything bad he did, in fact, just the opposite, it was all of the love and affection he sent her way. Unfortunately, the Westie did not realize it was love. By observing the Westie’s body language, it was clear to us that she was very uncomfortable by this large "scary man," always wanting to pet her. We explained how to see things from the dog’s point of view. She was barking, growling, and biting him in an effort to scare away what was scaring her, the big “scary man." Once we showed him another way to show his affection, she began approaching him voluntarily, rather than avoiding him. Over the course of a few weeks, their relationship was much better. As long as he let her initiate the interactions and displays of affection, on her terms, she grew to trust and love him. They joined our agility class soon after and their relationship blossomed. Looking at the things from the dog’s perspective and changing the approach accordingly can make all the difference in the world!