Every day when I come home Reggie is there, right behind the door, ferociously wagging his tail (a whole body wiggle really) ECSTATIC to see me. What a greeting! We should all greet each other this way! No matter what kind of day I’ve had, what kind of drive I’ve had, this makes it all better. I can’t resist dropping all my things and immediately reciprocating by wildly petting him, telling him “hello” and “I missed you” a hundred times over.
In a recent article in Modern Dog magazine, they reported on the proper way to greet your dog. The proper way to greet your dog will raise their oxytocin levels and decrease their cortisol levels. How do you accomplish this? It might be a little different for every dog, but the approach is generally the same.
The positive effects of touch coupled with your voice strengthen the bond you have with your dog. If you only use your voice, the positive effects dissipate much more quickly than when touch is used. Dogs can’t tell time, and at about the 15 minute mark is when they kind of zone out and it becomes an undetermined long time. As a general rule, strengthening your bond makes this “long time” not so bad and their cortisol level not as high (not as stressed). Note that dogs with separation anxiety this certainly would not apply.
I found it interesting that the article cited research done with monkeys from the 1960s and 1970s showing that the amount of love a child has for its mother is “partly due to the amount and quality of touching that the child and the mother engage in.” With monkeys, this translated as activities such as grooming, hugging, feeding, carrying offspring, etc. With humans this is seen as brushing a child’s hair, helping to wash a child’s face, hugging, simple touching of the hand or the head, etc. All of this adds up to a strong affectionate bond.
A simple test I did with Reggie some time ago (called Dognition, read that post here) showed that Reggie and I have a very strong bond. You can test it yourself: yawn and see if your dog yawns. Sounds silly, but it is the sign of connectedness.
Bottom line? No touch-no talk-no eye contact doesn’t make sense for you and your own dog if you want to foster a strong bond and, in my opinion, a dog that is responsive to you in training. A dog that doesn’t care about you and doesn’t want to please isn’t as easy to train. I will continue to greet Reggie as enthusiastically as he greets me, he deserves it!