Do You Have a Canine Shadow?

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Joanne Stout of Oceanside, California, admitted she got impatient with her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Rusty. "He is always under foot," she said, "And I am constantly tripping over him."

What Stout didn't realize, however, was that she was setting herself up to be angry with him. After all, even the words she chose -- "under foot" -- were negative. So every time she saw him close to her, she thought of him as a pest. When Petra Gonzales, a dog trainer from Vista, California, asked her to think of Rusty's closeness as a compliment rather than an annoyance, Stout was able to see things in a new way. "To tell you the truth, I never did stop to think that he was always close to me because he liked me," she admitted. "I guess I thought that he had to like me; after all, he is my dog. But when I realized that he stayed close because he wanted to, I was able to look on his closeness as a positive thing."

With her change in attitude toward Rusty's closeness, Stout also saw a change in their relationship. Because she smiled when she looked at him (instead of frowning), and because her comments became positive ("Hi, good boy!" instead of "Rusty, move! Get out from underfoot!"), Rusty began to relax. He would wag his tail as she moved around the room they were in, and he would sneak a pet by nudging her with his nose when she was sitting. He would lie by her feet instead of positioning himself on the other side of the room. Within a few weeks, Stout admitted that she and Rusty were enjoying each other much more than they had previously.

A canine shadow is the ultimate in companionship. When you encourage your dog to be your shadow, you get to know each other better. Your dog watches you, hears you, smells you, and bonds more deeply with you. In return, you get to rub his tummy and pet him as you walk by. You can smile at him while talking on the phone and rest your feet under him as you work at the computer.

It's easy to teach your dog to be your shadow; just keep your dog close and praise him for it. In the beginning, if your dog wants to wander away, ask him to lie down and stay in the same room with you. You can give him a rug or a bed to relax on, if you want. Make eye contact with him often, smile at him, and praise him for staying. If he does wander away, simply bring him back. You can even use his leash if you need to. It won't take long for him to realize that you want him nearby and that when he stays close, he will get petted and praised. As you move from room to room, call him to come with you and praise him when he follows you. As your dog learns to be your shadow, let him follow you to the backyard, the garage, and the laundry room. Continue praising him when he follows you.

We have dogs to be companions, and the easiest way to enjoy their company is to keep them close. So change your terminology; your dog isn't under foot, he's your shadow! Praise him for it!