It sounds brilliant: a dog who looks up to you adoringly, obediently following your every move. A dog that never wanders too far from camp and is elated the moment you walk through the door. A dog that thinks that you’re the greatest, most important thing in the entire world.
Aside from having children (I can only assume), being a dog’s human is one of the most rewarding roles we have the opportunity to embrace. To date, one of my greatest accomplishments is giving my dog a wonderful life. I’ve learned that to do it right, takes a lot of energy. And ultimately, I’ve created a severely attached dog.
I mean, isn’t that the goal? A dog that constantly aims to please you and pours out unconditional love? Yes, it’s a beautiful thing. I love that as independent minded as Luna is, she always comes back to me, looks to me for permission before doing something, and I never worry about her wandering off. Because she doesn’t like to be separated for long. It’s because of this connection that I’m successful in the things she does with me.I find this cute and convenient; but also intrusive and irritating.
The drawback of creating a severely attached dog, is that you have a severely attached dog. A degree of contradiction. Granted, Luna is bred to work, and that contributes to her obsessive nature. When we hike or travel, we are rarely separated. Every moment together traveling and hiking has strengthened our bond. I know I’m lucky; most people never spend that amount of time with their pups.
Through this attachment, Luna has formed what she thinks is her life’s work: me. Her eyes track my every movement and the moment I open the car door, she’s jumped inside to be sure I don’t leave her behind. When she hasn’t had extreme exercise, this boarders on obsessive behavior. To the point where I can’t walk into a bathroom without her insisting on joining me. This is a dog that would 100% be happier to come along for the ride and be left in the car than stay at home.
I feel guilty that attachment has led to anxiety in my dog, because realistically there are times when I do leave her behind. When we’re not traveling, I’m working. Over the years I’ve brought her nannying with me and she adores the playful energy of kids. But this time around, she hasn’t; fueling my recent guilt. I’ve taught this dog that she’s always to follow along, so I’m also responsible for the restlessness she experiences on days I only spend a couple hours with her. If animals understood logic, I’d tell her that it’s only temporary; that I’m spending this time away from her so that we can spend every moment the next 6 months together hiking. But it doesn’t work that way.
So that’s the catch: when you imprint a behavior, it doesn’t disappear just because you’ve changed settings.