There’s a term people use for dogs that stay constantly by their owners: velcro dogs. These canines are akin to the famous fabric hook-and-loop fastener in that they cling strongly to their person and it can be difficult to separate them. Some velcro dogs will also display separation anxiety and become destructive to property or themselves when unable to be with their favorite human. I should also point out that some people have separation anxiety from their dogs and actually seek out or encourage velcro behavior.
I, for one, like being able to go to the bathroom without being dogged or hounded by four-legged critters. Even the terms “to dog” and “hounding” came about from the fact that canines can be hard to get away from. That being said, I do have a velcro dog. Yep, that’s right, Grimm is as sticky as glue–Gorilla glue, not the puny Elmer’s variety. And, alas, if I forget to close the bathroom door completely, private time becomes doggy social hour. Nothing is more annoying than having a live dog rug underfoot when you are trying to urinate or move your bowels. No amount of threats or shoving mean anything to a dog when your pants are down around your ankles. They know a compromising situation when they see it.
Now don’t get me wrong–I like having a loyal dog. Loyal as in, “I will warn you of possible intruders” or “I won’t run away with the first person to offer me a tasty treat” or “I will protect you from bodily harm.” Not loyal as in “I will help you flush the toilet” or “I will trip you when you are cooking hot things because I lay behind you when you are at the stove.” I like to think Grimm would perform well in all of the first scenarios and I know for a fact that he can do all of the second ones. This dog is never more than ten feet from me at all times unless we are outside. Even then, he will keep me in his sight.
Charley, in his old age, has developed some velcro dog tendencies, but only when indoors. Really, he is only attached to me when I am sitting down, like when I’m writing or watching something on television. At times like those, he likes to lay at my feet. I can deal with that sort of attachment.Zella, on the other hand, is more independent. She likes to sleep on the couch, away from me and the other dogs, when we are relaxing inside. She’ll watch me to see what’s up, but won’t follow me room to room like Grimm does. When outside, she doesn’t run away or try to escape and comes when called, but she doesn’t have to keep me in her sight.
George Eliot (who was actually Mary Anne Evans– but I digress) once said:
We long for an affection altogether ignorant of our faults. Heaven has accorded this to us in the uncritical canine attachment.
While I agree that we, as humans, seek affection from those who would love us despite our short-comings, attachment and affection are not the same thing. Attachment can become co-dependence, co-dependence can become obsession and obsession can become neuroses. A neurotic dog is not something I want to encourage. I don’t want to find Grimm turning into the canine version of Single White Female.
For now, Grimm is working on his stays and learning some independence. To teach independence, I start by increasing his confidence. To do this, I work him in scenarios that he is not entirely sure of (like walking through ladders, climbing on unstable (but not dangerous) objects, jumping over obstacles, etc.) so that he learns he can do things by himself. When I leave rooms, I make him stay on his dog bed and reward him with low-key praise when I return (as long as he stays on his bed and doesn’t come to me–I go to him). So far, he’s doing well. He shows great aptitude in learning new behaviors.
“He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to himto be worthy of such devotion.”— Unknown