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Archive for August 26th, 2009

Lucy, my neighbor Tom’s hound, just spent a week here with Buddy and I while Tom was away.  Buddy loves Lucy, and i thought this would work out fine – but it didn’t.  Buddy got all neurotic from having to share his space, even with a dog he likes as much as Lucy.  (A dog’s home is his castle, i guess.)  And i, who find Lucy intrusive and pesty at the best of times, got all stressed out from trying to give her some love and attention while continually needing to reassure Buddy that he was still my #1 dog.  I was in some ways not all that nice to Lucy.

Tom has been home for a few days now and Lucy is obviously thrilled to have him home.  With him, Lucy really is his #1 dog (though he is also crazy about Buddy).  So why is Lucy still so hungry to get time with me?  She whimpers at the back door, even when her playmate Buddy is already out in the backyard with him.  She paws at the screendoor (which always annoys me – Buddy always waits there patiently, even when that is not always such a great strategy, because I sometimes don’t notice him there).  She tries, even more insistently than before, to insert herself between me and Buddy.

Whereas she has always seemed to want attention from me, now – after a week of me often ignoring her or just plain pushing her away (and then sometimes, when Buddy wasn’t looking, also giving her some love and attention – partly because i felt guilty about not being nice to her, partly because i really believe in treating dogs lovingly, and partly because she is in many ways a sweet, lovable dog), she seems to have a real crush on me.

Is it because, like some behavioral psychologists claim to have proven in their research, intermittent reinforcement (giving the animal a pellet for a particular behavior some of the time but not all the time) is even more powerful in shaping behavior than consistent reinforcement?  Is it because, in the area of love, dogs sometimes behave like us stupid people and compulsively pursue a love object that apparently has no interest in us?  Or is it – even when i have not always been nice to Lucy – because dogs just love people so much that Lucy craves me, her closest human neighbor, just because i’m human – and even more so now that she knows me better?

Hey, if you figure it out, let me know.

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