The One Person Dog

One Person Dog
The One Person Dog
Does your dog only have eyes for you? Here's what is healthy behaviour—and what's not—when it comes to the one-person dog.

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Some dogs love everyone the second they meet them. (Yes, Labradors, I'm talking about you.) Others, not so much. Have you ever met a one-person dog? A dog who was completely devoted to just one person and really couldn't care less about anyone else? This level of attachment can be fine for a dog who is also secure and confident, but it can be a real problem if he is so dependent that without his special person he can't function.

We often have unrealistic expectations of our canine companions, wanting them to be friends with everyone. Not every dog is wired that way. Some breeds are specifically known for having a close circle of friends. For example, take the Chow Chow. Chows are independent dogs, fiercely devoted to their families. They are known for being aloof with strangers. Are there specific Chows who are social butterflies? Yes. But the breed overall is known for not being particularly friendly towards people outside its inner circle. 

Sometimes, a dog has such a limited circle of friends there's only one person in it. The sun rises and sets with this special someone, which can be very flattering if you're that person! As long as the dog doesn't experience stress when separated from this person, then the situation is probably ok. Take the case of Cricket the Chihuahua and her pet parents, Howard and Melanie. The couple adopted the little dog from their local rescue, and Cricket instantly bonded with Melanie. Wherever Melanie goes in the house, Cricket is her tiny shadow. 

When Melanie leaves the house, Cricket will lie down at the door Melanie exited through and pine. Occasionally she'll get up and go find Howard, who pets her and coos over her. She likes Howard. He can give her treats and she gobbles them up; she just prefers Melanie. Cricket clearly has a favourite person whom she deeply misses when absent, but she can still cope when that person isn't around.

This is not the case with all devoted dogs. Some dogs take their preference for a specific person to an extreme, developing separation anxiety when that person is not present. They may pace constantly. They may drool. They may refuse to eat when their number-one person isn't there. Some will chew destructively at doorways or windows. Some will even go to the extent of self-injury, hurting themselves in an attempt to get out of a crate, room or house. Nothing seems to console them. This isn't healthy! This requires professional help. 

What if you have a one-person dog who is confident enough when left alone, but the rest of your family members feel left out? For dog lovers, it can really hurt one's feelings if a dog doesn't reciprocate affection. It may feel humbling to realize love alone isn't enough to make a dog return your affections, but it's just a fact that some dogs will choose a person by whom the sun rises and sets, and all others are background details. One thing your neglected family member can do is hand-feed the dog. Yes, feed all kibble by hand. Food is a powerful reinforcer. Mealtime can be especially exciting for dogs, so associating mealtime—delivered piece by piece—with a person can help forge a meaningful bond. 

Whether the dog in your life loves just you or an army of people, that affection is a precious gift. How lucky we are to be the center of a dog's world!

 

Check out these Modern Dog recommended stress relieving products to help with separation anxiety. 

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