Few things can lift your mood more effectively than coming home to an elated greeting of tail wagging from your loving dog. Whether you have been gone for an hour to run some errands or were absent all day fulfilling your job obligations, the welcome that your dog bestows on you upon your return is often beyond over the top exuberance. Have you ever wondered why happy dogs behave as though it is a miraculous event that owners came home?
Descended from the Pack
Domesticated dogs are descended from wolves. Wolves are social animals that coexist in packs. When the members of the pack are briefly separated while carrying out their daily activities, the returning members are greeted by other pack members with sniffing and face licking. When pet owners return home, their happy dogs eagerly and thoroughly lick faces, and the sniffers shift into overdrive. These actions are carried out to pick up scents, which enable these loving dogs to determine where their owners have been, with whom their owners have been, what their owners have eaten, what their owners have returned home with and how their owners are feeling.
The Rewards of the Return
As social creatures, dogs dislike the unnatural feeling of being left home alone. At worst, some dogs become so uneasy when faced with isolation that they suffer from separation anxiety. At best, your dog likely experiences feelings of boredom while you are away. Your dog knows that when you are home, opportunities present for receiving affection, engaging in playful activities, going for walks, savoring treats and shadowing another living being. When you are away, there is little to stimulate your dog’s joie de vivre. Your dog quickly learns to associate your scent, the sound of your voice and other markers of your presence as the reward for enduring those periods of separation. Your reappearance represents the promise of some fun and social bonding that was missed in your absence. This reward response manifests as your dog’s euphoric pouncing, licking, tail wagging and vocalizing when you walk through the door. Find out more about dogs and human relationship here!
Dogs can be trained today to carry out desired behaviors for the rest of their lives, and they can remember certain events that they experienced or specific people that they have previously met. When it comes to emotions, however, even confident and loving dogs live in the moment. This is why your dog greets you so emphatically each and every time you return home. It does not matter that you have never failed to return home. It is what is happening right now that is important to your dog. While you are gone, your dog is not so happy. As soon as you come home, your dog is thrilled. If you depart for work once again on the following day, the cycle replays because your dog’s emotions reflect only the present moment.
When your dog is fawning over you as though your return is the most wonderful thing it has ever experienced, it is tempting to return the enthusiastic affection. This is especially true if you have had a trying day and are craving some love and appreciation. If you immediately shower your dog with equal excitement or treats, you are reinforcing the behavior, and you could contribute to the development of separation anxiety in your dog. Instead, allow your dog to greet you, but wait until your dog has calmed down to the point of no longer jumping and pouncing to respond with praises and treats.