“Why, that’s Ridiculous!”

Question:
We recently adopted a terrier that’s about 18 months old. We just love him, however, he constantly follows us around at every move. When my husband and I are sitting watching TV or reading and one of us gets up, he follows us-this is a constant routine. Is something wrong with him? Our dog has been fixed but at the dog park recently he was humping a female dog. Did the “Fix” not work?

Dr. Nichol:
Your fine new terrier is hopelessly devoted to you folks partly because he’s never had it so good. You are reliable and kind. He feels safe when he’s with you. He watches you like a hawk because he never wants to miss a behavioral cue. At any moment you might tell him what you want. And when opportunity knocks he intends to be ready to work for an interaction, a snack, or a pat on the head.

Dogs are our best friends because they share basic social structures with us but there are also species differences. From your boy’s canine perspective, nothing in life is free. Even a kind word must be earned. He is sure that if he misses a chance to follow your instructions he might not survive.

What? As Daffy Duck would say, “That’s ridiculous!” Surely your dog is aware that love and affection are limitless at your house. Actually no. He is a dog, by definition a creature who regards everything as a scarce resource. So he follows you and watches for his chance to perform. As he grows more accustomed to your goodness his adoration may become somewhat less obvious but his loyalty will never wane.

Your boy’s apparent harassment toward that sweet young thing on the playground was not sexual. Members of other species have different etiquette. Your terrier was communicating, in a canine-specific way, that he is big man on campus (BMOC). His message was received and accepted. Nobody, other than watchful pet parents, was offended. If it happens again you can just look the other way and strike up a conversation about baseball with the girl dog’s family.

Each week Dr. Jeff Nichol makes a short video, blog, or a Facebook Live to help bring out the best in pets. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Dr. Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). You can post pet behavioral or physical questions at facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.