Embrace Mixed Emotions – Good for the Dog; Good for You

One thing I love about dogs is their pure and simple emotion. But that doesn’t mean they never have mixed feelings. And as we say good-bye to our latest foster friends, I see it more than ever.

Honey the golden retriever has mixed emotions about playing tug with a chocolate lab.

C’mon Handsome. Let’s go to my place.


My Dog Has Mixed Emotions

Honey loves to play with other dogs. So every time we foster playful dogs, Honey gets her own personal dog park in the back yard.

I have no doubt Honey will miss playing with Mr. Handsome when he goes home today. She might even miss the Little Punkin Butt—I’ve spotted them playing together under the bed lately.

Honey will be gloomy for the next day or two. She’ll miss her friends.

But she’ll also be happy.

With just Honey in the house, it’s much easier to take long, rambling walks. She won’t see her favorite toys being carried off by someone else. And best of all, she’s guaranteed a place on the couch when we watch a movie.

Honey has mixed emotions about sitting on the couch with foster dogs.

Ok, I’m on the couch. But barely. This is getting crowded.

Even if Honey mopes around the house for a few days, I know she’s going to love her next walk with just the two of us.

I Have Mixed Emotions

I’m so happy to see our fuzzy friends return home.

The way they rush to the window every time a car door slams in front of the house shows how much they miss their person. No matter how happy or playful they appear, they never forget that they’re missing the one who is most important to them.

And it feels great knowing how well they’re taken care of and how much they’re loved.

But I’m going to miss them.

It’s fun having a dog big enough to put his snout on the bed without jumping. And I’ve come to love cuddling a dog small enough to fit (really fit) on my lap.

The three dogs go together well. Every time I see them, I think of food. Honey and Mr. Handsome look like peanut butter and chocolate fudge. And Little Punkin Butt reminds me of an Oreo. Yummy.

And the house will be so quiet.

Knowing I’ll have tons less poop to clean up is a small compensation for saying goodbye to our new friends.

Is there anything I can learn from Honey about dealing with mixed emotions?

Boston terrier has no mixed emotions when she's asleep.

Sweet dreams, little girl. You’ll be home soon.


Live in the Moment

I do believe dogs have a simpler emotional life than humans. Not because they feel things less deeply. But because they don’t aggravate their emotions by thinking about them.

Honey is not going to say to herself when our foster dogs go home, “What does it mean that I’m sad right now? Does this mean I’m incomplete as an only dog?” She won’t judge herself for having mixed emotions.

No. She’s going to feel sad while she’s doing nothing. And as soon as we get up to take her favorite walk, she’ll be sniffing and enjoying herself.

So I’ll try to learn from Honey as we say good-bye. I’ll alternate between happy and sad. And I’ll try to live in the moment.

After all, if it’s good for the dog, it’s probably good for me too.

Your Turn: Have you noticed your dog having mixed emotions? Or is he consistent in what he feels? How about you?


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  1. Jack and Maggie are the complete opposite about this. Jack pretty much has one consistent emotion now – and I’m glad to say that it’s ‘happy’. His anxiety is gone and it’s only when he loses track of where I am in the house that he gets a little frantic. Other than that he’s a pretty happy dog. Maggie still has a lot of baggage. She will only let herself be happy every once in awhile – typically when we are out for a walk or when it’s food time. Other than those times she is pretty reserved. She’s getting better all the time though and teh stretches of happy, fearless Maggie are getting longer and longer.

  2. These guys are pretty level all the time. They do get super excited when it’s time to get in the truck, they know that usually leads to something fun.

  3. I can see Ducky having mixed emotions each morning when I take her to daycare. She knows she’s at the place where she gets to play with her friends. But she also knows I won’t be there with her. She has a look on her face that seems to say “don’t leave me mommy”, but as soon as I say “I’ll see you later. Go have fun”, her concerned look fades and she’s ready to go play with the other doggies.

    And me? I go through my own mixed feelings. “I need to spend more time with Ducky during the day.” BUT Callie and Shadow need this time with me without the little demon dog around to horn in on our “lovefests”, our games in the back yard, and our “chilling out” time. Ducky can’t stand it when Sam or I give her sisters attention — she comes running over to and gets in between us — and they just tolerate it. So, while I’m torn between keeping Ducky home and not, for Callie and Shadow’s sakes I give them the gift of Ducky being out of their hair for several hours a day. I do what is best for my dogs and try to live in the moment with them.

  4. We have mixed emotions a lot. With Bailie, we are happy when she is gone with Mom and we are home like we used to be, but we also miss her since she is a family member. Katie is not wanting to walk as much as she used to, so if she wants to skip the midday walk, Mom lets her stay home, but when we return she is looking sad in the front window, we think she feels that no one should go for a walk if she doesn’t go. Just a couple examples, but we definitely have the mixed thing going on.

  5. So glad that these two fit into your home so nicely, I’m sure that makes for an easier stay. :-)

    My dogs definitely display mixed emotions about one another. Sometimes they seem to enjoy each others company, and other times that get snarky with one another (just the girls, Toby never gets snarky, although he is often at the receiving end of the snark), and all three are jealous of one another getting affection from us humans and will attempt to push each other out of the way (which we don’t allow, but they still try).

  6. I think Silas has complicated feelings about everything. I don’t want to get in the car, but I want to be at the park! Something outside is scary, maybe I should get it before it can get me?! I want to meet that dog, but he makes me nervous! I want to meet that stranger, but I don’t want them to move too fast! Etc. I try to play up the happier emotion–I’m hoping that one day they’ll be stronger than the bad stuff.

  7. Our girls definitely have mixed emotions about each other….some days they are best buddies, other days they are jealous of each other and competing for attention. Cricket will bring a toy to bed on a weekend morning, get snarly when her sister tries to take it….and then next thing you know she lets go and lets her sister have it!

    When Sheba’s brother Moses died, she was very sad and didn’t play as much as usual. But she also bounced back and got back to her old self fairly quickly. I think dogs can sometimes adjust to change emotionally better than we do. I think that has to do with living in the moment.

  8. Lucas and Cooper have mixed emotions about many things… just like I do! Emmett is a pro at living in the moment and enjoying whatever life is throwing his way. Even when he was having blood drawn from his neck (ugh) he was licking the chin of the vet tech. He just loves life. I strive to learn from him every day!

  9. I always thought our dogs had steady emotions, but with the loss of Blue, I see a huge difference as we all adjust to a smaller pack. Our dogs are getting back into a new groove and it’s been fascinating to watch, so I want to let this play out before bringing a new dog into our pack – I want to see where their emotions and energy takes them.

  10. Very true – that you for the reminder, I needed that today!!

  11. I think I’m the over analyzer in our group. Bunny makes her feelings pretty obvious, and after that, she’s done with it. I am the one who holds on to things for too long.

  12. There’s no doubt all of our dogs and I have mixed emotions and we’re all a bunch of thinkers too. But I agree with you that dogs can let go of their emotions easier. My only exception would be Brut. He’s very complex in that way, especially when he’s moody. It’s like he knows how to hold a grudge when he’s irritable.

    Luckily most of the time he’s pretty good mood. :)