Why Do Some Dogs Get Under Our Skin?

Of course we love all our dogs. But with some dogs, things are different. Our relationship is special.

Let’s fact it. Some dogs just get under our skin more.


Honey the golden retriever delights in sitting in the snow.

I wish I could get under Honey’s skin. She looks awfully warm out there in the snow.

The Foster Puppy Everyone Loved

I’ve fostered over a dozen dogs and puppies. And I’ve written about every one of them.

But our latest foster pup, Zoe, really captured your hearts.

Foster puppy on the porch.

I may be tiny. But I’m awfully strong. Because I grabbed the hearts of everyone who met me.

How do I know?

Because I got more private messages, Facebook comments, and even emails about Zoe than any other dog.

We all think of Zoe as special.

But why is that? What is it about one dog that makes us all love her?

And what about when it’s one of the dogs we live with? Why does a dog get under our skin?

Evil And Crazy But Very Much Loved

Okay, my first dog Agatha wasn’t really evil. But she was definitely crazy.

My dogs, Agatha and Christie, post in the garden.

Agatha is the one in the back. I can’t believe I got both her and Christie sitting calmly at the same time.

It was obvious she had issues from the first moment I saw her warn her sister away from the front of the crate when we were meeting dogs at the Philadelphia shelter.

For the first thirteen years of her life, Agatha was never fully house trained. She terrorized her sister. And she was the leader in eating our kitchen floor, couch, and assorted (expensive) household objects.

But I loved my little neurotic girl just the same.

And when her sister, Christie, passed at fourteen years old. I had two delightful years with crazy Agatha who wasn’t so crazy now that she didn’t have her litter mate to contend with.

I don’t know why Agatha got under my skin. Maybe it’s because she was prickly. Or because she was so attached to me.

Or maybe it was just something in the water.

Dog portraits

Portraits of Love

I’ll Never Have Another Golden Retriever

Deciding to get a purebred puppy from a responsible breeder was a tough decision for me.

But Honey has done everything I hoped for her: grown into a friendly and tolerant dog who could be my co-worker when I started fostering dogs.

But I won’t do it again.

Honey is a golden retriever puppy on the beach.

Yeah, I can see why you’d never get another golden. No one would ever be better than me.

For one thing, I know how many wonderful dogs are looking for homes in rescues and shelters. And with what I’ve learned over the past decade, I think I could choose a rescue dog that would meet any special requirements I have (say helping to foster puppies or being able to live on a small sailboat).

But most of all, I’m afraid I’d compare another golden retriever to Honey.

Just because they have silky golden hair and floofie tail does not mean they’d be just like Honey. And while I’m sure I would love them for their own quirks and personalities, I would also compare them to my sweet girl.

Because when I see a golden retriever, I think of Honey. She’s the gold standard (pun intended). And she’s really gotten under my skin.

Honey the golden retriever is a beauty.

Ain’t I a beauty? Even with my messy muppet toes.

I’ve Got You Under My Fur

Some people talk about their “heart dogs,” the pups they have a special relationship with.

It’s not a phrase I use. But I understand it when I hear someone else say it.

When you ask someone why they consider a dog their “heart dog” they often talk about that dog’s special needs or exceptional understanding or ability to do a job.

But I don’t think they know why a dog gets under their skin any more than I do. Sometimes it just happens.

And it happens for dogs too.

We all know dogs that adore our husbands or kids. We’ve had dogs that consider us their safe spot.

Because we humans get under dogs’ skin (er, fur) too.

Honey the Golden Retriever is training new sailing skills.

I’m gratified that Honey trusts me enough to fall asleep out on open water.

I Love A Mystery

I can’t wait to read the lovely stories that will crop up in the comments about dogs that have gotten under your skin. Maybe you’ll be more articulate at explaining why some dogs mean so much to us.

But if you can’t, it’s okay.

Because I love a mystery. And I don’t need to know why a dog gets under my skin.

I’m just glad when they do.

Pam and Honey the golden retriever.

The hair color changes but not the love.

Help Something Wagging And Join Our Giveaway

The Pet Blogger’s Gift Exchange is in full swing. And I promised I’d host another giveaway that everyone could enter whether they wrote a blog or not.

But I need your help first.

I’m thinking about the future of Something Wagging This Way Comes as I’m preparing for a big life change. Can you help by answering a few questions?

But don’t wait. I’m only accepting entries for a week.

Click the button below to open the survey in a new window.


Your Turn: Do some dogs get under your skin more than others? Do you know why?

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  1. Yes, some dogs have definitely gotten under my skin. Although I grew up with poodles – and each was special in her own way – the one who really got under my skin was Kissy. She was MY dog, not my mother’s, and she and I were pretty much all each other had for the first 5 years of her life. So a special bond grew between us that keeps her in my heart and thoughts constantly, even though she went to the Rainbow Bridge 11 years ago last Friday. She was my dog, but she was also my furry baby; and I will miss her every day until she greets me at the Bridge. And then there’s Ducky. And you already know about Ducky. But don’t get me wrong, Callie and Shadow are no less important to me. Callie’s personality reminds me of my Mom: warm, loving, maternal, and patient. Her patience made all the saints in Heaven jealous. And Callie is exactly the same way with both Shadow and Ducky. And Shadow? Well, she’s like I was as a child: always had to be the center of attention within my family circle and unable to understand why I couldn’t be all the time. Of course I grew out of that “neediness” stage, but Shadow never has and it’s like having a “mini me” around 24/7. Yes, it gets annoying at times, but how can I not love the canine version of my childhood self?!

  2. PS. I will fill out the survey later today. Right now I have to feed the Golden Girls and the little, black Demon Dog.

  3. I’ve loved all my dogs, but my two males have gotten under my skin. I think Tino did because he really kicked in my mother nurturing – he was so sick and needed so much care when we first rescued him – I became attached and never let go. Jack was such a handful – but he attached himself to me so quickly and became so devoted to me and eager to please – how could you not love him. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Sally – but she loved me and Steve equally. And Becca and Maggie…well they’re both a bit aloof…a girl thing?

  4. My last dog Shadow got under my skin (I had her nearly 14 years). I knew I’d need time to recover from that loss when cancer overtook her. I wasn’t even sure I’d really want another dog – even though I browsed the Petfinder website often. I fostered for a while so I didn’t have to make that commitment. Shadow was was high maintenance; she was with me when I went through some pretty big life changes; and for the last 5 years of her time with me, we knew what the other wanted with just a look. We were tight.

    Blueberry isn’t necessarily under my skin – although I love her dearly. But I do often think I will never get another dog after her because she is so near perfect and not just that – she came to me that way! I’ve taught her a few tricks – but the rest of the stuff, that’s all her.

  5. Since I get to be with Roxy and Torrey so much, they are really under my skin. Especially Roxy. I have had her almost 10 years now and she has seen me through some bad times.

  6. One of the things I love most about dogs is their individuality. They are each so different and I think each offers different things to us as well as needing different things from us. I’ve now had two pairs of rescue dogs, and while they’ve all been pretty different from one another, in each pair I’ve had a laid-back, protector sort of dog and a needier, neurotic sort. I find such a beautiful balance in that. I took care of Freya, and Lasya took care of me. I take care of Ruby, and Boca takes care of me. Because Ruby has by far been my most challenging dogs, her hooks are in deep. I think when you have a sensitive dog like that, you have to work on being in tune with them that much more. My relationship with Boca is more relaxed – she’s easy to read and easy to be around. I could never pick a favorite, and that’s not even looking back to my childhood dogs! I love them all.

  7. Yes, and Haley is one of them! There are different ways a dog can get under your skin like you mentioned in your post. It’s amazing how we still can make room in our hearts for a new dog that can become so special after the loss of an amazing dog.

  8. I don’t think it is necessarily something we can articulate when a dog becomes a heart dog (or under our skin). Why do we become so attached to some people, but not others? When we got Wilson just a month after losing Dylan (also a Cardigan), we told him he had big shoes to fill. Did he fill them the same way Dylan did? Nope, but he did the job he was given, and that was to heal our broken hearts. He will always be special for that. And when his time comes, I will mourn him just as deeply as I did Dylan.

  9. Well, I don’t think I’m that mysterious. I have a thing for female dogs who snort :) Don’t know why, they just kill me.

  10. Yes, some dogs got under my skin way more than average. Jasmine, and now Cookie. I thin it’s about the amount of sweetness that is in them. Or maybe something else all together.

  11. It’s very hard to understand why the relationship with some is extra special.

  12. Very sweet and honest!

  13. First, I’ve not met a golden I did not like, and they all seem to get better with age. My 1st dog as an adult (many many years ago) was a yellow lab, I had her for 10 years before I even considered getting another dog because I thought I’d never find a dog as good as her. I got a choc lab puppy and well..he as just as great as her. Two different personalities, but loved them both, both special to me. One can never replace another, but you will find another dog that you will love and adore. I currently have a golden mix, who is also a great dog, my constant companion, I’d be lost without her. love your comments