You Think You Know A Dog…

I spend hours every day with my dog Honey. I watch her. I write about her.

You’d think there would be no surprises left.

But just when you think you know a dog, she surprises you.

Honey the golden retriever poses near a new store.

How about I go in the shop and you wait for me outside? I’m sure they’d be happy for me to dust the shelves with my tail.

My Dog Loves Everyone More Than Me

It’s easy to think Honey loves everyone in the world. And that she loves them more than she loves me.

When I get home from work, no gleeful frenzy.

Honey just picks up a toy and greets me quietly at the door with a slowly swishing tail.

But if a friend comes over, or a meter reader, Honey goes nuts.

She can’t get close enough to her new favorite person. She dances around in glee. She leans into the person and rolls half way down to expose her belly for lovies.

Heck, I didn’t even get that after coming home from a month in Panama. Just the same quiet greeting with the slowly swishing tail.

But yesterday I saw something that convinced me that Honey doesn’t really prefer every one in the world to me.

Dogs Welcome Sign

Honey thinks more businesses should be pet-friendly. So do I.

What Your Dog Does When She Doesn’t Know You’re Looking

I don’t like leaving Honey tied outside while I go into a shop to do business.

I’ve done it less than a half-dozen times and only when I know I can do what I need to do in thirty seconds or less (like buying a newspaper). And if I can keep her in my sight.

Mike was out-of-town, so I decided to get a sandwich from the local bagel place. I figured I could pick up something out of the fridge case and be back by Honey’s side in less than a minute. I tied her leash to a table in front of the window and got a perfect view to watch her while I was waiting to pay for my sandwich.

Usually, when Honey and I are waiting together, she looks up eagerly at every stranger who walks by. “Will this person say hello? C’mon over, you know you want to pet me.”

But from inside the shop, I saw Honey turn her back to the people walking by. She was looking for me through the window, but finding it hard to focus.

A woman walked up to greet Honey, petting her ears and stroking her sides. Honey looked at her calmly and stood still for the attention. But there was no wagging or dancing.

After a few moments, Honey turned her head away from the woman and resumed her watch for me.

Did I have it all wrong? Were my worries that Honey would walk off happily with the first person who paid her attention unfounded?

Honey the Golden Retriever sits at the store.

Sarcastic Honey: Yeah, I’ll wait for you. Like I have a choice.

Secure Enough To Have Fun

It was fascinating to see Honey’s interactions with a stranger when I was not by her side.

She looked like an entirely different dog.

And I realized that I had just gotten the perfect visual lesson in how Honey relies on me to give her a secure base from which she can have fun.

Honey can let herself go with strangers and have a blast. She knows that when she’s done, I’ll be there to let her sleep by my side.

So maybe it’s time to stop being jealous of those exciting videos where a dog goes crazy with love for his person who has been away. And to realize that Honey feels  her place is beside me. No matter what alluring stranger comes along.

And I certainly won’t assume I know everything there is to know about my dog. Because sometimes, just when you think you know a dog, she’ll surprise you.

Your Turn: Have you ever watched your dog when he or she didn’t know you were watching? Did they do anything to surprise you?



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  1. I have and the reaction is similar to Honey’s. We used to play hide and seek with Sally. She’d be off sniffing and paying us no mind…until she realized we were no longer in her sight and then there was a frantic seek game, but only until she caught site of us, then she’d go back to doing whatever she was doing before.

  2. My guys great me at the door after work, but since John is already there and usually cooking dinner, the greeting is a tad lackluster as they want to get back to keeping an eye on the chef 😉 If food is not in the near future, the greeting is quite a bit more enthusiastic. I’ve played that hide/seek game as well. They are worried only until they realize we didn’t just disappear off the planet.

  3. Blueberry surprised me by not pooping on our hikes TWO DAYS IN A ROW!!! I actually thought about putting a few rocks in a poop bag to carry out of the desert with me so that the people in the park area didn’t think I had turned into a dirty-doesn’t-pick-up-after-her-dog-owner. But I decided that would be wasteful, so I didn’t. :)

    I think it is sweet that Honey secretly likes you – and you were worried? :)

  4. Interesting observation.

  5. I love this story! I think Sheba might be just like Honey. She’s our only dog who is comfortable with strangers. She doesn’t get nearly as excited as Luke and Cricket do when we get home. She takes her time greeting and grabs a toy to bring outside. It sounds like our golden retrievers are very secure in our love and don’t feel like they need to show us over exuberantly how much they return it.

  6. margaret says:

    Abby sounds just like Honey in that she hardly even wags when she sees me come home at night, though she always meets me at the door & goes to get a toy to bring me. But should anyone else come over, she is all over them, bouncing around them, licking them, & making herself a little pest (though lovable). But she always comes back to me, & when we are out, and I’ve left her in the car (also with an unobstructed view of her when I am in the store), I can see her in the back seat with her front paws up on the counsel between the two front seats peering out the front window to see where I’ve gone.At home she follows me from one room to the other.

  7. I think it’s lovely that Honey draws confidence from being with you.
    I love to mix with people, seemingly not caring where my own bipeds are – but they’ve noticed that if someone makes me feel unsure I immediately look around to see where my bipeds are.

  8. I often think Toby loves strangers more than me too. Nice that you got to witness that this is not always the case with Honey. Guess strangers are more interesting when you can share in the greeting with her. “Look mom, we have a new friend. Isn’t it GRAND?”

  9. Haley does the same thing that Honey does, except she wants all of her family members together. If anyone strays off, she thinks it’s her job to make sure everyone is present and accounted for. I’m glad you got to see what Honey’s really thinking about when you’re not close by.

  10. I will have to try this to see! I kind of think Ace’s response would be similar to Honey’s. Like you, I’ve only left him tied up like four times and only when I could see him. But I do have plenty of easy places around me where I could test this. Or if my husband goes along too one could watch secretly while the other gets food.

  11. I’d love to test this theory with Sampson, but I’m too nervous to tie him outside. :-( I have however had to leave him in the car at the vet’s while I settled the bill. I moved the car right in front of a window so I could keep my eye on him. I think he watched for a minute or so, then he lay down. He’s the laziest dog.

    I don’t worry about anyone taking Delilah, because I know they’ll bring HER right back. LOL

  12. This is such a lovely story, and I think it’s something that will resonate with a lot of dog owners. I know I’ve experienced a similar phenomenon when my dog seems to revel in the attention of others and be ready to go off with kindly strangers at the drop of a hat..!

    But it’s the moments you mention above, those unexpected yet utterly heartwarming times when you realise that actually your dog couldn’t imagine what they’d do without you, and depends totally upon you that make the whole journey so worthwhile.

  13. I love your blogs! I really enjoy how you put pictures with cute captions. Honey sounds like such a sweetheart with an amazing personality! You would probably enjoy my blog, check it out!