Don’t Take Your Dog Personally

Does your dog hurt your feelings? Because I think that’s what’s going on with some Something Wagging readers.

Lately, common search terms that bring folks to this blog are along the lines of “Why doesn’t my dog greet me more excitedly when I come home?”

Sounds like someone needs to be told to not take their dog so personally.

Honey the golden retriever puppy pees on the floor.

Hey, I’m just doing what puppies do. Don’t take it so personally.

Insulted by Dogs

I blame the dog propaganda machine.

You know what I mean. The ad agency that cranks out all that “unconditional love,” “dogs are man’s best friend,” and “be the person our dog thinks you are” crap.

After a while, we all start to assume that every dog is going to love us. More than anyone else in the world. Because that’s what dogs do.

I’ll never forget how hurt my sister’s boyfriend was that no matter how often he visited, my dogs Agatha and Christie barked at him like he was a burglar. Luckily he wasn’t too insulted by the dogs to marry my sister and become Agatha and Christie’s “uncle.”

If anyone deserves to feel insulted by their dog, it’s me. Because Honey saves her most excited greetings for strangers.

When I come home, Honey picks up a toy in her mouth and comes over for a gentle wag. When the meter reader comes, she can barely contain her joy.

It’s a good thing I don’t take my dog too personally. And that I’ve had a string of foster dogs who really know how to throw a big greeting at the door.

Honey the golden retriever takes a nap in the snow.

Don’t get all insulted because I’d rather take a snow nap than work in the house with you.

How You Know Your Dog Loves You

Instead of getting insulted when our dogs don’t respond to us the way we think they should, we need to understand who our dogs really are. And figure out how they show us their love. Not whether they fall short in our expectations for how a loving dog behaves.

Even when I went away for a month, Honey did not greet me excitedly at the door. Does that mean she doesn’t love me as much as someone whose dog goes insane jumping with joy when they get home from work?

Of course not.

It might mean that she’s not anxious when we’re away and has less nervous energy to disperse. Or maybe she shows her love in other ways.

Honey likes to be with us. And she’s happiest when the whole family is together.

Honey loves to walk in the snow. But when I walked her to drop off Mike at his office the other day, she stood at the corner looking after him until he disappeared into the building. She continued to stand on the corner for another ten minutes in case he came back. She didn’t want to miss the chance to have us all together again.

If I work at my desk too long, Honey comes over for lovies. She settles in contentedly if I switch to the laptop where she can cuddle up next to me while I work.

So although Honey doesn’t spin like a maniac and bark with joy when I come home, I know she still loves me. In her own way.

Honey the golden retriever waits in the restroom.

If I didn’t love you, would I follow you into this stinky place? I don’t think so.

Let Your Dog Be Your Dog

I’d advise the person who is worried about why her dog doesn’t greet her with crazy joy is to let her dog be her dog.

Our dogs don’t watch the dog food commercials that share the man’s best friend script. There’s no dog manual just like there’s no human manual. We just do what seems right to us at the time.

Some dogs are less sociable. Some are sociable on their own terms. Some are more sociable at some times of day than others.

As dogs get older, sometimes they change. Aches and pains may make them less cuddly. Perhaps they have a form of dementia that changes their personality.

Or maybe, like humans, they decide that life is too short to do what other people want you to do all the time. And if they feel like taking a nap when you feel like cuddling, tough for you.

Most importantly,

Don’t Take Your Dog Personally

If the only reason you got a dog is to heal your low self-esteem, that’s a bad idea. No wonder you take your dog personally.

But take a lesson from your dog.

After all, they don’t get insulted when we have a bad day or act like jerks. If our dogs don’t take us personally, maybe we need to stop taking them personally. And just let them be who they are.

Honey the golden retriever retrieves.

I love you enough to bring you my favorite ball. And look, I put spit all over it.

Your Turn: It’s human to feel hurt when someone doesn’t want our attention. Do you take your dog too personally when she doesn’t want your attention? How do you deal with it?


  1. Personally, having 6 children who will never leave home….Er, I mean, Wiener dogs….I never lack for attention. There’s always one or two or three feeling needy. If I’m sad (not bloody often) at least one or two are in the mood to indulge me. Notice I say “in the mood”. Dogs, like you say, have a right to their own personalities and moods. And I’m glad you called out the ” propaganda machine” because it’s true. Every good thing in this world, it seems, has to be mined to smithereens, until it is no longer recognizable. People need to get a grip and see their dogs for what they are: magnificent,but faulty, animals remarkably adept at living with us.

  2. It’s getting to where humans project onto dogs the way they do children. We are NOT here to fulfill your every need! We have needs and wants too!

  3. This made me nod with recognition. People used to take Frankie’s standoffishness/shyness personally. They couldn’t believe that, even though they had visited my house numerous times — and, in one case, had rescued him and brought him to me — he didn’t evince any sign of having seen them before; he just barked at them as intruders. I, in turn, had to understand that, hype to the contrary, he wasn’t going to treat me with any sympathy when I was sick. The myth of unconditional love helps dogs get adopted but, sadly, it probably gets them returned to shelters too.

    • Hi Edie! I hope you don’t mind if I correct your last sentence somewhat…It’s not the “myth” of unconditional love that gets dogs returned to shelters. It’s the HUMAN DEFINITION of said unconditional love. Dogs DO love us unconditionally, but on their own terms; and on terms that some humans can’t — or choose not to — understand. It took me some time to realize that Callie had stopped greeting me with her usual exuberance not because she “didn’t love me any more”; but because as she got older, it was a little more difficult for her to get up or because she was in such a deep sleep that she hadn’t heard me come in the house.

  4. Well, Jack is pretty much a velcro dog, so there’s no doubting his love for me. Interesting point about getting older and behavior changing. When our Sally got older, instead of following me everywhere, she adopted a new napping spot on top of the couch cushions – along the back. This allowed her to keep her eyes on me wherever I went in the house without having to follow me. Smart girl.

  5. I was a little offended when my Dad’s Snickerdoodle wouldn’t give me the time of day when I first met her. I mean, hey, most dogs give me a greeting. I have that special smell, that special touch that dogs seem to be attracted to, but this Snickerdoodle would have none of it. She would just walk past me when I extend my hand to her. She would just look away, be a total snob. And I do mean a TOTAL snob. After spending hours in the same house, I did the dumbest thing you could possibly do. We were sitting on the floor, and she had her butt to me. She was laying on the floor with a chew toy, just chomping away, her butt directly proportional to my body, her tail wagging happily. Well, I can’t help that mischievous little imp inside of me. That IMP behaves most of the time but geez, that IMP just had to silently and slowly move forward and place both hands really fast and sturdily against her flanks. Well, an explosion of Snickerdoodle, more like a rocket of snickerdoodle ensued, and everybody in that group gave me surprised and dirty looks while my imp sheepishly scrambled for cover back into my body. And you know what happened? That snickerdoodle loved me from that moment on. Brought her chew toy over to me to share!!! Who would have thought!

  6. No, I do not take it personally. I am in secure in my relationship with my dogs, lol. There have been moments, like when Abby decides not to bother getting up from her comfy bed to greet me with the other collies. But I get it, she shows her love for me, by following me from room to room, and stretching out at the bathroom door, while I take a shower. I’m her person, and she shows it in all the small ways.

  7. Sampson roos when I walk in the door and Delilah usually brings me a toy. Then I must pet them both, but if for some reason that doesn’t happen, it doesn’t bother me at all. I know we will have our love fest at a later time.

    Hubby on the other hand gets miffed. “When I come home Sampson goes to the back door to be let out, when you come home he barrels to the front.” Poutface. LOL

  8. I like this analysis. Moses and Alma are the same – they don’t throw a party for me when I get home from work. Moses hardly gets up – though I can see and hear his tail thumping on the floor, but the rest of his body stays mostly still, and he’ll eventually get up when I get to where he’s sleeping. Alma may get up and come near the door, but then she’ll sit patiently. This is in contrast to interested greetings visitors and strangers get.

    But this doesn’t stress me out or make me think they’re not happy I’m home. After a long day at work, I don’t really want to be greeted by excitement and anxiety.

    Besides, when we rush to answer the door and greet visitors ourselves, our dogs are taking a cue from our own excitement – hence the different routine. When I get home from work, there’s no door bell and no one rushing to answer it.

  9. Mom used to take us very personally without realizing it, but then a friend told her not to do that and since then things are much better. She understands us and that we aren’t doing some of the things we do to be mean or nasty.

  10. I don’t worry about what they think. Sometimes they come flying to the door when I get home, other times they can’t even be bothered to come downstairs from their perch in the guest bedroom. I think it has something to do with how hungry they are 😉

    John does tend to get his nose a bit out of joint if Jimmy chooses to sit by me. When it really bugs him, he picks Jimmy up and carries him off 🙂

  11. Very wise, and thanks. Sometimes overly the last few weeks BD has been happy to see me but reluctant to get in the car to come home with me. I had worried that it was because now he wasn’t seeing me as often he didn’t love me as much – silly huh! But deep down I knew it was just he doesn’t like the car very much.

  12. This post got me thinking this morning, in spite of myself. (Not really in the mood to think after thunderstorms woke Callie and sent her jumping up on the bed to climb over my head in an attempt to crawl into the headboard and hide, twice.)

    As you can see from what I said to Edie, I DO believe that our dogs love us unconditionally. But it’s up to us humans to understand their definition of love rather than trying to make them act out our own definition of it. Like you said, some people just need to stop taking their dogs personally. And, yes, sometimes I’m guilty of doing just that — like at 4:30 in the morning when I suddenly find my 75-pound Golden Retriever climbing over my head because of a stupid, little thing like thunder or lightning. What the heck do I know of patience at that hour, especially after only 3 hours of sleep?! LOL.
    Poor Callie, all she wants to do is hide from the noise of the storm and “Mommy” gets all bent out of shape. Yet when the storm is over, and we’re both back to normal, she still gives me a slobbery kiss if I ask for one. She has already forgotten about the storm and Mommy being a butthead. And Mommy goes on berating herself for hours on end.

  13. We shouldn’t be as exciting as visitors anyway. If my dogs behaved with me the way they act when visitors show up, it would be like a looney bin over here. 🙂

    I also know Toby would trade me in for any person carrying food. Maybe if they weren’t carrying food too. But I love him all the same.

  14. Well, for woof sakes. Head over to Casa de Kolchal where one greeting from my bat-shit crazy puggle will cure them of that particular gripe. Have you ever heard a beagle scream? (I bet you have, you’ve fostered beagles). That sound, EVERY WOOFING DAY. It’s absolutely insane. The only way to thwart it is to have people pre-text that they have arrived, then stand by the door alternating CRAM IT commands and shovelling meat into his gaping maw. Some people want to know why their dog doesn’t greet them more enthusiastically, I want to know why my dog can’t hold it together. I’m his human, not Justin Beiber.

  15. Why do humans think that every dog should be the same? Some humans like to hug friends and others find it difficult to tolerate that style of greeting. It has nothing to do with the strength of the bond between those people.

  16. Elka greets me like that. Wiggle wagging, with a toy, rearing up like a pony, etc. etc. She knows to go to the door if I ask her “Is the pizza here?” She knows our friends by name and loves them, hard. But when she met my new boss? Gave her a dismissive sniff and walked away to the extent the leash would allow her. My boss is a dog person, though, and understood the lure of the park, but it was funny. I was like “Elka, you’re going to get me in trouble!”

  17. I guess its all depends on their mood. My Siberian husky is the same.. Sometime she would totally ignore me but then the next day he;ll be all over me, licking and driving for my attention towards him.