Have you ever noticed your dog express gratitude toward you? I’m not talking about the affection he gives you when you walk through the door after work. I mean, real thanks, for something specific. I never gave it much thought, until one day a few years ago, on a very hot walk, I stopped half way through as I usually do, to offer Loki and Juno some water. I poured it into the bowl. And instead of heading tongue first into the bowl, both gave me a kiss on the cheek, then proceeded to drink their water. In fact, they must have both kissed me before drinking hundreds of times in the 9 years we’ve been together and I never connected it as gratitude. It doesn’t matter how hot or how thirsty they are, they almost always tell me “Thanks Mom,” with a kiss, when I offer them the water.
They don’t do this at dinner time because they wait in a sit until I stand up and tell them, “Bon Appetite,” rather than stay in squat at their level. But they do kiss me with thanks when I put fresh water in their bowl in the house too. In fact, if Juno sees me do this, she’ll purposely get up from her position, walk over while I’m placing the bowl down and bent over, just to get her kiss in on my cheek before I stand up, then she enjoys her fresh bowl of water.
Naturally, someone on social media pointed out it could just be that she was seeking permission from her alpha (me) to take the water, much like wolves do in a pack. Frankly, I do not put much stock in wolf behavior to train and live with my domestic dogs. In fact there are many animal behaviorists who would say that though there are similarities in character wolves and dogs, the alpha pack leadership theory is not a proven method of training your dog. Ian Dunbar once said ”Trying to train dogs by studying wolf behavior is like learning how to raise a child by watching chimps.” In addition, many vets and animal behaviorists confirm that domestic dogs do show gratitude with kissing. In Loki’s case, he will bow his head into my legs and moan happily. Besides, my dogs ask for permission for things by looking at what they want then to my face, then to the item they want. It’s a completely different behavior. I’ve lived with these two a long time and while I”m still learning (they have so much they can teach people) I’m fairly certain of when they are thankful and when they are asking permission.
What ways does your dog express gratitude?