We dogs love our people kind of a lot.
So it’s natural that we want them to be happy all the time, right? But you may have noticed, that is sometimes easier said than done. Peoples are different from dogs in many ways, one of which is that they tend to focus on things that have already happened, or have not yet happened, or may never happen…and this sometimes makes them stressed or angry or sad.
It’s difficult for a dog to understand, because we live in the present. For example, when we are walking, my only concerns are finding the perfect place to pee, sniffing everything, and greeting as many peoples as possible. But my person may be thinking about all sorts of things that have nothing to do with any of that. She may even be looking at that stupid phone thing instead of looking at the beautiful sky and that darn squirrel that just ran across our path.
I believe it is my job to bring her back to the here and now, and I am pretty darn good at it. Whether it is stopping for an extra long sniff, or dashing unexpectedly after said squirrel, I can usually achieve my goal.
So what can a dog do when our peoples are sad?
This is one of the trickiest areas of dogdom. But again, the trick is to bring our peoples back into the here and now, and distract them from their sadness. The good news is, we have some great tools at our disposal to help us do this. That’s why the dog-human bond is so strong. We have tools.
Be a cute dog.
Duh. You can’t not do that anyway, right? You are a dog, and therefore you are cute. Even ugly dogs are cute. It works in our favor a lot (especially when we are in trouble) but it is also a great tool in our quest to make our people doggone happy. If you keep sticking your little puppy face in front of them, they will eventually notice how cute you are! Head-cocking is a tried-and-true cuteness enhancement. And if you don’t know how to do big, sincere, puppy dog eyes, then you should be ashamed to call yourself a dog. Just hang it up and admit that you’re really a cat.
Puppy dog eyes are a dog’s best tool.
Kisses. Lots of kisses.
Doggie kisses make peoples smile.
Now, I started training my person early on that she was going to get licked and she was going to like it. But if you have not had that kind of success with your person, you can still try this if they are really sad – after all, if they are crying, their face is wet anyway, so really what’s the difference, wet-wise? And the really important thing is this: doggie kisses make people laugh. And people always say laughter is the best medicine. So really it follows that doggie kisses are the best medicine, right? I think so.
Distract them with a toy.
It is important to time this correctly, because if you start when your person is very sad, they will not be ready to participate. But if you lightened the mood with your puppy eyes and doggie kisses, then chances are that you can successfully entice your person to play a game of fetch or tug-of-war with you.
Normally, I recommend a very strong bring-and-drop technique, with no subtlety whatsoever, but this is one of those rare times when you want to be more delicate. So I might quietly go and get my favorite tennis ball or dog toy, bring it to my person, and lightly set it in her lap. Then, lean gently on her until she decides to throw the toy.
The key here is to re-focus your person’s attention from something unpleasant to something fun – playing fetch with you – and something that requires attention and concentration from them. The more involved in the game they become, the less they are thinking about whatever it is that made them sad.
Politely and respectfully distract your person with a toy…
…and watch them start to smile!
What if they are still sad?
If you get your person to play but they still seem distracted, try accidentally on purpose letting your ball roll under the couch. Your person will have to physically get up and get it for you. The more they have to move, the better, so do this several times. Not every time, because they will start to get suspicious. But, like, one in three is good.
Bring on the leash!
Time to take the dogs for a walk! Let us lead the way…
Now that you’ve gotten your person to move by cleverly rolling your ball under the couch, you can move on to the next step. Namely, getting your person to take steps. Lots of steps. So grab your leash, start whining, scratch at the door…whatever you need to do to inspire your person that it is time to take the dog for a walk.
A sad person may not want to leave the house, but they will do it for you – after all, they don’t let you pee in the house, so it’s only fair they take you outside when you need to go. And once you are out and about, chances are they will start to feel better, because exercise sets off those wonderful endorphin things that make you feel good. So get your leash, get moving and get your person happy!
Caveat for Hollywood Dogs
Just a quick sidenote for those of you, like me, that live in Hollywood where there is a good likelihood that your person does something called “acting.” It seems that when they are “acting,” peoples pretend to have emotions that they don’t really have! For some reason, they seem to think this is fun. Clearly they have not tried a good roll in the mud.
Anyway, the point is this: there are times when my person seems to be very angry or sad, when apparently she really is not! She says that when she is holding pieces of paper in her hand, she is not really upset. I choose to err on the side of caution, by starting in on my tried and true steps to cheer her up. She says that it is hard to do this “acting” while I am licking her face. I say, too darn bad. I would rather comfort her when it is not necessary than risk not doing it when she is.
And really, how good an actress can she be? If she looks that upset, it’s got to be true, right?
A dog’s work is never done
But now that you have the step-by-step guide to training your person to smile, you are well on your way. Stay tuned for more essential people training tips, straight from the dog’s mouth.