What Stout didn’t realize was that she was setting herself up to be angry with him. After all, even the words she chose to describe the situation – "under foot" – are negative. So every time she saw him get close to her, she thought of him as a pest.
When Petra Gonzales, a dog trainer from Vista, California, asked her to think of Rusty’s closeness as a compliment rather than an annoyance, Stout was able to see things in a new way. "To tell you the truth, I never stopped to think that he was always close to me because he liked me," she said. "I guess I thought that he had to like me. After all, he is my dog. But when I realized that he stayed close because he wanted to, I was able to look on his closeness as a positive thing."
With her change in attitude toward Rusty’s closeness, Stout also saw a change in her relationship with him. Because she smiled instead of frowned at him, and because her comments became positive – "Hi, good boy!" instead of "Rusty, move!" – Rusty began to relax. He would wag his tail as she moved around the room, and he would sneak a pet by nudging her with his nose when she was sitting. He would even lie by her feet instead of positioning himself on the other side of the room. Within a few weeks, Stout conceded that she and Rusty were enjoying each other much more than they had before.
A canine shadow is the ultimate in companionship. When you encourage your dog to be your shadow, you get to know each other better. Your dog watches you, hears you, smells you, and bonds more deeply with you. In return, you get to rub its tummy and to pet it as you walk by. You can enjoy your dog’s company while you talk on the phone. You can rest your feet comfortably under your furry, warm pooch as you work at the computer. With a friendly dog around, who needs fuzzy slippers?
If your pet isn’t a natural-born shadow, it’s easy to encourage this level of closeness. Just keep your dog close and praise your pup for this behavior. In the beginning, if your dog wants to wander away, ask it to lie down and to stay with you. You might give your dog a rug or a bed to relax on, which will further encourage it to stick around.
Make eye contact often with your dog. Smile at it, and praise your pooch for staying. If it does leave the room, simply bring it back. You can even use its leash if you need to. It won’t take long for your dog to realize that you want it nearby and that when it stays close, it will get petted and praised. When you move from room to room, call your dog to come with you and praise your dog when it follows you. As your dog learns to be your shadow, let it follow you to the backyard, the garage, and the laundry room. Continue praising your pet when it follows you. If you don’t already, you will then soon have your very own canine shadow.
Many of us want and need dogs as companions. The easiest way to enjoy their company is to keep them close. So change your terminology. Your canine isn’t under foot, it’s your shadow. Praise your dog for it and treasure the closeness.