Every time I go home, it’s amazing to see how consistent my dogs’ tails wag in excitement – it makes me feel special and loved. I mean, it’s not every day that someone is actually excitedly waiting for you to come home!
But those tail-wagging only last for about five to 10 minutes, the next is just some puppy eyes and mouth drooling over a dinner I’m planning to eat.
So it makes me wonder whether my dogs are actually excited to see me, or are they just excited because their human will now give them treats? I mean, do they stay for me or are they just here for the unlimited food?
I got into a little digging and led me to a very scientific outlook of why our animal companions tend to follow us everywhere – with or without food.
“When dogs follow their owners, there can be several scientific explanations, depending on the dog and the individual situation,” Mary Burch, PhD, a certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and the Canine Good Citizen of the American Kennel Club.
First, our animal companions might be staying with us because they recognize us as a parent. This is called “imprinting,” according to ethologist Konrad Lorenz.
“Puppies can imprint on people, as well,” Burch said. “The imprinting period for puppies is between three and 12 weeks old.”
Meanwhile, it is also common for dogs and cats to stay with their hoomans and follow them everywhere because of “reinforcement.” Burch explains that when domesticated animals learn about the good things, such as food and fun activities coming from their human companion, they would be happy to stay and follow that human.
Breed traits are also to blame. Different breeds have personalities fit for every human. There are some who likes to spend the day frolicking with their best friends, while some would choose less attention from their owners.
And, perhaps the most obvious reason, dogs simply love being around their human buddies.
“Over the process of domestication, natural selection has shaped dogs to become companions for humans,” Laurie Santos PhD, a professor of psychology and director of the Canine Cognition Center at Yale University, explained. “Domesticated dogs are now ‘bonded’ with humans in some of the same ways as human children. In this sense, our bond with dogs is one that has evolved over the course of domestications.”