Tuesday, July 20, 2010


The most basic needs besides food, shelter and water is the need for love and affection. The human baby needs it as well as a puppy needs it. In fact all the animal kingdom has the need for the mother’s touch from the moment he’s born. The domesticated dog is a pack animal. If he were still in the wild, you wouldn’t find him roaming by himself. He would be part of a social structure in a pact of dogs. Determination where he would be found in that social structure would be evident quite early in his development. There would only be room for one alpha dog and the rest would be subservient to him.

In a pact of dogs it is not uncommon to see them play with one another for their need to touch is strongly developed from birth. They can be found curling up together when they sleep. They communicate with their noses by smelling one another and touching one another. A puppy that loses his mother at an early age many times has developmental problems and can be sickly. It’s through the mothers touch whether it be loving or firm that she teaches her puppy the ways of the world.

When we touch our dogs we are sending them all sorts of signals just like if they were still in a pact. Our touch can be loving and accepting or firm and disapproving. We show our dogs love by the way that we touch them. All dogs enjoy being petted, some more than others. But still the dog looks for approval from his master and stroking him in a positive way affirms this approval. On the other hand our touch can send the dog signals that we are not approving of what he may be doing. In a litter of puppies, the mother dog may pick up her puppy by the ruff of the neck and move him away from something that she may not want him by. She may nudge him with her nose to let him know that he’s being naughty. And if she really gets upset with him, she may even give him a warning bite.

So communication through touch is very important and an essential part of the dogs development. But it’s even more than this. It is a way the dog feels connected to and loved by his owner. I wonder how connected and loved kennel dogs feel. If a dog is left in a kennel 24 hours a dog with little or no human contact besides being fed and watered, a very important part of that dogs’ development has been stunted. He never realizes his full potential as a German Shepherd Dog. Then he can become hand shy because he doesn’t trust being touched.

Touch is a way of communicating with the dog. Our touch can tell the dog whether we love them or not. It tells them whether or not we approve of something that he is doing. Our touch teaches, chastises, and can sometimes feel good and other times not so good depending upon what we are communicating to our dog.

Have you ever given your dog a massage? I have and they love it. Although I must confess I haven’t done it for awhile. Since my car accident my own arthritic body prevents me doing these loving gestures as much as I would like to do. Too bad they couldn’t be trained to give me a massage. Sigh! Some dogs however, like some people are more sensitive to too much manipulation of the muscles and tendons. A gentle touch is always advisable.

Just watch when you scratch and massage a dog’s back. Look how he does a little dance around the floor as you are doing this to his body. He can’t seem to hold still. That’s how good it feels to him. If you lay him on the floor, most of the time he’ll enjoy his legs and chest being rubbed. I even used to massage their toes. Some like this and some don’t but for the ones that do, it seems to totally relax them.

It would only make sense that if we get tired, achy muscles and joints so does the dog. You’ll see him rolling in the grass scratching his back with his legs kicking out in all directions. He’s feeling good. He’s feeling uninhibited joy!

The dog looks to us for approval and acceptance. His need to please us is endless. He knows that when he pleases us that he will get love and attention from us. Who ever said the dog was stupid?

Years ago I volunteered at a local hospital. I wanted to work with children. I was assigned to the ward with children that had just been operated on and I was to read to them, or play games with them. I signed up to work with the newborn babies. This was a special program whereas they had volunteers just holding and loving the newborns because they may have lost their mother or their mother may have been too sick to take care of the baby. They explained to us the need of the newborn for the mother’s touch for without it the child would have developmental and emotional problems.

In many cultures throughout the world, touch has been known to be vital to the development of young infants. In more recent times it has become evident that the power of touch in illness and health has helped to reduce stress, brain formation and the development of attachment. The same thing is true for our canine friends. Without early socialization of puppies, they don’t develop attachments to people. Many times this is the reason for people shy young dogs and fear biters.

So as important as food, water and shelter are to the well being of a dog, the importance of touch for his mental and emotional development is just as important for him to live a healthy life. The dog that is touched, petted, scratched, rubbed or massaged is a very happy and loved dog indeed!

From the book: TO TOUCH IS TO LIVE......For babies to develop normally, they must be touched. Adults, too, thrive when touch is a normal part of their each day: a reassuring handshake, a sympathetic hug, a healing massage. But how often do we permit ourselves or others these simple forms of contact: physical touch, our emotional presence, spiritual communion? We need to get more in touch--closer to who we really are as a species, and in ways that support our highest human potential. Touching can be communication, friendship, kindness, service, or love for God. Topics include: * The highest human need * The roots of violence and abuse. * Acquisitions: a substitute for touch * Healing through touch. * A healthy model of sexuality. * Touch as a context for our lives. Foreword by Ashley

My rating: socialization of puppies: (4), importance of touch: (4)

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