Men and Their Dogs

Michael Baugh CDBC, CPDT-KSA

Maybe it’s a guy thing.  It could be that whole a boy and his dog ethos.  There’s just something different about how we guys bond with our dogs.  Don’t get me wrong.  I know women love their dogs too.  It just seems like many men take the connection past special into the realm of mythical.

Stella! Photo courtesy Robyn Arouty Photography

I teach dog training in Houston and in Katy.  As it turns out, I have a lot of male clients, and have been thinking a lot recently about dogs and the men who love them.  I don’t know what it is, but we do love them differently.

Part of it, I think, is the shock. I met a guy recently who had a new puppy. It was clear to me right away that this man did not like the puppy, who was biting him, barking, and misbehaving in all the typical ways.  Puppies can be annoying, but this man was beyond annoyed.  He was mourning.  It turns out his last dog had died only a few months prior.  A well-meaning friend bought the puppy as a “replacement.”  During our coaching session I asked the man to call the puppy to him.  Without thinking, he called out the name of his late dog.  His chin quivered and he said, “damn.”  The sadness is not surprising. The shock is how deeply the loss resonates, how powerfully he’d attached to his old dog.  His buddy.

They find places in our hearts we didn’t know existed.  A lot of us guys play our cards pretty close to the chest.  That’s especially true for a veteran I had the pleasure of working with.  He has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  One day he asked me to take a picture of him with his dog, but he warned me he never smiles.  It’s part of the condition, he said.  I played along.  Truth is, I’d seen him smiling at his dog more times than I could count. The dog was reaching into places no psychiatrist or psychologist could ever reach.  He was touching the man’s soul.  Healing him.

We are defenders of our dogs, sometimes to a fault.  I know a man whose hard lines soften every time he looks at his Chihuahua mix.  It doesn’t matter that the dog pees everywhere in the house.  The dog is special.  One of my dear clients is spending his senior years with a Papillion in an assisted living facility.  The dog bites strangers, including the man’s caregivers.  That doesn’t matter.  He’s going to make sure the dog is with him to the end.

Maybe it’s not a case of men being different than woman.  We all have the capacity to fall for our dogs, and fall hard.  It just seems that men live the story a bit differently.  We are so surprised when these dogs break through to find the men we never knew we could become. Once they’re in our hearts, we elevate them, make them into a dog like no other, and tell stories about them.  Write novels, memoirs and movies.

I don’t know.  Maybe it is a guy thing.  The boy and his dog, but in this story the boy is all grown up.  The dog, it seems, is usually pretty much the same, a hero rescuing him from the deep well of his day-to-day life.  It’s the mythical dog incarnate, real, right here, right now.

Houston Dog Trainer Michael Baugh specializes in behavior solutions for fearful and aggressive dogs.