Velcro dogs

I couldn’t sleep.

It happens. I glance at the bedside clock. The luminous dial displays 1:15. I sigh and accept my two hours sleep is all I will get tonight.

I’m not a night owl. I just don’t have the normal sleep pattern of most folks.

I wish I did. I probably average three hours solid sleep in any twenty-four-hour period. It’s been like that for almost ten years. I make it up by taking several short naps.

I’m not kidding myself. Those naps don’t make up for the required ‘good night sleep.’ But, it’s been my sleep habit for years, so I live with it.

I stretch arms and legs a bit, toss the light sheet aside, twist my legs to the left and jack myself up enough to roll out of bed.

Put slippers on and shuffle the four feet to the back door. A nice breeze greets me. The almost full moon casts enough light that I can read the outdoor temperature. 71 degrees.

I stand there, enjoying the total quiet. The lazy hanging moon and the clean air smells.

No one is doing laundry yet. Sometimes when I come outside, the neighbor’s scented dryer is running

A silent Bernie nuzzles my hand. Chris shadows him. My Velcro dogs have awakened and noticed I am no longer in bed. They have come to join me.

It’s only Monday morning. I have to wait until one o’clock on Tuesday before I can see if Chris will act the same as last week.

Last week, on our therapy dog visit, Chris was a Velcro dog. It was not his normal behavior.

I’ve given it a lot of thought, and I think I know why he became a Velcro dog. I’ll test my theory on Tuesday.

This is my theory.

When I received Chris, he was a year old. Bernie was a therapy dog, but Chris was only in training to be a therapy dog. He couldn’t enter the facility because he wasn’t a therapy dog. He had to stay in the car.

We visited this facility every week, so for more than six months, Chris remained in the car when I took Bernie inside the facility. He didn’t like it but accepted it.

When Bernie jumped out of the back seat, Chris assumed his statue-still sit position and stayed in the car.

During the year, two things changed. First, I started driving to the rear of the facility and let both dogs out to relieve themselves.

The second change was Chris became a certified therapy dog. Now both dogs could enter the facility at the same time.

Now, when I drive to the front of the facility, both dogs jump out of the car and run to the front door.

Last week, because we were late, I drove directly to the front door. The dogs didn’t get their normal routine bathroom break.

Could such a small change… driving directly to the front door… trigger Chris to revert to his initial status of staying in the car?

(since Chris’s weird behavior last week, I’ve been grasping at any straw to find a solution)

Recently I read an article on Velcro dog behavior. It listed some reasons:

“The ‘Velcro dog’ behavior might be because:

~ Your dog adores you

~ Your dog has separation anxiety

~ Your dog is studying human behavior.”



Another article provided scientific references. It cited four reasons for the behavior:

  1. “Imprinting. Early ethologist Konrad Lorenz showed how baby geese imprinted on him — or came to recognize him as a parent or other object of trust — by following him everywhere, including into the water. “Puppiescan imprint on people, as well,” said Burch. “The imprinting period for puppies is between three and 12 weeks old.”
  2. Often dogs will follow their owners if their bond is paired over time with a great deal of reinforcement. For example, “if a dog learns that good things — such as food, pats, and fun activities — come from a particular human, they may be more likely to follow that person,” says Burch.
  3. Breed traits. Some breeds, especially those that have been bred for centuries to work with people, are more likely to be what Burch calls “Velcro dogs” (or those that stickby your side).
  4. Perhaps the most obvious reason, some dogs simply prefer the companionship of their human friends. “Over the process of domesticationnatural selection has shaped dogs to become companions for humans,” said Laurie Santos, Ph.D., a professor of psychology and director of the Canine Cognition Center at Yale University. “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.” 

Indeed, the science behind the companionship between humans and dogs is varied and vast. In fact, “research has confirmed that … the modern dog is better at understanding humans than even our most closely related primates,” said Oscar E. Chavez, DVM, a lecturer and adjunct faculty member at Cal Poly Pomona University.”



Looking up at the moon, I refresh my thoughts about the main points of the articles.

~ My Velcro dogs adore me.

~ If either dog has separation anxiety, it is Chris. Bernie may miss me, but I can’t tell from his behavior. Both dogs always rush to greet me when I come home.

~ Bernie and Chris study my behavior. Bernie, who likes to stay ahead of me, will stop and turn his head to make sure I am following. Chris will disappear for a few minutes, then reappears… retracing his path until he finds me.

~ When it comes to reinforcement, I am guilty of giving too much love. I’m always touching, praising and letting them know how much I enjoy them.

~ Bernie’s Golden Retriever/Poodle breeding are well known for working with people. Chris, as a pure standard poodle is a bit of a snob with his independence, but he and I have bonded.

~ Both Bernie and Chris are superior companions for me.


I lower my head, only to find both of them have walked away and settled on the fake grass about fifteen feet away.

“Okay, time to go inside,” I say as I turn and climb three steps back inside. I know they will be right behind me.

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