Growing up, my Wheaten Terrier Barley was a pretty independent dog. Even with my mom, who he absolutely adored, he liked to have his space and do his own thing. He would sleep on the bed – when you weren’t on it. He would tolerate affection for a brief moment, until he realized what was going on and would dart away. He would be excited to see you when you got home, but got over it pretty fast. But that’s just how Barley was, and we loved him all the same.
So when Baxter came to our house, settled in, and decided he appreciated his space, I didn’t mind. It became clear after being with us for a few weeks that Baxter isn’t exactly Mr. Snuggle. He will lean into you for a good scratch for hours, but if you go to embrace, he scoots away.
You can tell that something about tight spaces makes him uncomfortable. Being constrained by a human (so the action of hugging – along with holding for shots and vet care) freaks him out. Who knows if it is because of something that happened in his past, or the fact that he started his life with humans over half way through his existence – but Baxter does not seem to know that human closeness is a good thing.
For the sake of his own mental comfort, and a little bit for my own selfish want to snuggle, I have been trying to show Baxter that being close to people can be good. Every time I go to embrace him, I give him treats. When in doubt: counter condition! (A little trick I learned from my go-to doggy brainiac). He has come a long way already. He still won’t exactly seek out affection, but he certainly tolerates it a whole lot better. Exhibit A:
Whether Baxter warms up to snuggling, or this is just the way he is – it really doesn’t matter. Baxter shows his love for you in a lot of different ways. He runs to greet you at the door, and will do excited zoomies in your honor. He will kiss your face with big smacking kisses as much as you let him. He will sleep at your feet, by your bed, beside you on the couch, for as long as you are there. He will lay with you on the ground, accepting a belly rub or full body scratch. He will work his hardest to please you during training sessions. He will wag enthusiastically when he joins you on a new adventure. He will look to you for affirmation when you are in a new place. He will be steadfast and loyal in his love for you for as long as he lives, and what more can we ask for?
I feel that because my relationship with Baxter hasn’t been built through a physical connection, it’s actually that much stronger. Do I wish sometimes on rainy days that he’d curl up on the couch with me? Sure. But I have fallen so hard for so many other things about him that I don’t even seem to notice anymore. He is an incredible dog that has so much to offer, and I know his forever family will see that and love him just as much as I do.
For more information on adopting Comeback Kid Baxter, click here or email firstname.lastname@example.org.