Recent research shows that the way you greet your dog after a short or long separation makes a huge difference to the dog.
Whenever I return home, or come down the stairs after a night’s sleep and encounter one or more of my dogs, I go through a bit of a greeting ritual. This involves talking to the dog (or dogs) in a happy voice using their names, and at the same time I am touching and patting them on the head and flanks. I developed this habit partly because it makes me feel good and the dogs seem to respond positively, but also because back in the 1960s and 1970s, the psychologist Harry Harlow did an extensive series of studies which showed that touching was an important part of establishing warm and affectionate bonds between individuals. He showed that the depth of love that a child has for its mother is partly due to the amount and quality of touching that the child and the mother engage in. A practical extension of his findings is that clinical psychologists who work with married couples or families are trained to observe whether or not the individuals casually touch each other during therapy sessions, since this is a positive sign which indicates that there is still a measure of affection and emotional bonding present.
Some new research which has been accepted for publication in the journal Physiology and Behavior confirms the importance of touching—this time while looking at the emotional responses of dogs when a familiar person greets them after a period of separation.
To read the full article by Stanley Coren, Ph.D., F.R.S.C. visit Canine Corner at psychologytoday.com.