Dear Doctor: A look that can’t be denied


Q. My dog has a way of looking at me ever so sweetly — kind of intensely and warmly, and perhaps slightly pleadingly — that gets me to do anything she wants. It’s a look that nets her everything from an extra treat to having me tuck her in if she’s lying by my pillow when I walk into the bedroom. I don’t mind at all, but how does she know I can’t resist that expression?

Brian Lane
Long Island City, New York

Dear Mr. Lane,

A. You taught her, albeit inadvertently. Dogs are keen observers of human motivation, and are in fact much better at determining what gets us to do things than we are at understanding what gets them to do things. And they use what they learn to their advantage.

If at one point your dog happened to make that endearing expression and you then indulged her, she may have then tried it again in another situation and gotten you to perform the same trick of giving in.

Keep in mind that while we may put some effort into training our dogs for a few minutes each day, they never clock out. They work to shape our behavior 24/7 and make good use of any clues to our psyche that we give them.


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