One of my blog feeds yesterday turned up this letter from an advice-seeking owner.
I have a 5-year-old Papillon who licks my husband’s pillow two or three times every night while we are watching TV. We play with her and she is with us most of the day. We wonder why she is doing this. Is it a control situation, fighting over the Alpha role, or she is mad at him?
A Papillon who licks one person’s pillow and not the other’s: pretty funny. The explanations the owner came up with for her dog’s behavior: Not so much.
Someone has been watching the Dog Whisperer or getting hand-me-down versions of his ideas.
I understand misplaced concerns about dog emotions — thus the name of my blog. But as I’ve written (see Dog Hatred and Canine Couture), dogs let their incisors do the talking when they’re really upset. They don’t lie in wait, plotting revenge for perceived slights — say, by licking the offender’s pillow every night.
And there are many ways to interpret the head rest situation. If I was married, say, and Frankie had taken to licking my husband’s pillow, I might fret:
- Why does Frankie like my husband better than he likes me?
- Has my husband begun washing his hair with meat-scented shampoo?
- Have I started leaving dog-repelling dandruff on my pillow?
So, let’s recap. We’re talking a Papillon (you know cute, little pink tongue):
Not a bulldog (equally appealing but seriously slobbery).
And we’re discussing licking a pillow, not peeing on it.
No question: Studies of canine cognition and behavior have a long way to go. The Papillon’s licking ritual is mysterious, and until the pup gets a translating collar like the one in “Up,” we’ll just have to guess at its meaning. In the meantime, you must remember this. Sometimes a kiss is just a kiss, not a bid for household domination.