“Oh, Pumpkin just loves petting, don’t you, Pumpkin?” Martha said, patting her Cocker Spaniel on top of his head as he tried to investigate the office. Pumpkin’s guardian had come to me for some advice about behavioral issues, and was clearly a woman who loved her dog as we all, human or dog, would like to be loved. Only one problem: Though Martha beamed with affection, Pumpkin didn’t seem quite so happy. In truth, he looked downright miserable. He kept turning his head away from Martha’s hand, trying to avoid her touch, no matter how loving it might have been.

This is not an uncommon scenario: a responsible, caring guardian pats a dog who purportedly adores it as the dog is moving heaven and earth trying to get away. Ask any dog trainer or behaviorist—we see it every day in the office, in classes and on neighborhood streets: people cheerfully patting their dogs, while…

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