The researchers concluded that dogs were only motivated to play because they were more secure when their owner was present. “One of the things that really surprised us is, that adult dogs behave towards their caregivers like human children do.”
Without recapping the entire article—the full article link is below, when a dog loves it’s owner and feels safe, then it wants to play in the presence of the owner/parent. And that a playful dog will play less when the owner isn’t present. (Maybe this explains why my puppy goes crazy, or super-playful, inside with me after an extended period in the yard. You’d think she would be tired, but no, she wants to play more!)
Many years ago I adopted the best-dog-ever, Taft. He was a 10-month old stray who had clearly been over-disciplined and then abandoned in a local park. When I first got Taft he was so well-behaved that he would voluntarily leave the room when you put food on the table. However, he didn’t know how to play with toys, people or other dogs. I had to teach him how to have fun. Which makes me wonder, most likely Taft was loyal to his former owner, but what if he didn’t feel safe and loved? And clearly those feelings were confirmed when that person left him in the park.
Sometimes I see similar traits in people. They don’t know how to play, they can’t have fun with others because they’re so anxious. They don’t feel safe in their environment and/or they don’t have a secure home base from which they launch out and explore the world. Sometimes these people have trouble picking out a good partner because they don’t know what’s safe or not safe. Or they have trouble trusting their current partner for similar kinds of reasons. I view these kinds of bonding troubles as attachment issues.
Attachment theory informs a large percentage of how I view what patients bring up during sessions. In a nutshell people classify as anxious, avoidant, or securely attached. Much of this stems from our childhoods, other parts of it come from our adolescent and adult experiences. It’s always wonderful to sit with patients as they learn about attachment styles and use this knowledge to help unravel questions and problems in their life.
Haven’t most of us had people in our lives that we don’t feel safe to “play” in their presence? What questions come up when one thinks about with whom and how do we choose our adult friends and family outings?