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Social Gaffes
A consequence of adoring dogs
What can I say? I'm drawn to dogs.

I’m pretty sure that as a child, I offended some friends when I went to their houses to play and paid more attention to the dog than to anyone else. Though I’ve always been social with people, this is a gaffe I made repeatedly. I never meant to be rude. It’s just that the dogs were so captivating that I couldn’t help myself.

It wasn’t only in childhood that I attended to dogs first and foremost. While in grad school, my friends and I played cards regularly. One night, three of us drove together to the house of a couple with a new baby for a game. We made ourselves right at home, all heading to what interested us most. That meant Ethan headed to the refrigerator, Amy rushed to hold the baby, and I went over to their Lab cross for my doggy fix. That was typical, and we were all teased for our predictable behavior.

Now in my 40s, I’m far better at minding my manners, which is why I’m so embarrassed by a setback I had earlier this week. I noticed the dog first and then came to realize that there was a person with the dog, and what’s more, it was a person I knew. I should have greeted her right away and chatted a little bit before turning my attention to the dog. (In my defense, this dog was a Great Dane, which is my childhood breed, and I had no idea that my friend was fostering one. It’s a weak defense, but it’s all I’ve got!) It’s as if my heart said, “Ooh, what a marvelous dog!” and then there was a huge lag before my brain piped in, “Hey, there’s a person at the other end of that leash.”

Please tell me I am not alone! Have you ever been guilty of these sorts of social gaffes because of your adoration for dogs?

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Karen B. London, PhD, is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer whose clinical work over the last 17 years has focused on the evaluation and treatment of serious behavioral problems in dogs, especially aggression. Karen has been writing the behavior column for The Bark since 2012 and wrote The Bark’s training column and various other articles for eight years before that. She is an adjunct professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University, and teaches a tropical field biology course in Costa Rica. Karen writes an animal column, The London Zoo, which appear in The Arizona Daily Sun and is the author of five books on canine training and behavior. She is working on her next book, which she expects to be published in 2017.

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