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Staying With You In Emergency
Some dogs do, but some don’t

A man had broken his back after a fall and was found on the side of his road with a dog who was unwilling to leave his side. That’s the sort of loyalty dogs are famous for, and many dogs live up to this high standard. There are countless examples of dogs who stayed with a person in a crisis situation, providing protection, warmth or simply company.

On the other hand, there are dogs who aren’t as likely to stick around in an emergency. Some panic and bolt. Others consider the unusual situation to be a great opportunity for some freedom and take advantage of it. There are dogs who become distracted by a squirrel or by a smell just begging to be investigated. From time to time, there are dogs who actively go to seek help.

I am convinced that most of the dogs in my life would stay with me if I fell or was injured in some way. I’ve also loved a dog who was fearful enough that I deep down felt it was 50-50 whether he would come through for me in a real disaster. Of course, developing a strong relationship with any dogs makes them more likely to act admirably in an unexpected situation, but some dogs are just more naturally inclined to do so.

Do you have dogs who have stayed with you in a crisis or dogs who have not? Of the dogs who have never (thankfully) been tested by such a situation, what’s your best guess about how they would behave?

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Karen B. London, PhD, is a Bark columnist and a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist specializing in the evaluation and treatment of serious behavior problems in the domestic dog.

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Submitted by workerant | March 20 2013 |

I've fallen while trail running with one of my dogs (a Border-Collie-we-think mutt.) She comes back to me immediately and licks my face and hands while I reassemble myself. If I were incapacitated, I believe she'd stick by me, probably never leaving my sight, because this is how we hike and run together.

My second dog is a hound (maybe beagle and black & tan mix?) I found her way out in the backcountry while hiking; she was a lost bear-hunting dog who was still wearing her radio tracking collar. We were unable to find her people so she lives with us now and we love her very much. However, she is never ever trustworthy off-leash. When she scents something interesting, her brain shuts down and she's off like a shot. She'd stay with me until she heard, saw or smelled something more interesting, so, about 10 seconds.

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