OKAY here is one of the videos that has honestly made the biggest impact on my training approach and every interaction I make with animals.
It’s a really simple video. Eileen (from Eileen and Dogs, which you should all be reading) points out that while we love petting dogs, dogs often don’t want to be petted, either at all, or in the particular ways we pet them. One great example is the way people (and children, which is so fucking dangerous) are so eager to grab onto a dog’s face and head. This can be extremely uncomfortable for a dog. Better places to try petting a dog (particularly a new one) are on the chest and shoulders, neck and ears if the dog is really feeling the attention (and I have never met a dog that did not appreciate a good butt scratch).
But beyond just being respectful of what dogs do and don’t like, Eileen demonstrates a simple consent test.
To test whether your dog is enjoying being petted, simply stop petting, and see if they try to restart it.
Eileen gives two very clear examples in this video. With the first dog, while they aren’t exhibiting extreme stress, they show small signs of discomfort (looking away, full body turning, lip licking), and they don’t try to restart the chest scratching. They aren’t unhappy, but they don’t want to be petted.
The second example is a dog that actively shoves their face/chin into the petting hand. This is a dog that not only wants physical attention, but knowshow to ask for it.
Teaching my animals how to ask for the kind of attention they want, and teaching them how to direct my hands (instead of teaching them to just allow touch), has done amazing stuff for both of us. I’ve been working on waiting for my cat to solicit the attention he wants, and otherwise keeping my hands away from him, and there has been a huge uptick in him seeking my attention and trusting me in his space - because he is learning that I won’t bother him, and that he can receive exactly what kind of physical affection he wants.
This has also led to a minor breakthrough with Zeke. You all know him as the horse that hates being touched, and he still does. But lately I have been taking some time just to stand with him through the fence, putting my hand out, and allowing him to pet himself with it. Instead of explicitly teaching him to hold still while I touch his face, I let him guide my hands to stroke his eyelids and around his ears, where I would have had a difficult time touching him if I had wanted to. When given the choice, Zeke not only consented to touch, but encouraged and directed it.
So to dial it down, here are some of the benefits of this approach to petting:
You improve at reading your animal’s body language
They can direct you to particular itchy spots, or direct you away from uncomfortable spots, potentially tipping you off about budding discomfort and health problems
Your animal feels more secure about being around you
Reduces the likelihood that an animal will bite
The animal learns better how to communicate directly with you about their care and handling, instead of being a passive recipient of it
And no this doesn’t mean that every time you’re around a cat or a dog or a horse that you have to get ‘consent’ in the human sense of the word, because animals don’t have a concept of consent, but it DOES mean that if you learn to read and respond to the way they respond to your touch, you will both benefit.
Thank you for 500+ followers! And come see me at Shumatsucon in Columbus next weekend! I won’t have anything new since summer unfortunately so I hope I can entertain with commissions. I have a ton of WIPs but haven’t been able to finish any of them. They will be around for my next con which is Matsuricon again unless I can sign up for something else sooner!
I don’t usually think about romanceable party members and NPCs in my video games too hard or deeply, but the sheer amount of heart/valentine/love imagery surrounding Nick Valentine, combined with the fact that he’s one of the few F4 companions kept solidly off limits, and combined with all his little flirty asides and hints and so on, has me feeling so salty you could cook a nicely seasoned steak on me! So here, have a vent comic.