The Sensitivity of Dogs

Last week, my husband underwent surgery to correct a sports injury. The surgery has left him without the use of his right arm for a little while, until he recovers. He’s not able to do much, other than has physio exercises, and has been feeling a little tender. Now, feeling fragile and having a young, large and over exuberant Airedale Terrier isn’t the best combination, and I had concerns about Bruce bumping into hubby’s arm, tripping him over or pestering him with play time.

I should have had more faith in the sensitivity of dogs. I should have had more trust in Bruce.

We had to leave at 5am to get to hospital for the morning surgery, and while Bruce was excited to see us when the patient finally came home at 8pm that night, he immediately clocked the cast and, from the large amount of sniffing he was doing, probably smelt the painkillers in his system too. I body blocked him to make sure he stayed away from the patient’s injured and sore side, and Bruce soon realised that there was something going on with that arm and to stay away from it.

The next day, Bruce wanted to stay close to my ailing husband and spent most of the day simply staring at him, taking in every whince and awkward body movement. He didn’t complain about being chucked out the room when it was time for physio, nor did he care about the early night and long lie in he was forced to have, or the fact that his morning walk came later than usual.

All he cared about was figuring out why one of his humans wasn’t using his arm, and didn’t seem comfortable. He watched, he sniffed and the comfort and relief he felt when he got cuddles and ear rubs from the hubby was apparent. Bruce’s usual habit of persuading my husband to play tug and throw toys has gone, and his playfulness has been reserved just for me.

bruce the airedale terrier clipped fur

I shouldn’t be surprised that Bruce has acted this way, of course. Whenever I have been ill he has been my little guardian, always at my side and happy to snuggle all day under a blanket on the sofa.

Dogs are exceptionally sensitive to human feeling, emotions and health. They can sense so much about us, from our emotional to our physical state. Some say that they mirror our behaviour so that it just seems like they are being more caring when we’re sick or upset, but after seeing Bruce over the last few days I don’t believe that. We have been upbeat, active and laughing – but Bruce has still been concerned. It is more likely to me that they pick up on changes in routine, unusual behaviour like me helping my husband drink water (that one really spooked him), different smells given off by chemical changes in the body, and most of all body language. It didn’t take long for Bruce to realise that his owner has one arm wrapped up and hasn’t been moving it, and I believe this has a lot to do with why play time has been off the cards.

Have you ever gone through an illness or injury which has had your dog confused, upset or concerned?

About me

Joy Jewell is a London based dog obsessive and style connoisseur. Joy has worked in the fashion and beauty industry as a writer for nearly a decade, and decided to fuse her two loves – style and canines – to create Paws and Prada in 2014. If you would like to talk to Joy about anything from blogging to puppy training then drop her a line at [email protected] or find her on Twitter @PawsandPrada.


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