The photo shows our dog Java. She is a fifteen-pound, Toy Australian Shepherd/Rat Terrier mix, and in my opinion one of the smartest dogs walking around on four legs. When Java first became a part of our family, she would shy away from me. But over time, by picking her up, holding and petting her, she became a close companion.
After retiring from the fire department and operating my business full time from our house, Java and I became closer. Closer to the point that she follows me nearly everywhere I go in the house, especially the kitchen. While working in my office, Java will often curl up at my feet or sleep a few feet away.
Why does Java follow me around like this? I am sure that part of the reason lies in what I discovered when I came across an interesting article online titled, Why Your Dog Follows You Everywhere, According to Behaviorists by Katelyn Chef.
The article states, “Jane MacMurchy, animal specialist and coordinator from Animal Charity of Ohio” said there is more than one reason this happens, but “the first is imprinting.” MacMurchy pointed out that dogs are pack animals and “young puppies up to six months of age can imprint on their owners and learn to read social cues as they would their birth mother.”1
Reading Katelyn Chef’s article, I was struck by the idea of imprinting as it relates to leadership. This led to an Internet research project revealing this definition of imprinting from www.medicinenet.com:
A remarkable phenomenon that occurs in animals, and theoretically in humans, in the first hours of life. The newborn creature bonds to the type of animals it meets at birth and begins to pattern its behavior after them. In humans, this is often called bonding, and it usually refers to the relationship between the newborn and its parents.2
This reminded me of the event center in rural Colorado where my daughter and her husband were married. When we first visited the site and every time thereafter, including the day of the wedding, four friendly dogs and one goat greeted us. Yes, a goat was running with the pack of dogs. The owner said, “This has been going on for a long time and that goat thinks he’s part of the dog pack, so he follows them around.” As Mr. Spock from the original Star Trek series would dryly say while raising one eyebrow, “Fascinating.”
Yes, Mr. Spock, it is fascinating and next week in Part 2, I will explore the relationship between imprinting and leadership.
1Katelyn Chef, “Why Your Dog Follows You Everywhere, According to Behaviorists,” Martha Stewart September 2021. 21 Sept. 2021, https://www.marthastewart.com/8133863/why-do-dogs-follow-owners-everywhere 2MedicineNet.com. Davis, Charles Patrick. 2021. 21 Sept. 2021 https://www.medicinenet.com/imprinting_psychological/definition.htm