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Extroversion and Introversion in Animal Companions

Recently I was invited to a home where I was greeted by two very different kinds of dogs. Both met me at the door with barks, while only the little, outgoing one jumped up on my leg to say hello. The other held back, barking and watching me warily. He seemed to be ‘sizing me up’. This particular family had asked me to come for a Home Visit because their shyer, newly adopted dog had bitten people more than once.

I immediately spoke with a calm, soothing voice with both animals, letting them know I was safe and kind. I also brought treats with me, which seems to help with meeting new dogs and cats, if they are allowed treats. Slowly I made my way into the living room, all the while sharing the smallest bits of treats with both dogs.

The little friendly one was scooped up to sit on a lap, and the shy one sat quietly to the left of me. While the family and I talked about the situation, he gently took a little treat from my hand. Then it was time for me to do the Invocation which helps to calm and center everyone. At that point, the shy dog jumped on the couch beside me and was ready to talk. He even moved close enough to put his two front paws on my lap, and even trusted me enough to briefly and gently lay his head on my lap once.

What I was able to share with this family and with you in the short article is that animal personalities are not all that different from people when it comes to being extroverted or introverted. The Myers Briggs Personality Test refers to this aspect of introversion and extroversion with the question of ‘where do you get you energy from or how do you get your battery recharged?’ Extroverts get recharged by being with others. Whereas, introverts need quiet time alone and can actually get overwhelmed by even too much happy attention.

There are also people and animals that are considered highly sensitive to the five senses: sight, sound, touch, taste and smell. When a person is over stimulated, they can say something or simply walk away. When an animal is over simulated, they can’t speak out loud with words to let us know when they need a break or time away. I learned long ago to allow animals to come to me when they want to be touched. Some cats are notorious for nipping if you pet them for too long. So, I often touch, touch, touch and then pull my hand away unless the cat clearly shows me they really want that kind of attention.

So, if you have an animal companion in your family that is shy or introverted, here are a few suggestions for helping them to feel loved and safe in your home:

  • When you play with them, play gently and use an ‘inside voice’.

  • Stop playing the game if they seem overwrought or overwhelmed.

  • When company comes over, be aware of your excitement level in greeting them.

  • Create a ‘hide away’ where they can be alone and get their battery recharged.

  • Be a predictable and safe place for them.

  • Be aware of frightening loud noises like fireworks, or guns going off near them.

So often after the 4th of July, I receive calls from clients asking me to help them find their lost animal companion that ran away out of fear of fireworks, especially those shyer, more introverted animals. Here are are few tips that will help keep your animals safe and calm on the 4th of July.

  • Never take animals with you to watch fireworks displays, please.

  • Keep cats and dogs indoors. Never leave animals tethered or chained outside, because they can hurt or even hang themselves if they leap over a fence while trying to run from the noise.

  • The sudden bang of fireworks can be masked by keeping a radio or TV on, which can reduce the impact of loud noises and booms.

  • Don't confine dogs to one room as they may hurt themselves trying to get out, particularly if they become stressed.

  • Make sure that your animal companion is microchipped and / or wearing a collar with an up-to-date identification tag, just in case.

  • Take dogs for a long walk or an extended dog park visit before fireworks start to help tire them out.

  • Horse owners, consider using brushing boots and / or over reach boots to protect their legs. If possible, make sure your horse has company during the fireworks and do a late-night check on them when fireworks end to reassure them everything is OK.

Hoping everyone has a safe and fun holiday weekend. Happy 4th of July!

Many Blessings,


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