Oxytocins are crucial

Cooper likes to sleep in the Firefox position. Have you seen the logo for the Firefox internet browser? It has a fox lying in a tight circle, and that’s how this little beagle likes to curl up to sleep. He’s in such a compact round shape he could be mistaken for a colourful, bumpy cushion… but that definitely doesn’t want to be sat on.

Oxytocins are crucialIt’s good to sleep like this as it maximises warmth as well as comforting Cooper that all of his body parts are still intact since he has close contact with them. This saves him having to constantly check whether his ears or tail are still connected to his body. Very helpful.

But being in the Firefox position is lonely. He is a pack animal and really he would prefer to be in a tower of curled up beagles or even a disorganised pile of assorted furry bodies and legs. Thank goodness his owners definitely want to lie in a heap with him too. He’s pretty sure they do.

It’s a lazy Sunday morning and his owners are lying in bed. This is better than in the week when they grumpily pull themselves around the house, cleaning themselves, dressing and eating boring dry food in bowls with that tasteless white water. Sunday morning is about toast crumbs and big pieces of large folded sheets of black and white squiggle-printed paper scattered across the eiderdown. As soon as Cooper leaps onto the bed everyone seems to re-arrange themselves. Bits of the paper get folded up hastily and toast (sadly) moved out of reach. But he is not here for toast (though he might try and swipe a piece later when they’re a bit more relaxed and unawares). No, he is here for oxytocins. He needs to feel bodily warmth and comfort.

His owners seem to be indicating a spot at the end of the bed. They are patting the duvet, saying his name and some other nonsense words that are not part of his extensive food lexicon. He looks at the spot they are indicating. Are they insane? The corner of the bed? The most arctic region of the bedding? They must be confused. He wags his tail at them. They do try but they don’t often understand what’s going on.

Cooper knows where he needs to be. At the head of the bed, in the middle of both of them (the warmest spot). He pads up the middle between them, tail swaying and tongue hanging out happily. He stomps over the rest of the paper, which they seem to take issue with, and he ignores their flailing arms. They sure are saying that pointless “no” word a lot. They can’t be directing that at him, so he pushes on through and slumps suddenly as he gets to the pillow end. Comfy! His centre of gravity is pretty low now, so whilst they think pushing him will do something, mostly he is a bit bemused. He raises an eyebrow and looks at his male owner sideways. Then with a small sigh he puts his head down on the pillow and settles his deadweight fully into the bed. So cosy. Such lovely warm bodies. He makes one last adjustment to his position, stretching out to maximise bodily contact and closes his eyes. Ahhhhhh.

What can you learn from your dog?

Oxytocin – the hug hormone – is something your dog knows about instinctively. If he curls up with you, he feels relaxed and happy. It raises his spirits and makes him feel loved. Do you like to hug people? Enjoy the benefit of feeling someone else’s body warmth and feel comforted. But maybe start with people you know, and not with strangers on the train.

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