Toolbox Tuesday: Writing About Dogs

Three years ago, I adopted my dear dog, Waffles, from an animal shelter. Life has never quite been the same since.

I didn't realize what it's like to own a dog and the joys of being around one until I got one myself. Now, this cutie pie has me inserting dogs into my own writing so my characters can have the joy of being a dog owner as well.

There are so many important details when it comes to writing about dogs, but I'll try to touch on the points that are most important.
  • Any dog owner should know that if your dog happens to get off its leash and is running away from you that running towards your dog is the worst thing you can do. If your dog is normal, it will think you are chasing it and continue running. This would be especially unfortunate if there is an incoming car. The right thing to do is to yell your dog's name and run in the opposite direction. Dogs in their loyalty will bolt after you, which is how you catch a runaway dog. (I mention this because I read a story once where a girl ran after her dog and facepalmed because I know this fact about them. For example, I wouldn't try to write about cats without talking to someone who owns one, so it's best to research an animal before writing about it and its behavior.)
  • When dogs meet each other, they can become fast friends and play with each other, hate each other on the spot, or take a few meetings to warm up to each other. This depends on each dog's personality, how they feel about other dogs, and general friendliness. For example, Waffles loves humans, but he'll bark at any other dog he sees in the park when I walk him (hence why I often take really weird routes to avoid them). However, he has managed to make friends with a select few dogs. Most likely, dogs will either growl at each other and act like they're going to tear each other's faces off, or they'll play with each other. As long as neither reaction is constantly written, dogs meeting each other should come off realistically.
  • Dogs will come greet you at the door unless they're really sick, they're extremely tired, or had surgery. They generally also respond to the word "walk" once they learn it (although I've heard of a dog who hated walks and would hide when the leash came out), the doorbell, knocking noises, and can be taught to go to certain family members or look for people they haven't seen in a long time. My family likes to ask Waffles where I am (since I'm in college), which often results in him sneaking into my room or sitting in front of my door.
  • Opposite of what you might think, smaller dogs (like mine) are more likely to bark at other dogs than big dogs are. Small dogs tend to think they're bigger than they are, and may also feel threatened by the presence of other dogs. 
  • If they want to be petted, dogs can be very persistent. Half the time when I sit down to write, Waffles will nudge my hand (my right hand, too!) to ask me to pet him.
  • Dogs like to have their own space sometimes. Waffles likes to crawl under my bed, there's a green rug in my room that he likes to lay on, and a corner in the living room blocked off by couches and a table that he often crawls into. Dogs do like to be around humans, but they also like to have their alone time.
  • Dogs are incredibly smart. They can sense when someone has been physically injured, when someone is sad, and when you are about to leave the house and lock him in his crate for the whole day. They will be sensitive to injured people (for example, not jumping into your arms if your arms are hurt), look at you with their huge eyes when they're sad, and when you let your dog outside to do his business before you leave, if he knows you're going to be gone for a long time, he may hide or refuse to come in.
  • Some people keep their dogs outside (usually large dogs only), some lock their dogs in a cage-like box (we call it the crate) when they have to leave the house, some people have certain restrictions for where their dogs are allowed to go (may be limited to downstairs, tile only, etc.), and some people really don't care and let their dogs sleep in their beds. Waffles' privileges got extended, but he hasn't gotten the right to sleep on my bed yet. (I'm working on it though.)
Hope this has been helpful and insightful. Do your characters have pets? Share about your writing below!

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