imprinting, def.: rapid learning that occurs during a brief receptive period, usually soon after birth or hatching, which establishes a lasting behavioral response to a specific individual or object
In the first couple of weeks after we adopted Anderson, I noticed that when I would lie on the couch or a bed he loved to lick the top of my head. He’d rush over, put one of his paws gently on my skull, and start licking away. I didn’t think much of it, it just struck me as really cute.
Then when he started to get into his teething stage, along with the licks of my head would come occasional nibbles of my scalp and hair. I’d say to him, “Anderson, I don’t have much hair up there as it is. Go easy, buddy!”
Now, in the last month or so, when I am lying down and he wants to lie by me, he lies down at the top of my head! As you can see in the attached picture, he wraps himself around my head and falls asleep. And when he wakes up, what’s the first thing he does? Lick and nibble my scalp!
Elaine, being the more perceptive of the two of us, remarked to me one day, “I know why Anderson is so attached to your head. Remember when we first brought him home and you stuck your head in his crate at night to help him sleep? He became attached to the smell and shape of your head.”
When we first brought Anderson home from the breeder, he had never experienced being crated. He’d been spending all day and night in the whelping box with his mother and siblings. So I needed to begin his crate training.
The breeder said to put his crate in our bedroom at night so we could monitor if he had to go out during the night to go potty, and also so he could hear us breathing, which would be soothing for him. So the first night I decided to put his crate up onto our bed, near my head and shoulders, so he could also see me.
When I put him in the crate, he immediately wanted to get out. So I decided to put him in there and then lay my head inside the opening, so he would both be comforted and couldn’t get out. That worked. Then, when he fell asleep, I would slowly and quietly pull my head out of the crate, close the crate door, and go to sleep on my pillow. I did this for at least 4 or 5 nights until he no longer needed the extra comforting. Eventually, I moved his crate to our bedroom floor, beside our bed.
So apparently, Anderson, as a very impressionable little puppy of only 9 weeks, imprinted on my head! Oh well, it’s pretty darn cute, and I don’t mind it.
I was at a party the other night and I was relaying this story to an older couple who are both dog lovers. The guy apparently has a good sense of humor, because after I finished, he said, “You know, as you’ve been talking I’ve been looking at your head, and I am also becoming somewhat fascinated with it.”