Help! My Dog Is an Extrovert

A dog runs on the beach

As an introvert, I find it exhausting to keep up with my dog who happens to be the most social being I’ve ever met.

I have always dreamt of having a dog. Not having had one in childhood made me think it was a superpower of some kind for those who did. As an introvert, and a highly sensitive one at that, I took time to research different breeds to try to find one that would match my personality, but it was hard to decide on one with my husband. After some negotiation, however, we went with what we thought was a good compromise for both of us. A little English Cocker Spaniel named Umi. Introverts and pets are perfect for each other… right?

Umi came earlier than expected and arrived at the worst possible time, one week before my wedding. By the way, the wedding took place at my house, so Umi was introduced to his new home in the middle of chaos. Can you imagine?

As soon as I saw Umi, though, I fell in love with this beautiful, tiny being that could not get enough love. He loved being petted, being near me and my husband, and taken out to run in nature. From the start, he was a bundle of energy, extremely social, and loving. Not only was he a huge hit with our family and friends, but even with strangers on the street. Umi was the puppy that everybody wanted to play with and pet. While all of this may sound great, it went against my ways as an introvert who gets energy away from people. Yep — I realized my dog is an extrovert.

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Signs Your Dog Is an Extrovert 

I am delighted by Umi’s presence, even though we’re opposites. Here are some signs that he is an “extrovert.”

  • He is very charismatic and displays high levels of energy. 
  • He needs to be surrounded by people, and, of course, other dogs too, because loneliness is difficult for him
  • Umi loves attention and brings good vibes and a good mood to every gathering. Everybody smiles when he enters a room. 
  • When Umi comes across someone new (like a stranger walking toward us in the street), he must approach to say hi and begs to be pet. He is always happy to do so and becomes mad if I don’t allow it, because he loves meeting new people and making new friends
  • Restless is another word that suits him well. I know he is a young dog and this restlessness is normal, but I can only compare this type of energy and need for attention and social interaction to some of my dearest extroverted friends

Similarities Between My Extroverted Dog and Extroverted Friends

I think Umi is the most social being I have ever met. When my husband and I are not around, it’s almost as if he stops living: He doesn’t eat, drink, play, or even move much. When we get home, he is so energized by our presence that it is almost as if he is reborn. I can’t help but relate his behavior to the way extroverts function.  

Namely, it has to do with how an introvert’s brain is different than an extrovert’s. Jenn Granneman, founder of Introvert, Dear, talks about this in her book, The Secret Lives of Introverts. For example, in an extrovert’s brain, the dopamine system (which helps control the brain’s pleasure and reward centers) works differently — extroverts have a more active dopamine system than us introverts. They get more excited about social rewards, like attention. When there is the potential to gain that reward, extroverts will have more energy and motivation to pursue their goals. 

On the other hand, rejection, or feelings of being left out, is among an extrovert’s biggest fear. It’s important for them to be social and to feel like they are part of a group. Umi, like many dogs, became very sensitive to being left out. He wanted to be with us all the time, as well as be the center of attention.  

I remember one particular incident where we had friends over with their small children. Umi had developed a habit of going overboard (with energy) when we had people over, especially children, because they’d want to play with him. So my husband and I decided to leave him in the garden this time (the gathering was taking place inside the house). 

What was keeping Umi from entering the house was a mosquito door. He was so determined not to be alone that he put a hole in the mosquito net, which was made of metallic fibers. Luckily, Umi did not get hurt. Instead, he got what he wanted — lots of attention.  

The Downside of Having an Extroverted Dog

As time went on, I realized Umi needed several walks a day to tire him out so he would be calm in the evenings. To me, that meant running into neighbors, having awkward conversations, interacting with strangers in the street, answering their questions, and so on. Not only would the walks wear him out, physically, but they’d wear me out, mentally. After a while, I started to dread going out with him. 

Don’t get me wrong, introverts can be social, too, and we can enjoy interacting with other people. But being forced to be social, especially when we don’t have the energy to do so, can quickly drain us.

Eventually, I decided to make a deal with Umi. I would take him out every chance I had for a good, long walk and pass by all his favorite spots. I’d do my best to fulfill his need for socializing and activity, and in return, he’d give me some quiet time later. 

This reminds me of a fun fact I learned about dogs while watching a documentary on Netflix: “When dogs are on a walk, they are always on the lookout for the scent of another’s dog pee because it is their way of communicating… it allows the dog to get all the information about who was there and to pick up on things about other dogs like age, sex, mood, availability for mating and if they ever met before.” So, in a strange way, dog urine is like their version of Facebook or Tinder, which is why it is so important for dogs to go for walks. 

How My Extroverted Dog Benefits Me as a Highly Sensitive Introvert

Sometimes my “extroverted” dog exhausts me, but I’ve also come to see the benefits of having him in my life.

1. Taking my dog for long walks is a great way to disconnect from the world and be present in my surroundings.

As introverts, we can get so caught up in our internal world — hello, overthinking! — that our extroverted dogs are a good way of distracting us from whatever it is that we are feeling. Taking a walk with our dogs is a great way to not only get alone time, but also get grounded in the present moment.

2. He motivates me to get regular exercise.

Being in movement and playing with my dog makes me feel good about myself and energized — especially when I don’t feel like leaving my couch (which is often). With a dog, like it or not, you’ll have a regular exercise routine. This will not only be good for them, but also help you boost your endorphins and up your mood, too.

3. He gets me out into nature on a regular basis.

Research has found that getting out in nature has many health benefits. Going outside is especially beneficial for introverts when we are not feeling our best. On such days, I always say that it is Umi who takes me out for a walk instead of me walking him. Being in nature, moving your legs, breathing fresh air, and looking at the world around you can be very relaxing, like therapy.

4. He comforts me.

Dogs are incredibly smart animals. They pick up on our feelings and mental state. When I am not feeling well, Umi is attentive and quiet. As a sensitive introvert, this is amazing, because I don’t need to say or do anything — sometimes Umi will sense my mood before I do. 

5. My dog pushes me out of my comfort zone (in a good way). 

An extroverted dog’s energy is a wonderful resource when you need a little spark to get things going. If I were to take a walk alone, I wouldn’t talk to strangers I pass on the street. But with Umi, he sparks conversations everywhere we go — no awkward small talk or conversation tricks are needed. Although this socializing took some getting used to, now, I’ve gotten used to it and am thankful for all the people we’ve (literally) crossed paths with. 

Though, yes, it’s very nice to get home and have some alone time afterwards. After all, Umi and I have our deal…

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