“Everyone gets shown a toy. No takes, though. For your viewing pleasure only.”
Being polite seems to come naturally for Atlas, a 6-year-old Lab mix. Ever since Kyla Pearce brought the dog home from The Animal Love Foundation, her manners have been impeccable.
Atlas’ sweet temperament seems to make an impact on everyone she meets. “She’s very calm and docile,” Pearce told. “Even people who don’t like dogs tend to like Atlas because she doesn’t pester them.”
But what is most noticeable about Atlas is just how good a host she is — making sure to never greet guests empty-handed. While other dogs might bark at someone at the door, Atlas runs to present them with a gift: one (or more) of her favorite plush toys.
“I first noticed the greeting behavior when she was about one and a half years old,” Pearce said. “She would get very excited and grab as many toys as possible.”
“If she is caught by surprise without a toy, you can almost see her mental calculations about whether to go greet first and then get a toy or go get the toy first,” Pearce added. “She tends to make a few false starts towards the visitor and then toy wins out.”
Why is bringing a toy to the door so important to Atlas? Most might assume it’s to invite the new person to play, but the real answer is a bit more complicated than that.
“When she brings you a toy to play, she shoves it into your hand to get you to grab it,” Pearce explained. “But with the greeting behavior she just holds it and if you try to take it she will turn her head to the side. Not to tease you, just a slight shift to let you know that she wants to keep it.“
As Pearce wrote in a Reddit post: “Everyone gets shown a toy. No takes, though. For your viewing pleasure only.”
If someone does manage to wrestle the toy away from Atlas, the polite dog doesn’t get upset. She knows exactly how to solve this common misconception. “Guests usually think she wants to play and they try and take the toy,” Pearce said. “She is very embarrassed if they do manage to grab it and she will leave them to go get another toy!”
The toys Atlas chooses to bring can even have special meaning. If Atlas brings one stuffed animal, known as “Apology Pig,” Pearce said, this means there’s a 70 percent chance the pup has chewed something while her mom was away.
Recently, the Pearce family gifted Atlas with a new toy — a red and blue dragon — which has taken on much the same meaning. When Atlas greets her mom with “Désolé Dragon” and doleful eyes, Pearce knows what might be waiting just inside the door.
But no matter what toy Atlas brings, her mom is just happy to see her. From the time she was a puppy, Atlas has seemed to be wiser than her years, and her mom couldn’t imagine life without her.
“She’s always able to lift my spirits,” Pearce said. “She seems to break through barriers with just about everyone.”