Dog’s Eye View: Things that make you say, ‘Hmmm’
July 9, 2015
Now that the days are getting longer, I really enjoy a cup of coffee out in the yard with the dogs as the morning sun warms the day. There is an elevated dog bed in the yard that picks up the first rays from the sun. Max and Skippy sometimes take turns reveling in that extra warmth on their little short-coated bodies.
The bed is big enough for my two small dogs to share, but I haven't seen that happen yet. I have a lawn chair out there so I can sit and enjoy the morning sun with them.
Max was stretched out on the bed enjoying the warmth when Skippy came outside and stopped short to check us out. I watched her ponder the situation. She looked at Max and then at me. Then she walked up to the tree where the squirrels hang out waiting for a shot at the bird feeder. Skippy looked back at Max and barked one time at the tree.
Max shot off the bed ready to give chase to the squirrel that wasn't there. At the same moment, Skippy trotted back to the dog bed, hopped on and laid down. By the time Max realized the squirrel wasn't there, Skippy was stretched out full length in the sun on the dog bed.
Things that made you say "Hmm." Skippy really did fake out Max in order to take over the dog bed. Now that takes some brain work!
While teaching Nose Work, I always tell our beginning students where I've hidden the scent container. A student came in with his border collie/Pyrenees named Sara to search. There were several colored buckets on the floor, and I told Dave the scent was in the red bucket. Sara immediately went to the red bucket and found the scent. We all had a good chuckle over Sara picking the right colored bucket. Sara's proud owner said, "Only a border collie would understand what you just said." Hmmm! Now this story has a hint of "Clever Hans," the horse who could add. Did I inadvertently turn my head and look at the red bucket when I said it? Did Sara catch and follow my eye movement? Or did Sara pick up the scent trail and follow it to the bucket? Well, we've seen Sara sort out other nose work puzzles as well, so I'm voting for picking up the scent trail.
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Most of us have stories like this we share with others. Observing our dog's behavior in different situations really helps us realize they are constantly communicating. We all need to learn to give them more credit and do right by developing the intelligence they all come into this world possessing. Our job as their human partners is to continue to offer enrichment.
There are some dogs who receive less daily enrichment than captive animals held in enclosures. We seem to think that just living with us should be enough. But they are so much more. Our canines are one of the few animals who excel in understanding humans. That's why we have them in our lives. But that instinctive understanding needs nurturing. It's a two-way street. To receive respect we need to respect. If we guide them and learn to understand their communication, it's amazing how much more we can share. Hmmm!
Laura Tyler is a certified professional dog trainer with more than 25 years of experience and has earned associate certification through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She owns Total Teamwork Training LLC here in Northwest Colorado.