It’s good to differ

By Scott Hunt

The Dog Grumbler


STRANGE things happen in a dog’s head — at least by our human standards — and I am the first to admit there is much of it I don’t understand.

One difficult aspect is the way each dog seems to think and behave, at least in some ways, differently to all other dogs.

Perhaps we humans are no different but we can discuss our motivations and reasoning and justify, even standardise, our behaviour towards each other.

While dogs I am sure communicate very clearly with each other in their own world and in their own language, I believe each has its own individual interface with this human world which they have evolved to share with us.

What I am trying to say is: what works for one dog may not work for all of them.

This is part of the charm of our special relationship with these marvellous creatures – even if we raise them through regular visits to obedience school where every participant is taught and interacts using the same methods, commands, signals and routines, they each behave, learn and react in their own way to some degree.

Successful dog trainers are sensitive to these individual quirks in a dog’s behaviour and work with them.

Remember that your dog is interpreting not just your human speech, but your body language and the situation.

Just because you said, “Pauline, sit” and she didn’t comply on this particular occasion, don’t assume your dog didn’t understand or does not want to obey.

There may be things going on of which we are unaware – especially smells, whose presence and significance we miss.

New environments will often unsettle a dog, so don’t be surprised if Pauline loses focus while she casts her nose over new smells.

Watch your dog, study it’s behaviour and take note when something works.

Develop strategies to get round awkward situations.

Perhaps Pauline won’t come when you call.

Whatever the reason, you may find she will obey the “stay” command so you can approach her and fit her leash.

Perhaps you need to jangle your keys and return to your car, squat or lay down, even run away to get Pauline to tear herself away from the distraction.

Dog society is different to ours. Approaching an individual is very different to being approached.

The recall is a command to action. The “stay” command seeks inaction.

The situation at the time adds further significance, especially if other dogs are involved.

If Pauline ends up on the leash and back home and she can tell this makes you happy — if it happens regularly the same way, she will see the pattern of events and work to please you.

We may not understand all that’s going on between those furry ears, but if we work to meet our best friend half way, allow them their quirks and patiently go the long way round occasionally, we end up with the kind of relationship that makes dog owners different.

That makes each dog/human relationship special.

It’s not necessary for your dog to behave like Lassie or Skippy or Flipper, or fit some pre-conceived idea of normal behaviour.

They will be different just as you are different — perhaps largely because you are different.

Just because they worship us doesn’t mean we can or should know everything about them or dictate their behaviour entirely.

We are here to teach each other.