A Thinking Dog: part 3

Sugar, always assessing...

Thinking dog, Sugar, always assessing…

It stands to reason that a “thinking dog” is the best kind of dog, right?  I can admit it.  I am pretty great, but being incredibly intelligent doesn’t always work in my favor.  I am constantly observing and assessing what is going on with my humans and around me (I am part Border collie – it’s my job to think a few steps ahead).  I also pay very close attention to everything in my environment (birds, squirrels, leaves falling, butterflies & other insects, other dogs, neighborhood cats, rain…you name it) and sometimes I am so alert, I have a hard time turning my thinking-dog brain off which makes it hard to be “dogosophical“.

As a thinking dog, I have also learned to anticipate certain situations.  Guardian starts putting on makeup & shoes…she’s leaving soon.  (In my world, that’s not all bad, we dogs get the house all to ourselves and that annoyance of a new dog is still in his crate – I love that).

One of the hardest things for me is a car trip!  The humans act like this is the greatest thing in the world.

where oh where are we headed this time?

where oh where are we headed this time?

This may start out as a fun outing, but usually ends up in me being poked & prodded by someone I barely know; sometimes we get left for days at a time with a slew of other dogs in a house I’m not familiar with (how in the world can I protect my humans if they aren’t even around???) and on some occasions, I simply end up getting a bath and a haircut.  At least the latter is generally followed by new toys or treats.  Why oh why do the humans feel the need to torture a thinking dog with car rides?  My guardian keeps treats in the car and sometimes takes me on trips that go nowhere – Honestly, we just ride around then head home again.  This helps, but I am still a thinking dog who is just waiting for the next unpleasant excursion.

OH – and the poking and prodding place, often the car trips still lead me there.   I sniff the same smells and see the same people, but at times, guardian has turned these occassions into a treat session!   I certainly got the leg up on this one…who knew I could train the guardian to take me out for an afternoon snack?  I’m really learning to love that place (despite the white coats & scrubs).  So glad to be a thinking dog!

Really learning to LOVE this place!

A little nervous, but slowly learning to LOVE this place!

Because I am a thinking dog, I can also be a very anxious, somewhat-reactive dog.  This can make life “ruff” for me and my humans.   For instance, I used to pull ahead while on the leash…dogs to see, squirrels to chase, you know the drill.  My guardian sought the help of a professional and was told to use a new collar (this was long before she was “trained” herself).  You may have seen other dogs on this kind of collar; it is called a “Pinch” or “Prong”  collar  and let me tell you, the name fits!  When I would get excited to go toward another dog – OUCH!   The more I excited I was about visiting, the more it hurt!  I started barking, growling and lunging every time I saw another dog (as soon as one was in sight – YOWZA!) Totally not cool!  (Combined_Punishment_Statements)  Oh, those darn dogs…they were becoming less rewarding each day until at last, I had it and finally had the opportunity to let another dog know what all these canines had been doing to me and I bit him!  Hard!  Guardian was mortified so she stopped walking me regularly.  I lost my connection to the outside world and had to mentally survive on the stories Dino would tell me about his visits.  Thankfully my guardian came home one day with a new harness instead.  A “front clasp” harness!  What kind of contraption was she trying now?   She strapped it on and I was nervous at first (have I mentioned that I am a thinking dog?).  Hmmmm…so I thought about this.  There was no pain – it clipped in the front so if I got too excited and pulled, I turned around to face my guardian.  I’ve figured it out and by Dog – I think I’ve got it!  If another dog is coming – I may pull, but harness leads me to face guardian without going “postal”, then I get a treat (well, the postman is another story).  It’s that simple.  Dogs = treats, not pain!  After all, I am a thinking dog!  After just a few months with this, I am able to happily greet other dogs again!

The only thing that still consistently works against my thinking dog brain is a thunderstorm.  I haven’t figured out how to work that one yet.  When one hits, I freak out!  Guardian puts  a snuggly vest on me…sometimes I get a bit of peanut butter (with an odd-tasting bit of crunch in the middle) and it makes me sleepy.  My favorite spot to find sanctuary is in guardians’ closet.  I am surrounded by their smell, there is soft carpet on the floor and it is a dark and cozy spot where the terrible sounds are dulled and not so frightening.

My guardian often says “a tired dog is a good dog”.  I’m not sure what she means by that, but I do love the stimulating toys, long walks or running along with the bike and good solid training time.  Guardian knows I am a thinking dog (not like those other two that reside with us) and she works with it – with me.  Rather than getting frustrated at my barking alertness, or my anxiety, she keeps me busy and gives me fun things to contemplate which helps my “thinking brain” rest when I need it.  I can relax after a session with guardian and honestly, when she works with any of us dogs it is the best, most rewarding experience in the world.  She looks us in the eye, we get treats, praise in that sweet loving voice, and loads of hands-on attention.  Kym_Sugar

Humans are an odd lot – at times they don’t seem to think much, but when you find a good family they can be the most rewarding thing in the world.  If I play my cards right, this thinking dog will continue to help guardian truly help other thinking dogs like me!

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A Thinking Dog (Part 2 of a 3 part series)

My guardian calls herself a trainer (she knows it isn’t always about training the DOG if ya’ know what I mean).  She knows what it’s like to work with challenges.  She knows I am a thinking dog.

I’ve been to obedience training, and let me tell you – I used to have them all really well trained!   I’m going to have to up my efforts again though…I overhear my guardian say over and over that training is a “use it or lose it” process.  A thinking dog must stay on one’s toes to keep the family well trained and lately I am seeing some things I’m not so sure I like.

(using my wily ways and charming personality to con my guardian out of a few treats!)

(using my wily ways and charming personality to con my guardian out of a few treats!)

Not only am I a thinking dog, I am a GOOD dog.  I do all the things a dog is supposed to do.

I used to have to help clean the counters when they leave food up there.   I guess I’ve done my job training them, they clean up after themselves now and don’t leave food out on the table or in the kitchen.  I’ve even taught the teenagers to put their shoes away (although once in a while, I do miss the taste of a nice leather boot or the chewy texture of a flip flop) and thanks to me airing their dirty laundry, they manage to get their socks and underwear in the laundry basket instead of leaving them on the floor.

I used to show off my incredibly high-pitched Barking to alert them anytime someone was on our turf (I knew I was doing a great job, because for a while, the whole family joined the fun and would bark along with me!) I may be slacking there, though because they don’t bark along anymore, so I usually have to go investigate why.   I have to stop barking, and then go search for my owner to see what could be more fun than barking at the window!  After all, I am a thinking dog.

Our new dog (keep following our blogs…you’re sure to meet him soon) – I taught him everything he knows.  It can be very tough to work with a stone-headed puppy that is literally twice my size!  When foster dogs come to stay with us for a while, I help teach them manners too.  I am a star at tactfully correcting another dog’s erroneous ways but am always sure to let them know I am friendly and good with socialization.   I am a thinking dog.

I am the best greeter EVER – all I have to do is give a little jump and the visitors just pat me on the head, talk to me and bend down to visit.  (The petting is sometimes awkward and almost as if they were pushing me away but hey, hands on is still hands on in my book!).  These people are becoming less trained by the day…they no longer pet me when I jump.  Often, they offer me a treat for sitting even before I get the chance to jump up.  Sometimes they turn around and completely ignore me – I am mystified by this and often sit down to consider what I might be doing wrong (I am a thinking dog after all)…then BAM!  A treat comes my way.  Silly humans!

I am very good at protection. The mailman and delivery truck drivers are so well-trained now that I don’t even have to bark before they offer me a treat!  I chase any and all wildlife away – I’ve even been known to jump the fence to keep those pesky deer from munching my guardian’s prized tulips!  Almost caught one once… I am so fast that I can run circles around my guardians in the forest for hours on end.  I’m not so dull that a simple treat will lure me in when I’m out having the time of my life.  “Chase” is my favorite game, especially when my guardian runs the other way (I always catch her, and then it’s time to go back in for another treat).   I am a thinking dog.

Hmmm…now that I think about it, maybe what she was looking for all-along was a quiet dog that greets people politely, doesn’t jump the fence to chase wildlife and comes when called.  I may have to re-think my human training routine to keep her on her toes.  After all, I am a thinking dog.

A Thinking Dog (part 1)

I believe you all have been introduced to my housemate, Dino.  Well, he may be considered the family sweetheart (aka, the easy dog, the people pleaser, etc) but I take credit for being the brains behind this 3-dog operation.   While Dino is the epitome of a “dogosophical” dog, I help inspire the teachings to get one there.  I am a true, thinking dog.

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Dino, the Guardian & Sugar – chillaxin’ at the dog park

A little backstory:  You may have read in a previous blog about how Dino, the yellow Labrador came into the life of a loving family who felt the need to make up for “failing” a rescue dog.  Well, I have to respect that he paved the way for me.  Dino became the happy, healthy, well-trained and very social dog everyone wants.  After some great successes over the dog days of summer, thinking that dog ownership is a walk in the park, and knowing that the work days would be picking up for his family, the guardians decided that Dino should have someone else around to spend his days with.  The family also realized that their hearts were really behind “saving” a dog from the uncertain fate that falls many-a-shelter animal and did not want to go the route of another breeder or (heaven-forbid) a puppy store.   The hunt was on to find a dog that they could rescue, a dog that would keep Dino company, a dog that would never be boring…a thinking dog.

After much thought about what they really wanted in a second dog, tons of research on different dog breed traits, and searching multiple dog rescue websites, going to adoption fares, etc. they were found a small “foster-only” rescue organization where they happened upon me.  My “mom” was a border collie, found as a pregnant stray on the side of the road in Illinois farm country in October of 2006.  She was taken in and brought to a foster home in Chicago’s western suburbs and litter of 9 puppies arrived soon after.  Most resembled mom – black & white border collies with little brown tips here and there…then there was me.  I was a smallish, golden-retriever looking pup with a face (and a brain) like my mom.   The rescue organization kept all puppies until we were weaned and healthy and had our first round of shots (about 8 weeks) so they gave us names to reflect the time they hoped we would transition into our fur-ever homes.  My brothers were given holiday names like Humbug, Tiny Tim, Ebenezer, Jacob & Marley and Prince.  The females were Clara, Belle and me – Sugar Plum.  We all ended up being Christmas puppies to families all over Illinois.

Dino & I get along quite well.   He taught me not to bite too hard, showed me where to go when I need to relieve myself, let me know where the best sleeping spots and treats are kept and generally what it takes to keep the two-leggers on their toes around here. To this day, he is very tolerant and doesn’t challenge me much.  He doesn’t really challenge anyone.  That is my job.  I am a thinking dog…

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Sugar Plum – in her “thinking dog” mode

Tricks, Treats & Scaredy-Dogs, OH MY

The weather changes make humans do strange things this time of year!  Why, just a few weeks ago random carcasses started showing up in the house and in the yards around the neighborhood where we walk.   Skulls, femurs, scrumptiously raw, bloody-looking things are all over the place.  It’s really quite confusing as none of these things smell the way they should and you would think I killed it by the way my guardian reacts whenever one of us canines finds these plastic-tasting bones. I’m beginning to think it’s all an elaborate ruse!  The worst part is that soon, there will be hundreds of frightening creatures coming to the door for hours on end.  My guardians…they OPEN the door!  Each-and-every-time!  When will they learn that this can be just plain dangerous?

I just don’t get it…around my house trick or treat is a simple training protocol.  We dogs do a few tricks (roll-over is my particular favorite) and we get a treat!  Simple!  There is no “or” and there are certainly no scary creatures, costumes or door bells involved.

Halloween dogs

As for the treat; in my world bacon is best – plain and simple – no buts about it (although a little rump roast – mmm, mmm, good!)   One of these years, the guardians will wise up and make sure we don’t have access to that stuff they hand out to the two-legged puppies.  Not sure what all this paper-wrapped, sweet-smelling stuff is all about (being in a bowl on the steps, well that just makes it easy pickings).  It doesn’t do much for my digestive system and makes for lots of extra clean-up in the yard for days-on-end.

The other two dogs that share my home feel the same.  Sugar, she’s almost 7. Oh, the barking & ridiculous amount of energy she expends over a silly doorbell ringing!  Of course, she’s a scaredy-dog.  Running to the guardians closet at the slightest sound of thunder and acting all goofy when she sees another dog out on a walk (or squirrel, or leaf blowing the wrong way…you know the type).  Then there’s Chopper…another story entirely!  This one thinks the whole world is here simply to lavish attention on him (little does he know most people take one look and turn the other direction – but that’s another blog entirely).  When the doorbell rings, one quick dash and he’s gone, baby!  Born to run!   We’re working on some serious doorway manners with him.

So, what’s a dog (or his human) to do?  Well, a few things I’ve learned to maintain my dogosophical existence during this horrifying event the two-leggers call “Halloween”:

  • Don’t chew those sparkly things that are on a string & attach to the walls!  (They come out in December too and may be interesting to look at, but they feel like those horrible collars that ZAP some dogs when they get too close to their territory line).
  • Leave the candy alone!  That stuff can be like poison…literally!  Stay far away and stick to the bacon.
  • The bloody-carcass looking goodies – plastic!  Don’t even bother (one of those stuck in your intestines makes for a not-so-fun trip to the vet!)
  • Don’t eat the costume!  Some humans put these goofy get-ups on us dogs.  We’ve got to humor them now and again – and while the outfits can be a nuisance, it’s all about avoiding that trip to the vet!
  • Stay away from the door!  My guardians make sure we furry residents have a safe place all night long.  I go to my crate, Sugar spends the evening in her closet, and Chopper (who loves to be a social butterfly) is on leash all night long.  (They also make sure we have proper ID tags on, and are microchipped just in case one of us slips by them and darts out into the dark and scary night).

Keep those tips in mind and have a safe Halloween!

Dogosophically yours,   Dino