Wednesday, March 3, 2010
The Teacher Becomes the Student
Communication is a two-way street, even with dogs. My dogs were normally taken out three times a day: after waking up, just after I returned from work and in the late evening. If my mom was taking care of them, they went out a few more times in addition to their ‘normal hours’. My mom often spent time by the pool, at the patio or in her garden, and the dogs were normally out there with her the whole time. But what if the dogs needed to go potty outside of their usual times? Fortunately for me, Abby was a smart dog and had her ways of communication with me.
For example, at night if she needed to go out, she would sit right beside me in the bed and stare at me. Since I was asleep, I shouldn’t have been able to notice her looking at me, but it’s strange how someone knows when someone or something is looking at him. It’s almost like an ‘extra-sensory’ perception. Normally, that would work, but sometimes Abby had to put a little ‘oomph’ into it and whine a little. That definitely woke me up except for one time. When I woke up that next morning, I found out the hard way that Abby had diarrhea the previous night and there was doo-doo all over my bedroom floor. (Did I mention that I was a sound sleeper?)
During the daytime, Abby used different tactics to tell me she needed to go outside. The most simple and effective was the ‘bark’. She had a way of barking to let me know she wanted to go out as opposed to wanting to be feed or wanting to play. She also had a ‘deep voice’ , as it were, which made it hard to ignore her. A more subtle method was for her to sit in area between my chair and the TV in the living room. She would have her back to the TV and her face pointing towards the door. She wouldn’t look at me directly, but she would cut her eyes at me from time to time. I would then ask her ‘You want to go pee pee?’, and if she needed to go, she would immediately get up and heads towards the door. Sometimes I wouldn’t take the hint, and that is when she would go ‘woof.’
This is an example of many when Abby was able to figure things out and perform without my trying to make her do that act. I don’t know much about dog behavior to figure out to get her to do things as complicated as what I just described. (It’s complicated to me, anyway.)In a way, Abby was training me. She was definitely an 'alpha' dog.