Archive for the ‘Callie’ Category

How Smart Are Dogs — Really?

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

One of the themes of the “My Doggie Says…” show has been “the intelligence of dogs.”  One guest, for example, was Stanley Coren, author of “The Intelligence of Dogs.”  But I’ve always found these conversations a little unsettling. Here’s the interview with Stanley.


The scientists keep saying, “Dogs really aren’t very smart.”  I wonder, though, if they are applying the right measures.  Obviously, dogs can’t take an IQ test — which deals with language.  But they sure do some clever things.  I have a difficult time believing that Callie Golden Retriever has the same intelligence level (whatever that means) as a two-year-old child.

Well, Brian Hare and Dognition to the rescue.  For the past two weeks, Barbara and I have been spending a few minutes every evening running Callie through a battery of tests developed my Dognition.  Here’s how Dognition describes the tests:

“You begin the Dognition Experience by playing a series of science-based games that will reveal your dog’s unique abilities. This knowledge is the first step in creating an even stronger connection with your dog — a connection that can help you be the best owner you can be for your furry friend.”

So far, we haven’t received any results on Callie’s testing, but the games have been fun, and we’re looking forward to seeing the first results.  Stay tuned!

Video of Dog Swimming (1:19): Callie’s Superbowl Sunday Swim

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

It’s always fun to watch a dog swimming.  It’s Callie’s favorite thing to do at Lake Arrowhead.

She jumps off the boat dock, swims out to retrieve her Frisbee, swims ashore, and brings her Frisbee back to the boat dock for another toss.

The water temperature wasn’t too bad — about 43 degrees.  The humans had their “polar bear” swim that day, so we know it wasn’t too cold for dog swimming.  But when Callie got out of the water, we were careful to dry her off as quickly as possible and get her back into a warm and cozy place.

When Callie climbs out of the lake, she’s pretty far from the camera, but notice how she picks up her Frisbee and brings it back out on the dock.  It’s part of her dog training, and it’s a great behavior.

What better way to bond with your dog than to help it do one of its favorite things?

Your Dog’s Energy Level May Mirror Your Own

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Are you aware of your dog’s energy level? Can you sense when it goes up and down? Can you tell when your dog is “full of beans?” Can you tell when your dog is feeling down and drained of energy?

Most of us don’t pay attention to our own ups and downs, much less our dog’s energy changes. “Am I feeling robust and energetic?” Or, “Am I feeling down and lackadaisical?” Many of us go through energy ups and down every day without realizing it.

But dogs may be different. My dog Callie and I play soccer every night or fifteen to twenty minutes, and, because of that, I’ve become pretty tuned in to my dog’s energy levels. Interestingly, this experience has put me more in tune with my own energy fluctuations.

Our daily soccer match always starts with a burst of energy. Callie tracks me down, usually in my office, and gives me a very intense gaze. Her “look” means, “It’s time for our soccer game!”

I start the game by kicking the soft, under-inflated ball almost the length of our backyard. Callie races after the ball and traps is under her tummy. Then I make a shorter and higher kick, and Callie leaps into the air and “bonks” the ball off her nose. We call it a “noser.” It’s like a header but when you’re a golden retriever your nose gets in the way.

Sometimes we do a rapid volley of nosers. I kick the ball back to her as quickly as possible, and she leaps up and “bonks” the ball as hard as she can. This usually gets her really pumped up for a few minutes.

But invariably, sometime during our game, I’ll kick the ball to Callie and she’ll just look at me, as the ball flies over her head and lands on the grass. It’s as if she’s saying, “What was that all about?” She makes no effort whatsoever to go after it. My next few attempts are likely to have the same result. It is as if she doesn’t care about the game any more.

So now I’m wondering, “Is there a way to get the game back on track?” Another thing I wonder is, “Is she mirroring my energy level?” For the next kick, I’ll run to the ball faster and try to project more energy. Sometimes that works. Callie senses my increased enthusiasm and reflects it with an outburst of harder “nosers” and faster chasing after the ball.

Other times Callie ignores my new energy level and the ball flies over her head, and, once again, she looks at me like I’m crazy.

Another trick I’ve tried is to “fake” an end to the game. I kick the ball back to our starting place and put it back on the chair where it sits when we’re not playing. Sometimes Callie tries to play “keep away” so I can’t pick the ball up. She’ll put a paw on the ball, for example, or trap it under her tummy, or position herself between me and the ball.

After the ball has been back on its chair for a few seconds, I pick it up again and ask Callie if she wants to play. Usually by this time, she’s stationed herself in the middle of the yard and she’s giving me that “let’s play soccer” look again.

So, starting over, I kick the ball toward her and she goes scampering after it. Usually this works, and it re-energizes her, at least for a few minutes.

Sometimes I think this interaction is just about a dog’s energy level and enthusiasm for the game. At other times, it seems like she’s reflecting my energy — or lack of energy. It probably also has something to do with focus and concentration — both of which, I believe are closely related to energy expression.

This energy interaction has been fascinating to follow. I’ve learned a lot about Callie’s energy levels as well as my own. There have been times when I was certain Callie was simply mirroring my energy — that her lack of enthusiasm probably reflected the fact that I was distracted or thinking about something else. In these situations, I am able to regain the energy of the game by getting more enthusiastic and putting more into it myself.

Sometimes I think that Callie’s enthusiasm has helped to spark my enthusiasm to a higher level which has led to some really fun “noser” volleys.

Any way you look at it, this “energy exchange” has enriched my relationship with Callie. I understand her a little better — and probably myself, as well.

Try paying attention to your dog’s energy patterns!

Merry Christmas from “My Doggie Says…”

Saturday, December 24th, 2011
Golden Retriever Merry Christmas

Callie says, "Merry Christmas!"

Best wishes for a Merry Christmas and Happy 2012.

Fred and Callie

Are Facial Expressions Part of Dog Talk? They Are For Callie Golden Retriever

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

To us humans, anyway, dogs don’t seem to have as much expression in their faces as people do.  Who knows what other dogs think?  I imagine that, to dogs, “all humans look alike,” while, amongst themselves, there is a lot of nuanced facial conversation.

But Callie Golden Retriever does have a few very noticeable facial expressions.  Everyone knows the famous “smile” of a Golden Retriever.  But Callie has some facial expressions — a kind of dog talk — that are almost the opposite of a Golden Retriever smile.

Two of them are part of her daily ritual of cajoling me to play soccer with her.

First she twists her muzzle into a pretzel, which always means, “Can we please go out and play soccer?”

Callie Golden Retriever Loves to Play Soccer

Once outside, Callie looks me in the eye and says — with her facial expression — “OK, Fred, let’s get the game started!”

Callie Golden Retriever Waits for the First Soccerr Kick

We all know dogs love to play games.  Use them as an opportunity to learn more about your “best friend.”  The messages are there; you just have to pay attention!

Train Your Dog To Be A Social Animal

Sunday, July 17th, 2011

Here’s another example of Callie being a “social” dog — at Lake Arrowhead Village.  Like Jamie, Callie loves the Wishing Well gift shop, because they have the BEST puppy treats.  Notice the “wishing well” in the background of this photo.

Callie Enjoys Socializing at Lake Arrowhead Village

Train Your Dog To Be Social

Dogs are very social animals — if allowed to be. Sometimes the difficult part of “training” your dog to be social is for you to lose your fear that something bad will happen if your dog interacts with other dogs or people. Bad things can happen, of course, so you have to know your dog’s temperament — and be ready to protect it, if necessary.

But too often, the owner’s fear gets in the way of a good socializing experience. If your dog feels you pulling on its leash when people, or dogs, approach, it might get the idea that it needs to be protective, or defensive. So, to train your dog to be social, train yourself to trust your dog in social situations. Most of the time, dogs are happy to see each other, and they get along just fine. Be ready to act, if necessary, but don’t turn your dog into a wallflower by holding it back from social situations.

In these situations, like lots of others, communication with your dog can be important.  When dogs or people approach, “read” your dog’s reaction.  Is it happy?  Apprehensive?  Afraid?  Eager to make friends?  As you get better at understanding your dog, you will be better able to help it in social situations.

It also helps to understand your dog’s “social personality.”  For example, Callie often approaches other dogs in a very submissive manner — making it clear that she wants to be friendly and not aggressive.  She often lies down — or even flops over on her back — in a very submissive way.  She makes lots of doggie friends this way.

As is often the case, dog training is more about people training than anything else.

Callie’s Golden Retriever Neighbors — The Importance of Socializing

Friday, July 8th, 2011

Callie Golden Retriever makes friends everywhere she goes.  She’s by far the most social dog I’ve had.  She loves people, and she loves other dogs.  She’s not particular about dog breeds; she loves them all.  But she’s especially fond of other Golden Retrievers.  Here she is with her Lake Arrowhead Golden Retriever Neighbors — Riley, Rowdy, and Ruckus.

Callie, Riley, Rowdy and Ruckus

One of the best gifts you can give your dog is the opportunity — and the space — to make friends.  As we walk different streets and paths around Lake Arrowhead, we encounter lots of dogs — some friendly and some not so friendly.  Seems like the friendly ones are always attached to friendly people.  People who prevent their dog from being social are doing their pets a great disservice.  Dogs are very social animals!

Callie Golden Retriever Loves to Play Water Frisbee

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011
Callie Retrieving her "Floppy Disc"

Callie's Favorite Sport

Like Jamie, Callie has become addicted to playing “Water Frisbee.”  She loves to dive into Lake Arrowhead to retrieve her “Floppy Disc.”

As a perfect example of how dogs like “structure,” Callie has two distinct Frisbee routines, depending on lake conditions.

Her favorite “routine” is to run the length of our boat dock, drop her Floppy Disc at the end of the pier, wait for me to toss the Floppy Disc, and then dive into the lake to retrieve it.  Then she swims to shore, climbs up some stone steps, puts the Floppy Disc down to shake off the water, and then continues the loop back to the end of the pier for another dive.

Her other “routine” is to stay close to the stone steps.  She waits until someone gives the Floppy Disc a short toss, and then she dives off the steps, retrieves the Floppy Disc, and swims back to the steps.

Either way, Callie is in Golden Retriever Heaven.  It’s fun to see how comfortable she is within the two “structures,” or “routines.”  It works for me, too, because there’s a lot of boat traffic on the lake and I am happy to know that Callie will stay within her routes.

Callie is so into this that she begs to go to the lake for a swim.  She gives me the same intense “please!” look that she uses to beg me to play soccer every day when we’re at home.

One other note about Callie’s swimming.  Take a look at some of the video of Callie learning to swim, and you’ll see that she wasn’t exactly a “natural” swimmer.  She would paw at the water and “screw up her confidence” before jumping in.  Even at age four, she had a little hesitation about diving into the lake.  Now, she is totally comfortable diving in.

Callie’s swimming is one of my favorite “dog bonding” activities — it’s a real partnership.

The Games Dogs Play

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

Callie Golden Retriever seems pretty good at making up her own games.  The trick is for me to go along with her and try to figure out what the game is supposed to be.  It’s great fun, though, and I know Callie appreciates getting to call the shots sometimes.

Our favorite game, of course, is our daily soccer game.  Callie tracks me down every evening and gives me her intense, “let’s play soccer now!” look.  This started over four years ago when Callie was just eight weeks old, so it’s totally Callie’s game.  Now, as a full-grown Golden, she’s learned to leap several feet in the air and “bonk” the ball off her nose.  See some fun video of Callie doing “nosers” in the video section of our web site.

The other day, Callie presented me with “Smokey” a “Smokey the bear” golf club cover that Callie has adopted as a favorite toy.  I held out my hand and tried to figure out what Callie wanted me to do.  She gave me “Smokey,” but then she took “Smokey” back right away.  That went on for about five minutes.  So Callie’s game with “Smokey” was “give and take,” “I’ll give “Smokey” to you, then you give “Smokey” back to me, then I’ll give “Smokey” back to you again, and we’ll keep doing it.  OK?”  I could tell it was very satisfying for Callie that I went along with her game.

Then, the next day, Callie brought me Trojan, another golf head cover in the form of a white horse.  (Fight on!)  This time, the game was a little different.  Callie presented Trojan to me, but she didn’t let go.  But she didn’t pull it away from me, either.  This time we played “Let’s hold this together for a while!”  Again, I could tell Callie appreciated getting to decide what game we were going to play.

Play is a natural part of a dog’s life.  Left to their own resources — at least sometimes — a dog will invent its own games.  Sometimes it’s interactive play.  Sometimes it “doggie solitaire.”  An important part of the dog-bonding experience can be letting your dog make up the rules sometimes.  You will be amazed at how much your “best friend” appreciates being in charge, even if it’s just for a few minutes!

Callie Does Soccer “Nosers” — Video

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Callie Golden Retriever first “invited” me to play soccer when she arrived at my home at age eight-weeks old.  She spotted an under-inflated practice soccer ball in the back yard and ran to it.  Frankly, I’m not sure why the ball was there or where it came from; it’s part of Callie’s mystery, I guess.  But Callie ran to the other side of the ball, scrunched down behind it, looked me right in the eye, and said, “OK, Fred, show me what you’ve got.”  I gave the ball a kick and Callie ran and trapped it under her tummy.  She was such a tiny puppy that she could hardly get all four feet to touch the ground.  Here’s what she looked like:

Almost every day since then, for over three and a half years, Callie and I have played soccer.  She’s graduated to doing “nosers.”  If she was a person, you’d call it a “header,” but when you’re a Golden Retriever, your nose gets in the way, so it’s a “noser.”  Here’s a recent demonstration of Callie’s “noser” technique:

Callie Show off Her Soccer “Nosers”