Archive for the ‘Dog Communication’ Category

Goodbye, Charlie (by Callie)

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008
img_0992-3.jpg I learned this morning that one of my favorite Golden Retriever friends, Charlie, was hit by a car and killed a little over a week ago. So I'm feeling just terrible -- for the loss of Charlie and for Charlie's step-brother, Mooch, and his owners, Doug and Sonja. I could tell something was terribly wrong this morning when I saw Doug walking with Mooch but without Charlie. Mooch has always been friendly with me, but not as exuberant as Charlie. But this morning Mooch explained to me, in doggie language, what had happened. Mooch was very broken up about it, and I feel sorry for him. He's obviously very depressed. The relationship between Charlie and Mooch is pretty fascinating. Doug and Sonja got Charlie, a rescue Golden Retriever, a few years ago, because Mooch had disappeared. But then someone took Mooch to a vet, who scanned his micro-chip and returned him to Doug and Sonja. My sincere and doggie-heart-felt condolences to Doug, Sonja, and Mooch for their loss. You never quite know how bonded you are to a pet (or to a person) until you lose them. Which is too bad, but I guess that's just how it is. Sometimes it's really frustrating not to be able to talk like a person -- using my voice. I've been trying lately, but I think, to Fred, it just sounds like a bunch of "snorts" and "grunts." I've tried a few times when I had something important to say, like, "could I please get out of my crate for a while," or "isn't it about dinner time?" But these were always short messages. Today I walked into Fred's office and tried for about five minutes to explain to Fred how I felt, in people talk. I know all Fred heard was "grunts" and "snorts," but I actually think he understood what I was trying to say. Fred was so heartbroken that he cried, too, when he heard the news. So I'm pretty sure he understands how I feel and that he shares my feelings. We rubbed foreheads for a minute, so I felt we were almost able to communicate like dogs. Here's a web site that has a lot of beautiful poems that might give comfort to someone who recently lost a beloved pet. One of Fred's favorites is "Dinah in Heaven," by Rudyard Kipling. Goodbye, Charlie. I really love you. Callie

My Dog Found Five Bucks!

Monday, March 24th, 2008
Callie, now a fourteen-month-old Golden Retriever, but still a puppy in many ways, works very hard at the "leave it" command. This command is not just intended to get her to "let go" of something. If you're quick enough on the draw, you can use the "leave it" command to keep her from picking something up in the first place. I'm really more interested in building my dog relationship with Callie than in beating commands into her, but "leave it" is important. It can be a lifesaver. On our morning jog, a Golden Retriever has many temptations. There are some good things to be retrieved -- like sticks and pine cones. But there are also some things better not retrieved -- mostly stuff that occasionally flies out of a car window. Like a candy wrapper, a sales slip, or a packing peanut. Since some of Callie's jogging is on a golf course, she's also tempted frequently by a grass divot -- a hunk of grass and dirt that got gouged out of the golf course by a swinging golf club. She's pretty good at "leave it," if we see an offending piece of trash and yell "leave it" before Callie gets to it. But, much as we try to avoid this stuff, Callie still gets the jump on us sometimes. Occasionally, she sees some scrumptious looking piece of garbage before we do, and she's learned to make a quick stab before we can react. So, we've also gotten pretty good at prying her mouth open and reaching way down into her throat to eliminate the hazard. On Friday, she totally beat us to the "trash" with a lightning fast stab before anyone could utter the words "leave it!" But imagine our surprise when we reached down to the bottom of her throat and pulled out a nice, crisp five dollar bill! Who would have guessed? How would you train a dog to only retrieve paper currency? Are there any one-hundred-percent indestructible dog toys that we can buy for five bucks? BTW, "My Doggie Says... Messages from Jamie, the dog book I wrote about Callie's predecessor, Jamie, just won its fourth award -- a Silver Medal for non-fiction (Adult Books) in the Mom's Choice Awards. There's a nice review on their web site.

Decisions, Decisions, Puppy Decisions (by Callie)

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008
img_0569-2.jpg You know, I don't usually have to make a lot of decisions. Barbara and Fred decide a lot of stuff for me. Like when I get to eat, when we go jogging, what time we go to bed, and stuff like that. Sometimes, I do decide to take a nap. And sometimes it's hard to figure out which toy to play with, because I do have a lot of toys. So yesterday I'm walking down the hallway and Okie-Dokie the black cat goes walking by. That cat can be really arrogant. It walks with a swagger, and I swear it's always telling me, "ha, ha, I never have to be in a crate!" Or "cats are better than dogs." Actually, Okie-Dokie and I have become pretty good friends. We like to rub noses, and sometimes I lick Okie-Dokie's head. She seems to like that. But I really like to pester her sometimes, so it only took me a millisecond to decide to run down the hallway and pounce on Okie-Dokie -- just to see how loud she would "hiss!" But just as I started after Okie-Dokie, Barbara showed up at the other end of the hall in her jogging clothes and wearing her jogging fanny-pack. Uh-oh! Slam on the brakes! Given a choice between annoying Okie-Dokie and going jogging, I'll always go for the jog. It's much better exercise than pouncing on cats. Besides, I can go cat-pouncing just about any time I want. So I stopped myself in mid-pounce and ran over to Barbara so she could put my leash on. It wasn't a real hard decision to make, because I really like to go jogging, but it made me realize that my life is pretty simple most of the time. Eat, sleep, pounce on cats, pee, pooh, and eat some more. But you know what I really look forward to? The times when Fred and Barbara play with me and make me feel part of the family. Lots of times, I start the play by presenting them with one of my favorite toys. Then we play a game of "let's both hold this for a while." It's my favorite game, next to playing soccer with Fred. I'm getting to spend lots more time out of my crate, so I do have to make more decisions than before. But mostly it's deciding NOT to eat the rugs. Things seem to work better that way. Next time!

Five Things Your Dog Might "Say" When You Take It For A Walk

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008
To me, nothing could be more boring than a walk, or jog, with Callie when she "heels" every step of the way. (Not much danger of that, as she's still a full-of-beans puppy, but you know what I mean.) That's obedience run amuk. I love it when Callie participates in our morning jog, and we go out of our way to let her make a few of the decisions. 1. "I really like to go walking or jogging." For starters, what do you think your dog tells you when you're getting ready to go for a walk or jog? Does it get excited when you put your jogging clothes on? Does it hydrate when it sees the leash coming? Callie's predecessor, Jamie, did both of these things every morning before our jog. And Callie gets very excited when she sees me putting on my jogging shoes. She knows her turn is coming. 2. "OK. It's time to pee or pooh." You probably already know your dog's pee & pooh habits, but can you tell when it's sniffing for a place to do its business or just sniffing? When your dog starts sniffing the ground, it might be telling you, "Hey, I need to make a quick pit stop!" Your dog will appreciate it if you "hear" its message, and give it a little leeway. 3. "I need some help." Callie (and Jamie before) sometimes comes to a cold, hard STOP in the middle of a jogging step. My first reaction is usually, "Let's get on with it. We're jogging, not looking at scenery." But when a dog does this, it's often trying to say something. Jamie's message was often, "I've got some sticks stuck in my feathers, and I need some help getting them out." Here's a photo from My Doggie Says... Jamie was fine once we got the stick out of her butt feathers. Callie's feathers aren't quite as full yet, but last summer she did the "hard stop" thing a time or two because she got some tar in the hair between her toes. She appreciated it when we helped her clean things up. 4. "Could I please stop and retrieve something I see over there?" Another reason Callie stops sometimes is that she sees something she wants to retrieve. After all, she is a Golden Retriever. She has a very polite way of saying, "Could we please stop for a minute, so I can retrieve that pine cone?" Or, "Could I pick up that stick and carry it for a while?" There's nothing she'd rather do than carry a pine cone, or a stick, or a ball while she jogs. 5. "Could I please stop and get a drink out of that water sprinkler?" The first few times Jamie did this, it startled us. We had to think a little about what she was doing. But then the message became clear. She came to a complete stop right beside a water sprinkler. It was her polite way of asking, "can I grab a quick drink?" A daily walk or jog offers many opportunities to "listen" to your dog and get better at understanding what it's telling you.

Dog Whispering Is Fine, But Try Dog Listening, Too

Tuesday, March 4th, 2008
Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer, has a huge following and a way with dogs. You're probably familiar with his TV program & other works. Here's a recent article from the UK's Telegraph. It's been well demonstrated that dogs need to know who's in charge. In a wolf pack situation, there's an alpha animal. In a family home, the owner needs to be boss. But isn't there more to owning a dog than getting it to obey? "My Doggie Says... Messages from Jamie" is sort of a "Rosetta Stone" that can help you learn how to understand some of the messages hidden in your dog's behavior. Why did Fido do that? What's he trying to say? If you can learn to "decode" some of these messages, you can have a much more meaningful relationship with your dog. So what is Dog Listening? It's mostly about observing your dog's behavior and figuring out what it's trying to tell you. Have you ever seen your dog do something that didn't make a lot of sense at the time? Sometimes, if you work at it, you can figure out what your dog is saying. Here's a recent example. Yesterday, I took Callie on her morning jog by myself, because Barbara had an early meeting. When we reached the road that leads to the golf course parking lot, Callie made a big right turn and started to cross the street into the parking lot. My first reaction was, "Why in the world did she do that?" But then I realized that Barbara always takes her through the parking lot in order to get out of the street traffic for a while. Duh! Callie was just saying, "Can't we go this way? This is how Barbara and I usually do it." Both Callie and Jamie seem to remember every route they ever took, and they are quick to re-trace old paths. So why care which way Callie wants to go? I think it's good for a dog to be part of a relationship. Sometimes we do it Callie's way. Sometimes we do it my way. I don't see anything wrong with letting her call some of the shots. I think it's good for her self confidence, and it make our activities more of an interaction than "I command and you obey." Instead of a master/slave relationship, our relationship becomes more like two friends sharing an experience. How do you break doggie code? Here are a few tricks. Your dog's breeding has a lot to say about what it has to say. Callie's a golden retriever. If she starts to run toward a stick, it doesn't take rocket science to figure out that she's probably saying, "May I please retrieve that stick?" So keep in mind the things that your dog was bred to do. There are probably also some things that your dog just likes to do. For example, Callie loves to play soccer in the back yard. So when she sticks her nose through the crack in the sliding glass door to the back yard, it's easy to see that she's saying, "Hey, Fred, could we please play a little soccer?" img_5353-3.jpg Another good place to look to break doggie code is the recent past. Dogs are pretty good at remembering things. Barbara's been letting Callie carry a small rubber baseball on her jog, so when Callie stops in the middle of the street and looks at Barbara's fanny pack (containing the ball), it's pretty obvious that Callie is saying, "Could I please carry my ball now?" Sometimes, you have to stop and think, "What are the possibilities?" My adventure in learning to "listen" to Jamie started with a mysterious "wuuf" in the middle of the night. (A "wuuf" is a special doggie version of "woof.") I couldn't imagine what she was trying to say. So I went through a list of alternatives. She didn't need to go pee, or she would have run to the door. Same thing if she wanted to chase our neighbor's cats; she would have run to the door. Finally, I realized that, because of her ACL surgery some months earlier, she couldn't jump up on our bed any more. So I lifted her up onto the bed, and, sure enough, that's exactly what she was asking me to do. ch16_0013-2.jpg Dog Listening can be very rewarding for you and for your dog.

Do you and your dog have ESP?

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008
You've heard the stories about dogs that showed up on their owners' doorstep after being lost for months or years. Sometimes, these days, it's because they have an ID "chip" that tells a vet or a pound where they live. We blogged about the "Return of Pickles on Chrismas Day," on January 18. And just the other day, I overheard a conversation about another dog that found its own way home on Christmas Day. How do dogs find their own way home after being lost? Do they have ESP? Here, from is an interesting three- part article about dogs and ESP. Canine ESP: How It All Began Canine ESP: Do Dogs Rally Have ESP? Canine ESP: Can Dogs Sense Danger? These articles talk about:
  • A Collie named Bob, who found his way from the East Coast back to his home in Orgeon,
  • A mixed-breed named Henry who was left with friends when his family moved from Illinois to Michigan. Six weeks later, Henry greeted his family on a street corner in their new town in Michigan.
  • Prince, a German Shepherd who swam the English Channel during World War I to find his owner in a trench in France.
  • A mixed-breed dog named Daisy who somehow moved herself and four puppies 30 miles from to an apartment in New York City to re-unite with the people who had befriended her at a summer vacation resort.
  • A German Shepherd in Georgia that "knew" when his owner had been injured in a plane crash in Pennsylvania. The dog lay motionless until its owner regained consciousness.
  • A dog that saved the three children in his family from a forest fire burning five miles away.
  • A dog in Virginia that sensed when his family, vacationing in Florida, was in trouble -- they had been marooned in a flood.
  • Gary Cooper's dogs, who sensed the exact moment that he passed away.
Some of the scientific studies of parapsychology in animals are summarized in this article from Lots of people think they have an ESP connection with their pets. Not surprisingly, scientists say that the ability to have an ESP connection depends on the strength of the emotional tie between the subjects -- in this case, you and your dog. If you'd like to test your doggie-ESP, here are some experiments you can do. And here's a place where you can get your own ESP cards, although you may have to modify them a little for your dog. Is this the ultimate test of the strength of your relationship with your dog? Whether you have ESP or not, it's fun to try to "tune in" to your dog.

Another hero and another doggie occupation (By Callie)

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008
img_0569-2.jpg Oh, man, smack my forehead. Why didn't I think of it when I wrote "Top Ten Jobs that Dogs Could Do" on January 12? Of course: Personal Trainer! My hero today is that nameless, but magnificent, dalmation in yesterday's SuperBowl Budweiser commercial. When Hank the horse misses the cut for the Clydesdale team, the dalmation takes over as his personal trainer for a whole year. He has the horse lifting stacks of hay on a hoist, pulling a railroad flatbed car, running in the snow, and then, finally, pulling an entire train. Wow! And all to the music from Rocky. After all that, the dalmation gets a "high-five" from Hank, and Hank makes the Clydesdale team. It really made me cry puppy tears. If you haven't seen the commercial, here it is -- or maybe you'd like to see it again. I can't have puppies, but if I could, I'd sure be thinking about Golden Retrievers with black and white spots. If you didn't see the comments on yesterday's blog about Blackie, the Labrador retriever who sacrificed his life to save his owner, take a look. Blackie's mom, Dolores, checked in, which was just lovely. I'm sure we're all thinking about her and her family and the bittersweet feelings they must have right now.

Doggie Decisions and Building Doggie Trust

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008
How do dogs decide things? It's fascinating, sometimes, to watch their mental wheels go around as they make life's important decisions -- like "should I retrieve the stick or the tennis ball?" Yesterday on her morning jog, Callie found a really neat, good-sized stick to retrieve. She's learning to balance them better than before. Now she can do the puppy trick of "juggling" a stick a little and trying to carry it more in the center so it's balanced. She used to just hold on to one end, which was fun to watch, but not very puppy-efficient. So Callie's walking along (we're jogging; Callie is walking) carrying her stick, and she spots an almost-new tennis ball in the gutter. Decisions, decisions. First, with the stick still in her mouth, she sniffed at the tennis ball. (If you've read "My Doggie Says... Messages from Jamie," you know that Jamie was not a ball dog. So I'm getting used to Callie being not just a ball dog, but a fanatic ball dog.) It was easy to see that Callie was torn between her practically-perfect stick and a practically-perfect tennis ball. Finally, she dropped the stick and picked up the tennis ball. The ball was probably a little easier to carry, but she wrapped her mouth around it like she never intended to let go. Which was a good idea, because we walk on some very hilly streets, and a loose tennis ball wouldn't need more than a few seconds to find a storm drain and be on its way to the Pacific Ocean. When we got to Callie's favorite bridge ("touch the bridge") Callie faced another dilemma. She knows she gets a puppy treat if she "touches the bridge" on command. But how to eat a puppy treat with a tennis ball in your mouth? I watched to see what she would do, and it was clear that she didn't want to let go of the ball. So, finally, I took the ball, explaining in my best doggie dialect that I would give it back to her after she ate her puppy treat. I'm not sure she believed me, but, reluctantly, she let me have the ball and she ate her puppy treat. But then she quickly snatched the ball out of my hand, and we moved on. When we got to Callie's "jumping rock," ("My I please jump up on my jumping rock?"), we faced the same dilemma. Callie saying, "How can I eat a puppy treat with this ball in my mouth." But this time, she was noticeably more trusting. She let me take the ball while she ate her treat. Then she took the ball again, and off we went. img_0231-2.jpg Finally, we reached a rest-pee-and-puppy-treat spot. This time, Callie put the ball down all by herself. I held it so it wouldn't roll into one of the sewers, but Callie clearly trusted me, now, to give it back to her after her puppy treat. Trust is an important aspect of people-dog relationships, and you have to earn your doggie's trust.

A Dog's New Year's Resolutions (by Callie, Golden Retriever)

Friday, January 4th, 2008
Hi, this is Callie writing. I thought I'd share my New Year's Resolutions with you, so you can pass them on to your dog. img_0301-4.jpg 1. To get all the way through 2008 without eating anything that would show up in an X-Ray. 2. To start jogging, instead of just walking. My vet says I can start jogging when I'm fourteen months old, which will be in March. I love my morning walk, but a jog would be even more fun. 3. To be a better friend for Okie-Dokie the cat. She really doesn't like it when I sit on her, so I won't do that so much. 4. To work on my soccer skills. If you haven't seen me play soccer, take a look at the "All-Animal Soccer Team" link on this blog. I'm learning to jump really high and to do "nosers" (instead of 'headers'). 5. To not destroy any toy that has a tag saying it's "indestructible." 6. To get better about not jumping up on people. I'm learning, honest. But it's hard, and I need to keep working on it. After all, I'm still a puppy. 7. To spend more time playing with my Kong Toys. Man, they really are indestructible. And, besides, Barbara puts puppy treats and carrots inside, so I get a neat reward. img_0578-2.jpg 8. To be calmer around the house. My strategy is working. When I'm calm and don't chew on rugs and the furniture, Fred and Barbara let me spend more time outside of my crate. 9. Become an even better swimmer. This will have to wait until summer at Lake Arrowhead, but I think I'll get to swim without a leash this summer. And wait until you see some of my dives off the dock -- awesome, because I can really elevate! 10. To not pull on my leash so much and to do a better job of "heeling." I'm getting better, but there's room for improvement. 11. To work hard on my "retrieving" skills. After all, I am a Golden Retriever. I don't get to go hunting, but on my morning walk there are tons of sticks and pine cones. "Bigger and farther." That's my retriever motto for 2008. img_0569-2.jpg 12. To keep making more doggie and people friends. I really like to meet new doggies and people. I see lots of pals on my morning walk, but I keep making new friends, too. 13. To learn what I'm supposed to do when Fred says "lie down" or "shake paws." I'm getting there, but I need lots of practice. See ya' next time. Callie

Pickles (the dog) returns on Christmas day

Thursday, January 3rd, 2008
Here's a really sweet story about the return of Pickles, a four-year old Shih Tzu, that disappeared on Thanksgiving Day, 2006. Pickles showed up on Christmas day, this year, much to the thrill of Matthew, 11 years old, and Caroline, 9 years old, both of the Cusolito family of San Pedro, California. Another victory for the micro-chip, although it took a while. Click on the photo below to see the article in the Daily Breeze: 17336305t.jpg What a wonderful surprise! We've experienced the thrill of having a lost dog show up just about the time we'd given up hope. The dog was our Renne, a mixture of whippet and beagle. At the time, Renne was our third, or "extra" dog, but we loved her for her spunkiness. Renne jumped over a fence and disappeared for several weeks. During that time, Barbara visited all the local dog pounds, looking for Renne -- over and over. Finally, she found Renne, a small dog, in the "large dog" cages at one of the pounds. We were elated to have our good friend back home again. But imagine the excitement of having Pickles reappear on Christmas day, after a year's absence. What a nice present. It makes you appreciate how strong the family-pet relationship can be.