Callie Golden Retriever, even though she’s over 6 1/2 years old, still uses her training crates as a “special place” — a “home at home.” She’s never locked in; totally free to come an go. It’s mostly a place for her to keep a few toys and deposit a pair of dirty socks, if she finds some lying around the house. But she also sleeps in the crate for a few hours every night. There’s one crate at home and one at Lake Arrowhead, and she seems to treasure both equally.
The other day, I got a rare look inside Callie’s emotions. Barbara and I were cleaning up our bedroom at Lake Arrowhead to prepare for a carpet cleaner to come in and steam-clean the carpets. We weren’t quite sure what to do with Callie’s crate, but, after some deliberation, we decided to lift it up and put it on top of our bed — so it wouldn’t be in the way of the carpet-cleaners.
Well, Callie freaked out — in a cute way. First she did a deep “bow” (a stress-reducer). Then she jumped up in the air and spun around in a circle. After that, she ran to me, stood up on her hind legs, and put her front paws on my shoulders — looking for a big hug. She was obviously puzzled that we had lifted her crate, and she seemed to be looking for reassurance that everything was OK.
It was really a very special, revealing moment. Dogs don’t always express their feelings, but Callie sure let us know that her crate is her special place and she wasn’t too thrilled to have us messing with it.
Callie Golden Retriever is an amazingly social dog — probably more social than any other dog I’ve had. She has lots of people friends and doggie friends, and she just loves to make new friends. She isn’t indiscriminate in picking her friends. She has a strong sense for which people and dogs will work for her. For example, she generally avoids poodles, who don’t seem to care too much about Golden Retrievers. But a Golden Retriever puppy that looks like Callie? Perfect! Bandit is about six months old and very calm for a puppy. She and Callie had a wonderful visit at the Lake Arrowhead Village. Which, by the way, is a great place to socialize dogs. Bandit’s mom brings her to the village several times a week, just so Bandit can meet other dogs. How smart is that? Good #dogbonding and good doggie socializing. Don’t forget the #dogbonding conversation on Twitter!
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!
The whole point of “My Doggie Says… Messages from Jamie” is that your dog is probably “talking” to you more than you realize and that it is possible to get proficient at interpreting the messages. “My Doggie Says…” is a collection of eighty-five color photographs that capture different behavioral messages that Jamie is sending. Sometimes it takes some detective work to decipher what your dog is saying, but it’s worth it. As you get better at understanding “dog,” your relationship with your pet will improve noticeably.
Here’s an interesting article, by Nadine Steele, that describes a whole host of messages your dog might be sending you if it feels some kind of frustration or tension. Dogs have a lot of “code” for different kinds of tension that they feel. Nadine’s article does a great job of identifying the important ones.
This photo was taken on a recent fishing trip at Lake Arrowhead. Callie loves to go fishing. Actually, she loves just about everything at Lake Arrowhead, but she’s really in her element on our boat, cruising from fishing spot to fishing spot, sniffing my bass before I release them back into the lake, and roaming around the boat without her leash.
She’s a terrific fishing buddy. She obviously loves being on the boat and letting her coat blow in the wind as we cruise around the lake. She starts to get excited when she sees my fishing rod bend down from the weight of a fish. She watches attentively while I net a fish and remove the hook. (I release all the bass I catch.) And she usually takes a sniff, or a lick, at my catch before I put it back in the lake.
I’ve had a lot of dogs, and, as you know, I wrote a book about Jamie Golden Retriever (“My Doggie Says…: Messages from Jamie”), but I’ve never had a dog that participates as much as Callie. She’s part of the team, and she knows what she’s supposed to do every step of the way. When we first get on our boat, Callie is on her leash — so she won’t dive into the lake and do one of her other favorite things — go for a swim. But once she’s on the boat, the leash comes off. It was easy to train her to stay inside the boat. All it took was a couple of corrections when she started to climb up on the bow or the stern. Now she roams freely on the boat, and she’s obviously proud to have so much freedom.
Some dogs would just be a “bump on a log.” They might just go along for the ride, but not Callie. She interacts and participates every step of the way. She asks for fresh water if her water bowl is low. She looks for a comfortable place to sit — or lie — sometimes in the sun, sometimes in the shade. On a hot summer day, she will ask me to put up the bimini top, so she’ll have some shade to lie in. When we leave one fishing spot for another, she looks for a place to sit beside me. Sometimes, she’ll wait to climb up on the seat until I move a fishing rod or boat line out of the way. Always interacting, and always extremely polite.
If you follow this blog, you know that Callie and I play soccer every day. Here’s what that looks like.
This has been an incredible bonding process. Callie’s focus “comes and goes” during our soccer matches. So I’ve had to learn how to adapt to, and “manage”, her focus and attention span. Sometimes, Callie gets off to a hot start and then loses interest. Sometimes, she has a difficult time getting started. I’ve learned a few tricks about keeping her interest level up. If she gets completely distracted (by eating grass, for example) it usually works to “stop” the game (literally, put the ball away) and then “start” it again.
We’ve gone through a couple of periods (a few days, perhaps) when Callie just didn’t seem very interested in playing soccer. One thing I’ve noticed this summer, though, is that usually after a few days at Lake Arrowhead, she attacks the soccer game with more vigor than ever. She’ll play for ten minutes without letup, answering my every kick with a “noser” — a “bonk” off her Golden Retriever nose.
As I try to tune into her energy levels, I’ve discovered that her “focus” sometimes reflects mine. If I’m distracted and thinking about some work issue, Callie seems to lose interest. If I work hard at staying “in the present” and staying focused on the game, she gets more “into it.” It’s almost as if she is training me to stay focused and “in the moment.” Is Callie my Zen-Dog Person Trainer?
My relationship with Callie goes far beyond fishing and soccer. Callie is the most socially interactive dog I’ve ever been around. She has several doggie boyfriends in the neighborhood, and, when she sees them coming, she gets very excited — wagging her tail and rushing to say “hello.” But it’s not every dog; she’s selective.
Callie is the same with people. If she sees a people friend, she either rushes to say “hi,” or she sits and waits for the person to catch up. When she’s walking near, or on, the nearby golf course, Callie is always looking for greens keeper Jeff — or his red golf cart. Jeff is probably Callie’s favorite person outside our family. Because Callie is so friendly, I have made a lot of new friends — both dog friends and people friends.
One of the most endearing things that Callie does is to sit down beside me and “ask” me to scratch her throat and neck. This can happen when I’m working in my office, watching TV, or sleeping soundly at 2:00 in the morning. It doesn’t matter; I’m always glad to accommodate her request. The message seems to be, “Just checking to make sure everything’s OK.”
This kind of #dogbonding has a spiritual and philosophical side to it. It sure feels like Callie is helping me grow in a lot of different ways.
Callie Golden Retriever (in the foreground of the photo) is the most social dog I’ve ever known. She has countless doggie and people friends. But that doesn’t mean she’s friends with everyone. She’s selective. And she has a few favorites. In this photo, she’s visiting with her Lake Arrowhead neighbors, Reilly, Ruckus, and Rowdy.
But yesterday, she did something that just blew me away. In our home neighborhood, Callie has two special “boyfriends,” Sampson, a yellow Labrador Retriever, and Lucky, a Golden Doodle. We were walking with Cousin Maggie Golden Retriever (my daughter’s dog), and joy-of-joys, for Callie, along walks her special friend Sampson. Maggie is very friendly, too, but when Maggie tried to say “hello” to Sampson, Callie pushed herself in between Maggie and Sampson. She wasn’t going to let Maggie get anywhere near her “man.” Where’s the camera when I need it?
Don’t dogs do the most amazing things sometimes?
Have you seen dogs act like this before? If so, please comment.
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Georgina Bradley, certified professional dog trainer, is the founder and backbone of DogStars.com. Her training center in Vancouver, British Columbia, not only turns out DogStars, it helps them find opportunities to show off their stuff. For example, Georgina helped train the dogs for the 1995 movie, “101 Dalmations.” In this podcast, Georgina explains some of the basic training required for a dog to become aDogStar, and she teaches you how to train your dog to do the “eye line” trick, a key behavior for a dogstar.
Callie Golden Retriever loves to make friends at Lake Arrowhead Village — both people friends and doggie friends. Yesterday, she sat patiently with Cody, a lovely Australian Shepherd puppy, while Barbara and I had lunch at the waffle restaurant. The restaurant has some nice outdoor seating, so Callie can sit in the shade just a few feet away from us while we eat brunch — at the edge of Lake Arrowhead.
You don’t have to watch a dog for very long, sometimes, to get a feel for its personality. Well, Cody was really fun to watch. He’s just full of beans and energy. Inquisitive. Friencly. Non-threatening. But very confident. He’ll be a great, well-socialized adult.
Callie loved Cody, but that’s not unusual. Callie, too, is an incredibly well socialized doggie. It’s especially fun to see her interact with smaller dogs, because she plays a very humble and submissive role. She tries to make herself smaller (lower) than the other dog, and it pretty much always works!