Doggie Decisions and Building Doggie Trust

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.