Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Watching The Gazer

You can't teach an old dog new tricks?  Sometimes they teach themselves.

My dog, Lettie, is going to be 12 later this year.  She's slowing but that doesn't mean she's stopped.   Her personality is always changing and she's always alert.  I've met dogs that were just doorstops or strongly willful.  Mine seems to have a job, and I am it so while I'm watching her, she's watching me.

Lately I've been able to get up and walk out of the room while she's not paying attention.  Her hearing is going, but not gone.  Some days are better than others.  I have been able to get up, walk out of the house, come back later and she's not moved from the spot.  Other times, it's a game of hide and seek where she's doing a full house perimeter search to see where I have disappeared to.

Usually that happens late in the evening when I have gone to brush my teeth and she's being distracted.

Use the bathroom, close the door, and she's sitting outside staring at the door waiting for it to open.

I guess that's the definition of Faithful Sidekick because I wouldn't want to be hanging outside a bathroom door waiting on someone.

This habit of watching is somewhat extreme.  If I'm in the kitchen cooking, she goes through distinct phases of "Let me watch".  First she'll just tag along as you walk into the Kitchen and set out the food.  That changes into "Let me have some while I watch".  You tell her no, claim the kitchen and she'll walk out. 

But wait, there's more! 

You see, instead of going to the mat where she's more comfortable, I now become the Subject of the Gazer.  Sticking around the corner is a black wet nose and two brown eyes.  This will go on for as long as I am in the kitchen.

Nice to have a good friend, but remember that Dogs and boiling water or cooking sugar do not mix.

There is a trick that you can teach your dog, no matter what breed or age.  It really isn't a trick, more of a Survival Trait.  It's what we call "Claim Your Space".  Being intensely social, dogs will try to be with you all the time, sometimes under foot.   If you are the Pack Leader as you should be, your dog should accept being excluded from being quite so close by your claiming an area.  In the case of Lettie, she's accepted that the door is my space so well that she won't go in the house until I go first.

To claim the space, simple step into it by putting yourself between you and the dog.  Then gently nudge forward.  The dog will give way and back up.   When my dog had full hearing I would say "Back up" and wave my hand at her in an appropriate sign.  Now she's good at realizing what that hand waggle means now that her hearing is a sometimes thing.

That doesn't stop the gazing, and I'm honored to have her that interested in the mundane actions I do throughout the day and evening, but it does keep her out of harms way and safe.

If your dog doesn't accept you as the pack leader, then you have a problem.  You'll have one of those dogs that other walkers would cross the street to avoid or that you'll be dragging away from other dogs because you're uncomfortable with your own capability to control the dog. 

After all, it's not a dumb animal, it could very well be a dumb human.

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