Things I Learned from Dogs..not necessarily in 2011

Dog on beach

© 123RF

Dog

© 123RF

Over the years I have learned a few things about my dogs, and dogs in general.

One of my earliest memories is when a family friend’s dog stayed with us. I remember we were all bouncing on the sofa and I picked up her leash. She went MANIC! Yep – dogs LOVE walks.

So here are some other things I’ve learned…in no order, whatsoever, and not necessarily in 2011…

1. Dogs love food. Seriously L.O.V.E. food.
It doesn’t matter if it’s wet or dry dog chow, carrots, crumbs on the floor, garbage at the curb, wagyu beef… your food, their food.. all the same – their food. When it’s my dinnertime, in a flash, two noses appear out of nowhere, sniffing the air, thumping me for attention and tails wagging in anticipation.  Let’s just say that they get a lot of practice on their tricks and commands… food is their best motivator. And since I don’t always eat at a table, I’m not technically feeding them from a table (which isn’t a very good habit to form by the way).

Of course not all dogs love food equally. Some dogs and some breeds just love it more. I haven’t yet met a lab who doesn’t love food. Or a goldie, or a beagle, or a maltese..and all mixed breeds…okay so maybe all dogs LOVE food.

silver lining and the take away? my dogs are well-rehearsed for their tricks – a dinner and a show for my guests….and an instant 24/7 garburator (which I miss!) for anything I can’t finish (better than chucking it into your girlfriend’s heirloom napkin).

2. What bed?
I’ve always slept with my dogs. Even on a double mattress, a little dog leaves me a ton of room but now with a 6’2″ husband and two large dogs, a queen sized mattress is nothing! I’m getting only a sliver of space, right at the edge. It’s either that or being in the middle, pinned down on every side by dog or human. A little claustrophobic for me.  On those nights when the hubby insists on making our air con work and our room a sub-zero paradise (for him), that’s when the blanket disappears…and re-forms as a little soft mountain under Blackspot.

On the same line as what bed? is what chair? what apartment? I think those with kids, especially young kids with a penchant for throwing toys like dice, will understand. I have dog toys everywhere. The number 1 favourite toy at our house is a ball so you can imagine some of the three stooges moments I have during the day, but especially the night when my night vision really isn’t as good as the dogs’.

silver lining or the take away? creamy entertains herself with hide and seek and swap and trade. i also have great accent pieces for the apartment in lime green, pumpkin orange and an array of tennis balls – good backup for those times i can’t find any for, well, an actual game of tennis. and who can’t do with more flexibility? and humour? 

3. Dogs are creatures of comfort
So aside from sleeping on a pile of blanket or clothes, the dogs always find the carpet or even the bathmat to sleep on. Sometimes I forget I even had a towel on the ground but Creamy will find it.

The place where Creamy always slept, before we got our furniture, was my pink chair, my very expensive pink chair. Then after the rest of the shipment arrived, her new favourite spot is now on our (very white) daybed. Creamy is our Goldie who has a magnetic attraction for waterholes and mud, and walking through high grass. She’s a tracker…of dirt. But to her, what’s white furniture? Comfort is comfort and if it came with a hefty price tag, that was our choice, not hers. She does have good taste.

As I sit here writing this blog, our very obedient Blackspot is on the carpet (ie floor) while Creamy is on the daybed. Blackspot was trained NOT to be on furniture (except the bed) and we always wonder what she thinks about all the Creamy shenanigan. But both are happily snoozing away. So another thing about dogs? It’s not the size of the apartment that counts, but the length and frequency of outings!

silver lining or the take away? at least our furniture is being used! and Creamy reminds me where that sneaking laundry was hiding.

4. Dogs are Psychic
Or they appear so because they are such masters at reading body language. That’s how dogs communicate with each other, mostly signals too subtle for the untrained eye. A flick of the ear with a quick swish of a high tail. So while dogs may not understand English, they know what we want. We’re sending all sorts of signals to them, even if we don’t realize it. And yeah – spelling w-a-l-k doesn’t work!

As with anything, some dogs are just better at it. The first time we presented Blackspot with two closed fists, one with a treat, she IMMEDIATELY knew what we were asking for. She quickly pawed the one with the treat. 

silver lining or the take away? good practice at sussing other people’s body language.

5. Dogs don’t like to be stared at.
Who likes to be stared at anyway? As with people, it’s just downright rude and a challenge. For Creamy, a stare is just an invitation to go in for a pet. She ignores many conventional “rules” and pretty much lives in her own world (where she thinks ass-bumping will get her friends).  For Blackspot, complexity and subtlety rule (she’s smart like that).  What she doesn’t like is people standing still and staring at her, undoubtedly sending her bad thoughts or just plain fear. These same people also unnerve me.  

A general rule for Blackspot? Things that should move but don’t (cutouts of people or mannequins or aforementioned rude people) and things that shouldn’t be animated but are (battery-operated stuff animals) don’t make sense and need a bark to get them back into the natural order of things.

At home, Blackspot will stare at us, watching what we’re doing. Partly out of curiosity and partly she’s probably just reading our body language. When someone is upset, there’s no way she’d stare, even to check out what’s going on. (more on body language and non verbal communication – see point above)

silver lining or the take away? don’t stare at dogs! Blackspot helps me differentiate between plainly rude people and those with no-good on their mind.

6. They are toy dogs, not toys.
Even though some breeds are called toy dogs and some dogs LOVE to be touched, coddled, carried, and hugged, they are NOT toys! I’m guilty myself of wanting to hug my dogs (toy dogs or not)… but you can’t squeeze your love into them.

Don’t dress them up in role play.  Just don’t dress them up. Except for functional reasons.  Don’t carry them 24/7 – they need to touch ground (hopefully grass). And they can’t just be discarded when the next new shiny thing comes up.  

7. Dogs shed and Goldies REALLY shed
Having grown up with low-shedding dogs, I was amazed at how much hair fell off from Blackspot. Having cats definitely prepared me for it. And let me tell you, hair gets EVERYWHERE… then I got used to it.

I didn’t think much of a shedding Goldie when we adopted Creamy. What’s more hair when I’m already swifter-ing and vacuuming all the time? I was wrong.

Creamy’s hair is light – it clusters in corners, floats through the entire apartment, and sometimes even suspends in mid-air. She sheds ALL the time. No matter how much I brush her and I have a great brush (The Furminator!), it’s still piles and piles. And you CANNOT shave Goldies because they have an undercoat.

If you don’t like hair and don’t like to/have the time to clean or don’t have a 24/7 helper, Goldies aren’t for you, especially in the Singapore climate where Goldies shed a lot all year long, rather than shed all year long with copious amounts twice a year…

silver lining or the take away? cleaning and vigorous daily brushing is good for those triceps and no more buying yarn for those sweaters you knit. yep – you can spin dog’s hair and use that to knit! seriously.

8. What I actually learned in 2011
Creamy LOVES squirrels and so do lots of dogs. Some random stranger came up to me to relay how his spaniel goes nuts. He actually stood there watching in amusement before that, while Creamy ran full tilt to the end of her leash, in a semi-circle, in the squirrel’s direction. 

Creamy knows “quick, quick”. Quite by chance I figured that out. She’s smarter than she lets on.

Spaying means taking out the whole female reproductive system, which has implications for hormonal balance. Until dog ownership is more responsible, desexing your dogs has to be part of the solution to the current issues. But if you can find a good holistic vet, that’s the best for your dog’s health.

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I’ve learned a lot about dogs over the years. Some stuff is pretty obvious and I could go on and on… but the cool thing is what you can learn about yourself – how you can stumble out of bed at 4am for the 11th time to take your puppy outside for potty training – how easily you can plan a social schedule around your dog’s mealtimes and potty outings – how you’ll gladly share your expensive furniture that you make your sister touch with a white glove – how you realize your dog eats better than you and you really need to ramp it up – how you don’t drink enough water and thank god you’re up every hour pouring some for your dog, and maybe yourself – how you think walks are for the dogs but will get up at 4am (again) to take them out – how keeping a schedule (mealtimes, vet visits, heartworm medication, etc) isn’t that hard…for your dog – how you can talk nonstop for hours about your dog with a total stranger but yet still be a wallflower at parties – this list goes on and on… but topping it, is: how full of love you are! And how does it get better than that? 


What Lessons Have You Learned From Your Dog? from Modern Dog Magazine

5 Life Lessons from Your Dog

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