It really does amuse me that there is an animal wandering around, making our house its home. This butler-of-sorts eagerly announces visitors, cleans up spills from the floor, acts as a personal trainer, and provides on-going entertainment and insight into the fascinating human-canine connection. Our Australian Shepherd, Dingo, gives us much to marvel at.
We often hear how intelligent this breed of dog is, which makes me wonder if I’m smart enough to play Alpha to her Einstein. Try as I may, I can’t figure out some of her behaviours…or mine, as her owner.
Given that I am reasonably uptight about germs – not those that spawn the common cold – remarkably, I don’t rush to wash out my mouth or seek a full course of antibiotics after Dingo head butts my face and her wet tongue spreads slobber onto my chin, mouth and nose. Instead, I banish the thoughts of the morsels she’s been snacking on in the back yard after the rabbits have been to visit, and while walking on the country roads frequented by horses.
When discussing dog training at the pet store, the clerk inquired if our dog is “treat motivated.” I laughed. The word “motivated” does not begin to describe the intensity of Dingo’s behaviour when there is a possibility of treat disbursement. “Obsessive” and “fanatical” are words that leap to mind, as she frantically attempts to perform any trick or obey any command when the prospect of a treat looms in her immediate future.
Dingo needs near-constant reminders to heel, sit, stay…and refrain from demonstrating her fondness for some people by leaping unbelievably high and jamming her nose into the face of her object of unbridled adoration. But if we allow a rule to be broken, even just once, she sees it as an invitation to start a delightful new habit which is as hard to break as a non-splintering marrow bone. If, during a weak moment, we allow her on the couch, she will continue to confidently hop back up, looking innocently like it’s us humans who have forgotten the new and improved rule.
But most amusing is her irrational fear of inanimate objects…
When my grasp barely closes on the handle of the broom, Dingo senses, from wherever she is, the “need” to leap to attention. I’m certain I hear the theme to “Mission Impossible” as her eyes snap wide open, her head turns abruptly, and in stealth mode, she skids down hallways and slides around corners. She then mercilessly attacks the bristles of the broom with a vigour that suggests she is saving her mistress from almost certain demise.
We don’t mind when she gets wet – she is a dog, after all – but she seems to have developed an intense fear of …the towel. Whenever she comes in from the rain, she dodges anybody who could be concealing a towel on his or her person. She dashes to the safety of her kennel, and settles in, knowing we won’t attempt to dry her while she’s there. Eventually, she’ll venture back out, but not before suspiciously peeking around the corner to see if anybody is wielding Terry the Terrible.
Although dog ownership can be filed, without question, under W for “What were we thinking,” life with Dingo really is enjoyable. Just ask her…and if you happen to have a treat in your pocket, she’ll do everything possible to speak the answer!
Originally published in the Waterloo Region Record