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October 9, 2013: Inside of a Dog

I believe that if we live long enough, that key events circle back on themselves. An example: Twelve years ago I acquired Rainbow, and shortly thereafter, I enrolled her in an agility class. At the same time, I began reading everything I could find on the subject of dog training and behavior. My main area of interest/favored breed became border collies. This was in part because Rainbow is part border collie. And because writers like Jon Katz and Elisabeth Rose wrote so eloquently about their attempts to co-exist with these very smart dogs.

My reading/species interest did an about face when we moved to Alaska. I became horse obsessed and began reading

everything I could find on the subject of Iceland horse training and behavior.

The circle part – I now own a border collie. And so I’ve resumed reading about dog training and behavior. Right now, I’m reading Alexandra Horowitz’s Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know. It’s a bit on the dry side; however, it alerts me to the importance of paying attention to my dog’s Umwelt, or point of view. The umwelt is based on the dog’s environmental leanings and genetic make-up. If say, a dog has a propensity for herding, it’s probably based on both these things.

A case in point – I am attempting to see the world through Ryder’s eyes, taking her herding instincts into account. Pete rightly observed (based on her interactions with Jenna and Rainbow) that Ryder has been socialized by other dogs, and most likely these were dogs of her kind. Still, I’m working at putting her in situations in which she must interact with other breeds.

Last Sunday we introduced Ryder to a two year old Papillion/Chuauia. The little dog appeared to be a smaller version of Ryder. Ryder, of course, wanted to be the herder. And the little dog was content to be the herdee. Around the yard they raced, moving in tight circles and zig-zags. The two finally took a break, with Ryder feigning taking off again.

Last night we introduced Ryder to an 11-month old malamute puppy. Ryder again wanted to herd, but puppy did not want to be chased. (I was told that earlier, she’d been on a long walk). So Ryder ran off and checked out all the rooms in the house. Every so often they’d stop and check one another out, but there was other than this, no other interaction.

Today, I introduced Ryder to a one-year old English Shepherd. Both Ryder and Fiona (from the get-go) wanted to be the herder. So at first there was some sparring and canine baring. They finally took off, with one running and chasing the other, then reversing roles. They interspersed this activity with wrestling bouts. Ryder, who weighs 30 pounds, began to slam into Fiona, who weighs about 50 pounds. Fiona then did sideways summersaults.

Quite obviously, Ryder is at heart a herder. And as such, she’s wired to chase. At the same time, she’s also wired to collect and sort. I have been attempting to draw upon this latter inclination in teaching her to keep from jumping on people. When she jumps up, I hand her one of the many stuffed animals that we have scattered about the house. This works. It’s fun to watch her then either settle down for a good chew or to take the toy into another room, where she adds it to her collection. It’s as if she’s saying “Everything has its place, and every place has its thing.”

I’m looking forward to when we’ll start attending obedience classes. How lucky I am, to pick up on doing something I abandoned, in order to do something else.

Next: 198: 10/10/13: Hold your Horses