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Blog for michdwy

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Innate Intelligence of Dogs

by michdwy on 9/18/2010 at 6:48 AM in Training

Recently I wrote a blog concerning the use of a ball in training and this has led me to think about how dogs' innate intelligence now, has been developed through the many thousands of years collaboration with man. Obviously it is the closest relationship of any two animals, only that of man and horse comes anywhere near it. Despite the fact that of course other primates are closer to us genetically, they do not understand us in many ways as much as a dog does. One of these is hand signals. A chimpanzee for instance does not understand when we use our hand to point, even if it at food, although they use their own hands in many way like humans do. The significance of our pointing is lost on them, not on a dog however. Although, of course, a dog does not communicate by means of pointing a leg, like their ancestors, they use their heads.

It would be much more natural for a dog to understand us if we too, like the wolf, had a pronounced long nose, but as we do not, they have difficulty following a direction by us pointing our head, however, if you stick out your arm they will very quickly understand what you mean. It is perhaps the easiest thing to teach a dog. Although so alien to them, they seem to understand it innately. It is of course essential to use it with deaf dogs, but very useful with any particularly hunting or working dogs. If a dog is off leash and perhaps going ahead, it is the simplest thing to call or whistle to summon its attention and point in the direction you wish it to go. If you don't already do it, you will be surprised how dogs understand this peculiar gesture very quickly indeed.

What follows is not of any practical use, but just an illustration of how intelligent and amazing dogs are.

I have a burglar alarm at home, not really necessary at night when I have several dogs, one of whom is an especially good watchdog. However, as it is a further deterrent, I switch it on. It uses infra-red sensors, one of which is situated in the hall below the stairs, which will pick up movement at the bottom of the stairs, ignoring the first movement (because insects may crawl across the sensor) and react to the second movement, starting a rising sound for several seconds, giving time to get to the box to switch off before the alarm goes off. My dogs sleep upstairs in my bedroom. In the morning, of course, they are keen to go on their early morning walk, and have to wait for me to use the bathroom and dress. A few years ago, my ex-racing whippet cross (a lurcher)called Tigger decided one morning that it would run down the stairs whilst I was still not ready. Of course it set the alarm off. Tigger did this perhaps twice over a period of weeks then discovered that if it could run down the stairs and wait under the sensor in the hall, that it would not set the alarm off, because of the alarm being adjusted to only go off on the second movement. I found this amazing. Later when I got the second dog, Millie, she too ran down the steps with Tigger but went further and set the alarm off. After one or two failures, she too learnt where she could stand without starting that horrible racket.
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Obsession with a ball

by michdwy on 8/24/2010 at 6:24 AM in Training

Playing ball is of course a very popular pastime, enjoyed by many owners and their dogs. It is also a useful training activity, encouraging a dog to work to commands and returning to the owner. It should not however be used as the exclusive activity for it could become an obsession.

A dog's love of playing with a ball is a key component in the selection of dogs for training in specific occupations, for instance, police and military work. A sniffer,tracker or protection dog is allowed to play with the ball for a very limited time, perhaps even only one throw, when it has completed its appointed task. It is never allowed to play with the ball indefinitely.

Although the ball is very useful tool, it should never replace the walk. The daily treks with the owner are the most essential exercise for all dogs, and playing with a ball should only be incorporated in the walk for a short period.

I am stimulated to write this because recently, although I am fully aware of the foregoing, I have been guilty of allowing my pug-zu to have become obsessed with a ball. I walk a small pack of dogs of various breeds, and usually on one of our daily walks in the afternoon we are accompanied by a friend with her two dogs. As it is the school holidays, her 14 year old son has accompanied us. As he is much more active than we are, he throws balls for the dogs all the time and the younger ones particularly enjoy it. My pug-zu really loves him and is so obsessed with chasing the ball that she cannot spare the time, even though we are out for one to two hours, to carry out the necessary toilet functions. As we walk on rough moorland and the dogs are all off leash, we do not have to pick up poo so I had not noticed that Boo was so engrossed, that she failed to carry out her toilet needs.

Unfortunately two nights running, she was unable to hold it back any longer, with disastrous consequences. As she has been completely clean since I have had her for two years, it came as a shock to me when she had made deposits in my bedroom overnight. As she was obviously very well, I was at a loss to understand why she had done this. Then I realised what was happening. To counteract it, I now ensure that on our last walk at night, with just Boo and Millie, I keep a close eye on Boo and ensure that she has done her duty before we retire.

Ideally I should do as I preach, only allow her to play with the ball for a limited period, but as the school holidays will soon be over, I have not the heart to break up this love affair.

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