The Fruits of Consistency

Things are always relatively relaxed around here. Even Teddy — who’s pretty energetic and wound up — is a very chill dog. I’ve been realizing more lately what a great dog he is. I’ve experienced life with a lot of puppies and how — until they’re about 3 — they’re more puppy than dog. Teddy is almost 3 and he’s turning into a very responsive, intelligent little guy. There are some things I think — because of his breed — he’s never going to “learn” such as heeling on the leash 100% of the time. I don’t really care if he never learns that. He’s never going to stop being over the moon when people he likes come through the front door (including me). Every breed of dog has a behavior blueprint in its DNA. I guess we do, too.

All dog trainers stress “consistency” when training a dog and that is the most important thing, keep doing it even though the dog doesn’t seem to get it at all ever because there will be a moment when suddenly your dog “understands” what you’re asking. Teddy has reached that point and it’s wonderful to watch, to participate in. Lately he’s been responding to hand signals without my ever having taught him to. When I saw him do that the first time — and it was a complex “sentence” (Come around the table and you’ll avoid Bear) — I realized how much attention he pays to everything I do, looking for messages. Since then I’ve tried a few more signals with him and it’s amazing. One signal is as if I were happily wagging my tail at him as he is happily wagging his little nubbin of a tail. He wags his tail even faster and smiles. Another is a silent call with a “come here” gesture either with my index finger or my whole hand combined with raised eyebrows, “Come and get a cookie.” I never “taught” him these things. Val, from “A Different Perspective,” said Australian shepherds attempt telepathic communication with their people. It is something like that — but not just from him to me but from me to him.

In all my 20+ dogs, I’ve never had a dog like Teddy. If it’s not his turn for a walk, and I tell him to stay, he stays. I am not sure — but it seems — he stays in the same place the whole time I’m gone OR returns to that spot when he hears the car (which is actually cooler).

I’ve now taken both of them on a walk together — a big relief for all of us. I waited until the injured shoulder was indisputably as good as it’s going to get. Bear walked perfectly at heel on my right the whole time. Teddy trolled the edges of the road for smells. It was as if Bear knew that, with the little guy along, she needed to make my life a little easier.

Yesterday I had to take Bear to the vet for her shots. I always hope there are no other dogs when I arrive with Bear, and I was lucky. We had the waiting room — the entire practice — to ourselves at 4:45. Bear doesn’t like unfamiliar things and she didn’t want to climb onto the scale so I got on with her then hopped (ha ha) off quickly. She gets a lot of attention at the vet because she’s so unique. There are not many Akbash dogs around and most of them are farm dogs that roam the countryside with their sheep. If they are vetted, it’s at the farm. Very few are pets. I love watching people meet her. She’s so gentle and calm. She stood quietly while the vet examined her and gave her the shot which made me feel a little proud of myself for having made a point of “examining” her often when she was a puppy. I could just imagine a vet trying to examine a giant livestock guardian dog who was unwilling to be touched.

I think dogs are great teachers for the universal truth that every other being on the planet is a separate self and doesn’t automatically submit to our will. From living with multiple dogs at once, I’ve learned a lot about that from watching them together, establishing their boundaries with each other, usually ultimately amicably, sadly not always. I seen them adopt each others behaviors and form packs of dissimilar beings just to live together because that was the reality of their existence.

20 thoughts on “The Fruits of Consistency

  1. Herding dogs like Aussie shepherds, Aussie cattle dogs and Border Collies have very high intelligence and have been bred for the ability to learn hand language. We have a smooth coat border collie mix (Avery) and she is smarter than we are. She taught us to play fetch. When she grabs a ball and tosses it into our lap it is almost impossible to resist the urge to throw it.

  2. Martha–your dogs are so cute. I think that no matter how big or how old Teddy gets, he will always be ‘little Teddy’ to me. So sweet.

  3. Wow! I think you and I may be telepathic, lol. I have been going through the same thoughts and light bulb moments too. Loki is 3 now and he does exactly the same. Acknowledges signals and commands we never taught him, and has the same excited greeting when someone comes through the door. Unfortunately, they aren’t dog people and it pisses them off but I doubt it’s something that will ever change. He loves people!

  4. Teddy is a typical Aussie – they are hardwired to interpret and respond to human facial expressions and body language. It does not surprise me that he has learned your communication style! Martha you have 2 perfect dogs for you – Bear with her intuition and steady confidence and Teddy with his intelligence and willingness to please.

    • And they love each other. Neither of my other Aussies were like Teddy, but I got one when she was five years old and I was her third human. The other was 7 and hadn’t had much of a life until my friend adopted her then she came to live with me. ❤

  5. Ophelia is similar to Teddy. She responds to hand signals really well, and we never taught her them. I just started to realize it as she grew out of her puppy brain.

Comments are closed.