A trip down memory lane

I’m inviting you to take a trip down memory lane with me this week, as I tell you a little about when I first came to live with my bipeds.

As soon as we left the house where I’d been living with my mother and siblings, my new bipeds carried me to the car. We didn’t have to go far at all, but I heard some passing youngsters say how cute I was! When we got in the car one of the bipeds sat with me and made sure I was comfortable and safe, so I settled down and went to sleep for most of the journey.

Memory Lane

This is how I imagine Memory Lane

Attribution: By Jongleur100 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

When we arrived, they carried me indoors and took me to the kitchen. I had been allowed to investigate a little in my mother’s house, so I knew I was up to the task of finding out about my new home. I set off across the room and I soon came across a bowl of food. I later found out that the food had been intended for Pippin, the cat, but I hadn’t eaten for a couple of hours! I took every opportunity there was to eat while I was growing – I was always hungry!

After I’d licked the bowl clean, my new bipeds opened the back door. The doorstep was a bit tricky for my short legs, but I soon found my way out into the back garden to explore. I walked across the path and onto the grass. I hadn’t been on grass before, it felt springy under my paws. I wandered about while my bipeds kept an eye on me.

It wasn’t long before I heard some other people calling to my bipeds. One of my bipeds went and let some people called ‘the neighbours’ into the garden. They told me that I’m gorgeous and cute – I already knew that, but it’s always nice to hear! They enjoyed stroking me and rubbing my tummy. They didn’t stay very long and I went back to wandering about on the grass. Then I suddenly felt exhausted, so I flopped down for a nap. One of the bipeds scooped me up and carried me indoors and put me on a nice, soft blanket.

The next day I was taken to see a man they called the vet. He examined me and said that I was in good health. He talked with my biped about a number of things – food, vaccinations, worming, and where it was safe for me to go to socialise until the vaccinations took full effect.

Over the next few days I discovered a lot more about my home. My bipeds were pleased that I was already used to all the normal noises in a house, such as the vacuum cleaner and washing machine. I was accustomed to being handled by humans, but they began to do things like looking in my ears – I’m not sure what they expected to find in there! They also looked in my mouth regularly, sometimes touching my teeth and gums – I could have told them my mouth was empty. I’d had my paws touched frequently before, but they started to check between my toes – that tickled!

They brushed me every day. They had trouble persuading me to keep still to be brushed because I didn’t really like keeping still and I didn’t like being brushed. I love being brushed now and I can’t understand why I didn’t like it!

They also started taking me out and about to see more of the world. That was very exciting – I’ll tell you more about it another time.

I expect you’ve noticed that a lot of these things were in the Puppy Plan that I mentioned in my post about socialisation last week – some of it was confusing at the time but it all makes sense now.

I think you’ll enjoy this video of some Great Pyrenees puppies having some fun investigating an oversized drinking bowl.

See you next Wednesday!

Lost in translation

I have lived in a number of houses with my bipeds and I’ve stayed with them in quite a few more on holiday. This meant that this time when we moved I knew that the rules stay the same and they’ll use the same old words like “kitchen”, “upstairs” and “garden” to mean completely different places from before. They may have a similar function to the places that were previously called those names, but it seems lazy and quite confusing to use the same words again!

I have noticed that humans think they are very clever at communication – yet they expect animals to learn to understand what they say. We try to understand you and interpret what you say, but I’ll start with a simple example to show you why things sometimes get confusing.

“Sit” is generally the first command that a puppy learns. The usual method is to move a treat above a puppy’s head so that the puppy naturally lowers his haunches to make it easier to raise his head to get the treat. Then the word “sit” is repeated with this action. The biped then usually thinks that the puppy understands that “sit” means the puppy should get into a sitting position, regardless of the location or circumstances.

Sitting pretty

Sitting pretty

Attribution: By Tim Dobbelaere from Ieper, Belgium (Man’s best friend) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The puppy, however, probably thinks that “sit” means something like “you are incredibly cute, we are in a safe place, I’m in a good mood, touch the floor with your tail while I give you a treat”. This will often cause confusion if the puppy is lying down and is asked to sit. The puppy doesn’t know what to do – his tail is already on the floor. The biped often does not understand why the puppy is confused – it seems so straightforward to the biped that the puppy should raise his front end.

We have one command that bipeds consider basic and already it means two different things – lower your haunches, or raise your front end – depending on the circumstances. And that’s before the puppy has even left the house! Once we venture out in the world, communication becomes even more complicated. How is a puppy to know that now “sit” means “however excited you are, stop moving around sniffing that wonderful smell you’ve discovered and bend your back legs”?

Sometimes it can mean “stop walking, lower your haunches and wait quietly while I speak to another biped”, or “stop walking, park your bottom on the pavement and wait until I decide to cross the road”. There are almost endless variations. I thought I had discovered them all, when I discovered that it can also mean “stop following those goats and put your bottom on the ground and wait for me to catch up with you”.

I’m sure I’m not the only one that lives with humans who has noticed that they don’t always communicate effectively. Do your bipeds give a command that can mean different things?

See you next Wednesday!

The disappearing cube

I am answering a Frequently Barked Question today.

FBQ: What are your least favourite toys?

I’m going to tell you about a couple of toys that weren’t a success. My bipeds say they’ve seen lots of dogs having fun with them, but these toys just weren’t right for me.

They showed me a ball and I watched while they put treats in it. It was obvious I needed to roll the ball around to make the treats fall out of the holes. I dashed around with it, bashing into the furniture. Each time the bipeds stood a chair back up, they told me to slow down! It only took me a couple of minutes to empty it out. They tried to encourage me to eat the treats that were on the floor, but after I’d eaten a couple I wasn’t interested in eating any more.

Mulberry, the cat, was having a lot more fun than I was. He was pretending to play ice hockey, using the treats as pucks. He dived about and he very soon had all the treats under the furniture. The bipeds took the ball away, I don’t know why they looked so disheartened. Then they moved the furniture and cleaned up the treats.

The next day they took the toy outside. I flicked it around until I’d emptied it – it was even quicker to do this outdoors as there was no furniture getting in the way and slowing me down. They kept pointing out the treats that were on the grass and that reminded me that I enjoy digging. They groaned and asked me to stop. That was really boring, so I asked them to play football with me.

A week or so later, the female biped showed me a cube. She rattled it and told me it was interesting. She knelt on the floor and showed me how to tip it over with my paw and that treats came out. It didn’t seem any more interesting than the ball had been. She sat back and encouraged me to do it for myself. I thought it would be more fun to flick it over than to knock it gently. I lifted my paw and brought it down hard on one corner of the cube. The cube flicked up like a tiddlywink. Now I was having fun!

I was still a puppy, so I didn’t take much notice of the funny noise that was coming from the biped. I wasn’t even curious about why she’d covered her face with her hands, or why her eyes seemed to be leaking. I was having a great time flicking the cube and seeing how high I could make it go! It wasn’t many minutes before it landed in the middle of the table. I was thinking about putting my front paws up on the table to get it when my biped removed the cube. I followed her and she put it in the cupboard. I don’t think I’ve seen that cube since!

Ahoy there mateys! from Wikipedia

Ahoy there mateys!
from Wikipedia

A few days later my bipeds were chatting and the female said, “It’s really embarrassing having a black eye. Everyone wants to know how it happened, but they don’t look as though they believe the answer!”

The male replied, “You could always wear an eye patch!”

“But I’d look like a pirate!”

He chuckled and said, “I’d rather have had a black eye than the bruises I had when we tried to teach her a high-five!”

They both laughed then, but I think they’re really pleased that I play gently now!

See you next Wednesday!

Not on my watch!

I’ve told you about some of the things that I did to liven up puppy classes, I don’t know why the trainer called it causing chaos! After I stopped going to puppy classes, we tried several different classes for adult dogs. Most of them were fairly dull, but we found one we enjoyed.

A farmer allowed the trainer to hold classes in one of his barns that he didn’t use very much. There were all kinds of interesting smells and lots of space. After attending the intermediate class for a few months, I joined the advanced class. There were only about a dozen of us. There was one Labrador who was just having fun and spicing up her training like me, the rest of the class were all Border Collies who entered obedience competitions.

This particular week, we were doing our off lead heel work. We all had a turn at using as much of the barn as we wished, while the other bipeds and dogs sat and watched from one end of the barn. When it came to our turn my biped left her bag behind the chair, as she usually did. We moved out into the centre of the barn and my biped asked me to sit and then she removed my lead and draped it round her neck. The trainer then asked us to go through the moves we’d been learning. I watched my biped closely and did everything she asked, I could tell she was really pleased with me.

The trainer said, “Clowie’s working really well with you this week. She’s really giving you her attention. Have some fun together and mix things up, show us what you can do!”

My biped decided to pick up the pace a bit. We started jogging and she kept making sudden changes of direction. I could tell my biped was having fun, so it was a shame when something more important needed my attention. I gave one warning bark and tore off across the barn. I arrived by the chairs and barked twice at Tommy. He immediately started grovelling – he didn’t want any trouble.

Border Collie, black and white

I don’t have a photo of Tommy, but he looks a lot like this dog


Attribution: By Lilly M (za zgodą mojej znajomej – wikipedystki) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The trainer asked, “What was that all about?”

My biped, who was running across the barn in my direction replied that she didn’t know.

Tommy’s biped piped up, “I know! Don’t worry, everything is fine now.”

My biped arrived and clipped the lead to my collar.

Tommy’s biped continued, “Clowie was quite within her rights. I was enjoying watching you working together and I didn’t notice Tommy had slipped his collar. Clowie caught him with his head in your bag! I expect he was after treats. Clowie warned him and he started grovelling. I don’t think he’ll try to take anything from your bag again.”

The trainer said, “Clowie has shown you all how observant a Pyrenean Mountain Dog is. Whatever else she’s doing, her real focus is on protecting her biped and even her belongings!”

It was the end of the evening and everyone wanted to tell me how clever I was to catch Tommy red-pawed. They told my biped how safe they would feel if they knew that I was protecting them. They were impressed that I could do obedience work and still not miss a thing that was happening.

See you next Wednesday!

The chair scare

Mulberry, the cat, likes to take some exercise most days. He runs as fast as he can in one direction, when he runs out of room he jumps and spins and runs in another direction. When he’s feeling adventurous he likes to pretend he’s a ninja cat and he bounces against something to change direction.

Mulberry, Persian cat

Mulberry, relaxing in the doorway to the terrace

There used to be some plastic garden chairs left on the terrace and he would sometimes bounce off those. Then one day he discovered that if he jumped against the back of the chair he could knock it over. He thought that was great fun!

He played this a few times and then one day we heard a chair fall over and then there was a terrible wailing noise. I have never heard such a loud noise come from a cat! I leapt to my paws to go and see what was wrong. The female biped hurried out onto the terrace and I followed her.

She went across to where Mulberry appeared to be fighting a chair. She spoke to him in a soothing voice to tell him she was there and then she bent down and held him by the shoulders, saying, “Keep still!”

plastic garden chair

The villain

Mulberry stopped struggling and he turned the volume down a little. His leg was caught in one of the gaps in the back of the chair. The biped felt his leg and tried to slide it up to where the gap was wider, but that made Mulberry wail very loudly again so she stopped.

The male biped had been getting the car out, but he’d heard the racket that Mulberry was making and returned.

“What’s that noise? What’s happened?” he wanted to know.

The female biped explained that Mulberry’s leg was stuck and how she’d tried to move it, but she was worried about harming Mulberry. He nodded and started pushing and pulling at the back of one of the other chairs. I waited a moment. He must surely see his mistake! He didn’t, so I nudged him gently to get his attention and looked towards the chair that was the problem.

He patted me and said, “Thank you, Clowie. Do you think I should try this on Mulberry’s chair?”

He told the other biped that he was going to flex one slat forwards and one slat back and she should try to slide Mulberry’s leg again. Mulberry gave one of his loudest wails, but his leg was free! The biped held onto him, looked at his leg, and then put him down gently. He disappeared as fast as his legs would carry him!

The male biped said, “He’s using all four legs, I think that’s a good sign!”

They left Mulberry to calm down for a little while and then rattled the treat container and called him. He was pleased to get a cuddle and the bipeds checked his leg more thoroughly. The chair had done Mulberry no real harm.

The bipeds made up a little song that they kept singing for weeks.

A cat is stuck!
Where?
There in the chair!
Where in the chair?
Right there!
A cat who wails so loud
Well I declare!
Wailing and wailing, he’s stuck in the chair
Oh yeah

They took inspiration from the chorus of this song. It’s the sort of tune that sticks in your head for the day!

Mulberry wouldn’t go near those garden chairs after that, but he isn’t scared of any other chairs!

Mulberry, Persian cat on footstool

These chairs are much safer!

See you next Wednesday!