Last Updated on 2022-02-03 by Admin
Annie is my first dog while my wife had many dogs before. That is a great combination, my wife has the experience, and I have the curiosity and desire to lean. When doing something for the first time, everything is new. These new experiences are worth capturing because they are one-off experiences. The second time around, they will be full of assumptions.
Memorable Experiences in Year One
The first year of Annie’s life was hectic for Annie and us. Puppies develop so incredibly fast. I found it almost shocking how quickly Annie grew. And I would say to myself; this can not be without pain. From a human perspective, it’s like everything is happening many times faster than in humans. And sometimes, I was wondering if she grew overnight. It is not just physical growth but also mentally. They must grow and learn a lot in a relatively short time.
To me, there were a few memorable events and observations that marked the first year.
Dogs learn while they sleep
I remember times I be trying to teach Annie something on one day, and we did not make progress, so we stopped and did something else. The next day I would try again to teach her the same thing, and she was much better at it. An excellent example of that is when I tried to train her walking beside me, she would always pull ahead. And I asked her to come back and then go forward again. It became too frustrating, and I left it for the day.
The next day she was much better at it. I noticed this with many things. And it seemed that she learned during sleep. With this realization, I wanted to try to put even more effort into understanding Annie, because I always thought that there was more to dogs then what we currently know about them.
I would make the training sessions shorter unless it were something where she had lots of fun. Like throwing a ball and ask her to bring it back. Another thing I found that training in the morning worked better than later in the day. Dogs like humans have good and bad days, and doing more when she has a good day brought better results and less frustration for both of us.
When I go for a walk with Annie, it is pretty much Annie who determines which way we go. I’m there for supervision. All this within reason, of course. And I watch and learn what Annie does.
We go for a walk, and she sniffs everywhere, and I go along with that. I found that Annie would look up at me occasionally, and I ‘m looking at here. This responding to one another was very interesting, some form of communication that is hard to describe. And watching other dog owners walking there dogs, I noticed that many owners are not aware when their dog looks at them.
Today when I walk Annie, she may look at me at the intersection when she wants to go another way than the one we are currently on. Often she will look up to me and wait for me to say Ok. If I say no, then she be a bit unwilling to go the way I want to go and just slowly walk behind me. Or if she is very determined to go the other way, she will just stay and not move. But she always will look me right in the face.
There are many different occasions when she looks at my face, sometimes we just have eye contact, and it seems we understand one another without using words. And I sometimes wonder if maybe there are other senses involved. Can it be that dogs can read our gestures and expressions so well and figure us out? If that is the case, then I wonder if we humans were not paying enough attention to dogs in our history of living with them. To the best of my knowledge, we don’t understand there expressions and behaviour to the same extent.
Sniffing, the trusted way to see for dogs
When Annie was about 6 or 7 months old, we were out for our evening walk. It was cold and snowing a lot. During our walk, we crisscrossed the field in my area. We followed along the hedges and fences, and she was just sniffing and exploring. No one else seemed to be out. Even the roads hardly had any traffic. We were out for about one hour, and it was already dark.
Annie was young, and I wondered if it was time to go home before she got too cold. I called Annie to get her attention, then started walking towards home. I started a different path home then we came. But I noticed she would always pull in the direction we came. I found that intriguing and decided to follow her. She picked up our old footsteps and followed those steps by sniffing all the way home. And the amazing thing was that our footsteps were all covered in snow, I could not see them, except for the occasional one that had not filled up with snow.
One thing is for sure, dog’s trust there nose a lot more than their eyes.
I was amazed and very proud of Annie. Of course, I did know that dogs can sniff and find things. The more important thing was that because we allowed Annie to sniff when she wanted, she learned how to smell and found a natural way to demonstrate her new skill. And for a purpose that I understood. It also confirmed that when she pulls, that there might be a good reason to follow her. We were getting to understand one another more maturely than before. It is always so rewarding to see how Annie matures. It also shows that building a special relationship with a dog takes time and effort.
This experience set my path on how I wanted to interact with Annie. I tried to understand here better and how she does things. And over time, we got used the one another, and we look one another in the face frequently during our walks that she leads. I also know how she pulls because something smells interesting, compared to pulling to go and see another dog. What makes dogs so special is that they interact so well with people. They know how to get attention; they are insistent and try to indicate what they want.
Scarred of the unexpected
One Saturday morning in the Summer, we were out for our walk. When on the way home, there was a sign in the middle of the multi-use path we frequent. The sign was held steady with three sandbags. We never saw this kind of sign before on our walks. Annie only noticed the sign about 10 to 12 meters in front of her. She stopped walking, stood in attention and growled, and shortly after barked at it. I found this reaction puzzling.
I asked Annie to sit, she reluctantly sat down but got up right away again. She looked at me, and I looked at her and assured her by “it’s Ok.” She growled and Barked, I could tell she was uncomfortable. When I said, “Annie, Let’s go see,” she was not comfortable going forward, so we just stood there, and Annie growled. I took a step forward and told her again, “let’s go see,” she reluctantly took a half-hearted step forward. It must have taken us about 30 to 4o minutes using this method until we made it to the sign. Once at the sign, Annie growled and inspected the sandbags and sign.
After Annie inspected the sign and was Ok with it, we walked the rest of the way home. From Annie’s memory of our walks along that same stretch where the sign was, it must not have matched what she expected. That was a new working together experience for Annie and me.
During Annie’s Puppy training classes, she was exposed to new objects and sounds but never exhibited that behaviour. Interestingly I have never experienced this behaviour when visiting new places.
The first year I found to be demanding, Annie was very energetic, running, playing, jumping etc. She had so much energy. And at times, when Annie was excited, it made it hard to handle her. Not so surprising, given that she was young and full of energy. All limits needed exploration to see how much they stretch. And Annie, who already as a puppy was independent, may have been a little more of a handful than other young Boxers.
For the dog, going from puppy to one year old it is about growing up and learning. Not so different for me, I learned things from having Annie, how we are building a relationship and a bond without words. And I often think of the wise words the breeder told me when we picked up Annie, “never forget, they try very hard to please You.” Wise words, thanks, Brenda.
Now that Annie is five years old it makes and interesting read to compare the difference between a Young dog and an older one. Annie at five Years old is just amazing and You can read about it here.
Memory Wins When Dogs Sleep https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/dog-spies/memory-wins-when-dogs-sleep/
Silent Conversations https://www.silentconversations.com/
Allowing Dogs to Sniff Helps Them Think Positively https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/animal-emotions/201902/allowing-dogs-sniff-helps-them-think-positively