Doggie Digression – A Barking Mad Article from Dog Lovers Digest

Two Jack Russells with quizzical looks on their faces

Surely you jest? (No we aren't and don't call us Shirley!)

Aggression is s very hot topic right now in the dog world. Myriads of books, videos, websites, discussion groups, seminars, and more are devoted to it. It is a serious issue and deserves the amount of resources that have been devoted. However, by changing the first two letters of aggression to di you end up with a less talked about but equally insidious behavioral trait, doggie digression. Your dog may claim it’s a victimless behavior– but you and I know better.

Domestic dogs engage in two main types of digression, spontaneous and premeditated. A dog involved in a chase that suddenly defies gravity, inertia, and canine kinesiology by suddenly stopping and chasing its own tail, only to remember 3 minutes later that it was chasing something else is experiencing spontaneous digression. Another dog displaying a newly learned trick at a party stops in the middle of for a 5 minute genital grooming session. He eventually resumes the trick but only after a slight smile comes to his face, this dog is displaying premeditated digression.

My Australian Shepherd Gavin is constantly putting on displays of premeditated digression. Oh he would have me believe they are some sort of canine Alzheimer’s. But I happen to think that Gavin is PT Barnum reincarnated and believes that I AM that sucker born every minute.

One of Gavin’s favorite games is one I like to call “Now I Remember” and illustrates premeditated displays of digression. This game usually initiated by Gavin and is more likely to take place under one of the following conditions…

  • I am trying to take a nap.
  • I have just been to the gym and I am stiff and incapable of movement without pain.
  • I have a work deadline to meet and need peace and quiet.

The game will start when Gavin walks up and loudly drops a tennis ball either on the floor or on my foot depending on how accurate his aim is that day. Because of the complete effectiveness of random reinforcement, I have two options at this point. Option one is to take the ball away from him and put him outside, option two is to acquiesce and get down on the floor as the game begins.

The game starts out innocently enough with a few tosses and retrieves. At some point, Gavin will “forget” the game of fetch and proceed to play ring around the man. He will prance about me just out of reach wanting to be chased, but never caught. Forgetting he is supposed to be the herder, he wants to be the herdee. Now here is where the game gets interesting. If I refuse to play the new game, he will suddenly remember that we were playing fetch and resume that game up to a certain point.

That “point,” is reached when the ball has absorbed so much slobber that it no longer bounces when dropped and makes a nice plopping sound like a rock dropping in mud. With the tennis ball now dripping in slobber the viscosity of a 50W motor oil, another digression takes place. “Bop the Man in the Face with the Ball” is now the name of the game. Gavin think this is very funny, especially if I run around the room screaming “I’ve been kissed by dog germs!”, but I digress.

Once I take strong exception to any particular digression, Gavin will spontaneously remember the original game was fetch and take that up again.

The digressions are limited only by Gavin’s imagination but they are somewhat predictable and seem to follow a few simple rules…

  • If strangers are anywhere near when a digression takes place it will usually take the form genital licking, butt scooting, humping, farting, or other such fraternity pranks.
  • If the human involved is sleepy or sore from any type of exertion, the dog’s memory will only return after you have gotten up off the floor but just before you lie or sit back down.
  • The first time your dog is asked to display a new trick to anyone, digression will occur if not flat out memory loss.
  • Just like taking your car to a mechanic, if you take your dog to a trainer to rid them of a particular digression, it will not occur.
  • Not all play sessions end up in digressions, after all the variable schedule of reinforcement the dogs have us on has to pay off sometimes otherwise learned irrelevance may set in.

Now Gavin flat out denies that these digressions are for his entertainment and refutes that he has a smile on his face at anytime despite photographic and video evidence to the contrary. He and other dogs that I’ve spoken with would have me believe that this is just a silly conspiracy theory on my part and that digression has no ulterior motives “Like you always tell us” they say “were just dogs.”

“My point exactly,” is my retort “you are dogs!”

We would like to hear about your own cases of doggie digression. It is only through sharing that we can come to understand our role as patsies, and through that understanding, begin to change the way that our dogs train and treat us.


This article is a sarcastic faction of hysterically accurate canine behavior. Any resemblance to dogs living, dead, reincarnated, or yours is purely intentional. The author makes no claims of intellectual benefit as a result of reading this article and is pretty sure you will most likely lose a few IQ points in the process. If, after reading this article, you feel the least bit smarter, please contact your local mental health clinic.

If you have a topic you would like to see us cover in our Barking Mad series, e-mail us at, we promise not to laugh at you too much.


Kevin, Jackie, Gavin, Annie, Tosha, Elbee