If I were asked to name a single quality requisite of being a good dog owner, being a keen observer of doggy nature would be my answer. For me, good observational skills are a vital part of keeping your dog healthy, well occupied, highly trainable, and out of trouble. And of course each of these things in turn, is part and parcel of the others.
Keeping our dogs healthy is sometimes easier said than done. There are a lot of factors working against us. Our dogs can’t verbally communicate with us so we have to use our observational skills to determine when a visit to the vet is necessary. Now couple that with the individual personalities our dogs display and you see why good observation is needed.
For instance, my dog, Gavin, will limp like he broke his leg if he so much as scratches a paw. Contrast this with my late dog, Sundown, who once greeted me with underside of her jaw almost completely torn away from an encounter with a groundhog, but still wanted to go out and play. The later an example of pain tolerance and our dog’s proclivity to get into things that aren’t good for them.
Well occupied can mean many things. Your dog may think that turning shoes into open toed sandals is a fine occupation worthy of respect, while you may prefer backyard agility. The key to finding a compromise is knowing what your dog likes to do and exploit in in acceptable ways. Motivation is key player and good observation is what provides you with that key.
Motivation also plays a huge role in having a highly trainable dog. Knowing what your dog will work for and maybe even more importantly knowing when your dog is saying I’ve had enough. Especially when we work with fear and aversion behaviors, you need to know where your dog’s thresholds are, pushing them over a threshold too fast can be tantamount to taking leaps backward. Very good observational skills are vital to your dog’s success.
And that brings us to keeping our dogs out of trouble. While this is also an observational skill, perhaps it is foremost, an actionable item. Knowing that your dog will take opportunities to chew your shoes is one thing, taking the steps to keep them from chewing on those shoes is the harder part. Managing the opportunities your dog has chew on the shoes, and then redirecting your dogs to something more acceptable means time, effort, and consistency are required to go along with your observations.
The good thing about this is that observing dogs is a great pastime and it will provide positive dividends in a market where sounds investments can be hard to find.