Undocumented Features

A German Shepherd at a laptopIf you’ve ever used a computer or a piece of software that suddenly does something unexpected, you’ve run into something programmers call “Undocumented Features” or “UDFs.”  To everybody but the designers of the computer or software it’s known as a bug.

UDFs often happen because the programmers of software could not imagine in their wildest dreams that the user would press that exact combination of keys, at that exact point, under those exact circumstances. Well that’s how we comfort our egos anyway. But the truth is that there are many things that we forget to consider when embarking a project.

Now while I would never say that our dogs contain bugs, we do sometimes forget the features that come hardwired with the particular models we choose and the UDFs that pop up from time to time. We forget that dogs need to be dogs.

Dog Behaviors That Should Not Be Considered UDFs

There are certain things that make a dog a dog and they are completely part and parcel of who and what they are:

  • The Nose – Not just for finding pleasant (to them) smells, they are the front side bus that leads directly to the CPU. This is the information super highway that contains more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophies. To deny them the ability to sniff as they walk about their surroundings, is like taking a child to an empty schoolroom with no teacher, no books, and no smartphone. Obviously training them to not sniff human crotches is a good thing, but a canine nose should be allowed its full expression.
  • The Bark – Some breeds have the full Dolby Digital surround sound system, and some just have that little dinky pc speaker. It’s a communication device, a stress reliever, an alarm system, a warning, an invitation, approval, denial, an obsession, and to certain species and personalities, the most beautiful thing they’ve ever heard. Again the bark is something we need to gain some control over so it does not become contentious or litigious with our neighbors. But the volume cannot be turned down at all times.
  • The Licking – A common feature of many animal models, dogs and cats have elevated it to an art form and view it as a great party trick. Your keyboard can never be too clean.
  • The Rolling – Associated with their sense of smell is their choice of cologne. Whatever you least favorite smell in the world is, it will be your dogs’ favorite. Explaining why is like telling people about your crazy aunt or uncle, it’s just better left unsaid.
  • Epicurean Preferences – I am not talking about the food choices we make for them, I’m talking about the a la carte choices they make around the house and outside. While eating one’s own poo would be something that even Andrew Zimmern would eschew, to some dogs it’s like a Lays potato chip and eating just one is not an option.
  • The Stalk – If you have a herding bred you will probably be familiar with this one. In computer terms this dog’s CPU is overclocked. The need a job and if they aren’t given one they will find their own and it usually involves herding other animals, including people. I personally have had to save a Corgi from drowning more than once because it wanted to herd the ducks so bad that it would swim to the point of exhaustion.
  • The Drool – Fairly self-explanatory, there are some dogs that should be kept away from all electronic devices. It also helps if you own a dry cleaning business.
  • The Outlaw Image – There are certain breeds that are likely to draw suspicious stares and law suits and often make people cross the street. Normally these breeds are the sweetest dogs one could ever have and their reputation is mostly due to operator error.
  • The Chase – Breeds that have been bred from the dawn of time to chase, flush, and retrieve quarry. These are also breeds that need a job to do as well and will always want to express their inner pursuer. It’s not that things can’t be worked out and acceptable foot pursuits arranged, but you can’t expect them to stifle their instinct entirely.


This list could be much longer but I hope my point is made; you cannot train the dog out of a dog. I can’t imagine a better four legged companion, but I have to accept that dogs will not always behave quite the way I want them to. I have to be aware of the standard features and am prepared to handle those UDFs that pop up from time to time. As they say, it’s the eccentricities that make the individual special.