Dogs: Life ‘In the Moment’

I am not a professional dog trainer. Nor am I an expert on dog behaviour. I am, however, EXTREMELY knowledgeable about MY dog’s personality. I know what makes Opal tick….at long last.  By the time my pre-Opal period had moved to the training phase at the Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind training Centre, I had a headful of half-baked ideas about dogs.  You might describe my eager desire to learn-it-all and stick-to-it as mild obsession with a touch of naievity.  There’s nothing like experience to drive it home.  Opal and I have had our ups and downs. She has ‘tested’ me as only a clever dog can.  Now that we have survived almost two years together, I can reflect on what I learned.  One thing is certain; dogs live ‘in the moment’.  It is futile to attempt to relate to your dog as though it were otherwise. To put it in perspective, I will cautiously use the ananalogy that dogs are much like two year old children in that their mental ability and attention span is similar.  Of course some dogs are much brighter than others.  As with humans, their abilities and ‘brain power’ must be developed and utilized through proper training in order to reach their potential.  It is pointless to correct your dog for something that happened five minutes ago.  (NOTE: I say  ‘correction’, not punishment) It’s not fair to your dog to address the situation or behaviour after the fact.  They have no idea what you’re going on about.  Also, don’t  take it personally when your dog looks at you with that bored and vacant look when you say (with much wistful nostalgia) to him/her…”remember our trip to Bonavista Beach, Fluffo?”  Chances are good though, that Fluffo will go nutty the minute he finds himself back on that same beach and ‘it all comes back to him’.  Of course, the minute you leave?….out of mind until the next time.  Dog behaviour experts tend to agree that dogs ‘think in pictures’, rather than in the kind of abstract concepts that humans develop. Opal, for example, often displays ‘anticipation’ when we go to the mall and she sees the escalator.  It’s a visual cue that reminds her that something good happens when we go up that thing called “Escalator Up” on the way to the Rocky Mountain Candy shop (a piece of kibble).  Similarly, she is not impressed when we try a new route on a busy street. She has no picture history in her mind of this strange place. She is concerned that I am making a ‘mistake’ and that I don’t know where we are.  Maybe I don’t, but it is my job to convince her through my confident voice and body language, that it’s OK because mom knows best.  Remember, that your dog can only learn from your ‘correction’, when you initiate it IMMEDIATELY.  There are some situations when this is overidden when it involves the safety of the dog. For example, if your dog runs into a busy street,  your priority is to ensure his safety, rather than to stand around correcting him for not coming. (It’s YOUR fault that he’s off leash in the first place!) Don’t blame the dog for your errors in judgement. If you leave a dinner plate with a slab of steak on within his easy  reach, you have just created a situation where temptation and opportunism can take over. Avoid the whole ugly scene (dog with a bellyful of steak, you with no steak)  by being consistently proactive about removing anything you do not want your dog to get into. 


2 responses to “Dogs: Life ‘In the Moment’

  1. Pingback: Dogs: Life ‘In the Moment’ at Dog and Puppy Stories

  2. Great article. I know my dog has her own persoanality too… she is commical.

    If you have some time check out my blog at

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