Things I have learned about dogs

19 Apr

This is my dog, Bounderby.


We got him on New Year’s Day and he has sort of taken over our lives.

I think I probably knew quite a lot more than the average sane person about dogs beforehand, but having this furry person in our family has taught me (and Tom) a lot of new things about dogs. Here are some of them.

1) Puppies are really violent.

Whenever you see puppies on films or in books or on the internet, they are always lying around looking fluffy and adorable, licking people’s faces or being cuddled by small children. Why is it that nobody talks about the main thing puppies do? BITING. Puppies LOVE biting. It’s what they spend almost all their time doing when they are awake. It’s the only game they know. Biting your hands, biting your feet, tearing your clothes, strangling you with your scarf – and don’t even think about trying to cuddle. Cuddling = opportunities for biting your face. I worried that perhaps Bounderby was a small dangerous maniac when he liked to greet us by biting our faces and would leap up and grab hold of our arms in his teeth like a fluffy police dog. Twice he made my leg bleed through my jeans. They seem to believe you will come to love this game if they just bite you enough. No. Nobody loves that game. Eventually they sort of get the hint and give up.

2) Dogs are more polite than 1920s English gentlemen.

Puppies aside, I think dogs might be the most courteous people on earth. They have a strict sense of etiquette and feel bad if it’s not adhered to. A dog has to greet you, even more than a gentleman has to shake your hand. They also dislike anybody getting too boisterous and overbearing, and will do things like lie down, turn away, or quietly step in between two rowdy dogs to calm the situation down. They avoid conflict in a very English way. I think that’s why some dogs don’t really like puppies, in the same way that some adults can’t cope with screaming, running, whooping toddlers.

Another thing I love is that they have a word for “joke!” It’s this:

Play bow

This bum-in-the-air by Bounders (on the right) means “play with me!” But they also do it during play to say, “I just punched you in the face with my paw but it was just jokes!!” This polite system allows them to play like they’re fighting without anybody getting upset. Bounderby does well with this one – he has a very persuasive waggly tail.

3) Dogs are obsessed with Facebook.

Like human children, puppies enjoy being with their parents and biting on stuff. But then they reach their teenage years and suddenly become addicted to social networking. Dogs have to go out and check Facebook (lamp posts, tufts of grass, walls, etc.) in case anybody has posted anything. “Ooh, Milo was here three hours ago after his breakfast”. Then they check in and leave their own status update. “Bounderby was at Greenbank Cemetery – feeling hungry.”

4) Dogs are surprisingly sarcastic.

I always thought dogs were unbearably sincere and enthusiastic about everything, but it turns out they do a good line in withering looks and melodramatic sighs.

5) Dogs are masterful mime artists.

Our dog often comes across as a person who just can’t talk. He will give you an expressive stare, willing you to psychically read his mind and work out what he’s trying to tell you. Most of the time it’s very obvious what he wants because he is also an accomplished mime and not at all subtle. For instance, while we are eating dinner, he likes to go and stand by his food bowl, looking from us to it as if he thinks we are so stupid that we have forgotten to feed him and he needs to show us what to do. He must think we are really thick when we don’t respond. Dogs are experts at body language and live their lives in mime. I think it’s kind of nice that he is trying to bridge the language barrier.

6) Dogs love routine. And sleep.

I didn’t know this before, but dogs really are creatures of habit. Having a routine makes life with a puppy a lot easier because they just learn that it’s nap time after lunch time, allowing you to actually get on with your own life! Bounderby has learnt what things happen in his day in what order, which means it’s easy to fool him about what time it is, e.g. by taking him for a walk an hour earlier so that he will nap an hour earlier when you want to go out. Sucker.

And dogs need to sleep for 16-18 hours a day otherwise their brains overheat. Fact.

7) Dogs are really very intelligent.

Like, more than I’d thought. Bounderby can learn a new trick in 1 or 2 tries, if I’m clear enough with the instructions. He learns things like that much faster than most people I know. It’s kind of scary. On the other hand, he has not yet learned that some doors open inwards. I don’t know why.

8) Dogs know that they are dogs and we are wizards.

Even though he is smart, if I present Bounderby with a new puzzle (maybe a closed box with food in), his first course of action is not to try and work it out, but to sit down and look straight at me as if to say: “I am dog. Cannot do this. Wizard help please.” He comes to get me if his ball has got stuck somewhere he can’t reach, or if he doesn’t understand how to do something. I read that this is the secret of dogs’ success – they know what they can’t do and how to get help. Having a personal wizard as their friend enables them to do way more than any old wolf could do. And I quite like being magical.

In conclusion, I think I’ve learned why dogs and people get on. Dog society is a lot like human society. They just have fewer taboos about eating poo.


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