Wag with your whole body

Cooper is having a little post-breakfast rest. All that gobbling up of food really takes it out of him and he welcomes a lie down on his spot in the corner of the sofa. He keeps one eye half-open towards the front door, and one ear half-cocked, just in case anything is happening in and around his domain.

Aha, there’s his owner. What’s she doing? Sitting on the bottom step of the stairs slipping on her wellington boots? She has that ugly anorak on… and in her hand is a roll of sparkly purple bags that for some reason she feels the need to fill with his poo (he’ll never understand human reasoning). But what she’s doing can only mean one thing… it’s walk time!

Wag with your whole bodyOMG, OMG, OMG! Cooper leaps up and across the room towards her in two bounds. He spins in a circle with excitement, has a joyful little bark and then stares, eyes bright, at his owner. His tail is waving merrily. The wag is on its highest setting with the tail tip a white blur in the air as it fans the surrounding area. He is so ecstatic to be going for this walk that the delight starts with his tail; the happiness continues through his torso, rocking it back and forth, before wriggling its way up to his head, which wobbles a little from side to side.

His entire body is wagging. This is a very happy dog.

What can you learn from your dog?

What makes you as happy as just the mere anticipation of a walk makes for a dog? Your boss has just offered you that promotion you have been gunning for. You are so totally stoked. It has been months of hard work and you totally deserved it. You demurely say thank you… but they pause and seem to be waiting for something more than that. Can you drop the cool act and just let people know? It’s okay to show you’re happy – seriously, seriously happy. You may find yourself connecting more with people. WOOHOO PROMOTION! Shake that body!

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Be energised by nature

After a while, the house can feel a bit like a prison. Cooper gets a bit stir crazy, walking from room to room and seeing that everything is exactly the same. His perimeter sweeps reveal nothing, no interlopers (lions or otherwise), not even some bugs to sniff/accidently eat. Honestly, it can get a bit boring. He sighs. He climbs on the sofa and onto the top of the back (yeah, his owners love it when they catch him up here). He can see the world out of the big windows. There’s so much going on out there. Millions of dogs to greet and butts to sniff. All those creatures who have left trails in the grass for him to follow. Bits of debris to check for eatability.

With the seasons, the environment changes too. The colours deepen and then lighten again. The trees become sparse and then grow and are full again. Everything evolves and moves. He loves it out there. A constantly changing tapestry.

Embrace nature

Being outside, Cooper feels like he can really breathe. He loves the air. He loves the sounds and cacophony of colours. This is where he belongs. He doesn’t care so much for the part between his home and the field. The pavements are dull man made greys, the hard texture isn’t kind to his paws and the dust thrown up tastes bitter. But when he gets to his field, all bets are off. There is so much going on! The green of the grass is vibrant and invigorating, sometimes it’s deliciously damp with morning dew, cool on his feet and the air tastes sweet. The trees around the edges are rustling, the leaves secretly hiding possible birds deep within. With great abandon he can run round in circles just revelling in being in nature. His tail has a constant wag of happiness; he is just so overjoyed to be there.

What can you learn from your dog?

There’s something about being in nature. Being surrounded by trees and grass and whatever wildlife might be lurking. It’s calming, eternal and truly energising. Put down the remote and get into the woods, up onto the hill or along the cliff path. Breathe in deeply. Feels pretty good doesn’t it?

Make friends… cautiously

Being surrounded by humans all the time is all very well, but Cooper would rather hang out with fellow dogs. You know where you are with dogs. Cooper has some regular dogs he likes to say hello to on his walks and then chase around in circles. But somehow there seems to be an endless supply of dogs in this village and he’s always discovering someone new.

The procedure for meeting another dog and becoming their friend is a complex but age-old ceremony.

Sniff buttsThe Approach

1. Another dog is identified in the distance. Come to a full stop and stare (and check it’s a dog and not a bin. That’s been known to happen)
2. Who will approach first? Wait for a little while to see if the other dog is approaching
3. The distance narrows – at this stage, keep eye contact but it’s good to throw in a wag to signal that you come in peace
4. The gap narrows further, now you can begin to suss them out: are they big (be super wary) or small (pah, no threat) or medium (ideal for wrestling and chasing)?
5. A few feet apart and now you can ascertain if they’re going to try and eat you or not
6. Finally a foot apart, there’s non-confrontational staring and wagging on both sides

The Sniff

1. Now for the good stuff: time to get up close and personal. Tail on full wag is key to show lack of aggression
2. Sniff the face briefly, for politeness…
3. …But then straight round to the back end to SNIFF THAT BUTT
4. This can take some time – it’s a glorious complex assortment of smells. At the same time they will be able to sniff your own butt – perfect!
5. Dog is cleared as a friend
6. Scent identity is stored away for the future in a contacts list in your brain

What can you learn from your dog?

It’s all about being friendly with strangers, yet cautious. Happy to think the best of people… but also aware that there are some who are not on the same page. Greeting enthusiastically surely lifts anyone’s spirits, doesn’t it? And, heck, sniff their butt if you think they’d like it!

Face that fear

Cooper is out for a night-time jaunt. His eyesight isn’t the best so the darkness doesn’t bother him so much. With his nose to the ground it doesn’t really matter what is around him, visually anyway. It’s pretty late and the roads are quieter than usual. There probably won’t be any fellow dogs around tonight; they’re all behind closed doors, tucked up and snoring away. That’s fine, all the more smells for him. And cats. Oh, there are always cats around at night. Awesome!

Jaunt

He pads along, happily alert, down the pavements. The world is quieter so he can keep an ear out for noises such as a ruffling under a bush or a distant howl. There’s not much going on this evening, but that just builds the suspense. Something is out there, somewhere. Lots of things. Wow, it’s great being a dog.

He scuttles around a bend; he’d know the route to the field blindfolded and often walks it in his dreams. There are the usual obstacles and points of sniffing. The strange drain that always needs a good inspection. That car that sometimes has a tabby underneath. That bin that always seems to be overflowing and, if he’s lucky, a sandwich wrapper will have tumbled to the ground.

Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye he sees something up ahead in the alleyway. Something that moves unnaturally. He stops dead in his tracks causing his owner’s arm to yank backwards, clutching onto his lead. Well, it’s her own fault for restraining him with a tether. Cooper’s eyes are alert and his ears prick up. What the hell IS that? The moon illuminates a strange blue peculiarity floating next to some railings. The wind picks up a little and he hears a rustling coming from it. But not like a hedgehog scampering through leaves. No. Something more alien. Something wrong.

His owner is trying to drag him onwards with the annoying leash. Doesn’t she see that he is trying to save him from something unknown, suspicious, that in all likelihood could kill them both where they stand?! She is so clueless. Does he always have to save them from the many perils of the world while she slumps along the road? With all his feet planted firmly on the ground, he is steadfastly going nowhere. He sniffs the air and ignores the barrage of words thrown in his direction. Louder words. Blah, blah, Cooper, BLAH. He dismisses them, obviously, since he has a more important task: sniffing the strange thing’s intent. But the smells in the air don’t give up any clue as to what this abnormality could be. And, dammit, if he isn’t being dragged, neck first, towards it now. She really will be the death of him.

Alien

The wind swells and the blue glowing weird rustling thing lifts into the air. WHAT. THE. HELL?! And it’s coming towards him! “AwooowooowoooowooWOOOWOOOO”, calls Cooper into the night – attempting to show the thing who’s boss. But it’s still coming for him! For them both! He can’t believe he’s going to die in an alleyway. And with an empty belly. This is just the worst. And still his owner pulls him onwards, towards their doom! What is this damn thing? It moves in such strange patterns, like it’s not in charge of its own body. Moving where the wind’s whims takes it. There are two bits on top that look like ears, maybe? But with holes in them. Where are its eyes?! For crying out loud, everything needs eyes! How can he see what its intentions might be without eye contact? Barking and trying to pull backwards, trying to save himself from the impending certain doom, the item still moves forward towards him. But wow: his owner up ahead, with no thought of her own self-preservation, makes a swoop at it in the air. She’s so brave! Brave or stupid, anyway. His own barking is definitely helping so he doubles down and barks louder and longer than before. His owner wrestles the thing from the wind, grabbing it by its neck. Neck? Screwing it up and strangling it. It’s such a battle! And she’s winning! She grapples it to the ground, saying all sorts of words (some of which he suspects are those bad words she shouldn’t use). She is victorious. The thing lies on the ground. Dead. No longer able to terrorise very brave dogs. She swoops its still corpse into the nearby bin.

Now that the thing is no longer living, Cooper jumps up to the rim of the bin and takes a gentle sniff. It doesn’t really smell of anything. Huh. He leaps back down and moves on, his mind reeling from the Battle of the Thing and the glorious victory he orchestrated. He will remember this day forever. Forever and ever.

What can you learn from your dog?

Fear of the unknown is one of our basest instincts. It’s good to be wary and approach with caution, but how many times have you said after an event you were scared of that it wasn’t anything like as bad as you had imagined. Your dog wants to address the fear. To tell it who’s boss. Maybe even tackle it head on. Can you approach your worries with your analytical head and cut them down to size?

Get help

Cooper thinks it’s great being covered in fur. Not only does it provide insulation when it’s a bit nippy, but it looks pretty sweet and people do love to stroke you. Which is nice. He doesn’t mind being covered in fur at all, apart from one thing: it can get darn itchy.

On reflection, Cooper supposes that when he crawls through long grass he gets gubbins stuck in his coat. Maybe tasty little bugs, but maybe ones that nibble at him. Maybe it’s just bits of twigs or leaves. Whatever it is, it’s really irritating. Now with four feet with claws that’s a lot of scratching ability. The thing is that Cooper can probably only get to about 75% of his surface area. And where does he often get itchy? In the places it’s hard to get to, of course. He can’t get at the top of his head. Behind his ears he can get to, but he can’t really and truly get in there and get a good satisfying scratch going on. Whole areas of his back are also out of reach, and the bit above his tail? Damn, that has some dense hair that needs a really good go but he can’t reach it at all. What terrible design! Whether it was God or evolution, or aliens (he suspects probably aliens), they really didn’t do very well to minimise the problem of itching. So he has his solution. Them.Cooper asks to be strokedIt’s been quite the art trying to explain to either one of his owners where he needs to be scratched. He finally got them to understand by just backing into them on enough occasions that they tried a number of things to see what he wanted. It was great – he got a walk and some treats and some stroking, until they finally realised what he needed. It was pretty obvious but
they’re not geniuses by any stretch of the imagination.

Once they understood he needed a good solid scratching he had to guide their fingertips to the correct spot. Now, they don’t have useful claws like he does, they have flimsy little wannabe claws, but they are longer and bigger which means they can really go to town once they’re on the right track. Trying to explain location on one’s body through movement and little growls, purrs, and moans is tricky, that much is true. They reply with their words which, yet again, don’t contain any food words so are largely pointless. He really should learn some more words at some point, but who has the time?

Having an owner scratch behind one’s ear is a blissful experience. It’s all flaps of skin and goodness knows what debris from sticking one’s head in places to investigate. If they only knew the sort of dirt they were scratching off him. Cooper closes his eyes happily and raises his head up to the sky, trying to encourage them to finish off with a neck scratch. Purely for pleasure.

He likes to think he’s an independent animal, looking out for number one, but, hmmm, with scratching he is always going to need some help.

What can you learn from your dog?

Of course you could do everything yourself. But are you 100% excellent at every little thing you do? No. Is anyone? So if you just suck at dusting, get that cleaner in to help. If you can do your expenses at work but you just hate it, get that colleague to help in exchange for a week of making her tea. It’s okay, even your own dog and his enormity of self-assuredness is aware that it’s fine to ask for help. And the helper probably enjoys helping too.