Help your friends feel comfortable

Cooper just adores to meet new dogs on his walks. He bounds over to canine strangers and wants to say hello, engage them and hopefully play. He knows he is a bit bolshy with his intentions and – over time – he has learnt that not everyone appreciates his forceful approach.

Jasper isn’t like feisty Cooper. He likes the quiet. He likes peace. Noise makes him agitated and he gets jumpy if something happens unexpectedly. He sees other dogs proudly wearing their colourful collars and wonders why, when he has to wear his, he finds it so itchy and uncomfortable.

Help your friends feel comfortableSometimes all his senses become overloaded and he can’t deal very well with how he is feeling. He barks or lashes out because he’s confused and scared. Luckily his owner understands how he feels and gently helps him with soothing words, removing noises and turning off bright lights. He also enjoys and feels calmed by getting stroked nice and firmly because being lightly stroked feels tickly and unpleasant.

This is who Jasper is, so he seeks out a calmer world and avoids things that make him feel stressed.

But just because Cooper and Jasper have different preferences with interaction, doesn’t mean they can’t be friends. Cooper understands he needs to be less barky and full on, so as not to make Jasper uncomfortable. They spend time together not playing the active and loud Chase Me game, but in more sedate pursuits. They like to amble through the sides of the large field hunting out woodland smells and debris. Nothing wrong with that.

In fact, Cooper thinks it’s quite nice to have a change of pace.

What can you learn from your dog?

We are all different and it’s great to have a variety of friends. If you’re the sort who loves loud, busy gigs with loads of buddies, keep a beady eye out for those who turned down the invite. Would they appreciate a one-on-one lunch time meet up instead? We have more than one gear, so move up or down to meet your friends’ level and enrich your life with those varied experiences.

Respect the paw of ownership

Cooper refers to the people who live in his house as “owners”. This does not mean that they own him. What an absolutely laughable idea! Imagine the concept of owning a dog? How completely unfathomable. But he heard the word a few times when he first arrived into the world and he likes to use it in an ironic way. Ironic because they don’t even realise that he actually owns them.

Respect the paw of ownershipSometimes when Cooper is out having a formal dining experience – under the table in a local pub – other dogs will come over to say hello. This is obviously totally fine and he loves a good dog-based meeting. Occasionally, this dog stranger will then turn their attention to one of his owners. They might sniff them, jump up to get closer or investigate their pockets for Cooper’s treats. Now, this is not okay. They are his people and more importantly those snacks are earmarked for his belly only.

There are certain ways that a dog can mark his territory. From experience, he recalls that his owners use lots of shouty words and wild confusing gesticulation if he pees on things to signal that they are his. He suspects that they wouldn’t welcome being peed onto, even if he were doing it for their own good. Keeping solid eye contact with an interloper, Cooper gently puts his paw onto his owner’s foot. Yes. That’s right. This one is mine. Not yours. Mine.

What can you learn from your dog?

Did that waitress have a bit too much of a lingering look at your dining partner? Oh, hell no. It’s about boundaries. You’re not saying you own your beau, but… it’s good to remind them and everyone else that he is taken. A casual hand draped around the shoulder of someone you care about shows the world that this person is off limits. It’s lightly territorial, sure, but what you can learn from your dog is that it might be better than peeing on them.

Protect your stuff

Today Cooper has found something amazing under one of his favourite bushes. This bush makes up part of an alleyway on his usual walk and it is an absolute goldmine for discarded rubbish. He is deeply pleased that people abandon their sandwich wrappers and chip containers down here for him to investigate. Strangely, this often draws exasperated tuts from his owner, who wrestles some of them away from him to put into in a bin. No fair! Today, he’s going to need to be quick.

His owner is distracted ambling along, fiddling and staring deeply into his portable rectangle, so Cooper makes his move. A speedy double back causes a ricochet on his lead and gives him precious seconds to retrieve the most beautiful thing he has ever smelt. This isn’t food, it is something more. Something perhaps that has been around since the beginning of time. The aromas are complex: some are old and musky and others have more eye watering nuances. The colours range from grey to dark grey, not that he is that interested in the colours of things but he notes that it is interesting that a lot of things he likes the smell of are grey or black or brown. He stuffs his prize into his mouth and rushes off ahead so his owner can’t get it.

Protect your stuffBut his owner is jolted into activity and does seem to want to take this away from him! Lots of shouty words are bandied towards poor Cooper, which he obviously ignores, he will not give this up. This is his! He found it fair and square! If his owner wanted to find something like this, he should smell around the place a bit instead of shuffling absently along.

You snooze you lose.

What can you learn from your dog?

You love your iPhone? You covert your eye wateringly expensive shiny red patent heels? Those are yours! Be careful who you let borrow them, touch them or even look at them sideways. It’s definitely okay to be protective of the things that you love and make you happy.

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!

Pull on that lead

It’s a world full of boundaries and rules: you can’t go there, you mustn’t do that. Cooper is fine with most of it. Sometimes he doesn’t really care about going over there anyway. Sometimes he will just break the rule when no one is looking since it makes no sense to him. Why can’t he check what’s on the kitchen counter? That’s where there is often food within reach of his long tongue. OF COURSE he is going to look up there. Dumb rule.

The biggest boundary he has is his lead when he’s out for a walk. Now, he is lucky enough to be connected by an extendable lead that stretches pretty far, maybe nine or ten Cooper body lengths. You can get pretty far with that sort of radius and it gives him a lot of flexibility to investigate new smells and visually interesting curiosities along the pavement. That said, he doesn’t understand why he needs to be attached to his owners at all; they are so incredibly needy! And they are forever pulling him away from what he’s trying to examine.

Pull on that lead

Here are the top ten potential investigatory opportunities where his owner will invariably spoil his fun:

  1. A cat on a wall
  2. A discarded sandwich in the road
  3. A sweaty runner puffing past
  4. Being approached by a snarling, yappy dog
  5. A cat under a car
  6. A child in a pushchair holding a tasty looking piece of toast
  7. A school kid on a bike swerving on the pavement
  8. Another dog’s poop
  9. His own poop
  10. A cat in a driveway

If it was a person he was pulled away from, the owner would then – unbelievably – apologise to them. Cooper hadn’t even done anything! He was only thinking about approaching them. Pfft. But then he is soon distracted by the next interesting thing and forgets he is annoyed with being constantly stopped in his tracks.

In Cooper’s opinion, rules are more like suggestions. Follow them for an easy life, sure, but rules are meant to be broken. He has a sensible mind of his own and he can’t live his life totally at the bizarre whim of his owners. Even though he knows he will be reprimanded verbally, with a tug to his collar, he will always pull on that lead.

What can you learn from your dog?

Our own lives are full of so many restrictions and that’s fine for the most part. But what about the thrill of skirting some of those rules? Don’t you get a slight ripple of excitement taking a 90 minute lunch break because management are away on a course? And, oops, did you take a couple of extra days to pay that bill? Maybe rules are meant to be broken, maybe not, but how about bending some of the smaller ones, just for you.

It’s okay to say no

Cooper begins to get a little tense as it nears the end of the presents being unwrapped from under the Christmas tree. He has been enjoying helping open them, and had a few things to eat, but he knows what’s coming. His owners think it’s VERY FUNNY INDEED to buy him a Christmas outfit for him to wear each year.

It's okay to say no

It isn’t funny.

The present will come out, held towards him with smirks and chuckles. They will have to unwrap it themselves as he’s certainly not helping them with this one. They caught him the first year, he thought it might be something nice. The second year he realised halfway through unwrapping what had traumatised him from the year before. The third year he kept an eye on escape routes and rushed for the door as soon as he got a whiff of their torturous plan. This year he has been sealed into the lounge.

But that doesn’t mean he has to like it.

Out it comes from its tissue paper enclosure. They are laughing. He is not (not that he could anyway: frankly a ridiculous way to express oneself). And – oh look – it’s a fluffy santa hat with bells, foam antlers and a girly ribbon to tie under his chin. NO. WAY.

What an abomination. How dare they make him look ridiculous; he has a certain gravitas to uphold and this won’t do. He can’t physically escape, but he can tell them that this isn’t acceptable. He turns his back and barks NO.

What can you learn from your dog?

Christmas is a funny time of year. For some it’s filled with joy and present-buying for loved ones. For others… well some of us don’t have that perfect Hollywood film family. Your dog has a line that he doesn’t want you to cross. What’s yours? How far are you prepared to let the annual family teasing go? Is it okay for your Grandmother to make jokey comments about your weight? Is it okay for your Sister to bring up that event, yet again, of which you’re not exactly proud?

It’s okay to say no. It’s okay to decide not to take those offhand remarks and ‘jokes’. It’s okay to tell them where your line is that you don’t want crossed.

Hey there, do you fancy receiving Barklife Beagle wisdom by email each week?