The following is in rough form some of what I know my dogs observe. We got extra sensitive and "wise" when we took over the care of a dog who could not and would not be alone at home. We have succeeded in teaching him, (see my other web page about this problem), but we still have to be extremely careful to trick and deceive him whenever we go out. This knowledge has benefited our other dogs too.
THINGS DOGS NOTICE
One naturally has different clothes to wear that suit the occasion and whatever we are doing. We have "doggy clothes" and rainwear which we don't have to worry too much about, when doing various dog activities. We have also nicer clothing for going shopping, to the library or dentist and such like. And finally we have also some more "exclusive" clothes we only wear when we are invited out to dinner or a party! All this clothing includes various headgear, gloves, shoes and boots and accessories of all kinds and we women can also do wonders with our hairstyles. It all depends on what we are planning to do - plus a peek at the weather situation! Clothing is also supplemented with other items such as certain handbags etc when we go shopping, (where dogs do not come), and certain other bags and "fanny-packs" etc used when the dogs are with us. We take up plastic bags, purse and wallet, glasses and all sorts of other accessories, depending on the occasion.
Our dogs watch every detail very closely. Therefore it is very important you are aware of ALL the clues and signals you tell them from what you're wearing and picking up in your hands!
Just the way we put down our coffee cup, give a faint sigh, fold the newspaper, get up from a chair, switch off a light - or the computer and also the way that we walk, heavy breathing and the way we speak will tell a dog oceans of things about what we are planning in our heads. One packs the car - this alerts and worries them. Are we slow or are we running around in a rush because we are late? Do we seem extra happy because we are going on vacation? Or are we quiet and calm as we are merely going to the library? Are we stressed and snap at each other because we are going to a dog show and we are worried and time's getting late. We look more than usually in the mirror and fuss more over our hair, shave an extra time, and the dogs are right there analyzing all this! If the dogs are going to be left behind, we carry extra beds to the utility room where we will shut them in. When they see this, their tails hang down. We go round shutting windows and doors, switch on or off lights, put on the telephone answering machine etc. etc. all this is telling the dogs what we are about to do.
Perhaps we put extra deodorant on, another perfume or After shave, maybe hairspray or hand cream and nail polish for the "more refined events"! So there are plenty of scents and smells for the dog's noses to sort out and register. Do we go out "as we are" with our "ordinary smell", or do we sweat from excitement and stress? Does the coffee in the thermos smell, as we always take that with us to dog training? The dogs breath in all these scent signals through their expert nostrils.
A little detail: "special party clothes" are often hand washed in special soaps for that purpose and also other "finer" items will be chemically cleaned. Dogs can surely also discern the smell of these items as against our "ordinary clothes", washed in the daily washing-machine powder. All this barrage of scents and smells will be sending important signals to our dogs.
If the dogs are going with us, their collars and leashes will be rattling and ringing! We bang about opening drawers and closets and even if we just say the little word "oh", ears will be pricked, listening intently. Maybe we speak calmly as we are not going to do anything special, or maybe we are having a row as we have bad nerves, or are we silent and gloomy? The dogs react immediately. Maybe we are shouting instructions to each other from room to room or outside to the car. The more stressed out we are, the more we stress our dogs, who quickly become very unsure, uneasy and seriously worried over what is now going to happen. (And the situation that all dogs hate most: Being left alone at home.)
Dogs get very good at noting the order in which we do things.
This means that often, long before we are aware of it of believe it possible, they already know what we are about to do. Often even before we think we've started a chain of events!
It can all end badly so that after we have gone, the dogs left behind start barking, howling, chewing and destroying things, running desperately about and other behaviour which is not desirable. They are left behind all frustrated and unhappy because they know all to well exactly what fun and games we are going to have, perhaps together with one or two of their flock but WITHOUT THEM!
This is "dog-torture"!!
This is why my husband and I have evolved a fairly complicated means whereby we deceive our dogs and keep them happy at all times!
Our Golden Rules:
1) We do all possible preparations in good time. One can pack the car the day/evening beforehand, or one can just get entirely ready a quarter of an hour before it's time to leave. Then one sits down with a cup of coffee or tea and read and relax (gives one time to remember some forgotten item too!) This tricks the dogs to completely relax and forget their worries. They will go and lie down near one.
Note: All noisy collars and leashes must be packed away beforehand.
2) When we are due to leave, we get up and move around very quietly and slowly, speaking in low tones and as little as possible.
3) We tell the dogs that they are staying in good time beforehand, so they know it already from the start and don't rush around in the hopes, only to be bitterly disappointed.
4) We put on our clothes for "going-shopping-where-no-dogs-ever-come" (often on top of other clothes - even just an old housecoat can be used to cover up the true clothes!), and we change later in the garage or somewhere else out of sight, where we have beforehand laid the correct clothes ready. Remember to show the appropriate bags, hats and shoes, and swap later!
5) The one or two dogs who will be going with us, are smuggled out unseen to the bathroom, (together with a family member so no whining will reveal them), or shut away somewhere for the five minutes it takes. (These dogs soon learn the trick!)
Or another way we can to do it is easy because we always push all dogs outside to relieve themselves for the last time before we leave them alone at home. On the way back in, we can just shut the door in the faces of those who are going with us and direct all the rest to the utility room where they will be shut in. They go willingly as they believe we are only going shopping, haven't noticed the absence of the others, and they are looking forward to the last thing we do:
6) The last thing we do is to throw a handful of puppy meal all over the floor. (Puppy meal because it consists of very small particles which are hard to find and eat when scattered.) The dogs are so busy vying with each other to get the most, that they are oblivious of our quick retreat, don't see us disappearing through the glass door and soon will settle down calmly to wait for us because THEY think we are not doing anything special!
Maybe you can examine YOUR clues and signals given unknowingly to your dogs and you also can trick them into never knowing the truth about some of your better activities?
It does lead to happier dogs and this of course leads to happier owners!
Good luck (and if you have any questions, just mail me!)
My e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org