What do dogs know? I have admitted previously that with my dog Cleo, I have taken advantage of her ready intelligence and the training she came with when we adopted her. We definitely benefited from her being an adult Shepherd-Husky. Sure we took her through the required beginners class at the SF SPCA as part of our adoption, but any further training was my brief attempt at applying obedience techniques that were recalled from childhood experiences with my dog trainer mother. But my efforts were strictly amateur..
A friend came over recently for dinner. While we were visiting my dog was hanging outside on the deck. With the low light inside and growing dark outdoors, Cleo's older eyes are not the sharpest at this time of day. New neighbors having party next door had her barking in no time.
My friend expected me to yell at Cleo when she began barking at the people and when I didn't she was shocked. Instead of yelling I spoke to Cleo and acknowledged that she saw strangers nearby and was doing the right that by telling them she was here. I like that she is loud and clear about being a large dog who is on duty. After she barks she immediately starts to check in with us by giving a woof then looking in our direction with a short wag.
Watching our interaction, my friend admitted how amazing and unusual this was to see for her. Most people she knew would have yelled at the dog, waved their arms wildly and made the dog go away somewhere. She suggested that maybe all those years spent as a child with dogs had made me in tune with Cleo.
Truthfully I've wondered how much do dogs know. Do they have intuition telling them to listen to us? Cleo does seem to understand me and I believe it is a combination of many factors: she is smart, she has had some basic training, we've been together now almost six years, and her personality in general is sweet and pleasing.
The human-animal bond is astonishing when you experience it and Cleo's ability to postively influence strangers is a wonderful thing to witness. This night I was happy to have someone see that a working relationship between a dog and person can be calm even when the dog is barking at a neighbor.