Have you ever sat on a couch with a mug of coffee and your dog on your leap and read a story of Cinderella, Snow White or just daily newspaper to your best four legged friend? Well, I haven’t. But if I could only see that they follow the plot – I would consider that!
Tekla loves to cuddle up when I’m reading in bed – that’s how I got this super cute picture of her – but obviously not for reading purpose. She just loves being around. She can’t really listen to a story as I never read out loud. (at least I hope so! It would be very creepy) But even if I don’t let her listen to stories so she won’t know the plot or heroes of the novel I read, I’m sure she can take a meaning out of words she hears and make a use of them.
I can tell for sure that dogs are pretty accomplished at listening to words their people say. Or more accurate – they’re skilled in understanding that words have meanings but are not always sure what this meaning is. My own two dogs are on the two opposite ends of the bench – Tekla listens, Kelt doesn’t.
The difference between Kelt and Tekla is basically a difference between HEAR and LISTEN. Kelt often guesses meanings of words and remains indifferent to them. He just doesn’t care – and while he barely listens, he can count! I try to teach every single dog of mine or of my students to listen to words – with Kelt I fail most of the time. He just counts to three – and goes into action!
On the contrary, Tekla really listens to words. She mastered the “control yourself” and “react on the right word” exercices perfectly and goes even further! It takes no more than one or two sessions to make her connect a word with an action. I was even amazed to see her going to fetch the dog I was calling – and she is never wrong in connecting the name with the person. She is the dog you just keep talking to – and she follows. Kelt – well, he hates talking. The more you talk the less he listens. Men!
I was wondering where these differences come from. Well, one thing is that I’m much better trainer than I was years ago. But is it just it? No.
I think that the personality of the dog has much to do with listening. For example, Kelt, my impudent and bossy Kelt, is a self confident male whith an enormously huge ego. He is also an independent one, always trying to make best out of any situation and do least to have most. His need for cooperation is limited to me being somewhere around and giving him moral support. And – that’s it! He usually knows things better, he is a cunning observer and system breaker. He watches and draws conclusions out. Situations are a source of information, nor words. Kelt is the one who understands how world works and looks rather into actions. He could be deaf and still successful in life. He is also very impatient and prone to frustration – there’s no time to lose, no time to listen. He doesn’t need anyone to command him. Not the big, mighty Kelt!
My sweetest and cutest Tekla is probably as independent and life loving as Kelt. But she’s also very submissive and natural if it comes to work. Kelt needed to be motivated, lured, convinced to do anything else that he wanted – Tekla just loves the game! Her ability to think and listen to my words is somehow connected with her awesome will of cooperation – even though she enjoys running around, she wants to listen and understand in most incredible way.
Luckily for Kelt (and me!), obedience is full of schemes and patterns dog can fit into, so even with an I’m-not-listening kind of a dog like him it was possible to compete. We even made it to World Championships – not bad! But the difference between world class obedience dog and just an obedience dog is hidden somewhere here – in the listening too. Love them both, anyway, listening or not!