Dog Personality

One positive aspect of having two dogs is that the difference between them calls to your attention facets of the personality of each that you might take for granted otherwise. 

Cookie is almost always completely quiet.  She’ll give chase to a squirrel but not a peep comes out of her mouth.  Even a cat rarely evokes a bark.  Buck, on the other hand, has such an incredible vocal range it’s almost as if he can talk.  At the sight of a squirrel he’ll drag you to the tree and try to climb it and launches into a veritable cacophony of squeals and barks and yips and yaps and ki-yi-yis, all at a pitch high enough to break glass.  After a while he plants his rump on the ground and continues yapping while alternately stomping his right and left front paws on the ground out of excitement and frustration.  The idea seems to be to entice the squirrel to come down and play, but it never seems to work.  Things are different with cats.  The sight of a cat calls forth a throaty bark from his jaws while his claws are digging deep furrows through the pavement trying to break the leash or break your grip on it.

When he wants up on the bed there’s a very short little low-volume yip.  If he’s ignored, he waits a while and the yip gets a little louder.  The cycle repeats until the yip becomes a rather more insistent yap and you get down and help him up (we have a high bed and he’s not a jumper). 

When it’s feeding time or you’re eating something that smells good and you’re trying to ignore him, the yap is still high-pitched but a little lower and more like an arf and more insistent right from the start.  It’s always two at a time:  arf, arf; wait to see if there’s a response; arf, arf; wait to see a response; ad infinitum until (a) he gets what he wants or (b) you evict him from the premises. The call to play time is similar.

If Buck senses danger its a semi-high-pitch frantic staccato arfing, not the two-at-a-time-and-wait routine. Once when we were hiking and came up to a log across a rushing river far below he took one look at the bridge, one look at me on the other side, and he ran back about 20 feet, turned around and gave me a very clear rendition of “I can’t do that, I won’t do that!” I went back and carried him across.

Another time we were hiking and we came across an orange backhoe someone had been doing trail work with and left there, and I got the danger warning.  This time the normally-high-pitched dog produced a very deep growl and matching bark to warn away the malefactor.  The bear statues at the Brown Bear car wash on 148th Ave NE also appeared menacing to him in the same way as we drove by.

Buck howls long and plaintively whenever he hears emergency vehicle sirens in the distance.  Cookie doesn’t even notice them.

Their different attitude toward squirrels goes beyond vocalization.  Cookie gives chase if she sees one crossing directly in front of her on the path, but otherwise she’ll blithely prance past dozens of them all around her.  Buck, on the other hand, everywhere we go is scanning the upper reaches of the trees at all times.  He can spot squirrel-caused branch movement a hundred feet high and a half mile away and will give chase immediately with leash-holder in tow.

On the other hand, anytime we’re near tall grass Buck is scanning the lower reaches of the greenery for any signs of mice or rats, something Cookie has only a passing interest in.  We have been to Marymoor dog park dozens of times, and in all those times I have never seen another dog ignore the other dogs in order spend all his time pouncing in the tall grass to hunt for mice and rats.  We can spend an hour there and that’s all Buck wants to do.  He makes a four-paw high leap into the air from the path into the grass and his snout goes deep into the roots trying to catch a mouse unawares.  He has been successful several times this way, but most of the time you see his nose in the ground and his rump sticking up with the tail wagging, after which he comes up mouseless.  In a big field of grass he’ll make a flying leap and then another flying leap and then another and another, like a giant four-legged frog, until he’s he’s far out in the field.  It’s spectacular but I’ve never seen him actually catch a mouse after multi-jump pounce.

2010-06 Marymoor Dog Park 003 cropped

2010-06 Marymoor Dog Park 001 mouseless

Beyond personality, when you get an adult dog you get a different background of life experience as well.  I had both dogs in the vet exam room and from the waiting room we heard a meow.  Cookie’s ears pricked up, she got that "I want it, I want it!” look in her eyes and wanted to batter down the door to get at the source of the sound.  Buck, on the other hand, didn’t realize there was any special significance to that sound.  He’s never heard a cat meow.

A similar difference obtains when we’re walking on the sidewalk and a car comes by.  Buck walks blithely along with not a care in the world.  Cookie, on the other hand, looks back and watches the car coming with apprehensiveness, and as it gets close she slinks as far away from the road as the double-leash will let her, almost dragging Buck off the far side of the sidewalk.  All the while her head is turned all the way around, terror in her eyes.  As the car goes past, she gradually drifts back onto the sidewalk, watching the car suspiciously as it disappears ahead of us.

When we’re going on a walk there are many options for destinations.  There’s Robinswood woods (squirrels), Robinswood dog park (dogs), Robinswood sports fields (endless expanses of grass to run in), the greenbelt leading to the library (rats and mice galore in the tall grass), and the big open area near Microsoft Advanta (rabbits), to name just a few.  If I think we’re walking to Robinswood and we get to the branch point and he wants to go to Advanta, he stops walking along beside or ahead of me and won’t move farther.  I pull but he stands there looking at me.  I pull again and he won’t come.  He just looks at me.  So when I have time I give in and off we go to Advanta.  Otherwise I have to pull a bit harder.  I sometimes give him a treat to compensate to reward his willingness to do what he manifestly doesn’t want to do.

He does the same thing for certain things he wants when we’re at home.  I have a plush green recliner in my office.  He likes to be in here when I’m in here and usually wants to be on the green chair.  But it’s an easy place to throw backpacks and coats and the like.  So he saunters into the office, sees the green chair occupied, looks at it for a moment, then looks back at me.  He stands there silently looking it at and looking back at me until I get up and remove the offending object so he can get up there and relax.  But if I stay here too long typing on my computer the chair starts to seem like it’s too far away and he moves down to the floor right underneath my desk chair’s rollers, oblivious to the possibility that I’ll roll over an ear or something.

He’s there right now and it’s time for us to go on our morning walk or hike.  We’ll probably head to one of his other favorite routes – Squak mountain.


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