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Listen to Your Dogs

Sometimes our dogs communicate with us on levels that are surprising and revelatory. A case in point, having three dogs means that when I work from home, I’m kept busy doing door duty for them—they constantly ask to go out into the backyard, and a few minutes later, after they erupt into a chorus of “chase the squirrel,” I need get them back inside. There they’ll settle down for a few minutes, but then their asking to go out begins anew. Lola, our seven-year-old Pointer, takes her duties on squirrel-patrol very seriously. The two smaller dogs support her cause and cheer her on with a cacophony of barking, whining and high-pitched baying.

One day last week, I finally had it (as I’m sure the neighbors had as well) and decided that the dogs had to stay inside if I were to do any work. Charlie, our newest family member, is a gem of a Terrier boy and if he isn’t already glued to my side, he has spot-on recall, so he came in first. Kit, our Kentucky coy-girl, takes more coaxing but rattling a bag of treats did the trick. Lola is another story, she gets totally transfixed staring up at the taunting-bushy tails, who inspire her to run circles around the trees up on her back legs, like a crazed circus dog. This resulted in a sweaty and not-so merry chase as I tried to grab hold of her. But I finally got her, so in she went too.

I sat down to my computer, and within a few minutes, Lola walked up and looked at me motioning to the back door. I told her, no way am I going to let you out again, but she did this a few more times, even using her chin to gently tap on my hand. But I held firm, and ignored her pleas.  A few minutes passed and I decided to go into the office after all, and take the dogs with me, so I called to them to get leashed-up.

But loyal Charlie was missing, and once again, Lola looked at me, and ran to the back door. I then heard a little whimper, and opened the door to find that Charlie had been locked out and was softly crying to come in. His cries were so muted, that I hadn’t heard him, although big sister Lola had. Now that the door was opened, I thought that Lola would bolt out, but instead she and Charlie did a merry little dance, greeting each other as if they had been parted for hours (and not the few minutes it was). I thought that was so touching, and so telling too. All along Lola was signaling not that she wanted out but that Charlie was stranded—but I didn’t have the good sense to figure this out.

It was an eye-opener to me, marking a “Lassie” moment for Lola. It was the first time—or the first time that I “got” it—that she was trying to cue me not for herself but for someone else. Could this be an altruistic act? What do you think, have your dogs done something similar?

Claudia Kawczynska is The Bark's co-founder and editor in chief. thebark.com
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Submitted by Rachelle | July 6 2013 |

I once had a foster dog who just did not grasp the concept of letting me know whenshe wanted to go outside - so my own dog would signal SHE wanted out, and would sit patiently on the patio while the foster did her business in the yard. Mira never did tell me when she wanted out - and lives happily now in her forever home....with a doggy door to the back yard, so she can come and go as she needs.

Submitted by Nick | July 6 2013 |

Claudia -- This is such a wonderful essay. I absolutely believe in dogs acting altruistically. My dogs have done exactly what you are describing for one another for the same reason. My German Shepherd Storm hated going out in the rain -- would wait as long as possible if it was a rainy siege. Our Tugg, a Smooth Fox Terrier, and Storm were great buddies. Tugg got a stomach bug and had to go out urgently in the middle of the night. It was truly a deluge outside and Tugg ran out to do his thing. Storm ran right out with him and stood by Tugg's side until he was finished. Then came right back in with him soaked to the skin. It was beautiful. Thanks for your lovely essay.

Submitted by Jennifer Hahn | July 8 2013 |

a doggy door is soooo what you need and a safe fence outside.
Or a scheduled outing 3-4 times per day ...on their pee poo bowel schedule.
if you work at home with no dog care droppin in......your cAUSING THE CHAOS AND THEY ARE RUNNING YOUR HOME.
I know the difficulty of dogness-i live 4 flights up, walk-up in nyc.
They could go out on their own -or I could make a set schedule as I would do my child. 3-4 times up and down 4 hot 13 steps flights -you make sure that you have created a schedule.
The mayhem is your fault. cute and dramatic...but not cool for the house .....roost

Submitted by Claudia Kawczynska | July 9 2013 |

We do have a large fenced-in yard, couldn't do without it. As for a doggy door, we tried that but need to "control" the comings and goings of the dogs' access to the yard  because two of them can be barky. Plus we have received uninvited guests, like possums and raccoons helping themselves to the doorway to our hospitality. Dogs get a couple hour-long walks a day too, so we have that covered.

Submitted by Diane | July 9 2013 |

Ah, so sweet of Lola! I simply love the "Lassie" moment. You mentioned Lola, Kit, and Charlie as the three dogs at home. Now you've got me curious about Holly, Kit's sibling?

Submitted by Christine | July 9 2013 |

I also have three dogs (JRTs), and work from home. I understand about the constant letting them in, letting them out, etc. I have one particularly anxious dog who barks and whines a lot. I have to admit I've tuned him about a couple times as he was trying to tell me that my escape artist JRT had found a new way to get through the fence and escape. I've learned to listen to him.

Submitted by terry | July 12 2013 |

I once saw a card that rang so true. It said " A door is something a dog is always on the wrong side of" .

Submitted by Hope Black | July 15 2013 |

As an Animal Communicator I know first hand that our 4-legged companions have important messages and insight. I am blessed to be able to share this information with my clients to help create an even deeper relationship. The best relationships begin with good communication. To learn more please e mail me at makingtheconnection1526@gmail

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