My name is Ruby, and I’m a seven-year-old golden retriever. I live in the countryside with two and a half humans, a poodle and a cat. I’m an agility dog by trade, and my hobbies are eating, swimming, chasing squirrels, swimming, digging holes, swimming and baiting the neighbour’s dogs. However, I’ve also been observing human behaviour for several years and consider myself to be something of an expert. In my blog, I’ll be exploring a few of the more bizarre problems dogs are likely to encounter with their humans, and proposing some solutions. Please feel free to contact me if you need advice.
Choosing the Right Human
If you’re a dog, you don’t have much control over your life. This can be a problem in many situations, but never more so than when a perfectly good dog ends up with the wrong human.
It’s a well-known fact, at least among the canine population, that humans fall into one of five groups: the Sporting Group, the Working Group, the Utility Group, the Companion Group and the Toy Group. It’s the humans themselves who decide which group they will join, and unfortunately for dogs, this requires a greater level of self-awareness than the average human seems to possess.
Take my female human, for example. She seems to feel she belongs in the Sporting Group. However, if she’s anything to go by, humans in this group are probably highly deluded, in addition to their other problems: they fancy themselves as athletes, even when some of them clearly aren’t. Some days my human can hardly stagger down the stairs, but she persists in describing herself as a “sportswoman”. It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.
She’s fond of telling people that “we” do a sport called agility. However, there’s only one agile partner in this team, and it’s certainly not her. Why she ever wanted a canine athlete like me is a complete mystery. In training I have to bark at her all the time, and when we compete in public it can be downright embarrassing. Honestly, she’s not much use. She’s slow off the mark, never where she needs to be, and a hopeless communicator. We’d actually been competing for two years before I realized the obstacles had to be done in a certain order. Since then I’ve taught her to stay out of my way, point to the obstacles I need to do, and let me get on with it. We’re a bit more successful as a result and she’s quick to take the credit, although she doesn’t really contribute much. But imagine what I could have achieved with a human who could actually run. If she’d only realized she’s better suited to being a Companion human, instead of a Sporting human, we’d all be happier.
Frankly, though, I’m pleased to be an agility dog and very grateful I wasn’t singled out for a job as an obedience dog. Obedience seems to demand a kind of Stepford attitude to life that I would have found hard to tolerate. My human used to take me to obedience classes, and they were, to put it mildly, a nightmare: I was forced to sit still for long periods, walk past food without attempting to steal it, and allow the human to leave the room unsupervised. These are all things I would never dream of doing at home. It was a most distressing experience, and you can’t imagine how relieved I was when we switched to agility classes instead.
However, one of the benefits of living with a Sporting Group human, even such a poor specimen, is that we do tend to get out and about quite a bit. If both my humans were Working Group or Companion Group, I’d spend my life lying in a basket, and that’s not something I’d relish.
My male human is most definitely a member of the Working Group. These humans tend to be particularly obsessive. Mine, for example, sits alone for long hours in his den, taps frantically on a little plastic clicker pad, spreads large quantities of paper all over the floor – not to pee on or chew, he hates it when that happens – and swears loudly at technological devices over which he has no control. It seems like a very boring existence, but he likes it. At least, he’s always keen to get rid of the rest of us, so he can spend his weekends alone with his papers.
As for my small human, she’s certainly a lot more “Sporting” than the female, but might also be classified in the “Toy” group. Her designated dog, the household poodle, is often subjected to treatments I personally would find difficult to accept: he gets washed, has his hair cut and his teeth brushed, and has even, in the past, had his nails painted. He’s also asked to do tricks, and will actually sneeze on command, like some kind of battery-operated toy robot dog. And to top it all, he seems to enjoy it ... need I say more? This is clearly one of the few human-dog matches made in heaven.
But even when dogs are matched with unsuitable human specimens, as in my case, it’s our role in life to make our human happy. A happy human gives treats. It’s not rocket science. But I’m keeping my paws crossed that my human’s rickety knees don’t collapse and force us back into “obedience” activities. Even with treats, it’s still the stuff of canine nightmares.
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