Photos by Robin.My dog trainer, Robin, is also a very good friend of mine, which means that I often stay after class to chat and laugh with her. Maisy loves this arrangement, and over the past year, we’ve created a routine. We go to class and work for an hour. We wait the fifteen or so minutes it takes for the other students to ask any last-minute questions, pack up, and leave. And then we get out the ball.
Six months or so ago, I noticed that after an hour to an hour and a half, Maisy would start nosing in my training bag until she found the ball. I thought that was pretty funny, because she clearly understood what came next. Sometimes we only threw it once or twice, and sometimes we played for an hour, but she always got to play with Robin when class was over.
This fall, Robin rented a training ring for an hour each Sunday morning, and invited me and few of our other mutual friends to get together to hang out and train our dogs. Even though this class is held in a different location, Maisy quickly fell into the same habit. After about an hour, she digs in my bag until she finds her ball, and then takes it to Robin.
I just about died laughing the first time I realized what she was doing. I thought it was pretty neat that she remembered that Robin will play with her at the end of class, especially since the Sunday class is in a new place. Still, I wasn’t terribly surprised- Robin is in both places, which is a pretty clear environmental cue that playtime is available.
So imagine my surprise when Maisy began whining an hour into our appointment with the veterinary behaviorist! At first, I couldn’t figure out what she wanted. I asked if she needed to go out, and she didn’t. I asked her to lie down, and she did, but then immediately got up and stared at my bag, which was sitting on a chair out of her reach. When I set the bag down on the floor, and she started nosing at the pocket where I keep her ball.
I burst out laughing. Clearly, Robin wasn’t the cue after all. Neither was the location. We weren’t even at a class, although I can see why Maisy might think we were- we were doing mat work, after all. It will be interesting to see what other scenarios Maisy generalizes this behavior to. At any rate, one thing is clear: we’ve created a monster.