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3.01.2012

When the student becomes the master

Tish is a canine behavior specialist who spends her days working with all kinds of dogs to understand how they think, modify their inappropriate behavior and help place them in new homes from the animal shelter. She takes her dog, Maddie, a boistrous Australian Shepherd, to work every day with her to help retrain the kennel dogs for a better life. 

At home, like Bunnie with me, Maddie is master of our domain, Tish just sometimes doesn't know she is wrapped around her dewclaw. For instance, early in the morning,  around 5 am Maddie is ready to get up but Tish is still sawing off the zees. Unfortunately for Maddie, she sleeps in a locked crate and can't simply sneak up and lap an ear until she gets results. On the other hand, she knows if she simply barked she'd rouse everyone, get yelled at and told to shut up. Instead she lets out a slow series of whimpers. "hawooow.... hahmmmmmm.... hawoooow." Just enough to disturb Tish's sleep pattern and change her breathing. Then, as she starts to slumber again Maddie gently grunts - again, enough to be noticed, but not get everyone involved. If I wasn't already awake, I'd miss it completely and the other dogs could care less. That shrugs Tish just a bit more into consciousness and with a couple more quiet whines, she has her mistress roused, sitting up and getting dressed until they go downstairs and start their day. Tish doesn't even realize half the time that the dog is the one who woke her up. It's a masterpiece of training. 

This is just one very complex example of how a dog's mind works to get what it needs. It's what fascinates Tish and sends her and Maddie to work with a spring in their step every day.