Sunday, June 3, 2012

To Bark Or Not To Bark

To Bark Or Not To Bark

Pippin and her Papa Samwise
Mom's two Keeshond dogs Samwise and Pippin have been a part of our family for several years now. Sam came to us when we were waiting for his litter of puppies to be born - Pippin was one of 8! Our previous pair of Keeshonds had both passed away and mom was finding it difficult not having a dog in the house, so she asked the breeder if there were any dogs that needed a temporary home or pet-sitter while she waited for her new puppy to be born and weaned. The breeder said that the father of the litter was acting overprotective of mama dog, and could use a temporary home. He had been debarked (not something we would ever condone being done to a dog) and they had done a poor job, so he tended to pant excessively and audibly.

Almost from the instant Sam (then Salem) came to stay with us, he and mom bonded. He became her shadow. In time his panting became much less pronounced, but has never fully gone away. The calmer he is, the less noisy his breathing. The breeder visited a couple of times both before and after the puppies were born. When she brought some of the puppies over for us to play with, she noted how happy Sam seemed to be with us. His breathing didn't seem so laboured and he was clearly attached to mom in a way that he had never bonded with another person. She recognized that he was much more suited to our house and struck a deal with mom so that we could keep him. We visited the puppies – eight adorable fluffy balls of fur, and several weeks later Pippin came home for good.

Because he had been debarked, Sam never had the typical dog response to stimulus. Most dogs start barking when they are excited, annoyed, ignored, conversing with other dogs... really who can tell why dogs bark sometimes?! Gandy used to bark if a leaf fell, the person four houses up the road came home, or a squirrel climbed a tree across the street. Dogs are funny creatures, and barking is a natural instinct. Sam however, did not know how to bark. That all changed when Sophie came to stay for a week.
The dog next door was a rather large beast who barked at just about everything. When Sam was in the back yard, the neighbours dog would bark once or twice, then when she got no response, would wander off. Sam would just stand there, look longingly at the fence and do nothing. Sophie on the other hand, would react in proper doggy fashion – she would have a barking contest with the dog across the fence. Sophie actually taught Sam how to bark at the dog next door. It took a couple of weeks of hearing the neighbours dog go ballistic when Sam was outside before we caught on. Sam would now go to the fence and "bark" in his nearly silent fashion. His barks were just audible enough for the dog next door to pick up on, but too quiet for any person to hear from more than ten feet away. The best/worst part? Because her owners couldn't hear Sam barking, the poor dog next door would get yelled at for "barking at nothing" while Sam would silently gloat and provoke the poor dog into yappy conversation.

Today I was visiting with Sophie's successor, Sander. He's a Puggle, and certain aspects of both his Pug and Beagle heritage become rather obvious the more time you spend with him. He is driven by smell, food and love. I've seen him chase another dog through a field, then suddenly plant all four paws mid-run because he smelled something interesting. Today he was being particularly barky and it occurred to me that if Sophie taught Sam how to bark, perhaps Sam can teach Sander how NOT to bark... It is most likely wishful thinking, but it's worth a try, right?

1 comment:

  1. take the delightful tale a little further...
    Pippin grew up thinking that dogs played, wrestled and chased squirels silently. One day, by accident, she yelped while play-fighting with her papa. She looked startled, then let out a real bark. Ever since, she's made up for Sam's silence by warning me everytime the neighbours have guests or leave to pick up their girls, that a cat is within a mile, peddlars are at the door, or a crow is in the yard.