April 25, 2003

Dumb Dog Tricks Explained

I need a little help from you animal behaviorists out there... especially the canine-inclined. I've wondered about Buster's odd antics in the past, and figured out what the play-bow is all about. And I've mused about his typical male-dog leg-heisting instincts. Now I am trying to explain a behavior that could be unique to Buster, or to Black Labs, but might be a more widely observed thing and you may see it in your dog and have an explanation for it.

When we get ready to go for a walk (of course he picks up on the most subtle cues... I reach for my sunglasses; I just begin to slip off my sandals to put on boots... etc) and of course Buster gets all pumped and starts doing his twirly-arounds so we shoo him out the door immediately so his claws don't do too much damage to the hardwood floor from his puppy pirouettes. When we finally come out the door, he becomes frantic to find something to carry with him as we walk down toward the road. He looks for a nice solid stick, but if he can't find that, he'll pick up a piece of bark or a full-sized piece of firewood... and prance off with it (a short stout stick carried at an oblique angle looks like a thick Cuban cigar, giving him a casual Churchillian comportment) often carrying it for a quarter mile or so before losing interest in it. There's a certain place along our usual route where we now find an odd assortment of kindling he has dropped there over the winter months. It almost looks like he's building a nest down there. Hmmm. I wonder...

Any of you observe anything like this in your dogs? I can't think of what 'survival benefit' such silliness might confer. Maybe you've got some ideas. I stand ready to be educated. Or maybe I'll just sit.

Posted by fred1st at April 25, 2003 05:03 AM | TrackBack

I don't know why, but most Labs and Lab crosses love to carry something in their mouth (some lose interest after a while, some insist on carrying it all the way). One of my Shepherd mixes is like that too - until she finds something more interesting.

Posted by: bogie at April 25, 2003 08:45 AM

Maxine the urban dog sees the leash and goes insane, jumping and turning around and carrying on until she figures out that if she keeps doing that, said leash will not/cannot get attached and she'll twirl herself to death before getting out the door.

Cats don't do leashes well. Of course, they also don't need them, since most of them were given the "must not run out into traffic or chase little neighbourhood children" gene.

Posted by: Jane at April 25, 2003 09:15 AM

All the labs I've known have always scrambled to find something to carry in their mouths at times of great or even routine excitement, like greeting and eating, and (as with Buster) - walking. (My dog now begins a jumping bark chorus for a minute before I set out - prompting observers to wonder if this daily ritual is perhaps only an annual outing!)They've grabbed toys, keys, socks, lemons, leaves and very small stones. Doug's favoured prop has always been shoes - so mine are scattered around the house. The only purpose I could think of here is that he's devised a game to keep his mistress' active brain occupied as she tries to find the missing pair.

Posted by: boynton at April 25, 2003 10:07 AM

my dog does the same thing (she's a sharpei, chow, lab, whatever mix) -- when she greets me at the door after work, she's gotta have a toy in her mouth; when it's time for our walk, she's gotta have a toy in her mouth.

Usually she drops it at the end of the drive, but sometimes she'll carry it for a good quarter-mile. I've got toys scattered around the yard, the house, and the car.

Sorry I've no insight into WHY -- I've always seen it as an extension of her excitement, with perhaps a hint of neurosis. My friend's dog (a terrier mix) does the same thing, so I'm not sure it's solely lab-related.

Thanks for keeping up an enjoyable blog, by the way!

Posted by: lyn at April 25, 2003 05:59 PM

Our German Shepherd always took a stick with her everywhere. Once time had been sent throwing the stick for her, she would lose interest.

And enormous mutt of my mothers would dive for small stones in the creek when he went for a walk. Completely submerged, he would burrow along the bottom till he found the very one that suited him that day. That would get carried around. A bit of platypus in the ancestry?

Posted by: Jan at April 25, 2003 07:13 PM

Labs do it because they are "retrievers", they do always have to carry something. It lies in their genes.

Posted by: Tom at April 26, 2003 01:36 AM

Roxie prefers large chunks of wood ripped from a decaying oak tree stump in our front yard. She will carry it just long enough for the excitement of the moment to wear off, then drop it in favor of finding something really disgusting to play with.

Posted by: ronbailey at April 26, 2003 07:21 AM

My yellow lab loves car rides so much that every time we get in our vehicle, or he relizes that he's going somewhere, he sings out to the world in the highest pitched bark imaginable. My family doesn't ride w/ us when we go places w/ our pets.

Posted by: dean at August 20, 2003 03:23 PM

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