When Pogo, the dog in the film, came to live with us 2 and a half years ago she pounced on creatures, shaking and killing them, chased anything that moved including peoples hands. She would climb doors, jump dog gates etc, so highly aroused.
Over the years we have worked with integrating her into the household; she started from observing household comings and goings from behind a dog gate at kitchen door to the garage and we made an effort to keep all arousing activities from her. Gradually she learned how to adapt with family life. Over time she has developed into a sensitive dog, now able to think and learn and this video clip shows her skills at dealing with sheep in a field – the second time she’d come across them since having her. I hadn’t seen the need to expose her to sheep before as there hadn’t been any until about two weeks ago. We pass through this field every now and then, maybe once a week.
It is interesting to see her communication as she makes her way down the field. Usually I would be handling the lead with two hands, which would give her more support and I would be influencing her through my body language but focusing on Pogo, the sheep and videoing was enough to deal with and a challenge for me, so she did really well.
You can see patterns in her communication – curving toward, while head dipping, scanning and sniffing; standing to look; sometimes a paw lift, scanning, sniffing and curving away doing the same.
If you look carefully you can see how some of the sheep respond to Pogo and vice versa. One sheep at the end has a shake. Animals (including us) have a similar communication system. It is wonderful.
1 seconds – 4 seconds Pogo Looks, ears up, tail high
5 – 7 Head Turns, looking, turns away
7 – 9 Looking, curving away (creating more distance), head dipping/scanning
9 – 11 Ears erect, back, erect, head dipping, scanning
11- 16 Curving toward (or away from two lone sheep), head dipping/scanning
16 – 19 Looking, ears erect/ears back, turn away, head dip,
19 – 24 Curving toward, head dipping, sniffing, scanning, mouth closed
24 – 27 Looking, ears and body erect
27 – 29 Hesitation and sigh/huff/breath out, momentary paw lift
29 – 31 Curving away, head dip, sniffing/scanning, ears erect
31 – 36 Curving away, sniffing/head dipping
See if you can identify the rest of the signals.
In between all the curving toward and away there is a variety of sniffing/scanning/ head dipping. There are moments when Pogo stops to have a better look. There are paw lifts and tongue flicks. Pogo’s ears have several positions throughout the clip, sometimes erect, at other times back and much in between. Her body changes height as she walks along and her tail does the same in response to how and what she is feeling, seeing, hearing and smelling. So as you can see from all of this she works hard and sometimes dogs might pull more in this situation to make a quick exit. There are a lot of sheep most of who are looking at the dog and this can be overwhelming for a dog. There maybe an element of fear of the unknown.
The first time she moved toward the two sheep standing alone the lead was used as a boundary to say ‘that’s close enough’. The second time it was different, she needed to get to a smell (and eat some droppings) so was allowed to do slowly. There is a fine line and between getting close enough for Pogo to gather information about the sheep and the sheep becoming spooked when the whole flock might react is she gets too close too quickly – that might create a scenario for Pogo to chase and even though she was on a long line it’s setting up a negative experience for the sheep and Pogo. The more a dog practises chasing behaviours the better they will become at it and the more stimulated they will become. If we don’t want our dogs to chase other things like young children, wildlife and so forth we need to prevent dogs from chasing. If the sheep had have run that would have increased Pogo’s prey drive and I was trying to avoid that from happening. The sheep had had previous experience of Pogo being in the field so have some knowledge of her. That is important and because of that they would have a certain amount of confidence in her. Animals also pick up on the confidence and arousal levels of one another and of us too. If we walk too quickly, make jerky movements they are much more wary of us. So if Pogo had have been running around, chasing a ball or such like before going into the field the sheep will have been more wary of her.