:Kathy wonders…

I have always heard that a dog’s strongest sense is their sense of
smell–they discern through their nose.  But  Tess, our bugling guard
dog, set up a racket in the kitchen when she saw a huge paper monster
(a shopping bag) quietly sitting in the hallway.  She was in a frenzy
barking to let us know we were under attack by a strange object.  Our
other 2 dogs wandered over to sit by her, more interested in her
behavior than concerned about the shopping bag.  Pete and Sophie lead
with their sense of smell always.  Pete is the most curious of the pack
and will patiently watch and study something before sounding the bark
alarm.  You can actually watch him lift his muzzle high into the air,
catching scent…almost working his mouth as if to taste the new odor. 
Tess appears to be much more sight oriented–barking at her own
reflection in our sliding glass door or woofing at a shovel left on the
porch, out of it’s usual place.

Has anyone else observed these behaviors in their own dogs?  If Only
You Knew How Much I Smell You is an entertaining little book by Roy
Blount of dog stories.


6 Comments on “:Kathy wonders…”

  1. lhasalhady says:

    I found your observation very interesting. Many breeds have been ‘formed’ based on selection for a particular trait. The Hound group nicely represents the behaviors you describe. It consists of scenthounds (Beagles, Bloodhounds, etc.) and gazehounds (Salukis, Greyhounds, etc.)

    Scenthounds hunt with their nose. Sighthounds hunt with their eyes. Herding dogs herd with very refined prey drive. Terriers kill rodents with a not so refined prey drive. And on it goes. These groups of dogs were developed using the powerful tool of selection. The traits were in the gene pool. Selection created breeds with very specific behaviors.

    Supposedly Lhasa Apsos developed a keen sense of hearing in order to sound alarm when intruders came to the monastaries. Seems more fancy than fact, but those of us that live with Apsos know most do sound alarm. It’s just hard for me to imagine monks doing any sort of selection. Their ways were more pragmatic. The Lhasa Apso is considered a landrace breed, not a breed developed by selection.

    Some years ago I took four Apsos to be herding instinct tested. Vinnie was disgusted by the entire ordeal. Hatter and Bru showed some signs of being trainable for herding. Danielle herded like she was a Border Collie! It was amazing how she controlled the sheep!

  2. Susan M says:

    Very interesting. I noticed with Champ that although he knew the minute the microwave started defrosting his meal to get off the couch on the front porch and head for the kitchen, and although he waited patiently just outside the area where I was getting his dinner ready, when I actually put it on the floor and said “ready”, it often took him several tries to “find” it. I expected his nose to drag him in a very straight line to that dish on the floor, but it didn’t happen that way. I theorized that his sense of smell was excellent but not directional???? Izzat possible?

  3. Katy Widger says:

    Zeke seems to have an incredible sense of hearing, has learned what “house sounds” are non-threatening (ice dropping from the ice maker in the middle of the night) and no longer sounds his alarm at the common everyday sounds. But if he or Sadie sees or hears anything unusual,or out of the ordinary (a moth on the outside of the window screen was cause to wake us all up the other night, as was the bag full of clothespins I left on the clothesline, swaying in the wind, one night), we get the full-blown Apso alarm bark from them both. Neither seems to “scent” much, but both return to certain spots where something interesting has happened. Zeke scent marks his favorite spots around the yard and on walks around the neighborhood, and always “reads” the morning news on certain bushes when we go out for the paper, but that’s pretty much a boy dog thing.
    Zeke has been helping me “herd” chickens.(Sadie couldn’t care less!) We let them “free range” during the day, but I put them up at night, and sometimes they’re not so anxious to go back to the coop. Zeke has learned that the chickens will run from him, and seems to get a kick out of rounding them all up. He doesn’t chase them, just walks or trots behind them and “heads them off”. I’m trying to encourage this behaviour without encouraging a predation response, but I know nothing about herding instruction. Still, he seems to know what I’m asking him to do, and “helps” as best he can, in spite of my fumbling instructions.
    As far as terrier-type prey drive, I think Zeke has plenty of that! He “hunts” the bunnies around the perimeter of the fence ferociously. We’ve put chicken wire all around the bottom of the fence to keep them out, but the other evening, he made his first kill. I came home late, had to go out after dark to put the chickens up and see to the goats. Zeke and Sadie came out with me, as usual. When I went back in, they stayed out in the cornpatch. I went back to retrieve them, and Zeke came into the yard with “something” in his mouth. A small baby bunny! He had it in a “death grip” by the back of it’s neck, and it had just died in his mouth. Took me a couple minutes to get him to let go of it, but he did, with no growls. As I watch him “hunt” lizards, and refine his techniques, I realize that he is a very formidable and wise predator. He makes informed decisions in his hunting and stalking, he doesn’t just blindly pursue. I did not chastise him for killing the bunny. And it was only after I “explained” to him that it was OK that he killed it, he just couldn’t eat it, that he let it go. I think he very well would have.
    I noticed from the very beginning that Zeke seemed to possess every instinct you would expect of a canine. I think I remarked to Debbie early on that he was a “real dog”. I hope it never gets bred out of them! They are intuitive, perceptive and highly intelligent, and use all their faculties to their best advantage. No wonder they have survived for thousands of years!

  4. Kathy says:

    This is off the subject, but as I am writing, Green Mountain is on fire and smoke is thick in our area, even though we are not in the immediate vicinity.

    You do emergency animal rescue with SART–are you involved in this Jefferson County fire? Or do you only work in the Park County area? Kathy

  5. lhasalhady says:

    Kathy, I’m with AEV – Animal Evac Volunteers. SART is the State Animal Response Team. I don’t know the chain of command for SART, but I’m thinking that’s government… AEV works under the Jefferson County Sheriff’s department through the Animal Control Officers. AEV’s two primary counties are Jefferson and Park, but we’ve been called to other counties. When needed, all resources are called in! We haven’t been called to the Green Mountain Fire. There are several volunteer groups, including HEAT – horse evac. The cooperation between law enforcement, fire fighters and animal volunteer groups in our area is extradordinary. AEV is the first of its kind, a leader on the national level.

  6. Susan M says:

    Wow, Katy, I am amazed that you can let Zeke “herd” the chickens. That’s wonderful. If Rinchen or Raji gets on the same side of the fence as any of the chickens, they are immediately on a tear to see who can catch one first. Although the chickens can get over the fence to the dogs’ side of the yard, the reverse isn’t true…..luckily. Occasionally a chicken does venture to the “wrong” side, but he/she usually figures out pretty quickly that it’s not very safe to do so….


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