February 23, 2010

No Nose is Not Always Good Nose

I am told, though I don’t really believe it, that I was a late bloomer when it came to using my nose. The sense of smell, as you may well know, is the first sense to develop in newborn pups, but my family swears I did everything BUT use my nose. I’m not sure how they knew this because humans have a horrible sense of smell, but their evidence is as follows.

First, I apparently bark first and then smell, which proves to them that I hear things first (or perhaps see them) and react whereas a nose-centered dog would smell first and then, if he or she sensed danger would bark.

Second, when I see my food bowl picked up, filled with food, and then put back down, I usually turn away from it without getting close enough to see what’s actually in it — as in smelling it.

Lastly, I am not fond of allowing other dogs to smell me (especially my private parts) nor am I all that interested in smelling them. The same goes for humans who often offer me their hand to smell when I’ve never even asked for any such gesture.

I have, of course, a response to each of these bits of evidence and I’d like to use my friends/clients to support my thesis.

Let’s take a look at Ollie. He is, as you well know, a miniature version of me — a Labradoodle. When we pick him up at his house, he sits in the front room and looks out the window. The key word here is LOOKS. He isn’t smelling the air for our arrival — he’s waiting patiently to SEE us arrive. This also means he has a sense of time because he knows on which day and at which time we will arrive.

And when we do, he makes a bee-line for the back porch, races down the steps, and flies into his “Happy Ollie” mode. Yes, after his initial enthusiasm, he tries to smell me and he ALWAYS checks Gretchen’s pockets for treats, but using his nose is not the first behavior he exhibits.

I suppose his nose stays active for most of our time together since it’s really hard to get him to do anything other than stay as close to Gretchen as possible in hopes that he might receive another treat, but let’s just say, his nose takes activation. It does not start on its own.

Next, is Alice. She uses her ears. When the gate opens with a little rattle of the latch and then closes shut with a bigger rattle, Alice starts barking. Does she smell us? I doubt it since she’s in her crate inside the house and we’re a good 30 feet away. Once Gretchen enters the house, Alice stops barking not because she smells Gretchen, but rather because Gretchen enters saying, “It’s just me, Alice! Time to go for your walk!” And when Gretchen opens the kennel, Alice then activates her nose because usually Gretchen has a little treat for her, which Alice welcomes gladly.

On our walk, however, Alice’s nose works overtime, but I think that’s because she’s a hound, which is obviously a nose-centered breed. Still, when it’s time for photos, Alice will sit and wait without any knowledge that there might be a treat as a reward.

Though I’m not really sure why she constantly licks her lips!

Now, I might have to concede that Rosie definitely uses her nose, though I have yet to spend any amount of time with her so I don’t think I can assume she’s nose-centered or not, but I have heard Rosie stories and something tells me, Rosie is an energy dog more than a scent dog.

What I mean is that Rosie is a bit edgy. She is nervous when things move too suddenly or loudly or strange sounds approach her. Gretchen tells me that she actually jumps when the electric bus goes by and sometimes even cowers behind Gretchen’s legs when a garbage truck rumbles down the street. There’s no sense of smell in those instances, but she certainly knows when a treat is about to be offered or where one might be found or when she deserves one!

Gemma is a combination of all the above. While she’s not great at reading energy, she’s definitely full of it and can give all of us a run for our money!

Gemma, like Ollie, would prefer to sit in the window all day watching for us to arrive than almost anything else. That’s where she was today when Gretchen picked her up — staring at her from her perch at the front window. And while her nose eventually kicks in — “Are there any dog friends with you,” she’ll ask with her nose — she watches intently to see if Gretchen comes with dog friends or if she comes alone. Only recently has Gemma activated her nose — ever since Gretchen has been working with her on her recall commands. Still, her nose can easily get set aside IF there are better things to do –and this is perhaps where Gemma is different than all of us. Her greatest sense is her mouth  because EVERYTHING she sees (especially dogs) goes into her mouth!

Finally, there is Saber. Since he is technically still a puppy, he seems to be trying out all his senses depending on his mood. He rarely barks nor does he even get that excited when Gretchen first walks into the house. He just sits in his kennel and watches. I suppose that’s a sense — his sight — but even that seems a bit passive. I mean, it’s not like he stares at Gretchen or even tries to glimpse out the door to see if any dog friends have come along. Nope, he just sits and looks up every once in awhile, waiting for his collar and leash to be put on.

That’s when he kicks it into high gear. Every sense revs up and he tumbles out the door with pure joy. And as we walk, it’s hard to tell which sense is more active — his ears, his eyes, his tongue, his nose, OR his tail! I will say this, though, he knows the difference between my orange and blue ball and any other orange and blue ball!

So you see, I don’t think I’m that unique. True, I have matured a great deal and I am more inclined to use my nose than not, but I am by no means nose dependent. Rather I like to think of myself as a diversified dog — as comfortable using all my senses as I am using my nose.

Until tomorrow,

Rubin

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